Pete- The question is based on the original Winchester factory ledger pages, not a later transcription subject to a keyboard typo.
Jesi Bennett, the records specialist who works with the factory records daily to do “factory letters” had this piece in the newsletter from the Cody Firearms Museum. She is used to working with the manuscript records and the quirks of reading old handwritten stuff, so it is not some casual amateur making a rookie mistake.
Her original piece (slightly edited to remove some gun history):
"Did they really … ?
17 Gauge Winchester 1897 Shotguns
Wandering through the Winchester 1893/1897 records last year I came across a conundrum and I am just not sure what to make of it.
The Model 1897 was produced exclusively in 12 gauge until serial number 69008 (serialized March 3, 1899) when we see the first 16 gauge listed in the records. The 16 gauges are rare occurrence until serial number 82319 (serialized September 6,1899) when they are recorded on almost every ledger page.
Our conundrum comes in around serial number 333700. Imagine, I am paging through the records while cleaning up a survey on the Model 1897 … 12 gauge, 12 gauge, 12 gauge, 17 gauge, 12 gauge, 12 gauge … wait! What…? 17 gauge? Yes, that does say 17!! That has to be a typo! So I keep on paging through the ledger. Then serial number 337657 … 17 gauge, 28 inches. Okay, it could still be a typo. Then number 339584, 340221, 341423. This just doesn’t seem like a typo now.
All together we have found seventeen 17 gauge Model 1897s in the warehouse ledgers. Thirteen of these are clearly written as 17 gauges. Four have been clearly corrected to 17 gauge. They range from serial number 333706 to 374616. Sixteen were made between July and October 1906, and shipped between August and November of the same year, except two which
have no ship date or order number. Serial number 374616 was made and shipped in the summer of 1907. The fifteen that have order numbers were sent out in twelve different orders. One even was in for repair in 1918.
All but two were recorded with 28-inch barrels. Serial number 333706 had a 32-inch barrel with a 30-inch interchangeable barrel, and number 374616 had a 30-inch barrel. They all were takedowns and most were modified choke. Three are recorded as having Model 1893 stocks.
I have asked a number of gun guys, Googled it, searched in books, and there just doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to whether Winchester actually did make 17 gauge shotguns. Wikipedia states that a 17 gauge would only be found in punt guns and rare weapons. A few individuals told me that there was a European interest in “odd” gauge shotguns in the early 20th century. There is just so little I have found on the subject and I have not come across a clear, comprehensive discussion of the concept.
So, dear reader, I ask you … Have you come across a 17 gauge Winchester 1897? A different
manufacturer’s 17 gauge? What do you make of these records? E-mail me, write me a letter, find me at a show. Help me make sense of these findings!"