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1897 shotgun questions


sparten8654
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Question for the room. What are the best years for the 1897 shotgun in Winchester configuration( reliability, performance) ?

Is it better to have the non breakdown or breakdown?

What is the best way to check the shotgun to see if it's a good shotgun?  

Who are some of the better gunsmiths out there?

Love to here of more experienced shooters since I only use a double and starting to do wild bunch Shooting.. 

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Real Winchester '97?  These answers tuned to that.

 

Newest Winchester model - the E series. Even then, the very newest will be 70+ years old.   So it's more about finding one in as good a condition (low usage, usually) as you can, not looking for a particular year of production.    Less important in a real Winchester than in the (Norinco) IAC import clone 97s.

 

Breakdown guns have no special "powers".   They were built that way to make carry cases as compact as possible (think railway and boat travel).  Hardly a need anymore,   A solid frame, if you can find it, is less prone to getting loose at the barrel to frame junction.

 

Some well-known '97 smiths - Dusty Bunch in Case Grande, AZ,   Lassiter in Ohio.  NuLine or Art's Gunshop in Missouri.

 

 

I've been well served in Wild Bunch with the later model IAC imports.   Series 06 to 10, or CB. My one only US Winchester is a pile of poor fitted parts.

 

Here's the Wild Bunch forum - where you may find some advice about how a 97 is run at REAL high speed (;)).

http://www.sassnet.com/wildbunch/forum/

 

good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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The newer the better. I think they made them until 1955 or '57. I don't know if takedown or not is better. If it's a takedown the two serial numbers should match. Joe Brisco at Cowboy Shooter's Supply knows them well. They call it a 97 because there are 97 ways for it to break.

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3 minutes ago, Abe E.S. Corpus SASS #87667 said:

If you want a shotgun for Wild Bunch, consider a Model 12.  Many WB shooters consider it a better gun.  More were made than ‘97s, too.  No reproductions available.

That's good advise.

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6 hours ago, sparten8654 said:

 

Is it better to have the non breakdown or breakdown?

What is the best way to check the shotgun to see if it's a good shotgun?  

 

A Solid frame is the best choice.  The takedown extension is a weak point for the takedown model and are often cracked or at their last adjustment point.  Although you can now get aftermarket versions from Numrich. 

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This is a response to the first three questions.  The other guys are right, the best 97 is the best you can find, the odds are better with the later models (E series), but even a good "C series" is better than  bad "E".  Most originals you will find are takedowns.  Again, just buy the best you can find.  How to check them - I would take along 2 or 3 fired shells and 2 or 3  dummy rounds.  Put a fired shell slightly into the chamber, close the slide and then open it just like you would if you were firing.  The extractors should pull the shell out without problems, and the ejector should give it a healthy toss out the side - getting it out of you way so you can load the next round.  With the dummy rounds, load them in the loading tube and then see if they feed (be careful they don't double feed) and eject.  If that's all okay, see if the loading tube "unscrews," pull it and the slide forward and see if the takedown actually will take down (the extender will unscrew easily from the frame, allowing the barrel/tube/slide to be removed).  Check to see what shape the bore is in, check the slide handle (the forestock) and the stock to see if there are cracks.  Look around to see if any screw heads are badly bunged up (particularly the little one right by the hammer - if it's a mess you will have a hell of a time taking the 97 apart). Check the frame thoroughly to make sure there aren't any open holes without the screw, pin, or spring that is supposed to be there.  That's my quick check  with no gunsmith around, anyway.  Best of luck.

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I'm a novice at '97's but I do know that with the action open, wiggle the rear of the bolt back and forth, making sure it doesn't have too much play.  Someone else will have to tell you how much is too much.  

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On My Web site wheelergunworks.com select helpful hints then see the file 1897 dates.  There is a lot of information at the bottom pertaining to modification through the years.  

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There are a lot of parts in an 1897, any one can break, and oft times more than one piece is worn out, or broken. 

 

I would avoid a "C", first it had the 3 screw forend, and they were prone to failure. They can be worked on, but they are a bit convoluted and new wood is not available. 

 

Sometime before the "E" series the firing pin interlock leaf spring was replaced with a coil spring, which is less prone to break. The firing pin interlock is a safety feature and should be checked. The gun will still work if the spring breaks. Easily checked without any tools, two hands will do. 

 

Check for an empty chamber and magazine, With the action closed, cock the hammer fully. Now try and open the action, it should not open until you press the release button on the right side, up from the trigger about an inch. Open the action a bit, so there is about a 1/4" clearance between the carrier and bolt. With your little finger push on the firing pin, it should be locked, and sticking proud of the bolt by about 1/8". with the fingers on your left hand push up on the carrier slowly, maintaining pressure on the firing pin with your little finger. The firing should unlock just before the action is in full battery. While you're in this region test the bolt release. In half cock the bolt is locked, the release will not release the bolt. It will release the bolt when fully cocked. With the action closed, push the pump fully forward and release it. Now lower the hammer fully. If you pull back on the pump handle the action will remain locked close. Now push forward on the handle and the action will unlock. Beware, this feature is often defeated for competition. The common issue with this action is that dirt will accumulate under the interlock lever on the lifter. If the interlock doesn't work smoothly, there is a small part that connects the button to the lever that breaks, fairly often. 

 

575410350_Goodvsbroken.thumb.jpg.4cf066408d0ef0952dfbd9691bfceb41.jpg

 

Broken part on the right, good part on the left.

 

Lifter.thumb.jpg.50415f4fdb39e4410a5e43f800859207.jpg

 

Where that little stinker hides.

 

If it's a takedown, test that feature. If assembled incorrectly, it will not take down, a fairly common issue and easily fixed by assembling it correctly.

 

If a takedown, check for any movement between the two halves. This is adjustable. 

 

1315010911_1897adjust.thumb.jpg.1fd3784562423105cec971ad70ee3d75.jpg

 

this is my old "D", it'd been adjusted once in the last 100 plus years, and there are about 6 notches left. Once corrected, it very seldom needs adjustment. No oil dirt and sand and neglect will wear these out. I've had some that needed a "5" to correct the slop. 

 

Of course check the bore of any shotgun, deep pits and rust are common. 

 

One common failure on 1897s is that the hammer will follow the bolt, fails to cock the hammer. This is usually due to lots of wear. Two places to check ar the wear point on the top of the hammer, wear on the bottom of the bolt and how much wiggle is in the bolt when the action is open. 1/4" up and down movement would be too much, 1/8" somewhat normal. Look at the wear point on the hammer, it may be welded (repaired) already, not a good sign. Mixing and matching parts is a better way to fix this. 

 

108644915_1897Hammer.thumb.jpg.4833ab340da74f47cfc7517ddbec54f8.jpg

 

The square shows one wear point that is an issue and can contribute to hammer follow. The oval shows the point where the bolt rides on and cocks the hammer. This particular gun had the start of hammer follow, I corrected it by replacing the bolt. 

 

1110287440_1897Hammers.thumb.jpg.e69dba661e42ba28585c85d658b58403.jpg

 

These used hammers are from L to R, good hammer, very little wear, second hammer has a battle scar or two, but still good, the third has some wear, the last hammer has been welded, typical mediocre job. 

 

The next common failure area is the buttstock, the wrist area. The buttstock should have no wiggle and no cracks. Repairable but a bit time consuming. 

 

The last common failing is with the cross pin holding the carrier in the action. It is held in with a small screw beside the hammer spur in the middle picture. A quick check would be to push the pin back and forth, it should move. Sometimes the screw is rusted in, likely if the pin has no movement. This is repairable, but takes a bit of skill and some luck to do without uglies. 

 

These are the main things i check at a gunshow, Each issue should reflect in a discount. 

 

One item that you cannot see until the action is disassembled is the bolt, the locking lugs can wear.

 

974933784_Lockinglugwear.thumb.jpg.1475e5a4b86efb9239af68d956a59632.jpg

 

Before you put the gun down there is one last safety feature to check. The 1897 lacks a trigger disconnect, and to prevent an out of battery discharge should you forget to release the trigger the hammer will not fall until the bolt is nearly in full battery. The firing pin interlock is the failsafe for this. With the trigger pulled pump the action open and then slide it slowly closed, the hammer should only fall once the firing pin interlock has released the firing pin. 

 

There is more to check, but these will quickly determine if the gun is worth buying, your skill level and access to parts are a factor as well. 

 

Thanks for you time if you actually got to the bottom of this lengthy post. 

 

BB

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One looks on the frame where barrel attaches, next to the serial number.  A stand-alone letter on a Win 97.

 

Example of a C series:

example win 97 serial.jpg

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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23 minutes ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

Sorry to ask this, but how do you tell if it's an E or D or a whatever "series?"

It’s stamped above the serial number on the bottom of the receiver. The forearm in the picture is a 3 screw forearm.

F8F3F140-59D7-4889-B7C5-4AA64EEE2913.jpeg

A5AD0C8B-2D5B-4B6F-88D5-6E71258E8783.jpeg

190B4FA7-254E-41FE-8B35-924263CD3B6A.jpeg

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Question , know of a worn 1897 for sale that he says the hammer will fall if smacked hard enough his words not mine. What could be the problem very dirty or something else? I do not know the series.

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1 hour ago, Slapshot said:

the hammer will fall if smacked hard

 

Could be wear or damage on a couple of parts.  Even a weak mainspring, perhaps that spring's mounting screw could be tightened to give more tension.  Any of those problems would be fairly cheap to make right.   I'd not pass over the gun if that is the ONLY problem.  

 

good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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Ah ha.

Well, it turns out that both my my 97's are E series.   One was made in 1910, and the other in 1938.

 

The older one did have some issues when I got it, but they were easily fixed.   It's still "loose" compared to the newer one, but not in a way that impedes function or a safe lockup.   Even so, the older one is the one with the 30" barrel, and thus is my preferred main match shotgun.  :)

 

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Smack me hard enough and I'll fall as well. 

 

The sear does wear, either on the trigger, and/or on the sear. It needs to have some grease on it, especially if you slam fire. Slam firing takes it toll on a dry sear. Dirt can be an issue. The spring is a heavy duty piece, if the screw holding it on is tight, it should be OK. Easy to check, just turn the gun over, the sear spring and the screw that holds it are in view. The trigger has one heck of a mechanical advantage, IMO the spring that holds the sear in place is heavier than anything I've ever seen in any gun. The sear is also ground for positive engagement. I went into the parts bin and stuck a hammer in a lifter and just let gravity hold the sear in place, it will not fall if you slap it. A positive sear acts like a wedge. 

 

You may need a hammer and sear to repair that one if dirt isn't an issue. Be prepared to find other issues.

 

BB

 

 

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4 hours ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

 

Could be wear or damage on a couple of parts.  Even a weak mainspring, perhaps that spring's mounting screw could be tightened to give more tension.  Any of those problems would be fairly cheap to make right.   I'd not pass over the gun if that is the ONLY problem.  

 

good luck, GJ

 

1 hour ago, "Big Boston" said:

Smack me hard enough and I'll fall as well. 

 

The sear does wear, either on the trigger, and/or on the sear. It needs to have some grease on it, especially if you slam fire. Slam firing takes it toll on a dry sear. Dirt can be an issue. The spring is a heavy duty piece, if the screw holding it on is tight, it should be OK. Easy to check, just turn the gun over, the sear spring and the screw that holds it are in view. The trigger has one heck of a mechanical advantage, IMO the spring that holds the sear in place is heavier than anything I've ever seen in any gun. The sear is also ground for positive engagement. I went into the parts bin and stuck a hammer in a lifter and just let gravity hold the sear in place, it will not fall if you slap it. A positive sear acts like a wedge. 

 

You may need a hammer and sear to repair that one if dirt isn't an issue. Be prepared to find other issues.

 

BB

 

 

Thanks guys for the insight. Found that one and is listed for $400, worn pretty good on the outside by the looks but doesn't seem to have any visible damage. Was thinking about offering him a LCP for it since he hasn't moved it in a couple months.

 

Are parts for these hard to come by or relatively easy to find?

Edited by Slapshot
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Parts are getting harder to find for 1897’s especially 16 gauge, which I have a dozen or so of. If you’re really going to get bitten by the 1897 bug visit local gun shops and see if they have any laying around that they’d sell cheap as a parts gun. I’ve bought a couple of them for as little as $75.00. My neighbor is a gun smith at a well known local shop and he lets me know when any 16 gauge 1897’s come in for sale, I’ve picked a few of those up in pretty good shape. I bought a bunch of 1897 parts from a 1897 gunsmith a few years ago at a large CAS match. He was going out of business and I bought all of his parts including a factory fresh 16 gauge barrel and magazine and a 3 screw forearm. Knew a pard that was moving to Arizona a few years ago that gave me a 5 gallon bucket full of 1897 parts,  bolts, barrels, magazine tubes, etc. You’ll find parts guns are handy to have around sometimes to keep your match gun(s) running.

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8 hours ago, Yul Lose said:

Parts are getting harder to find for 1897’s especially 16 gauge, which I have a dozen or so of. If you’re really going to get bitten by the 1897 bug visit local gun shops and see if they have any laying around that they’d sell cheap as a parts gun. I’ve bought a couple of them for as little as $75.00. My neighbor is a gun smith at a well known local shop and he lets me know when any 16 gauge 1897’s come in for sale, I’ve picked a few of those up in pretty good shape. I bought a bunch of 1897 parts from a 1897 gunsmith a few years ago at a large CAS match. He was going out of business and I bought all of his parts including a factory fresh 16 gauge barrel and magazine and a 3 screw forearm. Knew a pard that was moving to Arizona a few years ago that gave me a 5 gallon bucket full of 1897 parts,  bolts, barrels, magazine tubes, etc. You’ll find parts guns are handy to have around sometimes to keep your match gun(s) running.

 

I'm more of an amateur, but my story is somewhat the same. I'm more familiar with using a pump and  selected the 97s for my cowboy shotgun. I wanted a spare and ended up with a decent shotgun or two and some turkeys. And similar to Yul, in my parts quest I was referred to a gunsmith in Alberta. I called and he told me he was retired but if I wanted he would sell me all his parts. With those parts I was able to spruce up a couple of turkeys to good or better condition. Yul and I can't be the only ones with parts. From what the retired gunsmith told me, back in the day gunshops would send him 97s that were in too rough condition to sell and he would salvage them for parts. The only downside being that not all the salvaged parts are in great shape. In the  collection I got, there were a few like new parts, most were good parts and some were still usable but rough. The odd part was poor

 

I've run into a few gunshow vendors that have quite a few 97s in their personal collection, nice ones that aren't for sale. The odd one refuses to sell to a cowboy, can't stand the thought of having the barrel on one of his babies cut down. 

 

It is a bit of a dilemma, the newest Winchester is  over 60 years old, and the Chinese copies have come to an end. In Canada the last batch that was built ended up here as the USA banned imports of Chinese guns. There was a real glut of them and they sold for about $400 CAD. That was a couple of years ago and used ones list from $250 to over $400. The one I bought would not feed from the magazine, and had some other issues. I was able to correct the flaws and it has worked well for me. Be sure to tighten the screws or put locker on them. They are all metric, and if you lose one,  that's a problem. 

 

The parts I bought cost a bit, but in the end, I've used or sold enough so that what's left is at zero cost. 

 

Gunparts did have some reproduction parts, I bought a magazine tube, and it was good.

 

BB

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Sorry if this is a little off topic. 

How far do you Pards tear down your 97's for cleaning?

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1 hour ago, Eyesa Horg said:

Sorry if this is a little off topic. 

How far do you Pards tear down your 97's for cleaning?

Not that far most of the time. I’ll remove the barrel and magazine assembly (all of mine are takedown models) and then the stock and flush out the receiver with Gunscrubber and use air to blow it out and then re oil and grease in a few spots and reassemble. I’ve disassembled the carrier for deep cleaning but that’s on rare occasions. I have found that the bolt firing pin channel will accumulate crud and dirt over time and I’ll start getting lite hits so I’ll take the bolt down and really clean it good on occasion.

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On 4/23/2022 at 4:58 PM, "Big Boston" said:

There are a lot of parts in an 1897, any one can break, and oft times more than one piece is worn out, or broken. 

 

I would avoid a "C", first it had the 3 screw forend, and they were prone to failure. They can be worked on, but they are a bit convoluted and new wood is not available. 

 

Sometime before the "E" series the firing pin interlock leaf spring was replaced with a coil spring, which is less prone to break. The firing pin interlock is a safety feature and should be checked. The gun will still work if the spring breaks. Easily checked without any tools, two hands will do. 

 

Check for an empty chamber and magazine, With the action closed, cock the hammer fully. Now try and open the action, it should not open until you press the release button on the right side, up from the trigger about an inch. Open the action a bit, so there is about a 1/4" clearance between the carrier and bolt. With your little finger push on the firing pin, it should be locked, and sticking proud of the bolt by about 1/8". with the fingers on your left hand push up on the carrier slowly, maintaining pressure on the firing pin with your little finger. The firing should unlock just before the action is in full battery. While you're in this region test the bolt release. In half cock the bolt is locked, the release will not release the bolt. It will release the bolt when fully cocked. With the action closed, push the pump fully forward and release it. Now lower the hammer fully. If you pull back on the pump handle the action will remain locked close. Now push forward on the handle and the action will unlock. Beware, this feature is often defeated for competition. The common issue with this action is that dirt will accumulate under the interlock lever on the lifter. If the interlock doesn't work smoothly, there is a small part that connects the button to the lever that breaks, fairly often. 

 

575410350_Goodvsbroken.thumb.jpg.4cf066408d0ef0952dfbd9691bfceb41.jpg

 

Broken part on the right, good part on the left.

 

Lifter.thumb.jpg.50415f4fdb39e4410a5e43f800859207.jpg

 

Where that little stinker hides.

 

If it's a takedown, test that feature. If assembled incorrectly, it will not take down, a fairly common issue and easily fixed by assembling it correctly.

 

If a takedown, check for any movement between the two halves. This is adjustable. 

 

1315010911_1897adjust.thumb.jpg.1fd3784562423105cec971ad70ee3d75.jpg

 

this is my old "D", it'd been adjusted once in the last 100 plus years, and there are about 6 notches left. Once corrected, it very seldom needs adjustment. No oil dirt and sand and neglect will wear these out. I've had some that needed a "5" to correct the slop. 

 

Of course check the bore of any shotgun, deep pits and rust are common. 

 

One common failure on 1897s is that the hammer will follow the bolt, fails to cock the hammer. This is usually due to lots of wear. Two places to check ar the wear point on the top of the hammer, wear on the bottom of the bolt and how much wiggle is in the bolt when the action is open. 1/4" up and down movement would be too much, 1/8" somewhat normal. Look at the wear point on the hammer, it may be welded (repaired) already, not a good sign. Mixing and matching parts is a better way to fix this. 

 

108644915_1897Hammer.thumb.jpg.4833ab340da74f47cfc7517ddbec54f8.jpg

 

The square shows one wear point that is an issue and can contribute to hammer follow. The oval shows the point where the bolt rides on and cocks the hammer. This particular gun had the start of hammer follow, I corrected it by replacing the bolt. 

 

1110287440_1897Hammers.thumb.jpg.e69dba661e42ba28585c85d658b58403.jpg

 

These used hammers are from L to R, good hammer, very little wear, second hammer has a battle scar or two, but still good, the third has some wear, the last hammer has been welded, typical mediocre job. 

 

The next common failure area is the buttstock, the wrist area. The buttstock should have no wiggle and no cracks. Repairable but a bit time consuming. 

 

The last common failing is with the cross pin holding the carrier in the action. It is held in with a small screw beside the hammer spur in the middle picture. A quick check would be to push the pin back and forth, it should move. Sometimes the screw is rusted in, likely if the pin has no movement. This is repairable, but takes a bit of skill and some luck to do without uglies. 

 

These are the main things i check at a gunshow, Each issue should reflect in a discount. 

 

One item that you cannot see until the action is disassembled is the bolt, the locking lugs can wear.

 

974933784_Lockinglugwear.thumb.jpg.1475e5a4b86efb9239af68d956a59632.jpg

 

Before you put the gun down there is one last safety feature to check. The 1897 lacks a trigger disconnect, and to prevent an out of battery discharge should you forget to release the trigger the hammer will not fall until the bolt is nearly in full battery. The firing pin interlock is the failsafe for this. With the trigger pulled pump the action open and then slide it slowly closed, the hammer should only fall once the firing pin interlock has released the firing pin. 

 

There is more to check, but these will quickly determine if the gun is worth buying, your skill level and access to parts are a factor as well. 

 

Thanks for you time if you actually got to the bottom of this lengthy post. 

 

BB

Thank you for the info. My skill level with the 97's are nil so this is good info for me. I do appreciate yours and everyone's experience and insight.

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