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View Full Version : Waxing Philosophical: To 'mess with' Dad's 1897 Winchester, or not to mess with it...


BigJ
08-23-2012, 7:54 AM
Hey guys. A few years back my Dad and best friend left this earth. He was too young...

One of the few things he had and loved in this world was his, now my, Winchester 1897 shotgun, manufactured in 1908. Dad grew up on a farm, and when he turned 7 or 8 his uncle gave him this gun. We think it was his uncle who bought it new and used it as a teen until giving it to Dad. Dad was never close with his parents, and it was Uncle who raised him. When Uncle gave it to Dad, it was a big moment in Dad's young life. Dad would recall fondly when Uncle gave it to him, only to find it to be way to large, so they cut the stock down to fit.

I can remember shooting this with him out in the desert. In fact I took my first (and only) bird with this gun at the ripe old age of 9. I learned an incredibly valuable lesson that day. This gun also came out to play on one of my first dates with my girlfriend, and the three of us shot lots of desert junk with it over the years, up until about 15 years ago where other than moving from his house to mine, its sat collecting dust in the corner of some closet.

My point is this: this gun has enormous sentimental value to me, as well as my wife. Every time I look at it, I smile thinking of him.

So now fast forward. I need a new home defense shotgun, and I'm wondering, do I haul Dad's old '97 out of the shadows, hand it off to a gunsmith to ensure its safe, have him cut it down from its 32" into something more HD friendly... basically, do I take this old, neglected gun and make it into something I will see and enjoy daily? Or do I keep it 'back there', and bring it out every few years only to look at it? I don't plan to shoot trap or skeet with it, kids are not in my future (unless we adopt) so passing it down isn't a priority... I really do love the idea of seeing it every day, of 'depending' on it if SHTF at home, etc. But I also hate the idea of violating the old girl; she's got on well enough for 104 years without my help. Or maybe since Dad already cut the stock, I'm just finishing what he started? ...

What would you do? And more importantly, why? Thanks guys.

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z260/JasonWilliamPics/Guns/1897%20Winchester/1897_6.jpg

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z260/JasonWilliamPics/Guns/1897%20Winchester/1897_2.jpg

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z260/JasonWilliamPics/Guns/1897%20Winchester/1897_1.jpg

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z260/JasonWilliamPics/Guns/1897%20Winchester/S1050164.jpg

spetsnaz
08-23-2012, 7:58 AM
keep it the way it is and buy another shotgun that fits the budget

njineermike
08-23-2012, 7:59 AM
I can't even believe you're asking this question. Buy something cheap and reliable, like an 870 express instead of butchering a classic.

sargenv
08-23-2012, 8:01 AM
I say take the money you would pay your gunsmith and go out and purchase, used if neccesary, a Mossberg or Remington pump shotgun. To alter a gun such as that one, to me, would be... well, I wouldn't do it.

Something that one of the cowboy action shooters mentioned to me yesterday was that a lot of the older 97's had a 2.5" chamber.. you may wish to ask a smith that works on these what the chamber length is and it it might be one of the older short chamber guns.. many shooters don't check and they put undue strain on the gun when using a 2 3/4" shell. The loaded shell will fit, but the crimped portion will then open up into the forcing cone and will cause the gun to experience high pressure..

Either way, I wouldn't chop up the 97...

BigJ
08-23-2012, 8:05 AM
I guess I see it like this: as it is right now, its going to literally rust away. It won't get used, it won't get hung on a wall anywhere, it won't get sold, it won't get passed down... it will do what it's been doing the past 15 years, which is sit in a closet tucked away conceivably until I and my wife die.

My head agrees with you guys; don't even consider touching it.

But my heart says WTF are you saving it for? If you can take its bones and build around them making it into something you'll 'enjoy' daily, why not? I've never been a collector who just collects; I use what I own. Why should this shotgun be treated any differently?

njineermike
08-23-2012, 8:09 AM
Better to restore it to it's shooting shape and enjoy it for what it is: A classic machine. Keep it oiled and fire a few shots through it and it won't rust away. It will be a fun oddity in your collection. Get a beater to do a beaters work.

OldShooter32
08-23-2012, 8:12 AM
Just remember to take your finger off the trigger when you rack in a round...the '97 has no disconnector.

mcmikeblues7
08-23-2012, 8:14 AM
Have you ever tried shooting trap or skeet? This might be the time to learn

BigJ
08-23-2012, 8:16 AM
Just remember to take your finger off the trigger when you rack in a round...the '97 has no disconnector.That's a really good point...

Have you ever tried shooting trap or skeet? This might be the time to learnAye. Shot trap for years. This gun would be FAR too small for me to compete with (I'm 6'9" tall). Here's a shot for some perspective:

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z260/JasonWilliamPics/Guns/1897%20Winchester/1897_fit.jpg

prc77
08-23-2012, 8:53 AM
Restore, and enjoy.

Sicarius
08-23-2012, 9:19 AM
Please don't molest it. You can never regret leaving it the way it is. You can always regret changing it... Keep it the way your dad, you and everybody has loved it. Once changed, it will never be the same gun again. On top of that, the gun is old and should stay old. They are simply not made anymore and the shortened stock and such adds to its history and character. I personally wouldn't reblue it or anything. It is beautiful the way it sits. Oil it up and keep it the way it is. Like old cars, it will only be original once...
I am not sure what the gunsmithing costs would be to overhaul it and chop the barrel but you may want to look for a big 5 sale and pick up a mossberg 500 for cheap. They are plentiful and reliable and probably better suited for HD with the 18 inch barrel. Also consider if you do have the unfortunate situation of having to use it on a bad guy, the police will be taking the shotgun and who knows if and when you will get it back.
If you do want to air it out, find another stock to swap it out and keep the original.
Kevin

Grumpyoldretiredcop
08-23-2012, 10:09 AM
Restore, yes (installing a full length buttstock) so that you can fire it. Molest it, no way. As already stated, for what you'd pay a gunsmith, you could purchase an 870 or Mossberg that you could depend on for HD.

mossy
08-23-2012, 10:24 AM
if you take it to gunsmoke and tell them you are afraid of crime they will turn it into tactical HD gun for only $1700 :D

all joking aside you could have it restored, but dont mess with it. if you want a HD shotgun get a 500 or 870 on sale at big 5. or find one of those mossberg 500 JIC 2 kits, they are usually really afordable.

RudyN
08-23-2012, 10:32 AM
I personally would leave it as is & just make sure it is ok as it does have sentimental value. For HD buy an 870 or Mossburg . I have two 1897s that I use for CAS and have kept them as they are. For HD I have an 870.

Sent From The Local Telegraph Office

sephy
08-23-2012, 12:08 PM
What would your dad tell you to do?

mikajo39
08-23-2012, 12:27 PM
What would your dad tell you to do?

My thoughts exactly.

chillincody
08-23-2012, 12:32 PM
restore it and buy a HD shotgun IMO

deviljon
08-23-2012, 12:51 PM
Restore that baby into mint condition and get a cheap 870 or 500 for HD.

Basically what everyone else says.

BigJ
08-23-2012, 1:27 PM
Thanks for all the comments and thoughts guys. I'm really glad I asked. I hadn't considered the disconnector issue (legalities if involved in a HD shooting??)... Also consider if you do have the unfortunate situation of having to use it on a bad guy, the police will be taking the shotgun and who knows if and when you will get it backAnd I really hadn't considered that. You're absolutely right. Who knows if/when I'd ever see it again.

If you want a HD shotgun get a 500 or 870 on sale at big 5. or find one of those mossberg 500 JIC 2 kits, they are usually really afordable.I actually have a 'camp' 870 gun that stays...erh occasionally travels... in my truck. Even though price isn't really a concern if/when it comes to doing 'right' by this gun, I think you (everyone) is right; get another 870 and call it job done.
What would your dad tell you to do?Ya know, knowing my Dad, he'd say "What the f&*k do I care? I'm dead." :D Seriously though I get my use-what-you-collect attitude in large part from him. He had nothing he didn't put to use, and use hard. I actually do think he'd tell me to "use it". But give the potential legal implications, as well as the fact I might/probably would never see it again if I actually did need it, I think I'll redefine "use it" to mean get it restored, and then get out and use it a few times a year. I'm sure there's still desert junk out there that needs some killin ;)

Thanks very much guys.

ouch1
08-23-2012, 1:58 PM
Restore that baby into mint condition and get a cheap 870 or 500 for HD.

Basically what everyone else says.

Heck here's a link for a replacement stock/foregrip for it:
http://macongunstocks.net/model_97_or_93_45.html

And since you live in San Jose Big 5 has a Mossberg 500 Silver combo rig on sale for $299.99 ( http://big5sportinggoods.shoplocal.com/big5/default.aspx?action=detail&storeid=2503823&rapid=0&listingid=-2056888450&offerid= ). That includes a 28" field barrel and an 18.5" security barrel.

-ouch1

Sicarius
08-24-2012, 11:29 AM
I am pleased to hear that you are going to keep it the way it is. Maybe I am different. I hold some items that are of great sentimental value. I have my grandfather's .38 pistol that he carried in three wars. Not something I shoot ever but I would be hard pressed to change a thing about it. Even it's worn finish...
Kevin