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View Full Version : Winchester 1897 safe to fire?


MrDickey
05-04-2011, 6:55 PM
I recently just won an auction for this little beauty and although I don't plan to take it through the mud I would like to at least fire it once or twice on special occasions.

The problem, though, is that not only am I rather new to this community but I don't know too much about gunsmithing or how to check if it's in shooting condition. If it IS safe to shoot, what type of ammo should I use? The previous owner only said that it had "been a few years since [he] fired it".

Any advice is welcomed, and I'll post pictures as soon as it arrives.

bjl333
05-04-2011, 6:59 PM
The 1897s are build pretty good. When your gun arrives post a picture of it. Also post a location so other members can point you to a good gunsmith to test it out. But my guess is a good cleaning and she'll be ready to rock!!

MrDickey
05-05-2011, 2:08 PM
Will do. I'm located in the San Diego area. Would it matter what kind of ammo I shoot through it? Not expecting to take down Elk with this thing but it'd be nice to just hear it sound off you know?

rhbanjo
05-05-2011, 2:20 PM
Do yourself a favor- these guns are up to 110 years old depending on the serial number. You can find the age by doing a google search. I wouldn't shoot anything heavier than Winchester AA featherlight or Remington STS Lite target. I have a couple for Cowboy Action Shooting and they are a blast to shoot!!
Also + 1 on the Gunsmith.

bohoki
05-05-2011, 2:31 PM
what i would do is cut a shell in half and pop its primer to make sure the hammer and firing pin are all good then take a wood dowel after it is locked up and push on it down the barrel to make sure its locked up tight the one i have works good and its serial dates it to 1911http://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e366/bohoki/DCP_6218.jpg

InGrAM
05-05-2011, 2:45 PM
Shoot LIGHT loads threw it!

BTW Watch out where your hands are when you shoot it. The first time I shot my Norinco 97 I cut my thumb wide open and bleed all over the gun. It gets kinda nasty when dirt, dust and blood mix together.

MrDickey
05-06-2011, 2:08 AM
Do yourself a favor- these guns are up to 110 years old depending on the serial number. You can find the age by doing a google search. I wouldn't shoot anything heavier than Winchester AA featherlight or Remington STS Lite target. I have a couple for Cowboy Action Shooting and they are a blast to shoot!!
Also + 1 on the Gunsmith.
what i would do is cut a shell in half and pop its primer to make sure the hammer and firing pin are all good then take a wood dowel after it is locked up and push on it down the barrel to make sure its locked up tight the one i have works good and its serial dates it to 1911

Wow didn't even cross my mind. Thanks a lot guys, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for that ammo and I'll give the half-shells a shot. Might be a few days before it arrives so I have plenty of time.

PsychGuy274
05-06-2011, 2:53 AM
Dickey,

Just to be clear, with cutting the shotshells make you get everything out of the shell. The point of firing it in that condition is to make sure the firing pin is making a proper indentation on the primer.

After it's been fired, the point of shoving a dowel down the barrel is to make sure that the shell is comfortably seated in the chamber. If it fits loosely in the chamber you can anything from a misfire to an explosion.

This is kind of hard to explain properly online, but let me know when you get it and I'll take you out and show you how to do it properly.

colddeadhands
05-06-2011, 2:59 AM
+1 on making sure it is safe to fire.


I haven't looked it up in a while, but i think mine dates to 1902. Still works great and it turns some heads when i shoot trap with it. :D

tonelar
05-10-2011, 11:08 AM
Plus depending on its age; it might have 2 5/8 chamber (my older one did, so firing 2 3/4 shells would cause excessive pressures).
Definitely have it honed to 2 3/4 by a gunsmith. He can even tighten up the fit of the forend assemblynif need be.

uzigalil
05-10-2011, 11:23 AM
I bought a 1897 and sent it here to have it made safe to shoot modern ammo and function correctly. they did great work

http://www.dustybunch.org/

renardsubtil
05-10-2011, 11:51 AM
Light loads are best to use on that shotgun, avoid the magnum loads. Personally I'm not shooting anything above 1400 fps, target loads are probably best but it can take a light 00 buckshot and light rifled slug DEPENDING on the choke you have (which is usually marked on the barrel).

Having the shotgun checked out with a gunsmith is a good idea, the older 1897s were not bored out to fit the modern 2 3/4 shell so it's a good thing to get the headspace checked in that regard.

Here's a nice little thread on CG about a guy's Winchester 1897 as well.

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=25277

Here's a site for manufacture dates:

http://marauder.homestead.com/model97sn.html

coyotebait
05-10-2011, 1:01 PM
I load my own very lightly for my Winchester model "87. Built in 1893....they don't make parts for them any more so I error on the side of caution. A buddy and myself both have the "87's, we went to Oak Tree to and shot a round or 2 of skeet with them, couldn't hit squat because of the lighter load but was a ton of fun...got some looks too.:cool2:

SparrowHanger
05-10-2011, 3:34 PM
Dickey,

Just to be clear, with cutting the shotshells make you get everything out of the shell. The point of firing it in that condition is to make sure the firing pin is making a proper indentation on the primer.

After it's been fired, the point of shoving a dowel down the barrel is to make sure that the shell is comfortably seated in the chamber. If it fits loosely in the chamber you can anything from a misfire to an explosion.

This is kind of hard to explain properly online, but let me know when you get it and I'll take you out and show you how to do it properly.

Shoving a dowel down the barrel isn't going to accurately tell you if the unfired shell seats tightly, since the base will expand; especially if it is a stell base.

The weapon needs to be taken to a gunsmith, not just anyone at the counter of a gun shop, to be inspected, Many do not understand that even if a modern 2 3/4" shell fits into a chamber, the hull unfolds at the crimp and becomes longer when fired. This can raise barrel pressure. Some say it is not that much, but add to it modern heavier propellants and possible weaker steel used in older guns and you may have a problem.

Also, the steel used at about the turn of the 19th century may not be suitable for modern powders and loads. I onece had an idiot at a supposedly very good gun store sell me Magnum loads for 12 gauge manufactured in 1908. Fortunately I never fired them until I got a modern Remintgon, else I may have gotten a firing pin blown back into my face.

If the smith says not to shoot 2 3/4" shells, there are 2 1/2" loads on the market that are desighed for older guns. That or perhaps he can enlarge your chamber.

MrDickey
05-16-2011, 10:37 PM
Now with pix and new info:

The serial number dates her back to 1928.

The pump is slightly wobbly, but I expect that to be normal given her age.

One thing I've noticed, and I do not know if this is a feature of the gun or age or some other factor but when cycling snap caps through her I encountered this:

Racking it once to put a "shell" in the chamber is no problem, nor when I pull the trigger. But when I go to pump it again to cycle another shell from the tube the pump is locked. By locked I mean the pump will not move to put in a new round UNLESS I push it forward first (the pump doesn't seem to physically move at all when I do this, but I can hear a subtle "click" when I do). After that it cycles no problem. Catching onto this I have since not had a problem cycling the snap caps, but I just wanted to know if this is a common feature I did not know about, or a sign of age and wear. If the latter, I'm hesitant to take her to the range and put live ammo through her.

What's a newb to do?

MrDickey
05-16-2011, 10:43 PM
Shoving a dowel down the barrel isn't going to accurately tell you if the unfired shell seats tightly, since the base will expand; especially if it is a stell base.

The weapon needs to be taken to a gunsmith, not just anyone at the counter of a gun shop, to be inspected, Many do not understand that even if a modern 2 3/4" shell fits into a chamber, the hull unfolds at the crimp and becomes longer when fired. This can raise barrel pressure. Some say it is not that much, but add to it modern heavier propellants and possible weaker steel used in older guns and you may have a problem.

Also, the steel used at about the turn of the 19th century may not be suitable for modern powders and loads. I onece had an idiot at a supposedly very good gun store sell me Magnum loads for 12 gauge manufactured in 1908. Fortunately I never fired them until I got a modern Remintgon, else I may have gotten a firing pin blown back into my face.

If the smith says not to shoot 2 3/4" shells, there are 2 1/2" loads on the market that are desighed for older guns. That or perhaps he can enlarge your chamber.

Good point actually I didn't realize the expansion would be an issue. Gives me more reason to be careful with her then.