The Winchester 1897 was the gun that really set the standard for the now-ubiquitous pump action shotgun. It was designed by John Browning, but was not the first pump action designed and sold. That credit goes to Christopher Spencer, who put the first pump action on the market in 1882. His patent on the concept (in conjunction with co-designer Sylvester Roper) forced competitors to develop workarounds (like the sliding trigger and grip of the Burgess pump shotgun) until 1893, when Winchester released Browning’s design. Winchester was promptly sued by Bannerman, who had purchased the production line and patents for the Spencer shotgun, and the court case did not finally resolve until 1897.
That was actually a potential blessing for Winchester, as the initial 1893 design was not designed to handle the new smokeless powder, and was only chambered for 2 5/8 inch shells. By the time Winchester won the patent case in 1897, it had become clear that smokeless powder was here to stay, and that sooner or later people would start running 2 3/4″ smokeless shells in their 1893 shotguns, which would break and potentially injure people. In a very early example of product liability recall, Winchester replaced the gun with the new, strong 1897 model and offered to exchange the old guns for new ones at no cost. The 1893 models thus turned in were destroyed by the company, leading to their scarcity today.
This particular lot at Rock Island includes examples of both a Winchester 1893 and 1897.