With the ATF discussing banning certain imported shotguns as not meeting the sporting suitability requirement, I have been thinking about what might be banned. Heading the list is, of course, the Saiga shotguns. Prices on Saiga 12’s have shot up from the upper $400 range to over $800 in recent weeks. Another shotgun that might make the list is the Norinco copy of the Winchester 1897 Trench Gun.
The executive summary of the report lists a number of characteristics that ATF in its wisdom says makes a shotgun “unsuitable” for “sporting purposes”.
Following this review, the working group determined that certain shotgun features are not particularly suitable or readily adaptable for sporting purposes. These features include:
(1) Folding, telescoping, or collapsible stocks;
(2) bayonet lugs;
(3) flash suppressors;
(4) magazines over 5 rounds, or a drum magazine;
(5) grenade-launcher mounts;
(6) integrated rail systems (other than on top of the receiver or barrel);
(7) light enhancing devices;
(8) excessive weight (greater than 10 pounds for 12 gauge or smaller);
(9) excessive bulk (greater than 3 inches in width and/or greater than 4 inches in depth);
(10) forward pistol grips or other protruding parts designed or used for gripping the shotgun with the shooter’s extended hand.
Although the features listed above do not represent an exhaustive list of possible shotgun features, designs or characteristics, the working group determined that shotguns with any one of these features are most appropriate for military or law enforcement use. Therefore, shotguns containing any of these features are not particularly suitable for nor readily adaptable to generally recognized sporting purposes such as hunting, trap, sporting clay, and skeet shooting.
Frankly, I find this utter bullshit but not surprising coming from the bureaucratic mindset of the BATFE Headquarters staff. This made me realize that there was no time like the present if I wanted one of the shotguns that fell under that criteria.
The Saiga is OK but would take quite a bit to upgrade from stock. I understand your average 3-gun competitor has about $1,000 worth of gunsmithing and upgrades in their Saigas. So the Saiga was out for now. What pushed me towards the IAC Model 97 was that years ago I had and sold a Winchester 1897 12 gauge with a full choke. Also, I believe Michael Bane had mentioned recently in one of his podcasts that Evil Roy – Gene Pearcy – had won the Wild Bunch match at Winter Range using the Model 97 Trench Gun. With all this in mind, I ordered the IAC Model 97 Trench Shotgun from a local dealer who gave me a nice discount.
I picked up the shotgun this past Friday. It comes in the box as seen below. I find it amusing that either the Chinese or the importer felt the need to drape the box in the Stars and Stripes.
I haven’t had time to go to the range and shoot the Model 97 yet, so I am going to just post a few pictures and some quick impressions of it.
The shotgun feels solid in the hand. Nothing seemed loose and nothing rattled (other than the sling mounts) if you shake the shotgun. Racking the slide a number of times I found it fairly smooth. The trigger is a bit heavy but not tremendously so. In copying the Winchester 1897, the Chinese left off the trigger disconnect just like the original. Thus, it retains the ability to slam fire.
The finish on the Model 97 is so-so. The bluing is uneven in places as can been seen in the picture below. Notice the light spot just behind the bead sight. The size of the light spot is about that of a finger or thumb print. I’m guessing it is a result of improper surface prep before bluing.
The stock is American Walnut. The quality of the wood was OK and the finish was not bad. You can see the grain in the picture below. There was either a knot or patch in the grip area (see dark spot just above the reflection of the camera flash) but it seemed solid.
Finally, as you can by the receiver, the metal parts of the Model 97 are covered in some sort of grease or metal preservative. This will need to be cleaned off and a light coat of oil applied instead before taking it out. If you look closely, Norinco included the U.S. Ordnance bomb on the receiver.
The wood to metal fit is acceptable. There are no real gaps and the quality is higher than what I’ve seen on Russian-made shotguns like the Baikal.
Comparing this gun to close-ups of the real Winchester 1897, it is obvious that the gunmakers at Winchester cleaned up the tooling marks on the breach bolt and carrier a heck of a lot better than Norinco. If you look at the picture below you can see the tooling marks.
Is the IAC Model 97 Trench Gun equivalent to the “real” Winchester 1897 Trench Gun? Absolutely not. However, mine cost $385 and the Winchester will cost in the $2,000 range or more if you can find one. For knocking about and plinking, I think my IAC Model 97 will do just fine. Probably the only things I might add to it are a 1″ GI leather sling and maybe a reproduction Enfield M-1917 bayonet.