SOLD FOR: $15,025
Model: 1897 Trench Gun, 97
Serial Number: E682421
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 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.”. The left of the bayonet lug is marked “PAT. JAN. 15 & MAR. 19. 1918”.
Barrel Length: 20 3/8” (20″ nominal)
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, thin-wrist semi-pistol grip, high straight comb and checkered black hard rubber Winchester buttplate. The stock appears to have been very lightly refinished. There is a sling swivel inlet to the belly and another mounted to the bayonet lug. The stocks have minor handling wear with a few light nicks and scratches, mostly in the slide handle. Each side of the wrist has a very thin crack. There are no chips. The LOP measures 13 7/8? from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The plate has light wear, mostly at the heel and toe with generally well defined checkering. The fit of the plate is imperfect, slightly proud on the left toward the heel and at the toe. Overall, the stocks are in Very Good-plus condition.
Type of Finish: Blue
Finish Originality: Original
Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright. There is no erosion in the bore, but there are a few minor dents which are consistent with the installation of the bayonet lug/heat shield assembly. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates 9 out of 10.
Overall Condition: This shotgun retains about 80% of its metal finish. The finish is thinning at most edges. There is light finish wear at the muzzle with some more notable handling wear at the bottom-front of the receiver. The exposed portions of the barrel and magazine tube have some areas going to a very faint patina. There is some wear at the top-rear of the receiver. The action shows operational wear. There are some scattered light nicks and scratches. The screw heads range from sharp to lightly tool marked with strong slots. The markings are clear. Overall, this shotgun rates in Very Good-plus condition.
Mechanics: The action functions properly. This shotgun will slam-fire as designed. 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: None.
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 was also durable enough that it would go on to see service in the second World War all the way through to the Gulf War.
This example was produced Ca. 1919 and has correct features for a Trench Gun. Like many WWI 1897 Trench Guns, there are no martial markings on this shotgun, and there has been no end of speculation among collectors as to the reason for this. This writer prefers the theory presented by Bruce Canfield in his book “Complete Guide to United States Military Combat Shotguns”, that guns which were issued were inspected and marked, while guns which were not issued did not receive the markings. The end of WWI came as a shock to nearly everyone. At the time, most of the Allied powers believed that the war would continue for at least a few more years. The German offensive Operation Michael had just been halted and the Second Battle of the Marne, the first successful Allied offensive, was just starting. No one would guess that the war would end less than 6 months later. Consequently, there were likely many Trench Guns which had been produced and/or delivered which were never issued and simply remained in the government’s inventory.
This would certainly explain the high condition of this military shotgun which is more than 100 years old, yet retains the great majority of its original finish, a nice bore, and strong mechanics. There are thin cracks in the wrist, but this was not uncommon with the original thin-wrist stocks and would later be addressed by increasing the thickness of the wrist. 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