What is my Lefever worth?
The standard answer is whatever somebody will pay you for it. These are collectable guns. There is a market for most grades in good condition. The best way to get a reasonable answer for your particular gun is by an inquiry to: firstname.lastname@example.org
However before you jump there you need to have some basic information ready and photos will vastly increase the accuracy of any assessment the well informed LACA members will give. Instructions on how to post photos are on the forum site.
For the value of a Lefever the two most important issues are Grade and condition. Most, but not all, Lefever Arms Co. Guns have a Grade assigned including the later DM Lefever Guns. We will not get into early Lefever hammer guns here because they are so rare. The Grades will be discussed below.
Other issues are alterations. Sometimes these can be hard to detect. The most frequent and costly in terms of values are if the barrels have been cut. Almost all Lefever gun barrels are exactly 28, 30 or 32 inches in length. A few are 26 especially in smaller guages The length is measured from the breech end of the barrels themselves, not the rib extension, to the muzzle end. Another clue is to look at the barrels end on. If the sides of the barrels do not touch or come within a tiny fraction of touching they may have been cut.
Stock alterations can be very difficult to detect if done well and may not detract much from the value. Poor stock alterations or broken stocks obviously reduce the value.
Case colors on the frame (case colors are the various shades of blue and purple produced when the frame is originally hardened at the factory, or can be done later as a part of a restoration) are a positive factor, especially if original. However, original case colors on a gun that is an old as a Lefever that was used in the field are rather rare. Mostly they are found on high grade guns that were lovingly kept and lightly used, or sent in for restorative work. Sometimes case colors are faked by applying an acetylene torch to the frame. Obviously, this is not good.
Barrel condition is important, especially if the buyer intends to shoot it. Dents in the barrel can usually be repaired if not severe. Minor pitting inside the barrel can sometimes be overcome. Lefever guns came with either steel barrels or one of several kinds of twist steel. You can tell twist or Damascus barrels by the pattern on the barrels that spirals the length of the barrels.
Condition can be difficult for an amateur to describe. Rust is bad but doesn't necessarily make it worthless. Dents and pitting in the barrels (look down the length of the barrels after running a cleaning brush and cloth) certainly detracts from value, but again doesn't make it worthless as some of this can be repaired.
What Grade is my Lefever?
The Grades of the Lefever Arms Co (Syracuse) and DM Lefever guns is generally marked on the watertable. The watertable is the flat part of the frame that the barrels rest on. You have to remove the barrels to see the grade mark. For the LAC guns the Grade can range from Optimus, AA, A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I, and DS. The D.M. Lefever guns are marked 3-Optimus, 4A,5E,6C,7D,8E,9F, and O Excelsior. The general terms, the higher the grade the more the gun is worth. However, condition and any unique features also come into play. Some of these guns are not graded. In most cases they were Special Order or Presentation Guns. Some of these guns will have the grade stamped on the stock grip, under the grip cap. The post-LAC Ithaca Lefevers don't have grades. The model (most frequently "Nitro Special") is stamped on the barrels. There were two other Grades not mentioned. The LAC "Thousand Dollar Grade" and The DM Lefever "Uncle Dan Grade". If you have one of these you are not likely to be seaching the web to find out what it is, but if you do you should call the website administrator immediately and don't tell anybody else about it. They are essentailly worthless and the administrator will help you get rid of them (NOT!).
Can I shoot my Lefever?
In many cases yes, but not until you have it looked over by a competent gunsmith who is familiar with antique guns. Don't trust the guy at the hardware or sporting goods store who knows how to dissemble your Remington 870. In most cases, even if it is deemed safe to shoot, you need to use special ammunition. Many, but not all, of the Lefever guns were chambered for 2 1/2 inch shells. They were not meant to be fired with even the standard field loads you find on the shelf. Again, if your gun has been examined and deemed safe by an expert gunsmith they may be able to advise you on the right shell to use or pose the question about your specific gun on the forum. The Lefever Nitro Specials and other Ithaca Lefever guns can generally be fired with standard 2 3/4 inch field grade loads if the gun and barrels are in good shape. Do not use 3 inch shells, magnum loads, or steel shot in these guns.
When was my Lefever made?
Check out the Production Dates tab on the main menu. However, beware that Lefevers were frequently made out of sequence. No records remain from the original companies. These numbers are extrapolations from known sources, but variations and exceptions exist.
Should I fix up my Lefever Gun?
The following is excerpted from the Lefever Forum regarding somebody who inherited a Lefever shotgun and wanted to "fix it up":
I am going to be blunt and to the point here. Your gun as it is seems to be in a used but not abused condition. It is somewhat scarce because of it's small bore. The three most important factors in determining its' value are original condition, original condition, and original condition. Your light sanding of the numbers probably didn't hurt much as the real damage there was done by the fool who scratched them into the wood. But now you are contemplating a complete refinish of a collectible shotgun when you obviously have virtually no experience. Chances are very good that you do not own proper gunsmithing screwdrivers and tools for disassembly. At this point, you do not even know how to remove the trigger guard. I know you have good intentions and some carpentry experience, but that is not enough unless you are intent of lessening the value of your gun. It is your gun, and as such you have the right to back your truck over it if that is your desire. However, I don't think that's why you came here. So here are some facts. An amateur refinish of wood and metal will reduce the value of this gun greatly. Many so-called professional gunsmiths will use improper methods and materials and also ruin the value. Hot salts bluing of the barrels will destroy them and even make them unsafe to shoot. There are a few gunsmiths who specialize in restoring these old guns, Buck Hamlin, Keith Kearcher, and Doug Turnbull come to mind. They have the expertise and experience to make your gun look like the day it left the factory. Unfortunately, none of this will come cheap. In fact, you might never recover the cost of such a restoration. It's kind of like doing a $60,000 kitchen remodel in a neighborhood of $70,000 homes. If you have the means and money, perhaps this is acceptable to you. Otherwise, you are at a crossroads here. My advice considering your experience level would be to do a small touch up refinish of the sanded area. After you are done, if anyone can tell it was touched up, then you are not good enough to proceed further. A 20 ga. DS Lefever in sound condition is NOT a good subject as a practice platform for a budding hobby gunsmith. There are millions of cheap guns out there that never will have any collector value that would be a better place to start. If your father-in-law gave you a Van Gough painting, would you attempt to restore it if you were not a museum conservator? Of course not. I apologize for preaching here, but I have seen way too many guns ruined by well meaning folks. I do practice what I preach. I bought a D. M. Lefever crossbolt gun over a year ago with ejector issues. I have been searching here and elsewhere for information on the lock-works and ejector system ever since. At this point, I have not so much as put a good and proper screwdriver to this gun. It may well come to pass that I will turn it over to an expert and pay the price. Sometimes you just can't beat a bricklayer at his trade. Meanwhile, you have a nice little gun that quite a few of us here would be quite happy to own as it is. It got that way through honest use in the field, not because some hack went crazy with sandpaper, files, and polishers. I get nothing from giving you this advice. In fact, if you ruin this gun, that will only reduce the pool of surviving specimens and make my own 20 Ga. DS more valuable.