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Shooting an original Winchester 87

H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619

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Over 20 years ago, I was in a gun shop, having just turned 21, and I was determined to buy a gun. I bought myself a gen-u-ine made in 1913, M1911 in really nice shape.


About 10 minutes after finishing the purchase, I found a Winchester 87 with a 30" barrel in solid mechanical shape with a great bore. Having already spent $400.00, I did not wish to drop another $287.00. (Yes, I remember the prices even after all these years!)


Anyway, every once in a while I find myself wishing that I had bought that strange looking lever action shotgun.


Fast forward a few years to today, and our wondeful game of Cowboy Action Shooting.


I still think that lever shotgun is really cool, but I don't have one, real or reproduction. I have fired a modern replica '87 and found myself thinking that it kicked like a mule. It had a 20" bbl, and the owner told me he had shortened the stock a little to fit him better and in his estimation, that may have contributed to its stout recoil.


Now, here comes my questions...


1. Every reproduction 87 I have seen has a short barrel. Do any of them have longer barrels? I think I would prefer a longer barrel on this kind of a gun for various reasons.


2. If the new made ones only come with short barrels, and if I really want a long one, that may mean fining an orginal Winchester. I know that these had shorter chambers than modern shotguns, no problem, I load 2-1/2" all brass ones. BUT... Are these guns capable of safely shooting even low power smokeless loads? I am just not interested in shooting black powder. (A personal preference only.)


3. Does anyone out there shoot an orignal Winchester 87, and if so, what are your opinions of it? How do they compare to the replicas? (If you know) What do you run through it? (related to question 2)


And, that's all I have to query at this time.

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I own, and shoot, an original '87 built in 1893. The barrel has been shortened to 20" and I don't notice any more recoil from it than other cowboy shotguns I own. I had the chamber lengthened in mine so I didn't have to keep making short paper shells but I don't shoot anything but BP in mine. I personally don't think an original is up to a steady diet of even light smokeless loads. I know of one shooter who did shoot light loads in his for several years before it quit working. The gunsmith told him that shooting the smokeless loads had affected the headspace and caused excessive stretching of internals. I recently bought a Chiappa repro that will shoot anything you put in it including three inch shells. It is available in a 26" length and is a little pricey but no more so than a good original.

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H.K. I started out shooting an original 87' manufactured in 1888 (2st year production w/5 digit SN# & later got another w/4 digit SN# first year production 1887) Both shot great had quick 2 drop done on them, you may have seen me shoot it in that episiode of Cowboys about NCOWS. I only shot those low-noise/low-recoil Winchester #AA in them or reloads of the same, with no issues. I also had the chambers reamed to the proper lenght for 2 3/4 shells. I pretty much retired the only original I have left ( while still very shootable ) but now shoot a Chinnnese copy w/2 drop of my own doing. My original 2nd year production had a long 30" barrel which had a great balence to it compared th the shortened 1st year 20" barreled original, for me anyway it felt like the stock was to heavy that made it hard for me to swing it up to my shoulder. What I did to make it balance better (at least for me) was to take the butt plate off & using some large wood drill bits hog out some of the wood or basicily hollow out some of the stock. Put the butt plate back on and you would never know. Hope this helps. WBR

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While waiting for the replicas to come out, I purchased and used an orginal 1887 (still have it). I retired it in honor to the gunsafe as soon as I could get my forepaws on a replica. My two cents worth (probably over-priced):


1. I didn't have confidence in its durabiluty with low-recoil smokeless shotshells so I had a modified '97 barrel put on it. That seemed to work pretty well.


2. The wood was brittle (I guess I'd be pretty brittle too after 123 years). It was necessary to repair the buttstock and replace the foregrip. The custom work on the foregrip cost more than the shotgun had.


3. A single extractor (which is all they had on the older models) just does not get the job done reliably, particular with inexpensive modern plastic shotshells that swell in the breach (and then stay there, laughing at the pitiful effort of the single extractor to force them out).


Hope this helps. Your mileage may vary.

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