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WW I Model 1897 Trench/Riot Gun - Kinda/Sorta
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August 15, 2020 - 11:19 pm
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I have recently acquired a Model 1897 in a riot gun configuration.

I am not a gun collector and what I know about combat shotguns comes almost entirely from a 1992 edition of Canfield’s “United States Combat Shotguns” (latest edition on order). I am having lots of fun trying to figure out just what I have. The gun came from a friend who purchased it in 1990 from a gun store in Scottsdale, Arizona, who told him it came from the Phoenix Police Department.

My current belief is that I have a “bitsa” (as the Brits say), modified/repaired over the years to fit the needs of whoever has owned it. But. . .

Time to post up my research and questions!

Pictures are at https://photos.app.goo.gl/CdYgkPNSpTzQQnAM7

Receiver: Serial number is E 691xxx. Solid frame, not takedown. On the right side just ahead of the ejection port is stamped (by hand) a “US” and the Ordance flaming bomb. It does not have a flaming bomb stamp under the serial number or a “US” on the left side of the reciever that Canfield notes for WW I riot gun recievers. It does match the markings for a WW I trench gun receiver.

Barrel: 20-1/4″ (bolt face to end), no serial number. Has “CYL” stamp and the “P” and “WP” proof marks. No flaming bomb that Canfield notes for original WW I riot guns. It is not a trench gun barrel, there are no transverse grooves for clearance of the bayonet adapter screws (and of course no bayonet adapter on it).

Last patent date noted on the barrel is “JULY 5, 10.”. I cannot see any markings on the underside of the barrel (but that area is difficult to see with the magazine tube in the way). The magazine hanger clamps to a stud on the end of the magazine plug. Has a bead sight about 1/2″ from barrel end.

Stock: Appears to be WW 2 (Not WW 1) vintage design, fluted, complete with sling swivel. It does not have any cartouches of inspectors or the “crossed cannons”. “PPD 29” (Phoenix Police Department, presumably) is painted in white on the right side, and “33” is embossed in the base of the pistol grip. The butt plate is cross-hatched metal with spur/widow’s peak, and no other identification.

Action Slide: Says “Model 1897, -WINCHESTER-, TRADEMARK REG.IN U.S.PAT.OFF.”. There is a hand-stamped “32” a bit to the right of “TRADEMARK…”

Your comments and questions, please!

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August 15, 2020 - 11:22 pm
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I have joined WACA as an “electronic” member.  Maybe need to wait a few days for that to filter down to the forum sign in? 

My initial questions:

Question # 1: How old is the barrel?

Question # 2: What is the finish? In bright sunlight it appears as a dark gray.

Question # 3: Is there a Model 1897 guru/gunsmith in Southern California I can take this to for evaluation as to safety and/or repair work? (I live in San Diego County)

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August 16, 2020 - 2:09 am
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Hello Andrew,

I believe that you misinterpreted what B. Canfield wrote in the book you mention.  Specifically, the WW I Riot and Trench Guns were not ordnance marked unless they were returned to the arsenal for repair, and then they were marked exactly as your Model 1897 is… a “U S” and flaming ordnance bomb hand stamped just forward of the ejection port on the right hand side of the receiver frame.  The barrels were not ordnance marked, nor was the butt stock stamped with a cartouche.  Your Model 1897 does indeed match an original WW I Riot Gun.  Only the WW II Riot and Trench Guns were ordnance marked.

The barrel is a mail order replacement part, more than likely ordered by the Phoenix PD in-house armorer.  The butt stock is definitely a much later replacement, WW II or later.  The partial serial number (we frown on posting partial serial numbers) indicated that the gun was manufactured sometime in June, 1918.

Bert

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August 16, 2020 - 2:16 am
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AndrewSanDiego said
I have joined WACA as an “electronic” member.  Maybe need to wait a few days for that to filter down to the forum sign in? 

My initial questions:

Question # 1: How old is the barrel?

Question # 2: What is the finish? In bright sunlight it appears as a dark gray.

Question # 3: Is there a Model 1897 guru/gunsmith in Southern California I can take this to for evaluation as to safety and/or repair work? (I live in San Diego County)  

The barrel is marked correctly for a 1918 production Model.  If it is newer than the receiver, it is not by much.

Winchester blued all Model 1897 shotguns.

I am sure that there are several… google is your friend.

Bert

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August 16, 2020 - 4:10 am
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Andrew-

 I have what the Brits call a “bitsa” (LOVE that term!) 1897TD that I was pretty sure was built as a riot gun. I was wrong. It is, however, a very heavily used and interesting 1897TD with a short barrel properly configured as an aftermarket riot gun, whatever that means. If you have moderate gun repair skills and passable IT skills there are a few good YouTube videos dealing with disassembly and repair of the 1897TD. The 1897 is moderately complex and some of the videos are pretty much useless but after several hours of videos and fitting attempts I had mine running like it should. Parts are easy enough to find but most require substantial fitting so good filing skills and a good eye are required. If you have any hesitation the gunsmith route is best, as any ‘smith worth his business card can easily navigate the innards of your 1897.

 

Mike

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August 16, 2020 - 5:33 pm
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I believe Andrew has a trench gun receiver that has had the barrel replaced as well as the buttstock.  The serial number puts the received right in the trench gun serial number range.  Also, the hand stamped “US” and Ordnance bomb marks are characteristic of the trench guns.  Most of the riot guns were in an earlier serial number range and don’t have any US markings on them. 

I don’t believe the hand stamped marks were applied during arsenal repair because I have seen too many WWI trench guns with those marks that are in excellent condition.   One was even an unissued trench gun in 99% condition.

My data shows that most of the WWI hand stamped “US” and Ordnance bomb marked trench guns are in the 670,xxx serial number range.  Then few show up with the hand stamped markings until the serial number range of Andrew’s shotgun where there are several marked that way.

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August 16, 2020 - 6:17 pm
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Tom,

In my research survey of the Model 1897, I have verified a fair number of Riot Guns in this same serial number range.

1897 E685626 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E686359 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E686462 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E686942 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E687695 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E687971 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E688134 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E688177 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E688191 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E688498 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E688521 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E688672 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E689751 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E689778 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E691270 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E691309 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E691365 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E693367 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E693920 Solid Riot Gun
1897 E694881 Solid Riot Gun

I do agree that the gun in question might have originally been a Trench Gun, but there is no way to prove it.

Bert

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August 16, 2020 - 8:10 pm
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Hi Bert.  No question there are some riot guns in that serial number range, but I am finding mostly trench gun. 

Do you have any data on riot guns with the hand stamped marks?  I have notes on one or two but could not verify whether they were factory assembled as trench guns or riots.

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August 16, 2020 - 8:25 pm
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Tom D said
Hi Bert.  No question there are some riot guns in that serial number range, but I am finding mostly trench gun. 

Do you have any data on riot guns with the hand stamped marks?  I have notes on one or two but could not verify whether they were factory assembled as trench guns or riots.  

Tom,

After a more thorough look my survey notes, I do not have any WW I Riot Guns with the hand stamped ordnance markings that can be positively verified.

Bert

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August 16, 2020 - 9:29 pm
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Bert H. said
Hello Andrew,

I believe that you misinterpreted what B. Canfield wrote in the book you mention.  Specifically, the WW I Riot and Trench Guns were not ordnance marked unless they were returned to the arsenal for repair, and then they were marked exactly as your Model 1897 is… a “U S” and flaming ordnance bomb hand stamped just forward of the ejection port on the right hand side of the receiver frame.  The barrels were not ordnance marked, nor was the butt stock stamped with a cartouche.  Your Model 1897 does indeed match an original WW I Riot Gun.  Only the WW II Riot and Trench Guns were ordnance marked.

Bert  

I’m not sure if I agree.  From what I know the WWI guns did have a hand stamped flaming bomb and a U.S. on the right side of the receiver.  I would have to go back and read again the section on the earlier guns that were used in the Philippines before WW I. Here is a page out of Canfield’s book.

IMG_0594.jpgImage Enlarger

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August 16, 2020 - 10:05 pm
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Chuck said

I’m not sure if I agree.  From what I know the WWI guns did have a hand stamped flaming bomb and a U.S. on the right side of the receiver.  I would have to go back and read again the section on the earlier guns that were used in the Philippines before WW I. Here is a page out of Canfield’s book.

IMG_0594.jpgImage Enlarger  

Chuck,

You are reading into what Canfield wrote too deeply.  It is an absolute fact that not all WW I Model 1897 Military issue shotguns were hand stamped with the “U S” and flaming ordnance bomb on the receiver.  I have scores of them in my research survey that are not stamped.  What Canfield’s published is a  “generalized” statement.

Bert

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August 17, 2020 - 5:00 pm
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I still don’t agree.  I am guessing that you have not seen most of these guns and there is very huge amount of fakes out there.  A lot of people would like to think they have one.  The Military actively inspected all their guns before issuance.  I don’t think Canfield would make such a general statement.

We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one unless further proof can be supplied.

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August 17, 2020 - 5:50 pm
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I’ve been collecting U.S. military shotguns for a long time, and I can tell you with certainty that Bert is absolutely correct.  Not all of the WWI military contract Model 1897 trench guns received the hand stamped martial markings.  In fact, the majority of them do not have any martial markings.  IF you were to email Bruce Canfield about this he would agree.

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August 17, 2020 - 10:15 pm
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Tom D said
I’ve been collecting U.S. military shotguns for a long time, and I can tell you with certainty that Bert is absolutely correct.  Not all of the WWI military contract Model 1897 trench guns received the hand stamped martial markings.  In fact, the majority of them do not have any martial markings.  IF you were to email Bruce Canfield about this he would agree.  

Thanks Tom.  If I had his email I would.  There is an address in his book but it is 30 years old?  I also have military issued arms from the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish American War, WWI and WWII.  Everyone I have has military inspection marks except an 1860 Army but this batch of guns are well documented and so is the fact that the Inspectors were mad because they didn’t get inspected.

I do not have a trench gun from any of the Wars.  If these guns are truly unmarked how can you tell them from a fake?  A riot gun in the right serial number range and a few parts and you have one.  I have a riot gun, Ser. #733910.

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August 18, 2020 - 12:12 am
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No one knows for certain why only some of the WWI Model 1897 trench guns were martially marked while the majority were not.  Maybe only those there were issued got marked.  But there is no question that they were military contract shotguns.  Winchester wasn’t making trench guns for anyone else during WWI.

There are some characteristics of the trench guns that set them apart from the riot guns. But yes, they can be faked.  In fact, U.S. Military shotguns, particularly the Winchesters, are some of the most faked guns out there. 

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August 18, 2020 - 12:38 am
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Tom D said
No one knows for certain why only some of the WWI Model 1897 trench guns were martially marked while the majority were not.  Maybe only those there were issued got marked.  But there is no question that they were military contract shotguns.  Winchester wasn’t making trench guns for anyone else during WWI.

There are some characteristics of the trench guns that set them apart from the riot guns. But yes, they can be faked.  In fact, U.S. Military shotguns, particularly the Winchesters, are some of the most faked guns out there.   

Thanks Tom.  I have been reading through my books but really didn’t find much.  It is well known that the Government ordered twice as many 97 trench guns than were actually issued. 

Read this article by Canfield.  It is more than halfway through and is in green type.  I am of the belief that only the ones that were issued got inspected and then then the acceptance marks applied. 

https://www.brucecanfield.com/cc-article.html 

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August 18, 2020 - 2:50 am
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Chuck said

If I had his email I would.  There is an address in his book but it is 30 years old? 

Here you go.

Contact Information:

Email: [email protected]

Sincerely,

Maverick

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August 18, 2020 - 3:31 am
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Thanks Maverick.

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August 18, 2020 - 10:47 pm
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I emailed Bruce Canfield and here is his response.  I had to save it as a PDF so the Forum would download it.  I guess I made an *ss of myself again.  It probably won’t be the last time.  I did ask him another question about what he though of the Arsenal stamping them.  Most guns that went back to an arsenal were given some arsenal stamps and quite oftenr got parkerized.  I will let you know what he says.

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August 19, 2020 - 12:23 am
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Chuck said
I emailed Bruce Canfield and here is his response.  I had to save it as a PDF so the Forum would download it.  I guess I made an *ss of myself again.  It probably won’t be the last time.  I did ask him another question about what he though of the Arsenal stamping them.  Most guns that went back to an arsenal were given some arsenal stamps and quite oftenr got parkerized.  I will let you know what he says.  

Chuck,

To the best of my knowledge, none of the Model 1897 Riot/Trench Guns were ever parkerized, even when returned to the arsenal for repair.

Bert

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