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Old February 3, 2010, 04:56 PM   #1
TangoMcBlasty
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Winchester Model 97 and 12

I've often read of the Model 1912 as being the Shotgunners Pump Gun and the Perfect Repeater. I've also read about the Model 1897 being the best combat shotgun there is. Even Louis Awerbuck has extolled its virtues.

I've never used a Model 97 nor have I seen one in real life, but I do have trigger time on a Model 12 shooting sporting clays. I can appreciate their historic value but in terms of mechanical design and ergonomics, I'm having a hard time seeing why these guns should be hailed as the "perfect" pump-action shotguns. Compared to an older 870 Wingmaster, the Model 12's action isn't any smoother (maybe even less), is more difficult to disassemble, and is only slightly lighter in weight.

I'm not trying to trash-talk here. I'm just looking for an education. Can someone tell me why these two guns have achieved such a high status in the pump-gun world?
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Old February 3, 2010, 05:51 PM   #2
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I saw your thread earlier - and I'm surprised noone has jumped in ...

But I have to say, I agree with you. I appreciate the old model 97's and the model 12's ......but they were never a gun that I was dying to own as I got older. There were a couple of model 97's / and a lot of model 12's in my family / and a number of Browning Auto 5's as well .....when I was growing up in the 50's and 60's - and they were all "serviceable guns".

Were they the best pump guns ever ....maybe, maybe not .... They were certainly innovative for their time ....and then the Remington 870's came along / and the Browning BPS ....

While I shot various guns in the family ... and inherited a few model 12's ....the first pump gun I bought for myself was in the 70's or early 80's and it was a Browning BPS. I still have it today / even though I don't shoot it much ( and a few years later, I added one in 20ga as well ..) .
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Old February 3, 2010, 06:02 PM   #3
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When you read the book on the design of the Winchester model 12 you will understand. A few points that the model 12 has that the 870 doesnt. First it is made entirely of milled steel by skilled craftsmen. The other brands are mainly built with cast alloys. Check out the shell carrier of a model 12, and you will see it is machined from a block of steel. Look at others, they are stamped from tin. Check out the triggerguard of others, they are cast of plastic or potmetal. The model 12's started life as a large billet of steel and machined down by skilled craftsmen. Remember the trigger group (triggerguard) is the heart of the firing mecanism and they are made from plastic and potmetal casting! These few parts are just a minor few of the advantages of the model 12. These guns were built to last many lifetimes. Back in the day, Remington used to have such pride in workmanship, their model 14 pump high power rifles were of such high quality, their represenative said if it was built today it would cost $3,000 to manufacture, and these were PRODUCTION guns. Now they produce new guns that sell for just a couple hundred dollars. What is that saying about their quality of manufacture and materials.
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Old February 3, 2010, 06:25 PM   #4
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Like I said, I can appreciate their historic value, including the fact that they were milled from steel by skilled craftsmen. However, as an engineer, that story doesn't hold much water with me. I can tell you for certain that something made of steel by skilled craftsmen is not necessarily better than the same product made of modern plastics and assembled by robots. In many cases the latter is better and cheaper.

I'd like to hear a functional reason on why these guns are held in such high regard to this day, particularly the Model 97. What makes it a weapon that a modern soldier would want over another "combat" pump-action gun such as the Remington 870, Mossberg 590, or Ithaca 37?
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Old February 3, 2010, 06:51 PM   #5
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Understanding that you are an engineer, I will type real slow.(joke) Model 12's and 97's were years ahead of their time and are true manufacturing works of art. Tear either one of them apart for a better hands on understanding. I have been a Model 12 fan my entire life, but I have to admit the earlier Wingmasters are every bit as good as a Model 12 with a whole lot less moving parts, and interchangeable barrels. Manufacturing processes will always improve and some products will get better, but the Model 12's and 97's will be around long after the newer 870's, 500's, and other low end pumps have been parted out and scrapped.
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Old February 3, 2010, 07:26 PM   #6
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I recently bought a model 12 ca 1955. I agree with the other posts. You have to realize that the model name comes from the year of its introduction, not 12 gauge as others think. For 1912 technology, it may have been the best pump this country had to offer and one of the best repeaters of the time and for several years after. I didn't fire mine yet, but it is definitely well designed and sports excellent craftsmanship due to the reasons mentioned by other posters.
Quote:
I've also read about the Model 1897 being the best combat shotgun there is. Even Louis Awerbuck has extolled its virtues.
I think the 1897 was a good design for a combat shotgun. Three important characteristics of it come to mind: the first is why they called it the trench sweeper (or was it the trench broom). The gun had no trigger disconnect. This meant that after the trigger is pulled, one could hold the trigger in and pump rapidly to fire the remaining shells with absolute devastation. Imagine that feature at close range or at a group of guys. The second thing that comes to mind is the hammer. The hammer is nice for combat because its easier to lower the hammer than engage/disengage a model 12 safety. The last thing is probably its major drawback - the receiver bite. Due to the mechanism, the top of the receiver came back over of the top of the rear stock, right where a users thumb would be. If your hand was not properly positioned on the gun (proper for a 1897), you would experience the bite.

With these old designs, you have to consider what was around when they came out, not whats out now or what you like. Just like anything else, it becomes more obsolete over time but whats obsolete now could have at one time been very innovative.

Quote:
What makes it a weapon that a modern soldier would want over another "combat" pump-action gun such as the Remington 870, Mossberg 590, or Ithaca 37?
Maybe because it was BEFORE all of these and no one says that the design is better than modern shotguns? Just a thought...
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Old February 3, 2010, 07:49 PM   #7
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For today's shooter, they are no more or less functional than a quality modern pumpgun. They are very well built, but an 870 is every bit as functional as a mod 12.
Very few of us will ever shoot a shotgun enough to wear one out, whether it's hand milled and assembled, or stamped and production line assembled.
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Old February 3, 2010, 11:24 PM   #8
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While I am not an engineer I did have a 38 year career in heavy machinery, building many pieces of machinery from scratch and then using them in extreme temprature and under extreme conditions and have and know what lasts and what doesnt. So instead of theory I have decades of experence. This is why I quit buying newer guns in my late 20's and collected hand machined guns of all makes. I totally disagree with the engineer that stated cast mystery metal and plastic is as good and sometimes better than steel. I have yet to see a bridge, bulldozer, oil rig, backhoe or any other mulitude of equipment made of potmetal. And for those that think a stamped tin follower that took 3 operations to make is every bit the equal to a milled steel follower that started life as a 1 1/2 lb billet of steel that required 19 machining operations, then by all means buy the one that tickles your fancy but dont blow smoke in my direction and tell me they are equal. One last point, when ANY gun is manufactuer it is test fired with a "proof load aka blue pill load" that is special loaded to 10% above SAMMI specs. The model 12 was tested at 330% more preasure than the heaviest factory load. See Madis book the Winchester model 12 page 24. A model 97 was removed from a Winchester assembly line and sent to their ammunition testing room, after decades of use the firing pin spring appeared to be weaking, after calculating its life it had fired over 1 1/2 million rounds of ammo. They did a pattern test on the full choked model 97 and it still patterned tighter than reqired for a full choke gun. Yes the newer stuff is fine for the average Joe, however the original post was asking why the model 12 and 97 were so highly prized and respected.
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Old February 4, 2010, 01:29 AM   #9
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Marvelous.

My model 1912 Winchester was made in 1914. It's nearly a century old and the blueing is long gone. I replaced the crumbling recoil pad and the rest of the gun is nothing but steel and Walnut. No aluminum. No plastic. It takes down so simply it almost seems like magic. It is so well put together that it astonishes me that they did it all without computers. And it still works like new after all these years!
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Old February 4, 2010, 02:14 AM   #10
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First let me say that I didn't want this to turn into a battle between old world craftsmanship and new school manufacturing. Nor did I want this to be a "My new Remington/Mossberg/Benelli/whatever is better than an old Winchester" thread.

It's been stated over and over again that the older Winchesters are made from milled billets of steel which is way more durable than what modern guns are made of. Point taken. We are in violent agreement. They will last forever and people will still be using them alongside laser weapons in 2197.

That being said, my question was one of functionality. The example was made of the billet steel Winchester follower and how they are not equal to the new stamped metal (or plastic*) followers. However, they both do the same thing and they both do it well. Sure the billet steel follower will last forever, but in the lifetime of the "lower quality" follower, they will both function as intended. And in that sense they are equal. A plastic follower may even work better because it will never rust. Extending this idea to the entire gun, if I'm not looking for an heirloom piece, then from an objective point of view, I don't see why an instructor like Awerbuck would recommend a Model 97 over anything else for a combat shotgun.

It seems that what these fine old guns have going for them, first and foremost, is extremely high build quality. However, I do not believe that an instructor would recommend a Model 97 simply because he thought it was artful or well-crafted. It would have to be something more tangible and meaningful to a combat shotgunner. From the info in this thread, it seems that the ability to slamfire and the external hammer on the 1897 is what puts it a cut above. Thanks, Winchester_73, for that response!


* As an aside, if you don't believe that plastic can be better than metal in certain applications check out this the Gunblast review comparing the Ruger 10/22 metal trigger guard with the new plastic one. http://www.gunblast.com/Ruger-1022.htm
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Old February 4, 2010, 02:36 AM   #11
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Winchester Model 12s were called the "Perfect Repeater" by Winchester, an excellent example of "ad hype" considering they did not have much competition. The action is smooth and sturdy but not strong, and it developes headspace issues and peens out if you shoot too many heavy loads. But it was a good shotgun, and was in production almost 60 years, longer than several Remington designs. It was expensive to produce and cost a lot even back then, but it was better and stronger than its competition, so people love them.

The Winchester Model 1897 was called the best fighting shotgun ever made after WW1. Considering there had not been very many fighting shotguns up to that point, it also falls under the "ad hype" category. Good shotguns, not great, but sturdy and durable. You have never known pain until you rack a Model 1897 and you get your thumb knuckle busted or your fingers pinched. After that, you get very careful. It still escapes me why people love them, but they do.
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Old February 4, 2010, 08:37 AM   #12
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Last I knew, Louis carries a coach gun on his travels, because it's less hassle for the traditional old style shotgun than a 'tricked out' repeater, and the SxS takes down into a compact package.

At home he uses an old extended magazine Browning A5 'jungle gun.' I've never heard him recommend the old Model 97 over anything else for a fighting shotgun- i don't know where you got that idea...

fwiw,

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Old February 4, 2010, 11:02 AM   #13
TangoMcBlasty
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Quote:
I've never heard him recommend the old Model 97 over anything else for a fighting shotgun- i don't know where you got that idea...
I've read this in various reviews from people who have taken his shotgun class. Here is an example: http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost....24&postcount=4.

Yes, it's just someone's account of what they thought they might have heard in a world that may never have existed in a time that might actually be in the future and documented on the InterWebs where everyone is the leader of a shopping center quick reaction force, but it's all I have to go on.
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Old February 4, 2010, 11:48 AM   #14
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Quote:
From the info in this thread, it seems that the ability to slamfire and the external hammer on the 1897 is what puts it a cut above. Thanks, Winchester_73, for that response!
Can you read? I was saying what it could do for its time compared to others of ITS TIME. Don't you realize that you can't judge an 1897 design against a modern one? Is that even what I said? I was merely stating what the gun could do at the time, which is WWI. Its not a perfect design, but its certainly not one that would have hampered anyone either. It also was the first combat shotgun in terms of barrel length, not a big thing but it was first. When it came out it was REVOLUTIONARY for obvious reasons. And the guns you say can work as good with cheaper parts COPIED these old designs. You mention an Ithaca 37, do you realize thats just a copy of the Remington model 17? The older guns are great in my opinion because without those designs, the "plastic follower" guns would not have been the same, bottom line. If a design is truly great, it will be copied. The characteristics of the Winchester models 1897 and the 1912 were copied many times over.

To address your point, of course perhaps a new 870 could last as long and work as well as my model 12 from 1955. But who would want one? The way the model 12 was made will never be done again due to many factors unless its some expensive hand crafted European shotgun or the like. When you buy a pre 64 model 12, you get a "shotgun", legendary design, excellent craftsmanship, all steel construction or simply a piece of American firearms history for a little more but sometimes less than say a new 870. Its not necessarily "better" as far as function but a remington or winchester or anything today, made the same way as the model 12, would be a lot more money. Over $1000 I'd say. Think about it. Of course you can say that the Winchester model 12 was over engineered, and the key points of its manufacture are not necessary in a shotgun, but I would rather have something like that for all the above reasons and more. I also think there's less chance of something eventually wearing out on the gun due to the way its made vs a modern production shotgun.

I cant believe you could come away from my 1897 post and think I was saying whats good about it today? THINK OF IT BACK THEN for the last time.

Quote:
With these old designs, you have to consider what was around when they came out, not whats out now or what you like. Just like anything else, it becomes more obsolete over time but whats obsolete now could have at one time been very innovative.
Its right there. People are amazing
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Old February 4, 2010, 12:18 PM   #15
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I sure do like the Model 12.
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Old February 4, 2010, 01:48 PM   #16
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Shane,

Try http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=202292 .

And I just went back and reviewed his video (The Combat Shotgun)- what he says about the '97 is that it's gotten really popular with action shooters. Nothing there about it being superior to more modern designs...

Louis is pretty much equipment neutral as far as his attitude is concerned, and wants his students to focus more on mindset and skillset than hardware. Even in the area of training, he says there is no "best," but that different things work better for different people, that serious students should train with as many instructors as possible and use what works best from each of those instructors.

fwiw,

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Old February 4, 2010, 01:52 PM   #17
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Winchester_73, I was just saying thanks for an informative post. I'm sorry it cut you the wrong way.


Quote:
Don't you realize that you can't judge an 1897 design against a modern one?
When I read about a modern instructor in a modern shotgun class teaching modern techniques talking about the Model 97 as a "superior" choice, I think it's fair to weigh its virtues against a modern design. If he had said something like, "The Model 97 was a superior gun for its time," I would have never started this thread.

If I or the poster at THR has misquoted Awerbuck, please educate me. Until then, I will continue to feel that it's 100% fair to judge that design against a modern one.

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Old February 4, 2010, 02:17 PM   #18
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Quote:
And I just went back and reviewed his video (The Combat Shotgun)- what he says about the '97 is that it's gotten really popular with action shooters. Nothing there about it being superior to more modern designs...
Fair enough. Thanks for looking that up, Lee.

This was all precipitated from a thread at THR. I guess this is as much an investigation of that thread as it is the virtues of the gun. If Awerbuck never really said anything about the superiority of the Model 97 (and it sounds like he did not), then this is all moot.

Thanks to everyone for your answers.
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Old February 4, 2010, 02:30 PM   #19
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Quote:
Winchester_73, I was just saying thanks for an informative post. I'm sorry it cut you the wrong way.
Its no big deal, I just thought that the line at the end was a sarcastic jab at me. In other words "thanks for pointing out the obvious, Winchester 73, your info was useless to me". I'm sorry I took it the wrong way. I understood your question from the beginning but I myself had a hard time believing that you had correctly interpreted what the guy was saying about the 1897 because as you said, 1897 old vs 2010 new is not a very fair comparison.
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Old February 4, 2010, 08:30 PM   #20
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In all fairness to the Remington 870, the trigger guard/firing mechanism group is made from cast aluminum alloy, not pot metal (ZAMAK).
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Old February 4, 2010, 08:39 PM   #21
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Shane,

Don't misunderstand- the Model 1893 Winchester Repeating Shotgun, and its evolution, the Model 1897, WERE revolutionary designs for their day. There were only two pump shotguns in production before the Browning-designed 93/97 came along- the Spencer (some were later assembled/sold by Bannerman), and the Burgess. Links for pictures:

http://www.antiquearmsinc.com/spencer-shotgun.htm

http://www.gunsinternational.com/466...44D81A60BC036D

http://www.shootingbums.org/hvr/burgess.html

http://whitney-burgess.com/gallery/t...ls.php?album=3

Repeating firearms using fixed ammunition really were a revolutionary development in a world accustomed to having to load single shots, double barrels or revolvers from the front. In years gone by, in order to be able to shoot several times without reloading, a man had to carry several different firearms. Back then, when they said a man was "heavily armed," they weren't kidding!

I remember reading a description of a traveller on an early stagecoach, when the West in America was still east of the Mississippi, and the burden of iron he carried for his adventure into the unsettled wilderness. Those were the days when a pistol or two was often backed up by a Bowie knife for the rough and ready traveller, because the big blade didn't run out of ammunition the way single shot pistols did.

It was a pretty big technological leap from double barreled 'coach guns' to repeaters, and the fighting men of the day were early adapters. Law enforcement officers liked them, and so did the US military, taking along a batch of solid frame 1897 Riot guns on expeditions to the Philippines and into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa- see http://lawofwar.org/Parks_Combat_Shotguns.htm for a discussion of this history, from the lawyer's viewpoint, interestingly enough.

In the hands of a practiced user, the 97 is still quite a buckshot hose- take a look at the web videos of some of the faster CAS shooters, it's impressive to say the least. http://www.netw.com/cowboy/links_video.html . But the design has a couple of relatively delicate components (like the ejector), and they do break down.

I well remember reading Randy Cain's struggles several years ago to keep an old take-down 97 running as a 'road gun.' Randy moderated the Shotguns forum at a now-departed forum called The Gun Spot, which was the place I first "met" our moderator, Dave McC. Randy was and is probably the best, least talked about, national level defensive firearms instructor in the business. He wanted to use the 97 as a traveling gun since it was a take-down model. But it kept breaking...

I like the old guns, I love the Stevens 520, which interestingly enough is a Browning design only ten years newer than the Model 93, and which incorporates the marvelous take-down system of the older Burgess- IMHO the best ever devised. And I have one of the Chinese copies of the solid frame Winchester 97 riot guns, which was the first military shotgun used by the US. I got it to show my own students of defensive shotguns, as a way to acquaint them with the history of the breed, and to show them how things have evolved.

And that's the point. Things HAVE evolved, allowing manufacturers new ways to make reliable, durable repeating shotguns at less and less expense as time has gone on. Whether that's deemed to be "better" or not, it is what is. No company in the US can afford to make a Model 12 today, and no company in the US can afford to make a Model 97 either.

That minor detail doesn't keep anyone who wants one from getting either one or both, of course...

hth,

lpl
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Old February 4, 2010, 11:30 PM   #22
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Shottyshane, I read your post and agree with alot of your points. The original post was why are they so prized, I didnt say others wont work. Your point about Ruger 10-22 plastic triggerguards being superior to their metal is a point I was trying to make. Ruger 10-22's are an investment casting from some mystery metal, I call potmetal. So to compare plasic against a potmetal casting isnt what I would say is a fair comparison. Try comparing it against a triggerguard machined from steel. Another point I wish would be addressed is hard impact and cold weather impact. Plastic gets very brittle in cold and steel becomes weaker. Since the days of hand machined guns are mostly gone it would be interesting to test modern guns in severe conditions.
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Old February 5, 2010, 12:03 AM   #23
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When it comes to functionality, I don't think you'll find better than the Model 12 Winchester. I have Models 12s, 870s, BPSs, 500s, 590s, 37s, 1200s (yes, multiples of all of them), plus a Model 31 Rem (which is a hell of a good shotgun, BTW) and assorted others...Model 88 Maverick, several H&R single-shot Pardners. I appreciate the BPSs and the 870s and the others as much as anyone...though personally I think the 870 Express is an inferior product and not even close to the shotgun a Model 12 is...or an 870 Wingmaster for that matter. And I'm strictly talking functionality here. The Model 12 is just damn hard to beat in that attribute. It is at least as reliable as any modern shotgun, in my many decades of experience. But alas, far too expensive to build in the modern economy.

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Old February 5, 2010, 01:06 AM   #24
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I've been looking around for one of both of these guns, its kind of a collection i have going. started with a fulton sxs and stevens sxs my grandpa gave me and of course the browning sweet 16 i got from my dad and with both a 97 and 12 I think it will round out my collection nicely.
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Old February 5, 2010, 03:52 PM   #25
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My $0.02....

My combat experience with the 97 was limited to toting one on guard duty. Never fired a shot in harm's way from one. Still, the thing worked under SEA conditions.

I find the platform tough, reliable and worthy. Same with the 12.

Downsides to either, complicated innards, scarcity of parts and even more important, lack of qualified smiths that speak 97 and 12 fluently.

For the record, both are great shotguns, and if one loses a firefight while so equipped, it's probably not the gun's fault.

Still, I've been trying to wear out 870s since the 50s and failing utterly.
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