View Full Version : Recommendations for my new/old Winchester 1897

June 19, 2002, 12:49 PM
I just picked up a Winchester 1897 12 gauge manufactured in 1906. I sent it to a gunsmith to have it checked out, and he says its safe to fire.

I don't want to beat up an old classic like this, so I'm wondering what would be a good load to use in it for general plinking, etc. I know a fair amount about pistol/rifle ammo, but I don't know much about shotgun loads. What is the "dram eq" and how many oz. of shot should I use? I bought some Federal Upland Load shells.. 7 1/2 shot, 1 1/4 oz. Are these OK?

This shotgun was on consignment for $210, but the guy accepted my offer of $170. Gotta take into account $90 for the gunsmithing work, but it still seems like a pretty good deal to me. I wanted to have a Winchester over one of the Norinco clones, but wasn't sure I'd find one in good shape.

Any help or comments are appreciated!

...off to watch "The Wild Bunch" ....

Al Thompson
June 19, 2002, 12:57 PM
For just shooting, the cheapest stuff at Wal-Mart should work fine. I'm not sure what the CASS folks use. IIRC, it's a birdshot round.

Dave McC
June 19, 2002, 05:47 PM
Did your smith check the chamber length? On a shotgun this old, it wouldn't be surprising to find it was a 2 1/2" shotgun.

If so, there's some light loads from Gamefair in 2 1/2".

If not, I'd stick with 1 oz, 2 3/4 dram Eq for lower pressures. Any of the "Promotional" loads fitting this description should do the trick.

And congrats, a working 87 for less than $200 is a bargain...

Al Thompson
June 19, 2002, 07:52 PM

Forgot about the 2 1/2 inch chamber possibility.

As dave says, best to check it out. The eyes you save may be your own!!

June 19, 2002, 08:26 PM
I didn't know they made 'em with 2 1/2" chambers! The gunsmith did test fire the gun, and didn't make any mention of a 2 1/2" chamber, but it is dangerous to assume...

Are there any indicators on the gun itself that would tell me what size the chamber is? Were they made in both chamber sizes in 1906, or is there a s/n cutoff...?

Thanks for the help guys!

June 19, 2002, 08:49 PM
with the condition that gun looks in (granted the pic is far away) i bet you can get 350 for that from the cowboy shooters for that gun all day long.
"Federal Upland Load shells.. 7 1/2 shot, 1 1/4 oz. "
You sure thats 1 1/4 ounce and not 1 1/8 ? I've rarely seen 1 1/4 ouncers, and even if I did, i cant imagine why you;d buy something that heavy for a gun that old.
The gun would probably be fine with that load, but you'd be better off using something like 1 ounce winchester AA light skeet loads.
A bunch of my cowboy action shooting friends have those old 1897s, paid a heafty sum for them too, and use the lighter loads, but have used the federal multi purpose loads from walmart, and the remington 7/8 ounce high velocity shells. mostly they reload light loads for the guns, but those havent broken anything.
My 1892 marlin shoots all the heavy things too, hasnt had a problem.
But one thing I was told by a gunsmith, on those old shotguns, don't dry fire them to much, or you will break the firing pin.

Dave McC
June 20, 2002, 05:25 AM
The 97's a JMB design, rugged as heck and put together like the proverbial Swiss watch.

Post down on Harley's forum, see if the gun scholars there can help.