16ga. win. leader 3" shotshells


#1

I Have a sealed box of winchester leader 3" shotshells, would anyone one know its history or value?


#2

Welcome Screwgy
In the case of packaging, nothing is going to say as much as pictures, of all sides of the box. It would help a great deal if you could post some of your box.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has offered a gun or load commercially for a 3" 16ga but that is not to say it was not experimented with. Western Cartridge Co did much to introduce the US to 3" ammunition, in the 12 and 20 gauges. They acquired WRA (Winchester ammunition) in 1931 so it is a possibility that WRA’s Leader shells could have been used in experimental loadings.
It is also quite possible someone has faked this box too. Especially since you state the box is sealed and I assume no attempt has been made to measure an individual shell. Give us some good pictures and we can give you better information.

As for value, authentic experimentals, such as a 3" 16ga, would stir considerable interest among shotshell collectors but you couldn’t buy a new gun from their sale. Fakes would be pretty much useless I would think.


#3

[quote=“Shotmeister”]Welcome Screwgy
In the case of packaging, nothing is going to say as much as pictures, of all sides of the box. It would help a great deal if you could post some of your box.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has offered a gun or load commercially for a 3" 16ga but that is not to say it was not experimented with. Western Cartridge Co did much to introduce the US to 3" ammunition, in the 12 and 20 gauges. They acquired WRA (Winchester ammunition) in 1931 so it is a possibility that WRA’s Leader shells could have been used in experimental loadings.
It is also quite possible someone has faked this box too. Especially since you state the box is sealed and I assume no attempt has been made to measure an individual shell. Give us some good pictures and we can give you better information.

As for value, authentic experimentals, such as a 3" 16ga, would stir considerable interest among shotshell collectors but you couldn’t buy a new gun from their sale. Fakes would be pretty much useless I would think.[/quote]

16 gauge 3 inches shotshells are commonly found in Winchester & Western catalogues from 1896 to 1934 (and perhaps longer, i don’t have any catalogue younger than that) all along the years.
Why do you say it is experimental ?
Same about UMC and Rem-UMC.

Furthermore all the european manufacturers (eley, sfm, aso) used to manufacture this length in 16 gauge.

Nothing really exiting in my humble opinion.

JP


#4

That’s very interesting JeanPierre because I had truly never seen, or heard of, a 3" 16ga but that shows how little I really know about shotshells. Every day is a learning experience. Please note that I stated “To the best of my knowledge…” because I’m aware of my limitations.

I have seen thousands of 16ga shotguns, read volumes on shotguns and I never recall seeing a 16 ga chamber for a 3" shell but it just shows one is never to old to learn. You have now educated me. So, no doubt they do exist and if you say they are not uncommon, then we certainly travel in different circles because I have never seen one.


#5

The longest 16 gauge shell I know is 90 mm (3 9/16) !!!

JP


#6

I briefly owned a 1923 vintage 16 gauge Ideal Grade L.C. Smith that came with 2 sets of barrels. One set consisted of 32" barrels and 3" chambers. If I recall correctly, the underside was marked 3". The factory was known to do that. It was one of many Smiths that I should have contacted Bill Brophy for a letter. Cheers!


#7

Like I said earlier, 3" 16 gauge shells were something I didn’t know existed but, by George, I have tried to find as much info as I could since. Dick Iverson and Ron Stadt have been kind enough to help me out.

At least in the US, 16 ga 3" shells were indeed offered by Winchester, U.S. Cartridge Co. and Peters, if not more, and that is reflected in their catalogs. Since primed empty shells were often sold during the early part of the 20th century and reloading was common, it is quite possible that the longer hulls were cut down. Examples of extremely long shells in other gauges have been identified too. Roundsworth and Stadt have identified guns chambered for the 3" 16 (an L.C. Smith and Winchester 21) but they are certainly not commonly found in the United States. Based on my conversations with others, the shells are rather uncommon here today and the boxes even more so. (I checked Brophy’s book and found no reference to any 3" 16 ga. A price list did refer to 3" chambers as an option but did not specify gauge.)

So, I don’t feel as dumb as I did this morning but like JP, I have a new quest!


#8

I’ve always wondered why in the U.S. the 16 ga. never got the “Magnum” treatment that the 10, 12 and 20 ga. and .410 got. While there were many older and obsolete lengths available, the standard lengths seem to have evolved (WWII and later) to 2-5/8" and 2-7/8" for the 10 ga., 2-3/4" for the 12, 16 and 20 ga. and 2-1/2" for the .410. The “Magnum” lengths went to 3-1/2" for the 10 ga., 3" for the 12 and 20 ga. and .410, but the 16 ga. never got marketed in the U.S. as a longer 3" “Magnumized” case. I would think that it might have been experimented with (like Shotmeister may have been thinking?) but have never seen any reference to this.

Had the 16 ga. fallen out of favor in the U.S. to the extent that it wouldn’t sell in a “Magnum” version or was there some other reason?

Thanks,
Dave


#9

I could be completely wrong, but I believe that in the U.S.A., except for the rural South, the popularity of the standard 2-3/4" was diminished quite a bit by the introduction of the 3" Magnum 20 Gauge chamber. Lighter, slimmer guns with the same basic “punch” as a standard 16 gauge. That is what many of my shotgun customers told me. I forget exactly when, but there was a short-lived push to revive the popularity of the 16 gauge during my tenure at the gun shop, with some ccompanies that had not offered much in 16 gauge increasing their lines, but in our area, anyway, the move was a failure. However, the number of older, used 16 gauge shotguns encountered by us would seem to back up the claim that it was the fairly modern 20 Gauge 3" cartridge the cut their popularity; that is wasn’t always that way.

John Moss


#10

John, I think you are correct in your analogy of the demise of the 16 ga in general.

Born and raised in the South, where Bobwhite Quail was the king of upland game, almost everyone had either a 12 gauge or a 16 gauge shotgun. The Browning Sweet Sixteen was very popular but there were others in the 16 too. The same guns that busted quail from Thanksgiving to March also saw heavy use during September in the many dove fields farmers had and if the occassional duck or goose hunt came along, 16 ga owners felt confident with their 1 1/4oz loads of #4 lead shot. 16 gauge guns loaded with buckshot saw plenty of service on dog-driven deer drives too. But as the decade of the 60’s came, so too did the 20 gauge. Not so much the 3" version, because few ‘universal’ guns were chambered for both the 2 3/4 and 3" then as they are now. Another factor, though perhaps smaller in effect, was the issue of 2 9/16" chambered guns. I know of several cases where 20’s were bought to replace these short chambered guns when shell production ceased by major American companies. In the opinions of the hunters I grew up around there was little need for anything in 3" chambers. Perhaps this is the main reason I was so surprised to learn that such a thing as a 3" 16 ga ever existed!

One interesting point I discovered in my recent crash course in 16 gauge history was the view that the longer shell was not intended to increase the shot load, as the 12 and 20 extended shells did, but to increase the length of the wad column. This reportedly helped cushion the shot load and enhance the preformance of the shot load. Interesting.

I’ve yet to actually see and hold a factory loaded 3" 16 gauge but several people in the IAA and elsewhere have been most helpful in enhancing my education and I appreciate it all.


#11

Shotmeister - You are right on about the 2-9/16" load. Many shooters bought old used guns with that chamber and found out sooner or later the folly of trying them with 2-3/4" shells. Many of course, initially didn’t know they were 2-2/4" chambers. I remember in our store the major case of this was with Browning Auto Fives. They could be converted to the 2-3/4" shell, but it was so expensive, it wasn’t worth it. There was more involved than just rechambering, although I don’t know what (and it is irrelevent here, since it really doesn’t concern ammunition) because I always turned those guys over to our Shotgun Staff to talk to. I was never into shotguns much, alhtough in 36 years of selling them, you have to learn something about them!
Actually, I’m really sorry I never took them up - learn to like them the last ten years in Cowboy Shooting, including Cowboy trap, even though I suck at that!

John Moss


#12

Pictures added above…


#13

Does somebody have a spare 16 gauge 3" case to trade or sell? I have been looking after it for years.
Hds not important


#14

The box pictured dates from sometime between 1921 and 1924. It does not feature the earlier “devils tail” logo nor the later oval powder or “made in USA” on the front. Winchester offered many lengths of Primed empty shells, but the first factory load 3" no.16 was this Leader line in the early 1920’s and the shells featured the new #4 primers. These shells entered the market many years before the introduction of the model 21 which could be had in a 16 ga. 3". All the leader 3" no.16’s in my collection have an actual length measurement of around 2.80" - 2.82".


#15

Joaded or unloaded ??
JP


#16

JP,

measurements are for factory loads.


#17

Many thanks for posting the pictures Screwguy. Might be as close as I ever come to seeing one of those!


#18

Here’s a view of the 3" 16 ga. next to a standard 12 ga.