Educate Me On Francotte SxS's

Posted by: gjw

Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/19/11 06:42 PM

Hi all, I'm not up on Belguns by any means, so I was wondering if you can give me an education. I know this maker is well known and respected, but I see so many different models and was wondering if you all can tell me the grading system used by them, i.e. 25E, 14E etc. I guess from best quality to entry level.

Also are there any time periods were their quality declined or are their guns always good quality?

Thanks for the help!!!

Posted by: Franc Otte

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/19/11 07:35 PM

Yes, the cat is out of the bag on Francottes.
I am no expert,but am a fan & have had several.
I believe the nicest Guns available over here were imported by VL&D (Von Lenge? & Detmold) , & so marked on the side of bbls,,from around 1920--30 ish.The later A&F ones don't seem as nicely finished to me
They had some plainish Boxlocks like The High Gun & Knockabout, then some rather nicely engraved Bl's like the #s 14 & 18.
Then there were some nice Sideplated BL's going up in prettyness from #s 20,25,30,& 45(eagle grade)
Then there were the SLE Guns,don't know what #s these were, but a nice Francotte SLE is a very beautiful Gun.
I particularly like the lovely carved Rush/Reed/Ribband fences found on many of them, not just the SLEs either,
I had a beaut' of an 18e, awsome to look at, but it had problems & I had to send it back to seller.
The Model #s above were just for the imported Guns..I don't think they used those #s on their home turf.
Hope this helps a bit
Franc Otte
Posted by: bbman3

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/19/11 10:21 PM

Greg i had a 25E 16 gauge with straight grip and it was a fine gun with fancy wood,side plates and really fine engraving. Bobby
Posted by: sandlapper

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/19/11 10:35 PM

Greg, I've got an Eagle Grade(45E),circa 1921 V,L&D gun that is put together as good as anything else being built in those days. It's a 12 ga. ejector with 26" chopper lump Siemens bbls,with all the std.Francottefeature that even the 14E had,namely sideclips, Greener X-bolt,intercepting sears,double underbolts,and it weighs 6'3". The Belgians could build some stuff that could stand with anybody else. Regards, Marcus
Posted by: gjw

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/19/11 10:51 PM

HI all and thanks!! So what do you think of this one:

Just curious.

Thanjs as always!

Posted by: L. Brown

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 07:50 AM

Greg, just by way of comparison: Per the A&F catalog from 1936, a 25 sold for $325. A Parker CHE with a single trigger went for $282, a Fox XE for $200, an Ithaca 4E Skeet with single trigger for $166, and a Browning Superposed Midas Grade for $305. Other than the British guns and the Sauer Deluxe, the Francottes were the most expensive European guns A&F handled.

If you want to look at a very nice 25E 20ga, go to I've held that one, and it was mighty tempting!
Posted by: King Brown

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 09:24 AM

The original owner of my 1899 12ga double Francotte was C.W. Billings of Glen Ridge, N.J. captain of the 1912 US Olympic trapshooting team. "Made for C.W. Billings" in gold on the rib, bought through VLD. It's straight stock with 26-inch barrels, probably bought for grouse. I believe the US Olympic team used Remington automatics. Francottes seem underrated. I bought mine about 10 years ago in great shape for $800 and a good one sold here last week at a sporting clays shoot for $1500. I'd have bought it but two Francottes would be a waste on me!
Posted by: Bob Beach

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 01:00 PM

Allow me to present the models of the Francotte shotguns that were imported to the U.S. by Von Lengerke & Detmold and, later, by Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s a bit lengthy but as you know there is not much information out there about Francotte shotguns so there is a lot to be said.

Von Lengerke & Detmold began to import Francotte firearms in 1889. The earliest VL&D ledger in the Griffin & Howe archives is Volume No. 1 and it was created sometime in 1900. It contains a list of the firearms, sorted by make and model, that were in inventory 1900 followed by the newly arrived ones in chronological order. Between 1900 and 1910 the Francotte models included the following, generally in order of increasing quality and price:



Nimrod – hammer gun
KnockAbout – utility grade hammerless (added in 1904 to replace the JP Sauer KnockAbout which was discontinued at that time)
No. 1 – non-ejector hammerless boxlock
No. 2 – non-ejector hammerless boxlock
No. 3 – non-ejector hammerless boxlock, Damascus barrels
No. 3A – non-ejector hammerless boxlock, Siemen-Martin steel barrels
‘X’ Ejector - ejector hammerless, Siemen-Martin steel barrels


‘A’ - ejector hammerless boxlock
‘B’ - ejector hammerless sideplated boxlock
‘C’ - ejector hammerless sideplated boxlock
Special Trap Ejector - ejector hammerless


Hammer Featherweight– lightweight hammer gun
Special – non-ejector hammerless
Quality ‘I’ - ejector hammerless
Quality ‘II’ – ejector hammerless sideplated boxlock
‘AA’ - ejector hammerless boxlock
‘BB’ - ejector hammerless sideplated boxlock
‘CC’ - ejector hammerless sideplated boxlock
‘DD’ - ejector hammerless sideplated boxlock
Eagle - ejector hammerless sideplated boxlock (replaced the Grade DD in December 1900)


Single Barrel Trap – non-ejector hammerless


In 1910 VL&D changed most of the Francotte model designations and reduced the number of models that were offered. In the 1910 records the models that are listed include the following, again in order of quality and price:

Knockabout Grade – the basic utility grade gun
No. 10 Quality – a non-ejector lightweight field gun
No. 11 Quality – a non-ejector Single Barrel Trap gun
No. 13 Quality – an ejector Single Barrel Trap gun
No. 14 Quality – boxlock hammerless ejector
No. 17 ½ Quality - boxlock hammerless ejector
No. 20 Quality – side-plated boxlock hammerless ejector
No. 25 Quality – side-plated boxlock hammerless ejector
No. 30 Quality – side-plated boxlock hammerless ejector
No. 45 (Eagle) Quality – side-plated boxlock hammerless ejector

(Higher graded sidelock guns were mostly special order although between 1931 and 1948 some were imported for stock and sold as “Deluxe” models)

Existing Francotte shotguns from prior years were entered in the model category that they most closely resembled. I suspect that the earlier, mostly letter model names were those of Francotte while the numbered model names begun in 1910 were those of VL&D. Import records from 1920-23 show that Francotte’s were received as ‘Letter’ models but entered in inventory as ‘Number’ models, sometimes with the accompanying letter designation as well.

For over a year I pondered about the model 17 1/2, trying to determine why the “1/2” was added to the number. There was nothing in the record books that provided an explanation but then Carol Barnes of Gunnerman Books generously provided me with copies of the early Francotte data that had been collected by her late husband, Larry Barnes. Included were VL&D catalog pages from 1910 and upon reviewing them the reason was immediately obvious. In 1910, the price of the Grade No. 10 was $100, the Grade No. 14 was $140, the Grade No. 17 ½ was $175, and so on. Back then it was not unheard of for makers and retailers to designate models according to the retail price of the firearm. By 1920 grades No. 10 and 17 ½ had both disappeared from the inventory and the designation “Quality” was dropped from the model name.

So where does Abercrombie & Fitch come into the picture? In 1928, Ezra Fitch retired as the president of A&F and his place was taken by his son-in-law, James L. Cobb. Until then A&F had sold mostly clothing and camping gear. Although they did offer firearms and hunting and fishing equipment, they were not as heavily involved in those areas as their competitor, Von Lengerke & Detmold. So Cobb decided to expand the old fashioned way – by buying the competition. In 1929 A&F purchased (some say merged with) Von Lengerke & Detmold as well as Von Lengerke & Antoine in Chicago and Griffin & Howe in New York. About the same time A&F also purchased several fishing tackle firms. By purchasing VL&D, A&F not only significantly increased their inventory of firearms but they picked up the VL&D firearms importation business, including Auguste Francotte firearms. To handle the increased work load and inventory, A&F hired many of the VL&D staff, including George Henry Krug, vice-president of VL&D and manager of the VL&D gunroom. Henry Krug was the manager of the VL&D and the A&F gunrooms until his retirement on April 1, 1950 so it is likely that he handled most and sold many of the Francotte’s in your collections.

When A&F took over the importation of Francotte’s they continued to market them as “VL&D Francotte” shotguns until about the mid-1930’s after which they were engraved with the A&F name.

From 1927 until 1940 A&F sold a Francotte model known as the 1923-H which was a SxS available in 410 bore only.

In 1939, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the VL&D/A&F importation of Francotte’s, A&F advertised the Jubilee Model. This was a grade somewhat better than the Knockabout grade and priced a bit higher. First inventoried in 1940 they were sold out by 1942. Of course, the war prevented the further importation of this model.

In 1963-64 the High Gun was offered. This model was a plain sideplated boxlock with a semi-beavertail forend.

One interesting note – in June 1955 the A&F Francotte serial numbers, which had reached up into the 90,000’s, started over with number 1001 – a Knockabout gun. The number of Francotte’s imported picked up again after the war until the 1960’s when the sale of Francotte’s began to be overtaken by the A&F Zoli-Rizzini’s. Francotte continued to manufacture sidelock guns with serial numbers in the high 80,000 and low 90,000 serial range but these were not imported by A&F and do not appear in the A&F record books.

A&F imported a large number of Over/Under shotguns that, while they are not stamped with the Francotte name, do have the maker’s mark ‘AF’ in an oval and topped by a crown among the proof marks. These would also be Francotte shotguns.

Please contact me if you need to determine the precise model of your VL&D/A&F Francotte and the year of its importation. See the Research page of the Griffin & Howe web site.
Posted by: obsessed-with-doubles

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 02:00 PM

Holy cow - awesome info.

The clouds have parted and the sun is shining.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: PeteM

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 02:10 PM

Very nice Bob. Thank you.

Posted by: Drew Hause

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 07:08 PM

King: Infro. on the 1912 Olympic Team here
Posted by: King Brown

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 09:52 PM

Thank you. I get a kick out of carrying his shooter. Well, not quite a shooter: finely engraved boxlock, good condition, all screws untouched.
Posted by: tw

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/20/11 11:14 PM

In the interesting things to know catagory; Francotte was at one time larger than FN. They were the single largest arms maker in Belgium, prior to the military contracts for Mausers that made FN. I was told that by the gent that followed Val Browning as president of that company, so not my own research, but I've never questioned it. I have never seen a Francotte that was not well made; their reputation was based on quality products and virtually every one of them received good fit & finish executed by craftsmen that understood both. They were well respected in Europe before VL&D or VL&A ever sold the first one here. That attention to quality remained true through the 1970's and a bit later until their unfortunate demise as a viable entity. There are some real stunners about from the 70's; Grifnee embelished a number of them.
Posted by: 2holer

Re: Educate Me On Francotte SxS's - 05/21/11 07:31 AM