View Full Version : Winchester 97 barrel, replace or repair?

December 9, 2004, 05:45 PM
I've inherited a Winchester Model 97 12 gauge (circa 1945) from my father-in-law. It appears to be in fairly decent shape and I would like to use it for hunting. The one obvious flaw is a bubble/bulge at the final inch of the muzzle. I am looking to repair the barrel (shorten it an inch and recrown it) unless that's not a cost-effective solution. Obviously, if I'm going to hunt with it, it needs to shoot a reasonably tight pattern and I'm concerned that simply shortening and recrowning the barrel will leave me without any choke whatsoever . The other two alternatives that come to mind are shortening the barrel and fitting it with a screw-in choke or replacing the entire barrel. Any advice on these (or other) alternatives would be most welcome.

Sir William
December 10, 2004, 02:12 AM
How long is the present barrel? I dislike bulges in barrels too but, if it is a 30" barrel then no problem. Cut off a couple of inches and have it threaded for screw-in chokes. Is the chamber long enough for 2 and 3/4" shells? I would treat it with care.

December 10, 2004, 01:34 PM
Thanks for the reply.

The barrel is 28 inches so I think there's length to spare. It's chambered for 2 3/4 inch shells. Even so, I don't intend to use real hot ammunition in it. The bulge is clearly noticeable, but not terrible. One inch would take care of it. I originally thought I would just have an inch clipped off and have it recrowned. That's a $30-$50 job. But another gun owner I talked to told me that taking an inch off would entirely remove the choke and leave me with an open bore with a pattern as broad as the Mississippi. I guess I don't understand the physics of shotgun barrel design because I thought a short clipping and recrowning would still leave me with a reasonably tight pattern.

I'm inclined to go along with your suggestion to have the barrel fitted with a screw-in choke. That's a $100-$150 job but it would ensure a tight pattern.

Sir William
December 11, 2004, 02:20 AM
With the sentimental connection, I would think you are going to keep it. If I were attached to it, yes, I would have it cut. I would actually lean towards 24" and having modern screw-in interchangable chokes installed. Why 24"? I think it is better in the brush while hunting. The CAS shooters use 18" barrels with no chokes. They don't shoot river wide and mountain high. LOL The Winchester AA shells work well in the 97s. I do suggest that the chamber be polished.

December 24, 2004, 10:05 AM
The late Gene Hill, whose opinions I greatly respect, had this to say about barrel length in his Shotgunner's Notebook: "In a 12-gauge gun, whose proper weight for field use ought to be no more than seven pounds, a 27-inch barrel is as short as I'd shoot, and I would much prefer 28, 29, or even 30. Why? They simply handle better. I prefer to be sure rather than fast; I'd rather swing through than poke, and I want a barrel length that almost insists that I do, rather than one that I have to coax."

Having shot with both short and long barrels, I have to agree with Gene's assessment that a smooth-swinging longer-barreled shotgun is preferable to one with shorter barrels that is merely quick. As he said, "A gun that's too easy to start is also too easy to stop."

Before modifying your '97 I urge you to try shooting a 27-inch barreled gun (the length yours would become) v. one of the same model (if possible) with the recommended shorter barrel. Try them out on a sporting clays range where you will have the opportunity to shoot at a variety of target presentations, and see which gives you the best results.

Good luck, and good shooting!