Western Cartridge Co. 20-gauge Shot Gun Shells


I am primarily a collector/accumulator of American double barrel shotguns with an emphisis on those made by the A.H. Fox Gun Co. Because of the close association of John Olin and his Western Cartridge Co. with the A.H. Fox Gun Co. in the development of Western’s Super-X shotgun shell and The A.H. Fox Gun Co.'s Super-Fox to handle those shells in the early 1920s, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of Western Cartridge Co. paper.

In all of the Western Cartidge Co. paper I have from the 1920s and 30s, the heaviest regular 20-gauge shells offered are 2 1/4 drams equiv. and 7/8 ounce of shot in a 2 1/2 inch case or 2 1/2 drams equiv. and 7/8 ounce of shot in the longer 2 3/4, 2 7/8 or 3-inch “Record” shell. In 1922 along comes the Super-X offering a maximum charge of the new progressive burning powder and one ounce of shot in a 2 3/4 inch shell.

At any rate, in my gun collection I have a big Parker Bros. 2-frame 20-gauge with 32-inch barrels with 3-inch chambers. So, in a recent auction I see this Western “Record” 20-gauge box that says “3 in.” on it and I win it as a bit of ephemera to go with my Parker Bros. shotgun.

Now the rub comes in the load shown on this box “1 1/8 oz. No. 7 Chilled Shot.” I don’t find a 20-gauge load that heavy offered until 1955 when they introduce the 20-gauge 2 3/4 inch magnum shell with 1 1/8 ounce of shot and the 20-gauge 3-inch magnum shells with 1 1/8 or 1 3/16 ounces of shot. It appears from my collection of Western Cartridge Co. paper that they first introduce non-corrosive priming in their .410-bore shells in 1930, and that by 1932 non-corrosive primers are in most all of their shotgun shells. In that there is no “non-corrosive primers” listing on this label, I’m thinking this box is from the 1920s.

So, anyone have any information, thoughts, opinions, on this heavy a load in a 3-inch 20-gauge Western “Record” shell in those days? I’d love to have some of the shells that went in this box, or actually any early long 20-gauge shells.


Is your 20 gauge a “Widgeon Duck Club” model? I understand that L. C. Smith also made a 20 gauge with 3 inch chambers in the early 1900s. And of course there is my favorite, the Stevens No. 200, 20 gauge pump with a 3 inch chamber from 1912-1915.


No, my Parker Bros. is a gun originally shipped to St Louis as a heavy, 9 1/2 pound, 2-frame, 32-inch Damascus barrel 12-gauge. In the time frame between 1918 and 1926 or so it was back to Meriden, got the 1910 bolt and bolt plate, and was fitted with a set of 32-inch Vulcan Steel 20-gauge barrels. I date this by the fact that the Vulcan Steel barrels have the 1918 and later Meriden, CT., U.S.A. address vice the earlier Meriden, Conn. address. The barrels don’t have the Parker Bros. Overload Proof stamp that they began using about 1927. At some point in its life the 12-gauge Damascus barrels lost two-inches and now only have .004" and .007" choke. The gun now weighs a fraction of an ounce over nine pounds with the 12-gauge barrels and 8 pounds 4.5 ounces with the 20-gauge barrels.

The shell in this picture is a 20-gauge 3-inch Remington-UMC Arrow stamped HAND LOADED on the body with a VL&D NEW YORK 8 over shot wad.

At any rate, all my old ammo catalogues only show 20-gauge shells of the period with a max load of 2 1/4 drams equiv. and 7/8 ounce of shot in the “standard” 2 1/2 inch shell, and a max load of 2 1/2 drams equiv. and 7/8 ounce of shot in the longer 2 3/4, 2 7/8 or 3-inch shells.

The “Widgeon Duck Club” guns weigh a bit over 7 pounds, so are very likely 1-frame Parker Bros. 20-gauges. The 3-inch 20-gauge Peters shells shown with a “Widgeon Duck Club” gun in Larry Baer’s The Parker Gun, an Immortal American Classic, Volume II, show a load of 2 1/2 drams of E.C. and 7/8 ounce of #4 chilled. The original Parker Bros. hang tags for 163962, the last of the eight “Widgeon Duck Club” Parkers shows it was targetted with 7/8 ounce of #8.