Legendary Weapons of the World. Winchester 1897

11 September

We offer you a new series of articles in which we will acquaint our readers with legendary examples of weapons from around the world. They comprise historically significant, famous or simply interesting in terms of design weapons from different countries and periods of time.

We begin our acquaintance with legends from one of the most well-known and successful shotguns, with a retracting slide action forearm (pump-action shotgun), which predetermined the popularity of this class for upwards of the next one hundred years - with the Winchester Model 1897.

This shotgun was manufactured by Winchester Fire Arms Co. for 60 years, from 1897 until 1957; the total number manufactured in that time amounted to about one million. This charismatic gun, with its easily recognised silhouette, was based on a 1890 patent obtained by now-legendary gunsmith John Browning and his step-brother Matthew Browning. The first gun created on the basis of the brothers' patent was a 12 gauge Winchester model 1893 shotgun, but it was produced only for black powder shells. In 1897 the design of this shotgun was revised so as to strengthen it and make certain improvements, and then the Winchester "ninety seven" began its triumphant progress both in the USA and in many other countries. In addition to a large choice of purely hunting versions with various barrel lengths, in various calibers and types of finish, the "ninety seven" was produced in a shortened "police" version. With the beginning of World War I, a "trench" shotgun was created on the basis of the police shotgun for fighting battles in trenches, which was different in that it had the possibility of fixing a bayonet under the barrel, and a metal cover-plate on the barrel. which protected the shooter's hand from burns. This model was such an effective weapon for close combat that Germans, having become acquainted with it "on the muzzle side", tried to declare this shotgun to be an "inhumane weapon," contradicting international conventions. It should be noted that against a background of gas warfare, tanks and heavy artillery this shotgun did not look so overly fearful, and "trench Winchesters" were successfully used throughout the whole World War I. Then they were actively used in maintaining law and order (as well as in gang wars) in the USA during the interwar period, and with the beginning of World War II they returned to military service.

In spite of the fact that manufacture of the Winchester model 1897 shotgun ended, its popularity became so high that at present its "unlicensed" copies are being produced in China, both in the hunting and in the "trench" design versions. It is evident that the quality of finish of such copies is significantly inferior to the original products, but their price is also considerably lower than that of the "genuine" Winchesters, which have already become collector's items.

So how in the world was this legendary shotgun structured? The Winchester model 1897 shotgun had manual reloading by means of the movable "forwards-backwards" forearm located around the magazine tube. The forearm was connected by one tie-rod to the two main elements of the weapon cartridge lock and feed assembly - a rocking feed device and bolt. The feed device was a massive part, rocking in the vertical plane around the horizontal axis located in its rear part. With its front part, the feeder rested against a corbel in the lower front part of the bolt, preventing the latter from moving backwards and thus locking the bore before the shot. The shot proper was carried out by means of the trigger and striking mechanism with an open hammer. During reload, the forearm backwards movement firstly lowered the front part of the feed device, releasing the bolt, then the bolt was retracted, thus extracting and ejecting the empty case and cocking the hammer. When the bolt reached the rear position, the feed device lowered itself further, so that the next cartridge would transfer from the tubular magazine onto the tray on the upper surface of the feed device. During the forearm forward movement the feed device lifts its front part so that the cartridge on its tray is directed towards the chamber, and the bolt forward movement rams the cartridge into the barrel. On completion of reloading the bolt stops at the face of the barrel breech, and the final movement of the forearm lifts the feed device upwards to the stop so that it locks the bolt again for the next shot.

A special feature of the trigger and striking mechanism of this shotgun was the absence of disconnector therein, which allowed shooting without releasing the trigger - the next shot would occur instantly as soon as the forearm reached the forward-most position. When hunting, such shooting method was not very successful, but when attacking the enemy trenches, or in fights between police and armoured gangs somewhere in industrial areas of Chicago during Prohibition, such method was used frequently.

The magazine tube was loaded via a window on the bottom with the bolt being closed.

As mentioned above, the Winchester model 1897 shotgun had a lot of versions including takedown guns with detachable barrel. The greater part of shotguns were completed with fixed cylinder-type chokes, but on a number of hunting modifications Cutts system bore compensators could be installed.

Summarizing our story we can say that the Kalashnikov Concern arsenal also contains a pump action shotgun, which is far more perfect by design and materials than the legend born in the 19th century.

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