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Winchester Model 1897 Riot Gun

The 1897 was considered the “bad boy” of smoothbores.

11/1/2010

Whether brandished by Lee Marvin in “The Professionals” or wielded by William Holden in “The Wild Bunch,” the Winchester Model 97 Riot Gun is the “bad boy” of smoothbores, but paradoxically, it was a favorite of early 20th century law-enforcement agencies. Yet in its standard 30-inch-barreled configuration, the 12-gauge version of John Browning’s exposed-hammer pump-action design was one of the most popular sporting shotguns in America.

The Model 1897 was a much-needed evolution of Browning’s Model 1893, a weaker gun designed for blackpowder shotshells. By contrast, the Model 97 had the improved strength and metallurgy required for the then-new smokeless propellant shotshells. Its action locked up tightly and required a slight forward movement of the automatic slide lock (usually recoil was enough) to free the pump handle for cycling.

From 1898 through the 1960s, Winchester offered its Model 1897 as a Riot Gun (take-down versions were added after 1935) with a cylinder-choked 20-inch barrel. There was no trigger disconnector, which meant that by holding the trigger back the gun could be slam-fired as fast as the pump could be worked. With the ’97s standard five-round-capacity tubular magazine and a sixth shell in the chamber, the Riot Gun was a formidable arm indeed. During World War I it evolved into the Model 97 “trench gun,” complete with a bayonet lug, sling swivels and a perforated steel heat shield covering the barrel.

In civilian life, the Riot Gun was used by law enforcement groups as diverse as the Texas Rangers, the Union Pacific Railroad and various express companies. Not all of these guns were marked. Unfortunately, the popularity of cowboy action shooting, which favors these fast-shooting, jam-resistant smoothbores, has caused a number of longer-barreled sporting models to have their tubes trimmed to riot-gun length. Factory riot guns have rounded muzzles and are stamped “CYL.”

The Model 97 Riot Gun shown here was made in 1924 and was used by the Pasadena, Calif., Police Dept. It was purchased three years ago for $1,000. It retains an unusual amount of finish (most law enforcement guns are fairly worn), leading one to speculate that it spent more time in a station gun rack than in a patrol car. As such, and with its documentation, it is easily worth $1,200 on today’s market.

Gun: Winchester Model 1897 Riot Gun
Gauge: 12
Condition: 80 Percent - NRA Very Good (Modern Gun Condition Standards)
Manufactured: 1924
Value:
$1,200 (With Pasadena P.D. authentication; $750 if no L.E. provenance)

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12 Responses to Winchester Model 1897 Riot Gun

sam slater wrote:
May 18, 2013

I have a trench sweeper in good condition, any ideas on a ball park figure

Johng135@hotmail.com wrote:
November 19, 2012

Two comments. Barrel length is measured from the face of the breach forward. A technique used to measure is to insert a dowel down the barrel till it touches the breach face, mark it at the muzzle an then measure from the end to the mark. Those Ls in the serial number are actually 1s. Ii have one very similar. Looks like LL8999. I read somewhere that the numbers used to stamp the serial numbers were inverted accidentally at the factory. Ive seen a couple of others with the same type numbers.

Josh wrote:
September 18, 2012

The Winchester Model 1897 was discontinued in 1957, not in the 1960's

David Tenny wrote:
August 03, 2012

Hello, I'm looking for a Winchester 1897 with the NPRYCO stamp on it from the northern pacific railroad. I have been trying to find one and been having no luck. If anyone knows how to get their hands on one please send me an email! Thanks!!!

ed wrote:
September 23, 2011

sorry for ignorance.....what determines the barrel length? to where the shell "sits" or where you see the division on outside of gun? Also, do the serial #'s start with "L"? i have a 97 CYL measuring 25 1/4 to shell seat, 24 3/4 to gun division & 30" to hammer.???

EDWARD MARTIS wrote:
February 26, 2011

ON THE M-1897 "CYL' BORE WHICH WAS CUT DOWN TO 24 1/2 IN.....IT ORIGINALLY WAS 26"/ 'CYL' AND NOT THAT MANY WERE MADE....IT WAS KNOWN AS A "BRUSH GUN"..IT IS TOO BAD IT WAS CUT DOWN FROM 26"----THEY ARE NOT THAT COMMON AND WORTH A FAIR AMOUNT MORE THAN THE STANDARD 20" BLL./'CYL'---I HAVE ONLY SEEN 2 IN MY 66 YEARS--AND HAD ONE OF MY OWN 20 YEARS AGO, BUT SOLD IT AT THE TIME....................

Tim wrote:
February 24, 2011

Eric, Most of the model 1897's were take-down version. Although the cylinder bore is not common, it doesn't really add much to the value unless your barrel is riot length.

Eric Bradley wrote:
December 30, 2010

I was really excited when I saw this article. I too, have this old gun. It was made in 1900, has 3 screws in the fore grip, has a 24 1/2" cyl barrel, and is a take-down. I am wondering if this was maybe a special order for someone because it is a take-down and cylinder bore. I always enjoy the articles. also on the slide on the right side is WINCHESTER MODEL 1897 I have taken it to SASS shoots twice and gotten a lot of attention. It shoots so well I have retired it to the cabinet and have no desire to cut the barrel. Could this model be more valuable than some others? Thank you in advance for any info on this. The serial #s on barrel and receiver are not the same but both check out as 1900 numbers.

Jackrabbit SASS #414 wrote:
November 08, 2010

At present time I a still using this Winchester 97 in cowboy action shooting. Lots of my fellow shooters are also using them.

Steve Cox wrote:
November 03, 2010

The 1897 Winchester also owes some of it's action improvements to John Pedersen, of the US Army Ordnance Corps. He is also known for an attachment for the 1903 Springfield Rifle which allowed semi automatic firing of a carbine/pistol round that is commonly referred to as the Pedersen Device. This device was intended for use in WW I but the war ended before sufficient quantities were manufactured for issue.

Mike Dodson wrote:
November 03, 2010

I had a choice between the '97, an 870 and an Ithaca in Viet Nam. Guess which one I chose; it was just like my grand dad's, only a little shorter.

Arlie D. Wood wrote:
November 02, 2010

We had these old sweethearts in the United States Border Patrol in the 1950's. Fun to shoot and with a very impressive appearance.