Colt Custom Auto Franchi    •    1962-1966    •    3" Shells

A 1960s Colt Shotgun?

The Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun was manufactured for Colt by the firm of Luigi Franchi in Italy. It features an aluminum alloy receiver and is chambered for 12 or 20 gauge. The barrel length is 26", 28", 30" or 32" and came either with a vent rib and without or plain. According to the 2001 Standard Catalog of Firearms, The Collector's Price and Reference Guide, 11th Edition, there were approximately 5,300 manufactured between 1962 and 1966.

Closeup photo of Colt Shotgun barrel showing 3 inch shells
Right side view of the Colt Custom Auto Shotgun
Stock of the Colt Custom Auto Shotgun
Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun

Greg | 18 January 2020

With the Serial Number Tables below, I can account for 5,093 of these guns. There is an oddity in that 260 of the Custom Grade guns made in 1963 and 1964 have serial numbers that begin with 4 rather than 7 like all of the Custom Grade Models.

My gun pictured here, is chambered for 3" shells and has a 30" full choke barrel with solid rib. It also has the higher grade walnut, the Gold Colt Medallion on the grip of the stock and engraving scenes of dogs and pheasants on the right side and dogs and a rabbit on the left side. Note: I've been chatting with a Colt collector on a forum and he opined that the medallion is likely not original.

Standing in my gun rack, the Rampant Colt Logo is upside-down.
upside-down medallion on pistol grip of 1963 Colt Shotgun

I concur, and even think that medallion may be mounted upside-down (well, not upside-down, but rotated facing the wrong way), because the logo on the Colt Sauer rifle gun stocks are 180 degrees from this. UPDATE 08/11/2020: A Facebook user just shared a photo of his 20 gauge and the medallion was identical, except mine is set upside-down from his.

The serial number is C040001, making it the first of the 260 guns in the 4 serial number series. There has to be an underlying reason for the deviation in serial numbers and that is one mystery I would like to solve. Reserved for special ordered guns?

1 Serial Number Range (Standard Model)

Year Of DOM Begin End
1962      C0100010     C010999
1963 C011000 C011699
1964 C011700 C011999
1965 C012000 C012299
1966 C012300 C012888
7 Serial Number Range (Custom Grade)

Year Of DOM Begin End
1962      C070001     C070400
1963 C070401 C070700
1964 C070701 C071100
1965 C071101 C071800
1966 C071801 C072145

My local gun store had this shotgun on consignment and I bought it for $500. My son-in-law and I took the gun to a shooting event and found that it shoots great. It's a keeper!

bead midway on barrel
Note the second sight bead midway on the solid rib
Features of My Gun

  • 12 Gauge
  • 3" Chamber
  • 30" Barrel
  • Full Choke
  • Solid Rib
  • Lightweight Aluminum Alloy Receiver
  • High Grade Walnut
  • Engraved Scenes
  • Two Sight Beads
4 Serial Number Range

Year Of DOM Begin End
1963 C040001 C040049
1964 C040050 C040260

Perhaps all of the 260 shotguns in this serial number range are magnums like mine. The mystery of the 260 guns (C040001-C040260) may be lost to time.

Update: January 28, 2020 - I contacted Paul, the Archivist at Colt Archive Properties about obtaining a letter on this shotgun and here's what he said:
Unfortunately, we may not have info on the Franchi. In all honesty, this is the first request I’ve had on one in the 7+ years I’ve been here. We’ll add it to the group & research it if we can.
My 1960s Colt Semi-Automatic Shotgun is a Treasure!

The Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun, manufactured by the renowned Italian firearms company Luigi Franchi, stands as a testament to the synergy between American innovation and Italian craftsmanship in the world of firearms. This 12-gauge shotgun represents a significant chapter in the history of firearms development, combining the trusted Colt brand with the expertise of Luigi Franchi to create a reliable and versatile semi-automatic shotgun.

Colt Custom Auto 12 Ga. 3 inch shells
Colt Custom Auto 12 Ga. 3 inch shells

In the mid-20th century, Colt recognized the growing demand for semi-automatic shotguns among hunters, sportsmen, and law enforcement agencies. To meet this demand, Colt turned to Luigi Franchi, an established name in the world of shotgun manufacturing known for their precision and quality. This collaboration resulted in the birth of the Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun.

The Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun boasts a classic design, with a sleek and timeless appearance.

It is characterized by its ergonomic stock, which ensures a comfortable and secure grip, allowing users to handle the shotgun with ease and accuracy. The shotgun features a semi-automatic action, which means that it automatically ejects spent shells and chambers a new round with each pull of the trigger. This feature significantly increases the rate of fire and reduces recoil, making it a favorite among shooters who value speed and accuracy.

One of the standout features of the Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun is its versatility. It can be used for a wide range of applications, including hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. Its adaptability is further enhanced by the availability of different barrel lengths, choke options, and finishes, allowing users to tailor the shotgun to their specific needs and preferences.

The Illustrated Catalog of Rifles and Shotguns
Rifles and Shotguns

The Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun also incorporates several advanced technologies to enhance its performance. The gas-operated system, for instance, ensures reliable cycling of rounds, reducing the likelihood of malfunctions and jams. This is especially crucial in high-stress situations, such as law enforcement or self-defense scenarios, where reliability is paramount. Additionally, the shotgun features a ventilated rib on the barrel, which improves target acquisition and accuracy by reducing heat distortion.

Another notable aspect of this shotgun is its durability. The materials used in its construction, combined with meticulous Italian craftsmanship, ensure that it can withstand the rigors of regular use and harsh environmental conditions. Whether it's being used in the field for hunting or in competitive shooting matches, the Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun is built to last. Throughout its production history, the Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun has undergone various iterations and improvements to meet the evolving needs and preferences of shooters. This commitment to innovation and adaptation has helped it maintain its status as a reliable and sought-after firearm.

In conclusion, the Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun, manufactured by Luigi Franchi in Italy under the Colt brand, represents a harmonious blend of American ingenuity and Italian craftsmanship. This shotgun has earned its reputation as a versatile, reliable, and accurate firearm suitable for a wide range of applications, from hunting to sport shooting and self-defense. With its classic design, advanced features, and commitment to durability, the Colt Semi-Auto Shotgun continues to be a favorite among firearms enthusiasts and professionals alike. It stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of quality and performance associated with both Colt and Luigi Franchi in the world of firearms.


My MOS when I served in the United States Army was 76Y. For you non-military readers, the Military Occupational Specialty of 76 Yankee means that I was a Unit Armorer. While on REFORGER 85, I trained with German Paratroopers and qualified as "Expert" with the German G-3 rifle, the Israeli Uzi 9mm sub-machinegun and the 9mm handgun.

The Illustrated Catalog of Rifles and Shotguns: 500 Historical to Modern Long-Barreled Firearms Paperback – Illustrated, October 18, 2022