California Arms Co 20ga “Defiance” Pistol-Shotgun

This registered NFA AOW sold for $3,738 at Rock Island on December 1, 2018.

Made to compete with guns like the Ithaca Auto & Burglar, the “Defiance” form the California Arms Company is a side by side double barreled 20 gauge pistol. Only about 300 were made in the late 1920s – note that this was before the NFA introduced regulation of shot barreled shotguns. Unlike the Ithaca and most other guns of this type, the Defiance is not simply a standard side-by-side shotgun cut down in length. Instead, it uses a cast aluminum grip assembly with two manually cocked strikers (and storage for two spare shells in the grip) and a barrel assembly with an integrated aluminum fore-end. The Defiance is nothing if note robust, despite perhaps being a bit slower to use than an Ithaca. Interestingly, the marketing for the Defiance also included a strong focus on the use of tear gas ammunition in addition to standard buckshot – the Lake Erie Chemical Company developed a 20ga tear gas cartridge in partnership with the California Arms Company. It was almost certainly too small to really be effective, though, and was not able to induce enough sales to keep the Defiance on the market long.


  1. Burglars in Murica do not have easy life, that’s for sure.
    In contrast, in Canada burglars are protected by law. I knew a man who caught and restrained burglar in his hose. After police arrival (he called them!) he was ordered to immediately release his captive and was threatened with legal consequences. Makes sense to me 🙂

    • If the burglar was suggestively hog-tied, then yes, there would be consequences! You are permitted to evict the crook (preferably by means of man-handling him out the door after kicking him ten times in the groin), not torment him with sadomasochistic bondage. I think I messed up the vocabulary here…

    • “In contrast, in Canada burglars are protected by law.(…)Makes sense to me ”
      Well, according to
      19-year-old was attempting to steal a skylight from a local high school gymnasium and he ended up falling though a skylight and getting severely injured in the process. The alleged burglar sued the school for damages, claiming they were responsible for the injuries sustained after the accident. The 19-year-old was awarded damages, setting off a wave of criticism around laws that allow for such lawsuits to proceeed.

      • I believe law as is/ was intended, does provide for presumption of “innocence” until proven guilty by agents of law, no matter waht is suspect’s activity at time. Common citizen apparently does not fall into that category. Conversely, he/can be charged with forcible confinement if takes own initiative. It is absurdity, but also reality.
        Bu I suspect this is a measure how to protect livelihood for cops and mainly lawyers.

        We had case of this kind at one time. My wife caught intruder in house and tried to talk him into staying calm and waiting for arrival of police. Yet, the bastard once he sensed what’s cooking, ripped from her ‘detention’ and hastily departed. Lucky me I was not at home at the time, I’d be doing time in penitentiary.

      • Mind you in the U.S you have to be carefull when knocking on folks doors asking for directions “Google maps has reduced the need for this” as a Brit Tourist once knocked on a door, two barrels appeared through the letterbox: And that was the end of him.

  2. I once had a .410 pistol made in Italy by Serena Brescia. It was solid aliminium with a black paint crinlkle finish; it had a ten inch chrome lined barrel; the breech block swung up to the left on the same axis as the barrel; it had an external hammer and good square sights. There was also a screw-in buttstock that was just a metal rod with a plate. The butstock was practically useless, but without it, it was a good snake gun and accurate with slugs.

  3. And let us observe a moment of silence for the single-barreled little brother, the Harrington & Richardson Handy-Gun, available as shotgun or in rifle calibers and also put out of production to comply with NFA in 1934. Once marketed with a leg holster, if I remember correctly.

    I found pictures of Hugo’s .410, it was also labeled “Handy-Gun” or “Handi-Gun,” though the sales name was “Serena.” The designers must have been fans of “The Man from UNCLE.”

    • I have an H&R Handy Gun,.410 full choke with the brass BB sight, with the wood checkered hand grip.The story goes this way. My grandfather found this weapon in a bar ditch, around 1932.He cleaned it up and is a magnificent piece to shoot.It has been passed down in the family. As, I am the elder of 3 brothers, it was given to me around 20 years ago by my father. The barrel has been re-blued by an expert twice. Many a rabbit, squirrel, and, snake has suffered a quick death from this gun. Also, a few dove. I’m 71 now, and, when, I was 12 years old and with my father on my first hunting experience, was introduced to this awesome pistol. It still shoots a very nice tight pattern of #9 shot at 50 feet. It will soon have a special made case, with the same checkered pattern as the handle. The answer to the obvious question which has been asked many times, “Will you sell it and for How Much? The answer is always the same,”No it is not for sale, unless you have $100,000 cash.” Thank you for the nice article on the 20 GA.

  4. “aluminum grip assembly”
    This reminded me about HAFDASA
    According to
    lower receiver of the gun was crafted from a single aluminum casting. The casting could be painted in any color desired or left ‘in the white’ for flashier occasions. This isn’t surprising as HAFDASA was working on several aluminum applications for their automobile and aircraft lines.
    Did has California Arms Company any prior experience with that material?

  5. If it weren’t so ugly, you could bring it back in a number of hairy pistol calibers — hell, .45-70 too — and sell plenty. Of course, you’d polish off any seam sprues (no doubt what Ian felt griping his hand) when finishing the casting, and add a spur instead of that abrupt edge at the top of the rear grip. (Yes, a spur would get in the way of the button, but a side lever release would work just as well and be handsomer.) Anodize it black while you’re at it; I don’t fancy a gun that looks like part of a cream separator. If you opened up that grip frame so that walnut panels could be added at the buyer’s request, so much the better; a nice walnut forend in place of the aluminum would be easy to add too. And those strikers! Puh-leeze, fellers, build on decent spurred hammers instead of what look like the choke controls on a wartime jeep! There now: that’s all the improvements you need to make to please me. Heck, I don’t ask for much, now do I?

  6. What would be the spread of buckshot at 30 feet. I should think that’s the maximum you would usually get using the weapon for home defence, if an intruder was inside the building.

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