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3 inch chamber on 20 ga. VHE
Unread 07-13-2015, 10:21 PM   #1
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Alfred Greeson
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Default 3 inch chamber on 20 ga. VHE

I have a VHE 20 gauge from 1917 and the chambers measure 3 inch on what appear to be 26 inch uncut barrels. The barrels do not have a weight in pounds and ounces as usually seen, just a plain 3 is stamped where you normally see the barrel weight. Serial number is 176850. Interesting that the serial number is not in the Parker I D book but the guns around the serial number are S or T13 quality codes and primarily 12 ga. with 32 & 34 inch barrels. Is this anything unusual and could the lone 3 represent 3 inch factory chambers in 1917 on a 20 ga?
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Unread 07-14-2015, 08:44 AM   #2
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The 3 is the barrel weight. 3 lbs even.
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Unread 07-14-2015, 10:48 AM   #3
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Have you measured the barrel wall thickness at the forcing cones?
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Unread 07-14-2015, 02:42 PM   #4
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The 3 inch 20 was introduced after WWII. I think in the early 50's

So if the barrel are origin to the gun, and are that light, that is a lot of reaming

Dean's question may be a critical one
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Unread 07-14-2015, 02:50 PM   #5
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But a few of the California duck club guns 30" and longer in twenty-gauge had 3" chambers per the original order. But, those were specialty guns and a 26" gun chambered for 3" shells is a bit suspect.
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Unread 07-14-2015, 04:52 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Romig View Post
But a few of the California duck club guns 30" and longer in twenty-gauge had 3" chambers per the original order. But, those were specialty guns and a 26" gun chambered for 3" shells is a bit suspect.
This is correct. I have a 20 ga VHE with 32" tubes and original 3" chambers. Ordered and shipped in 1917 to a store in San Francisco. Dean is also correct about 3" chambers and 26" barrels - not a likely combination, ever.
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Unread 07-14-2015, 07:39 PM   #7
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My M21 20 gauge is chambered for 3" in both sets of barrels - 26" and 30".
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Unread 07-14-2015, 08:48 PM   #8
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This 20ga VHE, 190872, has original 32" barrels with 3" chambers choked full & full. The second set of 28" ic, mod, 2&5/8" chambers was added later by the Meriden Works and weighs an ounce or so more than the long barrels but they balance at the same point. I have not checked wall thickness in either set but I would not use modern 1&1/4oz 3" shells in it.
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Unread 07-14-2015, 11:31 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the input, I will have the barrels checked and measured. Proud to find it but no reason to take a chance on safety and I did not think about that thickness if someone bored it out without knowing what they were doing. Thanks Dean.
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Unread 07-15-2015, 12:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
The 3 inch 20 was introduced after WWII. I think in the early 50's
Paper Shot Shell Lengths

In reviewing old Union Metallic Cartridge Co. catalogues and price lists, the first time I see mention of extra length paper shot shells is in the 1889 catalogue, before they were offering any smokeless powder shells. Smokeless powder begins appearing in the 1891 catalogue. After the introduction of smokeless powder loads the first catalogue Iíve found to offer longer paper shells is 1895 where they offer 10-gauge shells in 2 5/8 and 2 7/8 inch lengths, 12-gauge shells in 2 5/8 or 2 3/4 inch lengths, while 16-gauge is just 2 9/16 inch and 20-gauge just 2 1/2 inch. In the September 1896 catalogue they offer 12-gauge paper "Smokeless" shell in lengths up to 3-inch. All brass 10- and 12-gauge NPEs were offered up to 3 1/4 inch length. By the April 1899 UMC Catalogue things are really taking off and they've added 2 3/4 and 2 7/8 inch lengths to both 16- and 20-gauge offerings, and the 3 1/4 inch 12-gauge length in their "Trap" shell. By the May 1900 UMC catalogue the 3-inch 16- and 20-gauge length is being offered in their salmon colored "Smokeless" shell and their green colored "Trap" shell.

That pretty much covers paper shot shell lengths and when they appeared. So, by 1900 we had paper 12-gauge shells in 2 5/8, 2 3/4, 2 7/8, 3 and 3 1/4 inch lengths; 16-gauge shells in 2 9/16, 2 3/4, 2 7/8 and 3-inch lengths; and 20-gauge shells in 2 1/2, 2 3/4, 2 7/8 and 3-inch lengths.

The "Standard" North American 20-gauge shell throughout the first quarter of the 20th Century was 2 1/2 inch, and the vast majority of American 20-gauge doubles were chambered for that shell. The 2 1/2 inch 20-gauge shell of those days carried a maximum load of 2 1/4 drams of bulk smokeless powder (DuPont, E.C., Schultze, Empire, Wolf, Mullerite, etc.) or 18-grains of dense smokeless powder (Ballistite, Infallible) or 24-grains of Walsrode and 7/8 ounce of shot. Longer 20-gauge shells were offered at extra cost in 2 3/4", 2 7/8" and 3". The long shells advantage was more and better wadding for a better gas seal, and a slightly hotter/faster load. In the 20-gauge they were offered with a slightly hotter/faster load with 2 1/2 drams of bulk or 20-grains of dense smokeless powders (Ballistite or Infallible) or 26-grains of Walsrode but still with only 7/8 ounce of shot.





All the manufacturers would chamber for the long shells upon request at no extra charge in a new gun. Back in those days the chamber length usually wasnít marked on the guns and the only way to know for sure is if the original hang tag or factory records still exist.

The 3-inch Magnum 20-gauge was a mid-1950s item. The first commercial listing for a 3-inch magnum 20-gauge that I've found, was the Magnum Model 21 in the January 2, 1954, Winchester catalogue. However, there are no 3-inch 20-gauge shells listed in the January 2, 1954, Winchester Ammunition catalogue and price list, but they are in the January 2, 1954, Western Cartridge Co. catalogue and price list. The story goes that the Olin brothers and their buddies had been playing around with 3-inch 20-gauge Model 21s for some time before that. In the 1954 Western Cartridge Co. ammunition catalogue the 20-gauge 3-inch Mag. is offered with 1 1/8 ounce of Lubaloy #6 or 1 3/16 ounce of Lubaloy #4. The next year the 2 3/4 inch "magnum" shells were introduced with 1 1/2 ounce in 12-gauge, 1 1/4 ounce in 16-gauge and 1 1/8 ounce in 20-gauge. The 3-inch 20-gauge Mag. offerings remained the same through the 1959 price list. For 1960 the 3-inch 20-gauge magnum with 1 1/4 ounce of chilled shot was added to the offerings, while the Lubaloy loads were still 1 1/8 and 1 3/16. The Winchester/Western offerings in 3-inch 20-gauge shells remained the same thru 1968 where my old catalogues play out.
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