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Winchester Model 1897

Posted by Gunner on March 22, 2010

Norinco’s version of the Winchester model 1897 shotgun in 12 gauge riot gun version

Videos at the bottom of the article showcasing the old west shotguns of J. Browning

   I’ve always had a real love for older military weapons and shotguns are no exception. The Winchester model 1897 has always been of particular interest to me. I started looking for an original Winchester 97 a few months ago but having found only one in fair condition. I had just about given up since the ones in shooting condition were higher priced than the budget would allow. I did notice a few Norinco clones in my daily GunsAmerica list. After looking at them and checking them out on the importers website I decided this was a good alternative. List price on this model is $450 however they can be found for less. Now the military version with bayonet mount and heat shield is higher at a retail of $550 but again can be had for less.

An original military Winchester 1897 from WWI

   I know some will say that it can’t be a Norinco because imports of this brand have been halted by the government. That’s true to a point but the ban did not include shotguns. They can be difficult to find but they are out there. The riot gun model I bought is also very popular with Cowboy action shooters. In fact the best gunsmith for the model 97 is nicknamed Coyote Cap in the Cowboy action game. He’s actually very fond of the Norinco version of the 97 and provides a service of smoothing the action for competition at a cost of $130.
   I found mine at K&R guns. Why I hadn’t noticed it before is beyond me but they do carry a lot of shotguns:-) I was able to purchase mine for $360 NIB. The early Norincos were not particularly popular since they used the same cheap wood that is used on the Chinese AK’s. Now they use first quality Missouri Walnut thanks to Coyote Cap makiing a trip over to the factory and convincing them of the changes needed to make the gun not only more authentic but much more attractive. A few internal changes were also made to update a few parts for better function. If you watch “Lock and Load” with Gunny R. Lee Ermy he did an episode a few weeks ago on military shotguns designed by John Browning of which the 97 is one of them. You can also get the older 87 model in lever action as well as the double barrel coach gun all from Norinco. In fact he used Norinco shotguns for this episode. If you do a Google search you can find a downloadable copy of this episode–it’s very informative and entertaining. As you can see the bluing is very high quality as is the wood and finish on the walnut. It’s really a very attractive shotgun. One other option if you want the “trench” gun version you can buy the bayonet heat shield part for about $30 and convert the riot model to the military model.

Tom Sizemore in the movie Pearl Harbour with a model 97

   If you do another Google search you’ll find a lot of movies that feature the old model 97. It’s been a popular shotgun for a very long time. I enjoy the unique features of this shotgun. The exposed hammer you can lower with a round chambered as well as a trigger disconnect that allows you to fire a round each time you work the slide as long as the trigger is held back. That’s some serious firepower with five in the tube and one in the chamber. It also handles well with the short 20 inch barrel and 14 inch pull.

A real beauty!

   At first the action was a bit stiff but after removing most of the heavy grease the Chinese tend to use for shipping it smoother up some. Then I used a liberal amount of Slip 2000 carbon remover to remove anything else hiding in the tight spots. I followed this up with Slip 2000 lube and that really helped. The best cure is to go out and shoot a good number of rounds to break it in. The tolrences are pretty snug and shooting it also helped. I’ll admit that an action job to smooth the internals would really make a significant difference. Now that I’ve fired 80 or so rounds I’m satisfied with the action. There is one caveat in using this shotgun and that’s working the slide action. Don’t choke up to much on the stock when chambering a round because the action will bite your thumb pretty good. It’s not really a problem though. After you do it once you won’t do it again! Now I’m shooting it without any thought to the action getting my thumb. It just takes a bit of getting used to. One addition some may want is a recoil pad if you plan on shooting any slugs in the Deer woods. With a plastic butt there is no protection from the heavy recoil of a 1 1/2 ounce slug. Even though I’m not very recoil sensitive it did get my attention a bit.

   I took it out to the range with a mix of buckshot, slugs and target loads. I shot a total of 75 rounds of all types and had no malfunctions. The collar that secures the feed tube to the barrel loosened up after shooting a fair number of slugs. I tightened it up and it never came loose again. Not much can be said about accuracy with a shotgun except with slugs. I did back off to 35 yards and grouped 5 slugs into a 4 inch group. Not to bad at all with a bead sight. The shot spread with double 00 buck was about shoulder width at approx 25 yards.
   Even though this is new shotgun it is a piece of history and a lot of fun to shoot. If your thinking about getting into the Cowboy action shooting game this would be a great shot gun to use. In fact one funny term the Cowboy shooters use for this particular shotgun is “Norchester” for Norinco Winchester:-) I don’t shoot Cowboy matches but it’s such a neat shotgun to just take out and have a relaxing time I would recommend it just for the enjoyment factor even though it would sure fill the need for a home defense shotgun. Heaven knows I’ve avoided some bad situations on duty just by racking a round into the chamber of my issue shotgun.
For some real custom work at a reasonable price go to this link for Cowboy Cap. His story of trips to China to improve the model 97 Norinco makes is very interesting and informative. Link to Cowboy Cap
IAC importers of Norinco old west shotguns LINK

Lock and Load with R. Lee Ermy

Norinco quality has certainly gotten a lot better!





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