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Old March 13, 2020, 07:42 PM   #1
KnightofCydonia
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JC Higgins Model 20 (High Standard Flite-King)

Just picked up a 12 ga JC Higgins Model 20. Some research shows it was made by High Standard and evolved into the High Standard Model 200 Flight King. Mine is a plain barrel full choke, doesn't have the Power-Pac choke system. The gun sold for $60 USD in 1948 Sears catalog which works out to be $642.25 USD today. I did not pay that much for it in 2020

Even more research indicates the main lead for designing the M1 Carbine, Frederick Humeston, designed this shotgun when he left Winchester for High Standard.

It is a lovechild between the Remington M31 and Winchester M12. It's pretty amazing how the USA was able to make high quality firearms back in the 1940-50s, even for the budget mail-order segment of the market.











Initially the gun was very sluggish, and doing some tear down, the coil spring that sits on the magazine tube was worn/gummed up. Similar to the Win Model 12, it pushes back on the slide and forms a friction fit against the action bar release. You normally have to push forward to unlock the slide. I took this coil spring off, as did High Standard in later production when they transitioned to the Flite-King model. One of the gripes about these guns is the broken action bars, and that was thought to be attributed to this coil spring. It gives you a springy feel when you close the action rather than the solid lock up. Hence, shooters tried to over exert on the forward stroke to overcome the spring and this resulted in broken action bars. Upon disassembly, mine was welded back on. I think High Standard realized the spring was causing people to really work the action hard and breaking the action bar arm, so they just got rid of the coil spring. Overall, the gun is really well designed, and you can see the Remington 31 heritage and Mossberg 500 evolution in it. I cleaned out all the nooks with Hoppes No 9, then greased the shell stop pin and the shell lifter trunnions and reassembled. Now the action falls by gravity as it was designed to. Slicker than my Ithaca 37, and on par with the Model 12. The 870 Wingmaster doesn't come close to these classic pumps.

Impressions: Very solid gun. It's well-balanced and hefty in the hands. About 7-7.5 lbs I reckon, all steel receiver. Barrel is thick and threaded into receiver, should be accurate with slugs. Good trigger pull as per 1950s specifications of a good trigger. Jewelled bolt and shell lifter. Nice walnut stocks with decent figure. Monogram brass plate in stock. A lot of shotgun for a Sears Roebuck mail order catalog budget gun.

Gun probably was a closet gun, still not broken in. Had to pump it a few times to get it glass smooth.
https://youtu.be/3ZLHWHFa7ok

Gravity-Assist Action
https://youtu.be/SaFMnH4JH_k

Last edited by KnightofCydonia; March 13, 2020 at 08:02 PM.
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Old March 15, 2020, 10:35 AM   #2
osbornk
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I got one of the first ones made in a car trade several years ago. It was made in 1947 which happens to be the year I was born. It always worked reliably and I suspect it was not used a lot or was very well treated. I gave it to my grandson who loves it. He shoots it very well and hits most of the flying clays. He was 15 or 16 when I gave it to him. I will give him my Henry lever action 22 as a reward when he gets his Eagle Scout later this month.
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Old March 15, 2020, 11:31 AM   #3
KnightofCydonia
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You're are great grandpa! It's a pretty natural pointer despite it's steel heft.
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Old March 16, 2020, 06:39 PM   #4
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I’ve got two I bought in last year. Both are grungy and I haven’t had time to do much. Both had vent rib and adj choke. One I already have cut off. They do make excellent slug guns with threaded in barrels. Vent rib makes drilling and tapping to mount sights easy. I have made slug guns out of a lot of them in last 50yrs.
I think they are a much better gun than 870 or Moss 500. I’m a Win 12 guy but the Rem 31 is a close second.
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Old March 16, 2020, 07:54 PM   #5
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osbornk How do you know yours was made in 1947 ? I have a model 20 12ga plain barrel . The choke is very very tight and still shoot slugs very well when it is all you have . I got mine used in 1953 and it has no se. number . I still use it and it is a good old shotgun .
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Old March 16, 2020, 08:38 PM   #6
KnightofCydonia
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Sears Pump Action Shotguns

Ident. No. Model Gauge Roll Mark Date

583.53 20 12 8/26/47
583.54 20 12 2/17/48
583.55 20 12 11/29/48
583.56 20 12 11/29/48
583.55 20 12 11/01/49
583.56 20 12 11/09/49
583.57 20 12 9/10/51
583.58 20 12 9/10/51
583.59 20 12 5/17/52
583.60 20 12 5/17/52
583.61 20 12 4/22/54
.
583.87 20 12 _/3/55
583.88 20 12 2/3/55
583.89 20 12 2/3/55
.
583.200 20 12 2/21/55
583.2001 20 12 11/06/56
583.2002 20 12
583.2003 20 12
583.2004 20 12
583.2005 20 12
583.2006 20 12
583.2025 21 12
583.2050 20 16
583.2051 20 16
.
583.2075 21 20
583.2076 21 20
583.2078 21 20
583.2079 21 20
583.2080 21 20
583.2085 21 .410
583.2086 21 .410
583.2087 21 .410


A typical roll mark will read:

J. C. HIGGINS, MODEL 20, 12 GA. SEARS


, ROEBUCK AND CO. 583.88

and is usually rolled on the left side of the barrel just forward of the receiver.





Taken from data on sheet 2 of 5 compiled by J. J. Reardon _ 1/28/77

Transcribed by John J. Stimson, Jr. _ 6 April, 2002

Released ___ 6 April, 2002, Revised ___ 28 December, 2003

© John J. Stimson, Jr. 2002, 2003


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For questions about High Standard products, use the forum of this website

For questions about or problems with this website, contact: John Stimson, Jr.
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Old March 16, 2020, 08:39 PM   #7
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Which slugs do you find work best in them?
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Old March 19, 2020, 07:44 PM   #8
osbornk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KnightofCydonia View Post
Sears Pump Action Shotguns

Ident. No. Model Gauge Roll Mark Date

583.53 20 12 8/26/47
583.54 20 12 2/17/48
583.55 20 12 11/29/48
583.56 20 12 11/29/48
583.55 20 12 11/01/49
583.56 20 12 11/09/49
583.57 20 12 9/10/51
583.58 20 12 9/10/51
583.59 20 12 5/17/52
583.60 20 12 5/17/52
583.61 20 12 4/22/54
.
583.87 20 12 _/3/55
583.88 20 12 2/3/55
583.89 20 12 2/3/55
.
583.200 20 12 2/21/55
583.2001 20 12 11/06/56
583.2002 20 12
583.2003 20 12
583.2004 20 12
583.2005 20 12
583.2006 20 12
583.2025 21 12
583.2050 20 16
583.2051 20 16
.
583.2075 21 20
583.2076 21 20
583.2078 21 20
583.2079 21 20
583.2080 21 20
583.2085 21 .410
583.2086 21 .410
583.2087 21 .410


A typical roll mark will read:

J. C. HIGGINS, MODEL 20, 12 GA. SEARS


, ROEBUCK AND CO. 583.88

and is usually rolled on the left side of the barrel just forward of the receiver.





Taken from data on sheet 2 of 5 compiled by J. J. Reardon _ 1/28/77

Transcribed by John J. Stimson, Jr. _ 6 April, 2002

Released ___ 6 April, 2002, Revised ___ 28 December, 2003

© John J. Stimson, Jr. 2002, 2003


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For questions about High Standard products, use the forum of this website

For questions about or problems with this website, contact: John Stimson, Jr.
Thanks for answering Keybear's question for me.
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Old March 30, 2020, 05:18 PM   #9
jmstr
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I have a 1957-ish one- JC Higgins Model 20 catalog #583.2001.

Very nice. So much that it led me to a 1971 HS K121 when I saw one come up locally.


On your 1947 version, when you pump the action and hold the trigger, the hammer will fall. HOWEVER, does it pause, and then fall, allowing the gun to be fired as fast as pumped- a la Winchester Model 1912/12 and Ithaca 37Featherweight [pre 1975 versions]?

OR, is it like my 1957 version, where the hammer falls immediately and cannot touch the FP until in lockup, so there is no chance of an inadvertent shot? [but, if you hold the trigger it requires you to shuck out a perfectly good round and reload it.]

I have heard people claim they will fire like the Winchester Model 12, but I know my 1957 one cannot do it, and HS redesigned the trigger assembly by 1968 to keep the hammer back if you accidentally held the trigger- allowing a 'normal' reset.

Very cool shotguns, and I agree- VERY SLICK operation!

My '57 has a Cutts on it. I'm debating adding chokes to the '71 version, for flexibility.


BTW- none of these had serial numbers until the National Gun Control Act of '68 required it. They only had catalog numbers.

Last edited by jmstr; March 30, 2020 at 05:24 PM.
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Old March 30, 2020, 06:02 PM   #10
KnightofCydonia
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My 1958 model will fire without the trigger disconnect, at least with snap caps.
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Old March 30, 2020, 08:05 PM   #11
jmstr
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Next time you are at the range, please give it a try and confirm it fires.

I know the hammer will follow. I actually read a brochure where the JC Higgins 20 was listed as having a safety feature that allowed the hammer to follow without firing the round accidentally [I think this was an obvious comparison to the Winchester Model 12]. that ad was from the 1950s.


With a properly working Model 12, if you dry fire it and hold the trigger back, rack the slide back [hammer cocks] and slowly push the action bar forward, the hammer stays back until the bolt pops into battery in the receiver, and then the hammer falls- to safely fire the next round.

On my JC Higgins Model 20, when I do the same drill, the hammer is obviously pressing on the back bottom edge of the bolt as I am sliding the bolt forward. By the time the bolt is in battery, all of the hammer's force has been used up and then it can depress the firing pin- but it doesn't strike it- it just compresses it.

This means that fast pumping the slide [with trigger held down] leads to no bang on the next pump, and then I have to take trigger finger off trigger and pump the live round out to clear it and load another [and cock the hammer].


If you are simply using a snap cap to see if the hammer resets, then the JC Higgins Model 20 will not reset, and it may make you think it will fire.

However, only an attempt at the range can prove it one way or the other.


Check it out and let me know what you discover later on.
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Old April 2, 2020, 08:54 PM   #12
jmstr
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Here is a page from the 1949 JC Higgins Model 20 manual:





Just thought I'd share.


Anyone with a Model 20, please let me know if you have actually banged out 6 rounds as fast as you can pump, a la the Winchester Model 12, or if you are basing your assumption on it being able to do so on the fact that the hammer doesn't lock back when you hold the trigger down the entire time.

The Model 12 and the Ithaca 37 have an extra mechanism in the trigger group to hold the hammer back even while the trigger is depressed, until the bolt locks up into battery [when it trips a lever that releases the hammer- since the trigger is still back].

You can feel this if you slowly move the slide forward on a 12 or 37.


In the early 1960s, High Standard changed the trigger group for their Flite King series of pumps to hold the hammer back until the trigger is released, no matter what. Ithaca changed the Model 37 to do this in the mid 1970s [75?] except for their police-issued riot guns.
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Old April 3, 2020, 04:52 PM   #13
KnightofCydonia
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I don't think mine slam fires. You can feel the hammer push forward as you move the bolt forward and it pushes on the rear of the bolt before closing into battery.
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Old April 3, 2020, 06:43 PM   #14
jmstr
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Mine too. Thanks!

I have heard a few people at Shotgun world and other sites say that it slam fires, but no one has ever specifically told me if they have done that with live ammo or are just claiming this based on the hammer follow.

I appreciate you taking the time.

I'd like to know if one IS actually rapid-firing, as that would be a model number to either get or avoid, depending on your outlook. Since I have 4 shotguns with that feature, it doesn't concern me. Yet, I have friends who would be scared.

I have done it once per shotgun. Don't feel a need to do it again, but it is fun to do once.
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Old April 3, 2020, 07:42 PM   #15
KnightofCydonia
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I don't really see the benefit for it in a hunting shotgun. My Ithaca M37 does it, but I only need one shot on game usually and I don't want to pick out lead shot if I don't have too

The Model 20 is a really hefty gun, it might make for a good turkey shotgun with the 30" fixed full choke and 8 lb weight. Threaded barrel also should make it good with slugs.

Save the M37 and M870 for Wingshooting.

Last edited by KnightofCydonia; April 3, 2020 at 08:09 PM.
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Old May 11, 2020, 08:24 AM   #16
John Stimson
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The Sears J. C. Higgins Model 20 went through several design variations before another variation was introduced in 1960 was introduced as the High Standard Flite King. The High Standard Model 200 was a cheap seats version sold in the late 1960's

The earliest Model 20 was the High Standard design series HS2, and included the 583.53 and 583.54 The .54 was the Deluxe model.
The next generation was the HS3 which included two variations each of the 583.55 and 583.56. Both versions of the 583.56 were the Deluxe models.
This was followed by the HS3-1 - 583.57 and 583.58 ; the HS3-2 - 583.59 and 583.60 ; the HS3-3 - 583.61.
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Old May 11, 2020, 08:36 AM   #17
John Stimson
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KnightofCydonia View Post
Sears Pump Action Shotguns

Ident. No. Model Gauge Roll Mark Date

583.53 20 12 8/26/47
583.54 20 12 2/17/48
583.55 20 12 11/29/48
583.56 20 12 11/29/48
583.55 20 12 11/01/49
583.56 20 12 11/09/49
583.57 20 12 9/10/51
583.58 20 12 9/10/51
583.59 20 12 5/17/52
583.60 20 12 5/17/52
583.61 20 12 4/22/54
.
583.87 20 12 _/3/55
583.88 20 12 2/3/55
583.89 20 12 2/3/55
.
583.200 20 12 2/21/55
583.2001 20 12 11/06/56
583.2002 20 12
583.2003 20 12
583.2004 20 12
583.2005 20 12
583.2006 20 12
583.2025 21 12
583.2050 20 16
583.2051 20 16
.
583.2075 21 20
583.2076 21 20
583.2078 21 20
583.2079 21 20
583.2080 21 20
583.2085 21 .410
583.2086 21 .410
583.2087 21 .410


A typical roll mark will read:

J. C. HIGGINS, MODEL 20, 12 GA. SEARS


, ROEBUCK AND CO. 583.88

and is usually rolled on the left side of the barrel just forward of the receiver.





Taken from data on sheet 2 of 5 compiled by J. J. Reardon _ 1/28/77

Transcribed by John J. Stimson, Jr. _ 6 April, 2002

Released ___ 6 April, 2002, Revised ___ 28 December, 2003

© John J. Stimson, Jr. 2002, 2003


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For questions about High Standard products, use the forum of this website

For questions about or problems with this website, contact: John Stimson, Jr.
Many people are unaware of the meaning of the dates and thus have a false sense of what they really mean. The dated represent the date of the drawing for the roll mark die and not the date of production or date of first production. The amount of time between the drawing, the production of the roll mark die and the actual production are unknown. This data was gathered by Jimmy Reardon of High Standard as a quick starting point reference for when figuring out about when a gun was manufactured.
I find that one also needs to consult the earliest manual of a particular model, the Sears parts manual pages for that particular model and the Sears Catalog appearances.

Note this referenced page is also a copyrighted.
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