SOLD FOR: $4105
Model: 1897 Trench Gun, 97
Serial Number: E693554
Year of Manufacture: Ca. 1919
Gauge: 12 Ga. 2 3/4? Shells
Action Type: Pump Action Shotgun, Tube Fed, Exposed Hammer
Markings: The left shoulder of the barrel is marked “MANUFACTURED BY THE WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO, NEW HAVEN. CONN. U.S.A / PAT. NOV. 25. 90. DEC. 6. 92. JULY 21. 96. FEB. 22. 98. JUNE 14. 98. OCT. 16. 1900. DEC. 25. 06. JULY. 5. 10.” followed by “12 GA.”. The chamber is marked “CYL”. The top of the barrel is marked with a “WP” proof mark, found again on the top of the receiver. The top of the barrel and receiver both have a small punch dot by their Winchester proof. The bottom of the receiver is marked with the serial number. The action bar is marked “MODEL 1897 / -WINCHESTER- / TRADE MARK REG. IN U.S. PAT. OFF.”.
Barrel Length: 20 1/4”
Choke: Fixed Cylinder Bore
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a bead set on the base of the heatshield/bayonet lug. The barrel is not drilled for a bead.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are two-piece walnut with a grooved slide handle, thick-wrist semi-pistol grip, straight comb and checkered steel buttplate. There is a sling swivel inlet to the belly and another mounted to the bayonet lug. The forend has only a few light marks. The buttstock has scattered nicks, scuffs and scratches. There are no chips or cracks. The LOP measures 13 5/8″ from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The plate has minor wear at the heel and toe with well defined checkering. Overall, the stocks are in Very Good-plus condition.
Type of Finish: Blue
Finish Originality: Factory Refurbished
Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright with infrequent minor erosion. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates 9 out of 10.
Overall Condition: This shotgun retains about 95% of its metal finish. There are some minor nicks, scuffs and small scratches. Most of the balance is in normal operational wear. There is infrequent minor oxidation and surface erosion, mostly on the bayonet lug assembly. The screwheads range from sharp to tool marked with strong slots. The markings are clear. Overall, this shotgun rates in about Fine condition.
Mechanics: The action functions properly. We have not fired this shotgun. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: Included is a copy of the August 1945 American Rifleman magazine which has an advertisement for surplus shotguns.
Our Assessment: After observing the Great War for the first three years, it became clear to the U.S. that serious close-range firepower was needed in trench warfare. The Model 1897 Trench grade was an evolution of this idea. The pre-existing Winchester Model 1897 was modified by adding a perforated steel heat shield over the barrel which protected the hand of the user from the barrel when it became over-heated, and an adapter with bayonet lug for affixing an M1917 bayonet. They were so effective and brutal in combat that the German high command once announced they would execute any US soldier captured with one in his possession. The 1897 Trench Gun would go on to see service in the second World War all the way through to the Gulf War.
In 1944 it became apparent to the U.S. that while there were available shotguns, many were not in acceptable condition. The guns had either been acquired under blanket procurement and were not the proper type, saw abnormally hard use and were not properly maintained, and others had just been in use for too long due to there not being replacements available. The military deemed that many of the weapons were in need of a major overhaul and initiated a factory service program with Ithaca, Remington, Savage, and Winchester which included trench and riot guns.
We think that this is one that was overhauled at the Winchester factory. Bruce Canfield notes in his book “Complete Guide to United States Military Combat Shotguns”, that “Some reblued M97 trench guns will evidence added punch marks on the receiver and barrel, and some collectors are of the opinion that these marks indicate factory reworked shotguns. While unproven, this theory seems logical”. It certainly does seem logical looking at this example. This WWI-era gun’s bluing is great, the Winchester proofs are crisp, and the gun has a later 4-row heat shield, such as would have been installed in a refurbish program to replace an otherwise unserviceable original 6-row. The gun doesn’t appear to have seen much use since being refurbished, in Fine condition. This is a nice military 97 that will be tons of fun to shoot at the range and will be a nice addition to your collection. Please see our photos and good luck!
Please forgive any typos, I was educated in California. -Bud