Peak American: the Winchester 1897 Trench Gun in WW1

The United States was the only country to use shotguns in World War One in a substantial way. It was not the first time the US had used such guns either; shotguns were used in the Philippines against the Moros and on the Mexican Punitive Expedition. For use in the Great War, however, it was deemed necessary to fit bayonets to them. At the request of the War Department, the Winchester company designed a bayonet mounting adapter for their Model 1897 pump-action shotgun, to use the M1917 bayonet that Winchester was also making at the time for the war effort.

Guns were first deployed to France in June 1918 for field testing, used with 9-pellet 00 buckshot in paper hulled cartridges. The reactions from troops in the field varied widely. Those who tended to be in relatively dry conditions with close-range combat tended to like them. Those in particularly wet areas had problems with the paper shells swelling, and those engaged in more open combat at range had little use for them. They were primarily used for military police roles like guarding POWs, but some did see combat.

The US military actually used Winchester 1897s in three different configurations. Guns like this one with bayonet mounts and heat shields, “riot” types with short (20″) plain barrels, and long-barreled models used for training aircraft and anti-aircraft gunners. Numbers are conflicting and sources are complex, but the best assessment appears to be that approximately 12,000 trench models and about 18,000 riot models were sent to the Army (note that in the video I said 18,000 riot and training – that should have been just riot).


    • Pretty sure I did too. I thought it might be one of those instances where Ian posts a video on YouTube days or weeks before linking it here, but the listing there says it’s “1 hour old”.

  1. WW1 weapons make me always think C&Rsenal, who do a really good job telling the history of each firearm. The M1897 shitgun one is only 1½ hours. 😉

    Although the M1897 is less forgotten than its Remington made brother the Model 10. I think Winchester manufactured M1897 into the 1960ies and has been issued by US Army, National Guards, Navy etc for a long time afterwards. I wouldnot he surprised if there still a few were still be stored in a depot.

    • There’s stuff lost in depots around the world that would boggle our collective minds.

      Germany has stuff squirrelled away that would likely serve as fodder for a year’s worth of Ian’s video, if only the poor bastards running the system could unf*ck the records. I made a couple of trips to draw stuff out of storage back during the 1980s that were like trips into open-air versions of that closing scene in Indiana Jones and Lost Ark… When they’re breaking seals off of storage sites that still have Nazi eagles on them, it’s a little scary. It’s also scary as hell what pops up when the people drawing up the documents make an “interesting” series of typos on it all.

      See also the GSA warehouse system, here in the US. I personally witnessed the manager of one discovering a “lost” set of earthmoving equipment procured for a Federal project back in the 1970s, lost, and re-procured. We found it looking for GSA vehicles we were supposed to be picking up; that whole deal was caused by another series of typos in the warehousing documents, and the fact that the warehouse complex was so big that the people looking for the missing equipment never saw it, and the people who did see it didn’t know what it was… Just sat there, gathering dust for decades.

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