The descriptions below are of the general characteristics found for that particular type and grade of Parker shotgun. Not all Parkers will exactly meet these descriptions because Parker would alter a gun to meet a customers requirements if possible. Parker shotguns are custom guns and descriptions found here are those of their most common features.

When Parker began making shotgun they made both elaborate and plain guns but they didn't distinguish between them in their sales literature except by the sales price.  Later they adopted a numeric system to identify the various "grades" they produces.  The grade naming system began at zero and ascended as the grades became more elaborate and expensive. Later the numerical grades were combined with letters in an attempt to better differentiate the shotgun characteristics but that did not last long and the letter grades simplified and became almost interchangeable with the numerical system. 


Invincible - Grade 9
  Invincible ad picture  Invincible ad text
The first Invincible was completed in August, 1923 but was first cataloged in 1926. It was offered at the princely sum of $1,250. Over the years the Invincible has taken on a shadowy mystique and was more of an unfounded rumor than fact. It has only been in recent history that the Invincible has come to be seen and photographed.

In addition to being more lavishly engraved and checkered than the A1 Special, the characteristic Parker recessed hinge pin is not present. There are gold birds inlayed on the sides and bottom of the frame, combined with fine scroll engraving. Unique to the Invincible, the frame has barrel side clips on the bolsters and was rebated so the stock fit behind the frame to prohibit splitting of the stock head. The checkering and engraving patterns are superbly executed.

Invincible serial number 230329 is a 16 ga. and the other two are 12 ga.

There were three Invincible Parkers produced*.


Parker A-1 Special - Grade 8
Description

The "Quality A. No. 1 Special" was introduce around 1907. Its price at that time was $500, a very handsome sum at the time.

The A1S has extensive engraving and checkering, it has a gold shield and gold grip cap as well as gold plated triggers. There are three or four extra beads around the bolsters on the frame. On many A1 Specials, the inside surfaces of the water table, the standing breach and barrel flats, will display an engine turning finish.

The stocks were made of the finest Circassian walnut which was dense enough to allow the very fine checkering done at about 32 lines per inch.

The barrels are marked on the top rib indicating the quality of the steel used at the time. Only the finest Whitworth steel was used on the earliest A1 Special guns produced and in later years, Peerless Steel was used. Ejectors were standard on the A1 Special.

The quality of workmanship was superb, wood to metal fit and engraving richly enhanced the graceful lines that made it so pleasing to the eye. The balance was, as with all Parkers, centered for comfort and ease of use.

There were approximately 79 A1 Specials produced*.


Parker AAH - Grade 7

The Grade 7, is also called the AA grade. Most were hammerless and in that case an 'H' was added to the name; the 'H' stands for hammerless. An 'E' (AAHE) is added to the grade if the gun has ejectors. Early AAH guns were marked as "Pigeon Gun" on the top barrel rib. The first AA was seen about 1895 and at that time, it was Parkers highest grade. It sold for $400 and in 1895, it was a very expensive item.

The early AA guns engraving tended to be deep chisel but later the engraving became lighter in style; although both were elegantly done by the best engravers of the time. The stocks were made of the finest Circassian walnut which was dense enough to allow the very fine checkering at about thirty lines per inch. The stock has a gold shield and gold pistol grip cap. Stocks were fitted with a skeleton butt plate as standard but recoil pads were an option. The barrels were made of the finest Damascus steel or Whitworth fluid steel. The hammer gun barrel bolsters have the characteristic teardrop sculpture and hammerless guns have one or two extra beads around the barrel bolsters.  Ejectors were a standard option found on the AAH grade.

The AA grade was intended to appeal to the pigeon shooters of that era.

Production numbers*:

Top Lever Hammer 5
Hammerless 238

Parker AH - Grade 6

The Grade 6 grade was introduced about 1875 and at the time was the highest grade produced. It was initially sold for $300 (the $250 and $300 Dollar grade).

The barrels were made of the finest Damascus steel and later were available also with Acme fluid steel barrels. The hammer gun barrel bolsters have the characteristic teardrop sculpture and some hammerless guns have a single bead around the barrel bolsters. The stock is the finest English or Circassian walnut, highly figured with a gold shield and gold pistol grip cap. The stock is elegantly checkered and has fleur-de-lis carved side panels. Stocks were fitted with a skeleton butt plate as standard but recoil pads were an option. The engraving is of the finest quality and dogs or game scenes are a standard motif.

Ejectors were a common option found on Grade 6 hammerless guns, which would make the grade designation AHE.

Production numbers*:

Lifter Hammer 63
Top Lever Hammer 34
Hammerless 306

Parker BH - Grade 5

The Grade 5 was introduced around 1875, before the grading system was established and would have been the $200 Dollar grade.

The stock was made of the finest Circassian walnut and adorned with fine checkering, a checkered side panels with carved fleur-de-lis. It had a gold shield and gold pistol grip cap. Stocks were fitted with a skeleton butt plate as standard but recoil pads were an option. The barrels were of Extra Fine Damascus and later, when available, Titanic and Acme barrels were offered. The hammer gun barrel bolsters have the characteristic teardrop sculpture and some hammerless guns have a single bead around the barrel bolsters.

The grade 5 was strictly a custom ordered gun.

Ejectors were a common option found on Grade 5 hammerless guns, which would make the grade BHE.

Production numbers*:

Lifter Hammer 65
Top Lever Hammer 79
Hammerless 1,034

Parker CH - Grade 4

The Grade 4 was introduce around 1875. It didn't find a strong niche in the market place. It found itself with little more in added adornments than the next lower grade, the D, but it carried a substantial increase in cost at $150 (a $150 Dollar grade). Customers wanting a high quality Parker, but on limited funds, seemed to settle for the D grade and those that could afford the C seemed to be able to afford the higher grades. The C sales suffered because of that. It was meant to be a "medium priced" Parker but seemed to have missed the mark, as can be seen by its production numbers.

The barrels were mostly made of Bernard steel but some were made with Damascus until some years later when Acme steel was offered. The stock was of Circassian walnut and had more figure than that used on the Grade 3; with a silver shield and silver pistol grip cap. Stocks were fitted with a skeleton butt plate as standard but recoil pads were an option. The checkering was fine and deep, at about twenty-four lines to the inch but it was less ornate in design than the higher grade Parkers. The stock side panels were sometimes checkered and they have angular points. The engraving is similar to the lower grade 3 with dogs and scroll work. The barrel bolsters on hammer guns were sculptured with an abbreviated teardrop bolster, unlike the full teardrop found on higher grades.

Ejectors were an option for CH Parkers. CH grades with ejectors are desirable to collectors and can add to their collector value.

Production numbers*:

Lifter Hammer 100
Top Lever Hammer 101
Hammerless 1,673

Parker DH - Grade 3

The Grade 3 was introduced in 1875 and was very popular at a cost of $100 (a 100 Dollar grade). The DH is considered the lowest grade parker to be a custom grade shotgun.

The DH had Damascus barrels until Titanic Steel barrels were offered as a popular option. The stock was made of Circassian walnut. The stock commonly has a silver shield behind the tang, nickel or silver plated triggers and spear-pointed extensions to the stock side panels. The checkering on the stock is more elaborate than lower grades and is a deep, twenty lines to the inch. Stocks were fitted with a skeleton butt plate as standard but recoil pads were an option. Dogs were almost always a feature of the engraving on the sides along with some extensive scroll work. Before 1897, almost all grade 3 guns had Damascus barrels and Titanic Steels after that date, that is, until the Acme Steel barrels were introduced.

The Grade 3 hammer gun was the lowest grade to have sculptured barrel bolsters.

Ejectors were an option for DH Parkers with ejectors (DHE) are desirable to collectors which can add to their collector value.

Production Numbers*:

Lifter Hammer 702
Top Lever Hammer 1,352
Hammerless 16,398

Parker GH - Grade 2

The Grade 2 production started about 1875, before the grading system was adopted and it sold for $80 (a 80 Dollar grade). As Parker introduced the named grades they named Grade 2 guns E, F, G, H, EH and GH. The GH and EH describes Grade 2 hammerless Parkers, the other names describe Grade 2 hammer guns. These names were based on various gauge and stock configurations.

It was a popular gun for the owner that wanted a gun with more adornment that the average gun and was willing to pay about $20 more for a gun that looked better and was well balanced. The Grade 2 had a higher quality of American walnut which has some figure.

Most Grade 2 guns have Damascus or Parker Special Steel barrels. They were significantly better engraved than the lower grade guns. Quail, ducks, snipe and woodcock are common figures in the engraving of the frame sides and bottom; the forend latch and screw heads are also engraved. The checkering was deeper and finer than lower grade Parkers. After about 1880, the hard rubber dogs head butt plate and a white metal shied behind the top tang became standard on the Grade 2. Because of the added embellishments, it was very popular with Parker customers.

Ejectors were an option on GH grade. These guns with ejectors (GHE) are desirable to collectors and can add as much as 50% to their collector value.

Production numbers*:

Lifter Hammer 4,555
Top Lever Hammer 7,582
Hammerless 31,778

Parker Grade 1
The Grade 1 gun designation started in 1882.As Parker introduced the named grades they named Grade 1 guns I, K, L, M, N, O. P, Q, NH and PH. The PH and NH describes Grade 1 hammerless Parkers, the other names describe Grade 1 hammer guns. These names were based on various gauge and stock configurations.

The early grade 1 guns had English Twist barrels and in later years Twist Steel and Laminated Steel barrels were used. About 1917, Parker started using fluid steel barrels and marked the barrel ribs with Parker Steel. As can be seen by the production numbers, the Grade 1 guns did not sell as well as the higher priced Grade 2 or the lower priced Grade 0.

The characteristics between the Grade 0 and the Grade 1 were minimal, they had slightly better quality wood and a little additional engraving around the screw heads on the frame.

Ejectors were an option on PH grade. These guns with ejectors (PHE) are desirable to collectors and can add as much as 50% to their collector value.

Production numbers*:

Lifter Hammer 586
Top Lever Hammer 3,804
Hammerless 15,588

Parker Grade 0
Parker started production of the Grade 0 (zero) in 1869. Parker started its grade numbering system at zero to denote their lowest grade made at that time. As Parker introduced the named grades they named Grade 0 guns R, S, T, U and VH. Except for the VH which describes all Grade 0 hammerless Parkers, the other names describe Grade 0 hammer guns based on various gauge and stock configurations.

It had Decarbonized Steel barrels in the beginning and later used Plain Twist, Stub Twist or Plain Steel barrels. The early grade 0 guns were back action lifter guns and evolved into the front-action lifter. In 1899 the hammerless grade 0 , the VH, was introduced and it used Vulcan steel barrels. The grade 0 was the mainstay of Parker production and the fit and finish was excellent. They have little extra finish in the way of checkering or engraving and the wood used was plain, straight grain American walnut. The engraving was a simple border around the frame. The early guns had plain metal butt plates and later ones have hard rubber dogs head butt plates. The frame, forend iron and locks were casehardened.

Ejectors were an option on VH grade. These guns with ejectors (VHE) are desirable to collectors and can add as much as 50% to their collector value.

Production numbers*:

Lifter Hammer 15,499
Top Lever Hammer 23,443
Hammerless 78,670

Parker Trojan

The Trojan was first produced in 1912 and was Parker's attempt to get into the less expensive market at a sales price of $25.50. To keep the costs down, in an effort to appeal to the "average" man, no customer options were offered on the Trojan. This kept production costs down and made the factory processes easier, remember production line processes were not mature at that time.

To reduce costs even further, the latching system was changed and around 1920 the rib extension was eliminated. Engraving was nonexistent and the checkering patterns were simple and done in a course 12 lines to the inch. The Trojan frame is uncharacteristic of all the other grades and is surely done to further simplify production. Even the butt plate was changed to be less involved, dropping the traditional dogs head in favor of a straight, molded black plastic or rubber butt plate with only a few horizontal lines across it. The forend latch hardware was replaced by a simple internal spring latch and is removed by pulling on the top of the forend.

Production numbers*:

Top Lever Hammerless 33,005



"Dollar Grade", T-Latch and Back-Action

From 1869 until 1875, the startup years for the Parker shotgun, Parker didn't grade their guns. The guns are not stamped with a grade marking and the advertising of the time described the features and the price of the various styles but didn't refer to them by a standard name.

We know that many peculiar features are present on the early Parker guns, almost as though the factory was searching for what would become their standard.   

It appears to be that there were few, if any, standards that could be considered earmarks of a "grade" for the simple reason that a buyer could have just about anything he wanted for an additional price. Such a system would seem to demand a grading system eventually but until that 'time' a Parker's level of embellishment (or options) was determined by what a buyer was willing to pay.... hence, the "Dollar Grade".

Some things to consider when evaluating an early “ungraded Parker”:

  • Barrel steel can help in determining grades  that would equate with what we commonly think of as grade 0, 1, or 2, but higher grades in these earlier lifter guns had Damascus barrels.  Many of these guns have been re-barreled, so the original barrel steel may not be present for examination.

  • Checkering patterns were not yet standardized.

  • Wood quality on some of these early guns had fantastic wood, even on the lower cost guns.

  • Using the surviving company order books for pricing is not taken as fact either because gauge, stock wrist, and checking style carried price surcharges that varied over time.  Also, many guns were sold at deep discounts.

4.       The fledgling Parker Gun Works would have been a fascinating young business endeavor to see grow and evolve. Imagine, it was a time in American history immediately following a devastating Civil War and in the midst of the Industrial Revolution; at a time in a gun history with the advent of the breech loading gun. There was an immigration of skilled artisans from Europe, and the vast expansion in the American West.

Parker Brothers knew they wanted to produce a quality shotgun for the discerning sportsman.  They put together a team of skilled gunsmiths, engravers, carvers, etc.; this team probably ranged from highly skilled and experienced, to entered apprentice. They had the freedom to experiment and perfect their art, along with all the innovations made during that time.

Being a young business, Parker Brothers was also trying to grow and expand sales. A price list was circulated with general descriptions of "grades", all based on the amount of embellishment. When an order was received, a gun was assembled or chosen from production, to fit the description and priced accordingly. This is why, prior to 1875, no two Parker guns are alike, even within the same general price description.

Frame sculpture and the level of engraving followed closely by checkering pattern and wood quality, in that order, are best used to “grade” an early Parker.

It was after the arrival of general manager King, as the factory manager, that things seemed to settle down and take on a grading structure.  Many peculiar things happened before King came along with a working game plan. It may be that no design feature seen in an earlier serial number Parkers really sets a grading precedent.

There were a few $300 guns listed but they remain elusive. The known $250 guns are a treat to see and hold. They are finely engraved and the best materials of the day were used.  The common range for dollar grade guns is $250 - $50.

The best that can be done to catalog these early guns today is to group them by their sales price when new; thus the name of dollar grades. All the dollar grades are back action or lifter action guns.

Production numbers*:

Damascus barrels 1,384
Laminated barrels 146
Twist barrels 1,983

Parker Single Barrel Trap (SBT)
   

The Single Barrel Trap guns were introduced in 1917 and are designated by the letter S (single) followed but the standard Parker Grade designation. There have been no SBT guns cataloged in a grade lower than C. The SBT was introduced as an SC and sold for $150. The engraving and checkering qualities follow those of the double gun.

Production numbers*:

SA1 4
SAA 1
SA 32
SB 96
SC 1,779

Current Parker Manufacturing

In June of 1934, Remington Arms Co. took control of Parker and continued to build Parker shotguns until production  ceased in 1942.  But in 2006, Remington resumed  production and again makes a Parker shotgun.  The selection is very limited; they offer but one grade and gauge, an AAHE 28 gauge.  Because Remington owns all rights to the Parker name, these guns are not considered reproductions or copies.  These guns may not have stood the test of time but their style, fit and finish are presented in true, old time, Parker quality.

To read Remington Arms sales brochures about the new Parker AAHE, "click" on ---> Remington Arms Co.


The Parker Reproduction by Winchester

In 1984, Winchester Arms revived the Parker gun but because Remington Arms held the rights to Parker, they labeled it "The Parker Reproduction by Winchester".  Originally introduced as a DHE grade, it was later expanded to BHE and A1 Special grades.  Production continued until the owners of the manufacturing company in Japan closed their doors in 1989.  Sales continued while supplies remained but that ended sometime around 1997.

The first batch of 28 ga guns that were ordered from Japan had that F on the lug where normally the frame size is found. They came that way from the manufacturer probably because they misread an accounting code that was used as a computer codes.

Production numbers:

DHE 28 Gauge 4,203
DHE 20 Gauge 5,800
DHE 12 Gauge 2,137
DHE 12 Gauge Steel Shot 350
DHE 12 Gauge Sporting Clays 125
DHE 410 Gauge 33
BHE 28 Gauge 7
BHE 20 Gauge 100
BHE 12 Gauge 100
BHE 410 Gauge 9
A-1 Factory Engraved, All Gauges  150
A-1 Custom Engraved, All Gauges 300
A-1 28/.410 Combo 16
Plus 500 16 Ga barrel sets that fit on the 0 frame 20ga DHE

The Parker Snow Musket

Charles Parker entered the gun business because of a demand created by the outbreak of the American Civil War.  It all started in 1861 when James Mulholland entered into a contract with "Parkers' Snow CO." to help fill an order for 50,000 Model 1861 rifled muskets.  Later, in 1862, the Parkers Snow CO contracted to produce 15,000 muskets.  Any Mulholland contract muskets found will have the date 1863 stamped on the lock-plate; those under the Parkers Snow contract are stamped 1864.

Muskets made under both contracts are marked "PARKERS' SNOW & CO, MERIDEN, CONN," on the lock-plate.  They have three barrel bands holding the forty inch, 58 caliber rifled barrels to the stock.  The metal has a bright finish.  The overall lenght of the musket is fifty-six inches.

Production numbers: Approximately 5,502 under Mulholland contract and 15,000 under Parkers Snow contract.


*note: Production numbers of Parker Bros. shotguns were obtained from "The Parker Story" by Gunther, Mullins, Parker, Price and Cote.