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Old August 4, 2000, 07:19 PM   #1
Alex Johnson
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I was in the local gunshop this afternoon and I saw that they had an old Baker Model B shotgun, the kind where the front trigger acts as the action opener by pushing forward on it. The gun has no finish remaining on the metal, which is smooth with all the markings clear and sharp, the damascus pattern stands out clear enough on the barrels, it has a small amount of scroll engraving on the hammers and around the boarders of the metal parts. The bores have some pitting forward of the chambers, but are still mostly bright and shiny. The stock is in excellent condiditon with all the finish and a few nicks and dings, the checkering is still sharp. The gunshop is asking $399 for this gun, does that sound reasonable?
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Old August 5, 2000, 08:35 AM   #2
johnbt
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Alex, I just read the 21st Ed. Blue Book's sections on W.H.Baker and Baker Gun & Forging Co. and didn't see a Model B.(I do this to learn a little.)Before I assume you are referring to a W.H.Baker, what company is marked on the gun? The Baker bros. sold an interest to L.C.Smith, who dropped the Baker name in 1883. In 1888 they sold the co. to the Hunter bros. and it became Baker Gun & Forging and made the New Baker(in addition to the Ithaca.) Then Hunter Arms made the L.C.Smith for 60 yrs. until Marlin bought them in the early 40's.
Anyway, with that disclaimer, I quote: "Baker guns were originally made in 10 and 12ga. and unusual in that the opening mechanism was operated by pressing forward on the front trigger. While relatively rare, most original Baker guns do not have a lot of original finish remaining. Most specimens are priced in the $400-850 range, assuming finish is less than 10%. If condition is better than 40%...evaluate individually."
Under Baker Gun & Forging: "Original damascus guns in 80% or better condition with bright case colors will approach the values of steel bbl. counterparts. Check for short chambers and make sure bbls. haven't been shortened." The New Baker model, exposed hammers, damascus .bbl., extractors: 100%=$350 down to 60%=$150. This is the least expensive of the Baker Gun & Forging models.
Hope this helps some. John
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Old August 5, 2000, 08:44 AM   #3
fal308
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My resource(Side by Sides of the World by Charles E. Carder) lists two different Bakers, one English and one American. I suspect yours is the American.
BAKER GUN CO, W.H.; William H. Baker [1835-1889] was a master gunsmith and a very inventive designer. In 1875 he moved to syracuse, New York, and began manufacturing shotguns. About 1878 he, his brother (Dr. Ellis L. Baker) and the Smith brothers (Lyman C. and Leroy H.) established the new firm of W.H.BAKER & COMPANY for the purpose of manufacturing shotguns. The partnership lasted only two years, at which time Lyman C Smith bought out the partners shares and renamed the company L.C. SMITH, MAKER OF THE BAKER GUN. Soon after, W.H.Baker moved to Ithaca NY and with several partners established the new ITHACA GUN COMPANY. In 1887 he returned to Syracuse to work for his brother who had formed a small forging company known as the SYRAACUSE FORGING COMPANY. They manufactured carriage part and hammer shotguns until a fire put them out of business. The Baker brothers then took their forging business to Batavia NY and continued to produce carriage parts, and later automobile parts, along with the growing shotugn production. Upon William's death, Dr. Ellis L. Baker gave up his medical practice to actively take control of the company, which he renamed the BAKER GUN & FORGING COMPANY. Ellis died in 1899, however the company continued the forging of auto parts and the manufacturing of shotguns until 1919 when the H.D. Folsom Company of New York City bought out the gun portion of the business. William H. Baker held many patents and is credited with the design of the Baker guns, the early L.C. Smith guns and the first Ithaca guns. Barrels for Baker guns were imported Belgian Damascus, English Twist, or German Krupp steel. Great care adn attention was taken to assure correct patterns and accuracy. Baker porduced sidelock guns with and without hammers, and boxlock type guns with hammers.
Baker also designed a unique safety mechanism that is designed for hammerless guns. It not only blocked the triggers, but also placed blocks between the hammers and firing pins. After loading and closing the gun the safety blocks automatically move into the safe position. This is pretty much the same as with many new double barrels produced today.
Then there is a listing of the 19 side by sides produced by Baker; including the one alluded to in your post - Grades A & B; Hammerless, Engraved Damascus barrels.
Soryy but I can't help on pricing but if it was me buying I'd see if I couldn't get the price down somewhat as most of these aren't shooters but mostly wallhangers b/c of the use of corrosive ammo, the age and condition of the gun etc. Though from the sound of this one it may be a shooter still. Have an independent smith look at it beforehand to declare it it's safe to shoot if you're looking for a shooter. Good luck!
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Old August 5, 2000, 10:32 AM   #4
Alex Johnson
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Thanks for all the information. I'm going back to look at it this afternoon, If I can get the price down a bit I think I'll probably take it. The gun is in excellent mechanical condiditon and I do plan on shooting it with appropriate length black powder loads, after checking it over and firing it remotely of course. Once again thanks for the information, it should make an interesting addition to my collection.

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Old August 5, 2000, 05:26 PM   #5
Alex Johnson
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Well guys, just got back from the gunshop and I'm carrying my prize. They did go down on the price somewhat so they made a sale and I've got myself a nice toy. I was wrong on some of the information that I gave you the markings on the top rib say:

L.C. Smith Maker of Baker Gun Syracuse NY Damascus Steel

Engraved into the sideplate are the words "Baker Pat

It is also marked internally with: PATD Aug 31, 1875 Jany 29, 1878

Their is also a large B stamped inside next to the serial number which may be why they were calling it a model B, whether this has anything to do with the model I don't know.

The forearm has a patent date of June 1st 1880.

I don't really care about the value of the gun, I bought it because it's both elegant and well made; as while as, to serve as a sort of link between myself and the past. Now when I pick this fine old piece up, I can't help but wonder about the things that it has seen, I bet if it could speak it would tell me tales of great hunts and owners that have treated it gently and with respect through it's lifetime. Maybe after having it checked over by a competent gunsmith I too will shoot it, with appropriate black powder loads. If I do I'll take it out in the fields once again and let it perform the task for which it was intended. Maybe someday I'll pass it down to a son of my own and if it has a few more battlemarks on it for it's time with me in the field, than so be it.

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Old August 6, 2000, 07:34 AM   #6
fal308
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Sounds like you have a very interesting piece. I hope you have lots of fun with it be it a wall hanger or a shooter.
Another interesting action-opening shotgun is the Stevens triple trigger. The forward trigger is in a separate triggerguard in front of the regular triggerguard. There are only a few of these known to still exist. An owner of one even let the makers of the movie Tombstone use his in their movie! And these are worth several thousand dollars IIRC.
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Old August 6, 2000, 09:55 AM   #7
Alex Johnson
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That Stevens sounds like it would be interesting, I'll have to watch Tombstone again and see if I can spot it, I think I might know which seen it's in.
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Old August 6, 2000, 10:37 PM   #8
James K
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Hi, Alex,

FWIW, I don't recommend shooting any of the old Damascus barrel guns even with black powder loads. Even if they were cleaned religiously, corrosion often gets into the microscopic seams in the barrels and corrodes the barrel metal from the inside out, weakening the barrels in an invisible way. I have sectioned Damascus barrels and seen this, so it is not out of some book.

I will probably be flamed by some people who believe that English guns, or Parkers, or high quality guns are immune from this; some even say that Damascus barrels are stronger than modern steel. I know two guys who have stumps where there used to be fingers to prove that is not true, although both used smokeless powder loads.

Jim
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Old August 7, 2000, 04:46 PM   #9
Alex Johnson
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Hi Jim, I appreciate your concern but I do feel Damascus has gotten a bad rap. Most, if not all, of the incidentes that I have heard about where accidents have happened with damascus were the results of some fools putting smokeless loads into them. Good damascus, in good condition, is perfectly strong for the pressures of black powder, that is what it's original makers intended it for and as long as their work has been taken care of I will not doubt it's strength. If your interested in the way that one set of damascus barrels stood up to pressure tests have a look at the Winter 1999 edition of The Double Gun Journal (Volume 10 Issue 4). In these tests they took an old Parker and ran a series of destruction tests on the old girl. They finally managed to break her barrels with a proof load that developed 29,400 psi in the barrel. Before that they used a charge that 27,620 psi and their was no signs of swelling or damage to the gun in any way. It should be noted that 12 guage proof loads don't generally exceed 18,560 psi but this gun took damn near twice that number to burst. Nor was their anything particuarlly special about this old parker, the bores were in bad shape and the gun had been well used. I have owned several damascus shotguns and I have shot them all with appropriate black powder loads. I don't waste my time buying damascus barrel shotguns if they aren't in exceptionally good mechanical condition; as while as being from reputable makers. With that being said I don't advocate anybody shoot a gun with damascus barrels and I don't let anybody else shoot mine either, nor do I subject anyone to the possible dangers of them by shooting them around others. I'm comfortable enough shooting my guns with my handloads and I think I've probably done things that have endangered me more in the past. But once again, I appreciate your concern for a fellow TFL'r.
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