SOLD FOR: $11,900

Rare Martially Marked US WWI Winchester Solid Frame Model 1897 Trench Gun

Make: Winchester

Model: 1897 Solid Frame Trench Gun

Serial Number: e681632

Year of Manufacture: CA. 1919

Gauge: 12 Ga.

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”. The right side of the frame is marked with a “U S” over a Cherry Bomb.

Barrel Length: 20 3/8″

Choke: Cylinder

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 black hard rubber Winchester buttplate. The stock is a later replacement with the swivel inletting added. The stocks have minor handling wear with a few light nicks and scratches. There are no cracks. There are no chips. The LOP measures 13 3/4″ 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. Overall, the stocks are in Very Good condition.

Type of Finish: Blue

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright. There is no erosion in the bore. 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 on the frame. 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.

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 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 overheated, 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. It is martially marked, like other observed WWI 1897 Trench Guns, and there has been no end of speculation among collectors as to the reason for some being martially marked and others, not. 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. Though this one was apparently issued, it remains a high condition example of this military shotgun which is more than 100 years old. The gun still has the great majority of its original finish, a nice bore, and strong mechanics. The stock has been replaced, but this was not uncommon with the original thin-wrist stocks easily cracking. This would later be addressed by increasing the thickness of the wrist (like this replacement).