Bought by a private collector, it was the highlight of Morphy’s (27% buyer’s premium) Firearms & Militaria auction on September 5-7.
The 12-bore double-barreled hammerless model with 28in barrels was a gift to Oakley from the London gunmaker Charles Lancaster.
The story goes that he observed Oakley at a gun club in England in 1887, struggling with a Parker shotgun that appeared too heavy for a petite 5ft frame.
Lancaster offered Oakley advice on wingshooting and later presented her with four bespoke shotguns: two 20-bores and two 12-bores. The 12-bore in Morphy’s sale, with the serial number 05970 for 1888, came with a 2012 letter from Charles Lancaster Gunmakers documenting its history.
The gun was clearly a favourite weapon as it had been modified and repaired for ‘Little Sure Shot’ on a number of occasions. The barrels were shortened in 1889, it was converted to an ejector in 1889 and was returned to the workshop for replacement parts in 1895 and 1896.
Oakley cared much more about the reliability and quality of her guns than their artistic appearance.
Given the date of manufacture, it is likely that Oakley used the shotgun at the Exposition Universelle (Paris Exposition) of 1889, where she appeared with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and wowed European spectators with her shooting expertise.
A decade after Oakley died in 1926 the gun was sold in 1937 as a curiosity by Charles Lancaster to a WE Lockwood Jr of Exton, Pennsylvania.