Object Title

Winchester Model 97 'Trench Gun' with Model 1917 bayonet

Winchester Model 97 'Trench Gun' with Model 1917 bayonet


The Winchester 1897 Model was a redevelopment of John Moses Browning's (1855-1926), 1893 design. Browning, a genius in the development of firearms, made his first gun at the age of 14. After his father's death he inherited the family business and turned it into a gun-making workshop, named Browning Arms Company. In 1883, the Winchester Repeating Arms Factory became interested in Browning's designs and acquired the rights to Browning's rifle designs. It was the start of a long relationship with Winchester, which was not always smooth. Besides Winchester, Browning also designed arms for Colt, Fabrique Nationale and Remington. In 1897 Browning designed one of the most famous rifles of the American West for Winchester, the Winchester Model 1897 lever-action repeating rifle. Alongside his rifle designs, Browning also produced a design for a shotgun. Browning then followed these innovations with a pump-action mechanism for his shotguns, the basic model for all shotguns designed during that period.

The Winchester 1897 design varies slightly to Browning's 1893 design in that the receiver is stronger, allowing the shotgun cartridge to expel out of the side of the breech. The 1897 Model was available with different barrel lengths, different calibres of 12 and 16 gauge and as a solid or take-down frame. The more common frame was the take-down versions. The latter more common and allowing the barrel and slide assembly to be removed from the frame, making them easier to pack into a short case. The 16-gauge guns had a standard barrel length of 71 cm (28 in), while 12-gauge guns were furnished with 76 cm (30 in) length barrels. However barrels as long as 91 cm (36 in) could be ordered.

Use and effect

The entry of the U.S.A into the War in 1917, saw many Winchester 1897 'Trench Guns' being issued for service. The 'Trench Gun' differed from the standard shotgun as it had a 51 cm (20 in) barrel and bayonet lug in order for the Model 1917 bayonet to be attached. It also sported a steel hand guard, which wrapped around the barrel to prevent soldiers burning their hands on the hot barrel whilst firing.

This weapon was issued to the U.S army during the War. When America entered the War there was a need for more service weapons to be issued to the troops as the brutality of trench warfare and close-quarter combat became clear. Close-range firepower became with devastating effects on the human body, was what the Allies required. The 'Trench Gun' is the most famous variant of the Winchester Model 97. It is capable of 'slam-firing', a technique where the trigger is held as the gun is pumped, resulting in a devastating rapid spray of 12 gauge buckshot. With its bayonet attachment a new type of close-quarter combat had hit the trenches. It is said that the German army actually appealed to The Hague to have this weapon outlawed.

As well as fighting close up it is said that the 'Trench Gun'was used to deflect enemy grenades. By shooting at them in a clay pigeon style fashion, troops managed to prevent them exploding into their own and Allied trenches. 

Winchester continued to sell this gun until 1945.


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Winchester Model 97 'Trench Gun' being loaded and fired into ballistic gelatine target.


Action / Operating system Pump-action
Barrel length 50.8 cm (20 in)
Calibre / Bore 12 bore (9 x .32 in balls)
Capacity (rounds) 5
Country of manufacture USA
Date entered service 1917
Effective range 50 m (55 yd)
Feed Tube magazine
Manufacturer Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Muzzle velocity 366 m/s (1200 fps)
Overall length 14.4 cm (5.7 in)
Primary operator USA
Weight 4.25 kg (9lb 6 oz)


Lisa Traynor