Classic Guns: Winchester Model 1897 Pump-Action Shotgun

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Model 1897 Riot Grade
Model 1897 Riot Grade

Best know in its Trench Gun iteration, the Winchester Model 1897 could be had in multitude of configurations to handle any situation.

What Were The Winchester Model 1897 Models:

When I was growing up in Texas in the 1950s, one of my uncles had a Winchester Model 97 with a 32-inch, full-choke barrel. I remember asking him why he had the 32-inch barrel. 

“Turkeys,” he said. “Gotta reach out for them turkeys.”

The Model 97 took its fair share of game in its 60 years of production, but that’s not why it’s remembered.

U.S. doughboys thinning the German ranks in World War I with the “Trench Gun” or “Trench Broom” is what etched this John Browning design into history. The Model 97 was apparently so effective at its job during the Great War that the Germans filed a diplomatic protest over the weapon, claiming the shotgun was illegal (per the Hague Convention, due to it causing unnecessary suffering. Really? Crocodile tears for the purveyors of poison gas and inventors of the modern flamethrower).

Winchester Model 1897 Standard
Winchester Model 1897 Standard

The 97 was essentially the evolution of another Browning shotgun design, the Model 1893, strengthened to handle new-for-the-time smokeless powders.

The Configurations

The Model 1897 replaced the Model 1893. Similar to the 1893, the new model had several improvements, such as a stronger frame and a chamber made longer to handle 2.75-inch shells. In addition, the frame top was covered to force complete side ejection, and the stock was made longer and with less drop. It was available in 12- or 16-gauge. The 12-gauge could be had in solid or takedown styles; the 16-gauge in takedown only. Winchester offered the new Model 1897 in barrel lengths of 20, 26, 28, 30 and 32 inches in practically all the choke options, from full to cylinder.

The Model 1897 was a great seller for Winchester: During its 60-year production span, 1,025,000 guns were sold.

The Model 1897 adapter allowed the attachment of the M1917 bayonet.
The Model 1897 adapter allowed the attachment of the M1917 bayonet.

The Model 1897 could be ordered in several different configurations:

Standard Gun
12- or 16-gauge: 30-inch barrel (12-gauge) and 28-inch barrel (16-gauge); plain walnut modified pistol-grip stock, grooved slide handle, steel buttplate (standard).

Trap Gun
12- or 16-gauge: 30-inch barrel (12-gauge) and 28-inch barrel (16-gauge); fancy walnut stock, oil finish, checkered pistol-/straight-grip stock, checkered slide handle. Marked “TRAP” on the bottom of the frame.

Pigeon Gun
12- or 16-gauge with a 28-inch barrel on both gauges; straight-/pistol-grip stock, hand-engraved receiver.

Tournament Gun
12-gauge only: 30-inch barrel; select walnut checkered, straight-grip stock, checkered slide handle, top of receiver matted to reduce glare.

Brush Gun
12- or 16-gauge: 26-inch barrel; cylinder choke has a slightly shorter magazine tube than the standard gun, plain walnut modified pistol grip stock, grooved slide handle.

Brush Gun, Takedown
Same as the Brush Gun but with a takedown feature, standard-length magazine tube.

Riot Gun
12-gauge: 20-inch barrel bored to shoot buckshot, plain walnut modified pistol-grip stock, grooved slide handle, solid frame or takedown.

Trench Gun
Same as the Riot Gun, but fitted with a barrel handguard and bayonet.

For more information on the Winchester Model 1897, please visit winchesterguns.com.

The article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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