There was a time when no self-respecting upland bird hunter would be caught dead with a pump shotgun. Side-by-sides ruled the golden era of bird hunting. Gentlemen hunters and even hardscrabble farm boys proudly trailed their setters, shotgun in hand, as they plucked singles and doubles from each covey rise. Sadly, those days are gone. Quail are hanging on by a thread throughout much of their range and doubles, as purists like to call them, have been replaced by single-barrel pumps and auto-loaders—guns that just don’t have the grace and charm of a classic double.
Side-by-sides are a more rare sight in the field anymore. Many of the major firearms manufacturers don’t even offer a factory-produced side-by-side. That’s a shame. Doubles aren’t just handsome, they are straight-shooting guns that perform admirably in the uplands. Pick one up and you’ll instantly feel a connection to the golden age of bird hunting. Check out our roundup of the best side-by-sides of all time.
Theodore Roosevelt also owned a Fox and took it on safari in 1909, proclaiming, “no better gun was ever made.” It sold at auction in 2010 for a record $862,500.
The shotgun originally made by Ansley H. Fox was first produced in 1898 and continued through 1929, when the company was sold to Savage. The original Fox shotguns came in a variety of grades, including everything from the semi-affordable, no-frills AE grade, to the lavishly engraved XE grade. Original Foxes are widely sought by collectors.
The highest, the A-3, included automatic ejectors, ornate engraving and gold inlays. The lowest was a no-frills gun that sold for about $30 during the early 1900s. Marlin purchased the company in 1949 but closed the factory a year later after a large portion of the factory floor collapsed.
Marlin resumed production of Smiths in 1969, but ended the run just two years later after producing fewer than 2,600 guns. As with many historic doubles, LC Smiths are coveted collector’s items that can fetch thousands of dollars at auction and on web sites.
Lefever, known as Uncle Dan, founded his own company in 1879 after splitting with partner John Nichols. He did not remain with his namesake company long, and it was ultimately sold to Ithaca in 1916, which continued to produce shotguns under the Lefever name until 1948.
During its heyday, Parker made numerous grades, including the lavishly engraved A-1 Special, one of the most coveted guns among collectors. One A-1 Parker that belonged to the Czar of Russia sold at auction for $287,000 in 2007.
The Parker name was resurrected when Remington purchased the company, but World War II spelled the ultimate end of the name, at least for that era. Remington resumed limited productions of Parkers in 2006. Although the older models were made with Damascus twist barrels, many of the newer models are still knocking down birds today.