FULTON — Those attending the 10th annual Hunter Arms Homecoming Weekend on Friday and Saturday in Fulton were fired up to renew acquaintances, share stories, and shoot the famed L.C. Smith guns once again.
The weekend’s events included shooting contests at the Pathfinder Fish & Game Club, historic Hunter Arms and L.C. Smith displays at the John Wells Pratt House Museum, and an awards banquet Saturday night at Tavern on the Lock Restaurant.
The Friends of History in Fulton, N.Y. group organizes the Hunter Arms Homecoming Weekend to welcome back people from all over the country who collect or have a connection with the prized L.C. Smith guns that were made at the former Hunter Arms factory in Fulton from the late 1800s to about 1950.
Attendees gathered Saturday at the Pathfinder Club to shoot targets using L.C. Smith/Hunter Arms guns. Skeet, trap, and Five Stand target shooting was scheduled, along with the sporting clays course.
One of those on hand for the event was Mark Young of Guston, Kentucky. He said it was his “fourth or fifth” time returning for the Hunter Arms Homecoming Weekend.
“It’s just the camaraderie and a good time. Everybody just gets to meet and tell their stories and shoot guns,” Young said. “Every gun has a story. It’s pretty fun.”
Young is a collector of the L.C. Smith guns.
“I have the addiction,” he said. “I’ve got about 20. But probably the crown jewel is my grandfather’s, which is just a field grade, which is the lowest grade, but the story is the part (that makes it special). That’s how it all started.”
Young said he has some guns in his collection that go back to the 19th century.
“It’s almost like collecting art. They are pretty special,” he said.
He added that he and his girlfriend toured the displays at the Pratt House on Friday, admiring the old guns and the artwork and getting more information about them.
Dave Demarest of Parsippany, New Jersey, said that several of his relatives owned L.C. Smith guns.
“They were a good grade of gun that was affordable to the common man. A person of average means could afford a decent L.C. and be able to go out and shoot,” he said. “My grandfather was a live pigeon shooter back in the day when the competitions were big money and it was taken very seriously. He was not shooting an expensive gun. He was shooting the field grade L.C.s. They were well made and did the job quite nicely.”
Demarest said he doesn’t have the guns his family members used, but that connection turned him into a collector. He said he had “eight to 10 of these guns,” including some that date back to the 19th century.
For Larry Moore of Jamestown, Ohio, this was his third trip to the special Hunter Arms weekend.
“It was canceled last year (because of the COVID-19 pandemic), but I came out and fished Lake Ontario in Oswego anyway,” he said. “There is tremendous history in this area.”
His collection of L.C. Smith guns is small, but he treasures them all.
“I only have six, compared to these people that have 30 and 40, but I hunt with and shoot all of the guns I have,” Moore said. “My grandparents in Kentucky shot L.C. Smiths at the turn of the 1900s. Both of them shot live pigeon shoots in the day. Sadly, those guns got away from the family, but because of that connection, I got interested in the double guns and specifically the L.C. Smith guns. I’m looking to collect a few more, maybe.”
Asked what makes the Fulton-made L.C. Smith guns special, he said, “A lot of people have family history and connection with them, especially here in Fulton. We saw a lot of that at the Pratt House. … For me, it’s fit and finish, it’s the fact that they never shoot loose, and it’s a piece of American history that you can’t replace anymore.”
Moore used a 1903 pigeon grade gun for Saturday’s contests at the Pathfinder Club. He said he used a 1937 ideal grade 16-gauge on the sporting clays course on Friday.
“The gun I shot yesterday is my favorite pheasant hunting gun. I have taken pheasants in Ohio, Kentucky, and Nebraska with it,” he said.
At the Pratt House Museum, some of the visitors brought their own special guns or items and set up displays on the first floor for review by the public. The displays included L.C. Smith guns of various grades, plus related advertising and artwork. There was memorabilia relating to Al Krause, who used to be the main engraver of the L.C. Smith guns. He painted a lot of landscape photos.
The displays were up for judging in three categories: the Mayor’s Choice Award, the People’s Choice Award, and another award for the display voted best by members of the Hunter family visiting for the weekend.
The public was also encouraged to check out the Hunter Arms Gallery upstairs.
James Stubbendieck, record keeper for the L.C. Smith Collectors Association, was at the museum both days to provide information about L.C. Smith and Fulton-made guns.
On Friday alone, he reviewed more than three-dozen guns brought in by people seeking more information about them. For the weekend, Stubbendieck researched 56 guns, according to Les Weldin, a member of the Friends of History and the L.C. Smith Collectors Association.
Weldin also gave results of the awards presented at Saturday night’s banquet.
The top three finishers in each of the shooting categories were recognized.
Skeet — 1st, David Dempsey. 2nd, David Demarest. 3rd, Tom Snyder Jr.
Trap — 1st, Larry Moore. 2nd, David Demarest. 3rd, Tom Snyder Jr.
Five Stand — 1st, Tom Snyder Jr. 2nd, David Dempsey. 3rd, Annie Jardin.
Sporting Clays — 1st, David Dempsey. 2nd, Tom Snyder Jr. 3rd, Frank Finch
David Dempsey won the High Gun award as the top overall shooter.
For the displays at the Pratt House, the awards are as follows:
Hunter Award (voted by members of the Hunter family) — Frank Finch.
Mayor’s Award — Annie Jardin.
People’s Choice Award — Suzy Byer.