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Gundom's excalibur: for many hunters, the parker invincibles are the ultimate double guns.

PERHAPS IT IS out there somewhere in Grandpa's closet, forgotten since the old man shuffled off to the Great Covert in the Sky.

The perfect shotgun, one that drops birds as if by magic. It's out there.

My Excalibur is the Parker Invincible. Of all the stories connected with Parker and with shotguns, none is more widely known (and more debated) than that of the Invincible. I even contributed a bit to the legend by writing a ghost story about the famous gun.

The Invincible was supposed to be the best of the best. It was a special order from the get-go and its history is cloudy. There are three known in existence, so there's a dim possibility I will walk into an antique store some day and find a dusty shotgun leaning against the wall behind a collection of old Coke bottles.

Until then, though, the three existing Invincibles are it. Al] three were ultimately owned by the late Robert Petersen of Petersen's Publishing, and all arc now on display at the NRA Firearms Museum, in Fairfax, Vir. The auction estimate is $1 million-plus for all three--chances are that would only be a starting bid.

Years ago, Parker expert Larry Baer said there may have been several Invinciblcs, but he had only seen one with the serial number 230,329. That opinion has been pretty well debunked. The three in Fairfax all share identical engraving and inlay and if one is a documented Invincible, they all must be.

For years, there was a persistent story one Invincible was "lost." It bore the serial number 200,000 to commemorate the company reaching that production total. It would (then) cost $1,500, double the price of the top grade A-1 Special.

Today $1,500 would get you a middling double-barrel and the cost of the Invincible would get you a villa on the Riviera. An A-1 belonging to Czar Nicholas of Russia sold in 2007 for $287,500. A year earlier an A-1 with two barrels (probably 20- and 28-gauge) sold for $97,750. Two others went for more than $50,000 each.

According to the most often told story, there were two Invincibles made and one vanished. Parker made one for a fellow named A.C. Middleton, who founded the Victor Talking Machine Company (today RCA Victor). Middleton bought his Invincible in 1929, just in time to get hammered by the stock market crash. It was numbered 230,329 and was engraved identically to the catalog photo of No. 200,000, so is considered a second Invincible.

Middleton never fired the gun and stored it cased in a closet. Years later, his widow sold the Middleton 25-room mansion ... with the shotgun apparently forgotten in the closet.

PP SUPER FINE' A young doctor bought the house ... and the priceless gun. He knew what he had, and after three years sold it. After that it went through several owners and by 1971 its price tag was $100,000.

Gary Herman, who owned that Invincible from 1969-1972, also said there was only one Invincible and any others were adaptations of the A-1 Special, Parker's top-of-the-line model. The A-1 wasn't exactly common--there were only 320 made (or 63, depending on which story you read).

A special order Invincible in 1930 would have cost $1,250. Middleton is supposed to have ordered two, not one. As the second was being finished, a gentleman from South Carolina ordered an Invincible and the company sold him Middleton's second gun, a 16-gauge, then built a third to complete Middleton's pair.

The South Carolina Invincible showed up when the owner, by then an old man, sent the gun to wellknown Parker expert Larry Del Grego for repair. He'd broken the stock when he fell while quail hunting. Del Grego says he was told the man broke the stock while trying to fungo an errant beagle.

Del Grego, an Ilion, N.Y., gunsmith, has been considered the foremost Parker gunsmith (his grandfather and father both worked for Parker). And he claims there were three In-vincibles--those now in the Firearms Museum.

The three Museum guns are: No. 122565, a 12-gauge with a 28-inch barrel and a straight grip (perfect for me!); No. 230329, a 16-gauge with a semi-pistol grip and 26-inch barrel; and No. 200,000, a 12-gauge with a 32-inch barrel (!) and a straight grip.

That first Invincible, No. 200,000, actually was called a "PP Super Fine" in its first printed mention, a 1922 Parker Brothers stock book. By '26 it was called the Invincible.

All three share one unusual feature--the famous recessed, exposed hinge pin (the identifying feature of a Parker shotgun) is filled over so it doesn't show. Supposedly, that was so the elaborate engraving wouldn't be interrupted.

HOPE REMAINS The first two Parkers would be excellent upland guns, but the 32-inch barrels on the last 12-gauge would be like lugging a railroad tie, not the best option for an upland gun.

But who would carry an Invincible through brush and briars or into a soggy blind? Guns are made to shoot, but unique guns are often more of an art form and shooting them only decreases the value or risks damage.

My dream is to uncover an Invincible with a 26-inch barrel, straight grip, in 28-gauge and take that gun wherever I want and shoot it. Of course if history is any indication, I would shoot it like a $45 rusted-out Sears & Roebuck 1945 single-shot.

Ross B, Youne

A TRADITION IN FINE SPORTING ART SINCE 1980

Parkers have claimed the historic "best shotgun" distinction, even though several other double-barreled American guns are just as good, and prices on some of the famous English doubles approach that of the Invin-cibles. Actor Clark Gable gave his beloved wife Carole Lombard a Parker.

Of all the Parkers made in any grade, the most desired and valuable is the 28-gauge. For whatever reason, Middleton and the second buyer chose not to have a 28 Invincible built.

But there are A-1 models in 28-gauge. Aficionados of the 28 sum it up by saying, "It shoots better than it has any right to." Greener was building 28s in England as early as 1885, but the Americans didn't fall in love with it until Parker introduced a double-barreled version around 1905. I bought an American Arms 28 which I loved until our daughter decided to take up pheasant hunting.

My gun was on the feathery side, which made it perfect for my petite daughter. So I loaned the little gun to her. I really did expect to get it back, but when I next saw it, it was under the arm of her son Nicholas, and he was treating it as his own.

It would be a grinchy grandfather indeed who would wrestle his grandson to the ground, snarling, "Gimme the gun, kid, or you're out of the will!"

Nicky obviously wanted the gun more than the dubious benefits of my estate. I was about two steps behind him when his dad's Brittany locked up. A woodcock flushed, Nicky mounted the little gun and shot, then swung to a second woodcock, which had flushed just behind the first.

Both were dead in the air. I sighed. It was his Invincible.Nicky's, not mine.

Maybe tomorrow I'll find that flea market Invincible. Maybe I'll double on a covey of winged pigs, too.

www.rossyoung.com

Ross B. Young Art Studio 6155 E. Farm Road 132 Springfield, MO 65802 417-866-1800
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Title Annotation:News & Views
Author:Vance, Joel M.
Publication:Gun Dog
Date:Sep 1, 2014
Words:1245
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