Since I published this article I located a documented 3-inch 20-gauge gun manufactured under special order in 1948!
Model 21 20-Gauge, 3-Inch Magnum
The Model 21 20-gauge is one of only two Winchester Shotguns to introduce a new shotshell, the other is the Model 42 with the 3-inch .410 shell. Winchester and Western executives experimented with the 3-inch 20 gauge for several years before deciding to offer the new shell in the Model 21. Jack O'Connor and Warren Page made several references to Winchester's early experiments in articles in Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and The Gun Digest. During the expiremental period and despite what was published in their catalogs, Winchester would build 20-gauge 3-inch guns for special customers. Number 26,966 with it's 28" Modified and Full barrels is one such gun. The factory records indicate that this gun was built for the W.A. Holt Company in April of 1952. Two full years BEFORE Winchester offered the 20 gauge 3-inch magnum to the general public.
click the photo for a close-up
Gun show experts tell me #26,966 was 'Made for Stock'. Then simply re-chambered to 3-inch and therefore isn't a custom gun built to order. But notice the position of the '21' on #26,966 and compare it to #27,396, the barrel marking begins on the former are farther foreward of the barrel flat. The the roll die for #26,966 is a modified die for early '50's 2-3/4" chamber die. The die for #27,396 was engraved during the 3-inch production period and begins at the same position on the barrel as the standard 2-3/4" chamber die.
Also, the model number on the 'Final Inspection Report' is 2100B, the code for all special order Model 21's, no mention is made that the gun was pulled from stock as was Duck Gun #30,136. To further support my custom built to order contention is the fact that only the 30" F/F barrels were assigned a regular catalog number, #2123B, all other 3-inch magnum 20-gauges were made for special order only. In any event, this variation is one of the rarest Model 21's. I put the figure at less than 20, see: 20 Gauge 3-Inch Magnum Est. Production.
In 1954 Winchester finally announced the 20-gauge magnum to the trade through gun shop and retail catalogs and with print advertisements. Ammunition for the first 2 years or so for the 3-inch 20 gauge was provided under the Western Brand with Lubaloy #6 an #4 shot.
An early box of 3-Inch, 1-Ľoz. - #7˝ chilled.
click on the photo for a close up.
©2010 M.C. Manges