Antique FRANCIS BANNERMAN/SPENCER Model 1890 Slide Action 12 Gauge SHOTGUN
Early 1890s TOP EJECTING Pump Action Shotgun
Here we present an antique F. Bannerman Spencer Model 1890 Slide Action 12 Gauge Shotgun, manufactured circa the early 1890s in New York. The Spencer shotgun was designed by Christopher Miner Spencer of Civil War fame, who invented his namesake repeating rifle and carbine and personally demonstrated it to President Abraham Lincoln. The Spencer shotgun was the first slide or pump action shotgun and the first successful repeating shotgun, beating Winchester to the market with their Model 1887 lever action repeating shotgun, John Moses Browning’s design. By 1890, Spencer’s company was failing financially and sold the patents to Bannerman’s, which was a major firearms concern dealing in surplus weaponry, parts, and even antique arms. They continued production until about 1907. Winchester had by this time come out with their Models 1893, 1897, and 1901.
Francis Bannerman and his famous Catalog were a retail giant just prior to the turn of the century. Many shooters will recognize the name from his vast stores of discounted military surplus equipment and firearms. By 1890 the Spencer Sporting Arms Company was indebted to Pratt & Whitney for machinery costs and behind in payments. Bannerman bought the debt and foreclosed on Spencer, with Spencer having to pay $19,328.41. Since this sum was beyond their means, all of Spencer’s physical assets and patent rights were ceded to Bannerman. And with that, he went into business making shotguns.
The model 1890 does not differ that much from the previous Spencer shotgun. The most telling feature would have been the slightly elongated fore-grip made of hard rubber. Otherwise, this is the same original slide action shotgun. Spencers use a Peabody-like tilting block and feed from a tubular magazine. Loading the magazine can only be accomplished with the pump all the way back and the action open. If the shooter had not pre-loaded the chamber, he would have to pump forward, back again, and then forward once more to ready the gun. While visibly a “hammerless” gun, the Spencer does actually have an exposed hammer spur. It’s the “second trigger” at the front of the trigger guard. This is, essentially, a “tail” integral to the hammer and allows the shooter to uncock the action at will.
Bannerman would stay with the Spencer pricing, charging $45, which would be pushing $1,400 in today’s money, for the base gun, though Damascus barrels were standard. Given that this was $20 more than the Winchester lever action, it did not take over the market. Bannerman would later go on to advertise what they called an 1894 model, although they are either very rare, or more likely never existed and were just 1890 models with a new forend on an otherwise unchanged gun. These were probably marketed in brochures as a new model to try and increase sales, as was common at the time for Bannerman and many other gun manufacturers.
The overall condition is good. Strong action. The bore shows signs of wear and scattered light pitting, overall good shape for its age. This example has a solid buttstock. Sharp markings. A great example of a scarce and important piece in the overall history of firearms development.
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel: 30 inches.
Caliber: 12 Gauge
Choke: Improved Cylinder
Length of Pull: 13-1/2 inches.
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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