June 2011 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
May 24th, 2011 -- We have lost another very good friend, Red Sun - SASS #635

As I am sure most of you have heard by now but Red Sun one of the Cowboy Action Shooting pioneers has gone on to meet his maker. I'm really sorry to lose this good friend and will miss him greatly. Red Sun, sometimes known as Fred Boatright was indeed one of pioneers of our sport. He was a protégé of the Late Bill Hahn, an original member of the Wild Bunch and the creator of Old West Shootists Association. Fred is well known as the creator and match director for many of the early
Cowboy Matches such as Trail Town, Outland and Frontier Days and was always willing to lend a helping hand when asked.
Currently Red Sun is a board member of the Brimstone Pistoleros and will likely remain in that position. 

So long pard, see you down the road.
               Rowdy Yates - SASS #141
From Ethan Cord,

Cliff Hanger,

I wish it was more but this sudden news coupled with a deadline, well my apologies to you and Red Sun. Here are some rambling thoughts for the Gazette;

I believe the first time I met Red Sun was at one of Bill and Dorothy Hahn’s annual matches at the old Lake Elsinore Gun Club range. That was in May of 1990 and it was the first of many Cowboy Action Shooting matches that I had the pleasure of shooting with Red Sun at. For a few years Red Sun ran a monthly match at the Rainbow Gun Club in North San Diego county. This event was usually small and followed the early style of Cowboy Action Shooting mostly using one handgun. As SASS membership grew and the game changed there were a few stalwart folks like Red Sun and the Hahn’s that preferred to run matches with one handgun and keep the shooting styles very traditional. I believe the Old West Shooting Association (OWSA) with folks like Red Sun was the driving force behind keeping the game very traditional while providing world class props and artwork coupled with shooting scenarios that were just plain fun!

Red Sun ran many great annual matches like Frontier Days starting at the Pala shooting range, moving to Cajon and finally arriving at the Double R Bar. Red Sun dressed in great cowboy gear and was always smiling when he was on the range. He embodied the “Spirit of the Game.” He enjoyed doing things the old ways, such as loading his shot shells with antique hand tools and roll crimpers. Red Sun and I shared a love of the old original guns and we both enjoyed the challenge of getting one of the old smoke wagons back into the game, be it by a little gun tinkering or forming brass and finding components for obsolete calibers. Red Sun was inspirational to myself and others when it came to traditional firearms and calibers and of course shooting them with real black powder. He was always eager to share helpful hints to anyone who would ask for his guidance. We have lost another friend and guiding force in Cowboy Action Shooting. Even when he knew he did not have much time left here he was still actively pursuing his Frontier dreams! In closing I will share one of the recent emails I received from Red Sun in reply to one of mine talking about one of our favorite subjects; old cowboy guns:

“Hey Ethan,
Good hearing from you. The Doctors are doing just about all they can. I've been dabbling in gunsmithing chores around the house. So I'm staying busy and the old Frontier guns have not lost their luster in my eyes.  This sounds ridiculous, but I am still buying guns! Ol' well, old habits die hard.

The No. 3 Smith sounds cool. My plan was to shoot that match with a Merwin Hulbert open top in 44-40 and either my Marlin in 38-55 or a 1876 in 45-60. I love these guns. Well, I am getting stronger and hopefully in time, I'll be able to get to a match.

Stay in touch and say hi to your dad for me,
Red Sun”

               Via Con Dios old friend!
                         Ethan Cord

Here is a picture of the Merwin Hulbert Red Sun sent to me if you can use it in the article:
More on the Winchester Model 1897 from Wikipedia

The Winchester Model 1897, also known as the Trench Gun, Model 97 and M97, was a pump-action shotgun with an external hammer and tube magazine manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Model 1897 was an evolution of the Winchester Model 1893 designed by John Browning. From 1897 until 1957, over one million of these shotguns were produced. The Model 1897 was offered in numerous barrel lengths and grades, chambered in 12 and 16 gauge, and as a solid frame or takedown. The 16-gauge guns had a standard barrel length of 28 inches, while 12-gauge guns were furnished with 30-inch length barrels. Special length barrels could be ordered in lengths as short as 20 inches, and as long as 36 inches. Since the time the Model 1897 was first manufactured it has been used by American soldiers, police departments and hunters.


The Winchester Model 1897 was designed by the famous American firearms inventor John Moses Browning. The Model 1897 was first listed for sale in the November 1897 Winchester catalog as a 12 gauge solid frame. However, the 12 gauge takedown was added in October 1898, and the 16 gauge takedown in February 1900. Originally produced as a tougher, stronger and more improved version of the Winchester 1893, itself a takeoff on the early Spencer pump gun, the 1897 was identical to its forerunner, except that the receiver was thicker and allowed for use of smokeless powder shells, which were not common at the time. The 1897 introduced a "take down" design, where the barrel could be taken off; a standard in pump shotguns made today, like the Remington 870. Over time, “the model 97 became the most popular shotgun on the American market and established a standard of performance by which other kinds and makes of shotguns were judged, including the most expensive imported articles”. The Winchester Model 1897 was in production from 1897 until 1957. It was in this time frame that the "modern" hammerless designs became common, like the Winchester Model 1912 and the Remington 870 and the Model 1897 was superseded by the Winchester Model 1912. However, the gun can still be found today in regular use.

Improvements From the 1893

In the new Model 1897, many of the weaknesses that were present in the Model 93 were taken into account and remedied. These improvements included:

    * The frame was strengthened and made longer to handle a 12 gauge 2¾-inch shell, as well as the 2?-inch shell.
    * The frame at the top was covered so that the ejection of the fired shell was entirely from the side. This added a great amount of
        strength to the frame of the gun and it allowed the use of a 2¾ inch shell without the danger of the gun constantly jamming.
    * The gun could not be opened until a slight forward movement of the slide handle released the action slide lock. In firing, the recoil of the
        gun gave a slight forward motion to the slide handle and released the action slide lock which enabled immediate opening of the gun. In the 
        absence of any recoil, the slide handle had to be pushed forward manually in order to release the action slide lock.
    * A movable cartridge guide was placed on the right side of the carrier block to prevent the escape of the shell when the gun was turned 
        sideways in the act of loading.
    * The stock was made longer and with less drop.

Of the improvements, the slide lock is the one that really made the gun safer. This improved slide lock kept the gun locked until actual firing occurred which prevented the gun from jamming in the case of a misfire. The slide lock "stands in such a relation to the body of the firing pin as will prevent the firing pin reaching the primer until the pin has moved forward a sufficient distance to insure locking of the breech bolt." This prevents the action sleeve "from being retracted by the hand of the gunner until after firing, and hence rendering the fire arm more safe"


Open action on an 1897 portraying the long
slide that projects from the receiver.
The Winchester Model 1897 evolved from the Winchester Model 1893. The Model 1897 and 1893 were both designed by John Browning. The Model 1897 is an external hammer shotgun lacking a trigger disconnector giving it the ability to slam fire. This means that the user can hold the trigger down while pumping the shotgun and once the pump is returned to the forward position the gun fires. The gun itself is classified as a slide action pump shotgun. It was the first truly successful pump-action shotgun produced. Throughout the time period the Model 1897 was in production, over a million of the type were produced in various grades and barrel lengths. 16-gauge guns had a standard barrel length of 28 inches, while 12-gauge guns were furnished with 30-inch length barrels. Special length barrels could be ordered in lengths as short as 20 inches, and as long as 36 inches. Along with various grades and barrel lengths, the Model 1897 came in two different chamberings. One was the 12 gauge and the other was the 16 gauge. The shells should be of the 2-¾ inch or 2-? inch model. Any shells larger are not recommended. An average Model 1897 held 5 shotgun shells in the magazine tube. After including the one shell that could be held in the chamber, the average Model 1897 held a total of 6 shotgun shells. However, this would vary from grade to grade. When working the action 
of  the Model 1897 the fore end is racked and a long slide comes out of the receiver and ejects the spent shell while simultaneously cocking the external hammer. This is why the gun is classified as a slide action pump shotgun.

The Chinese company Norinco has made an effort to reproduce this firearm. The Norinco 97 is an almost exact copy of the Winchester 1897, produced in both Trench and Riot grades, yet lacking in the fit and finish of the originals.

Grades of the Model 97

Different Grades of the Model 1897
Grade Gauge Barrel (Inches) Production Dates Remarks
Standard 12, 16 30, 28 1987 - 1957 Plain walnut stock with steel butplate
Trap 12, 16 30, 28 1987 - 1931 Fancy walnut with checkering
Pigeon 12, 16 28 1897 - 1939 Same as Trap, but hand engraved receiver
Tournament 12, 16 30 1897 - 1931 Select walnut, receiver top matte to reduce glare
Brush 12, 16 26 1987 - 1931 Shorter magazine, plain walnut without checkering, solid frame
Brush Takedown 12, 16 26 1897 - 1931 as above, but takedown frame
Riot 12 20 1898 - 1935 Plain walnut, solid or takedown frame
Trench 12 20 1917 - 1945 Same as riot gun but with heat shield and banonet lug

Original Prices

When the Model 1897 was first introduced, the price depended upon what grade was being purchased and what features were being added to that specific gun. To purchase a plain finished shotgun would cost the buyer $25. Whereas to have an engraved receiver with checkered and finer wood included, it would cost $100. The more expensive grades of the Model 1897 were the standard, trap, pigeon, and tournament grades. These were the grades that were normally equipped with an engraved receiver and with checkered, finer wood. These grades didn’t go through the abuse that the other grades went through. The less expensive and plainer grades were the Brush, Brush Takedown, Riot, and Trench. These grades were not given the higher valued wood or special designs. This is because these guns were designed and built for hard abuse. These grades stood a higher chance of being badly damaged so there was no need to put extra money into them for appearance purposes. As the functions that were performed with these grades required them to be lightweight it was not beneficial to use heavy and expensive wood when designing them. Most often, when these grades were purchased, they were purchased in high numbers. By designing these grades with standard wood and finish, it kept the prices at a lower level.

Military use

The Model 1897 was popular before World War I, but it was after the war broke out that sales of the Model 1897 picked up. This was because many were produced to meet the demands of the Military. When the United States entered World War I, there was a need for more service weapons to be issued to the troops. It became clear to the United States just how brutal trench warfare was, and how great the need was for a large amount of close range fire power while fighting in a trench, after they had observed the war for the first three years. The Model 1897 Trench grade was an evolution of this
 idea. The pre-existing Winchester Model 1897 was modified by adding a perforated steel heat shield over the barrel which protected the hand of the user from the barrel when it became over-heated, and an adapter with bayonet lug for affixing a M1917 bayonet.
Model 1897 adapter that allowed the 
attachment of the M1917 bayonet
This model was ideal for close combat and was efficient in trench warfare due to its 20 inch cylinder bore barrel. Buckshot ammunition was issued with the trench grade during the war. Each round of this ammunition contained 9 buckshot pellets that were of the size 00. This gave considerable firepower to the individual soldier by each round that was fired. This shorter barrel and large amount of firepower is what made this grade ideal for trench warfare. The Model 1897 was used by American troops for other purposes in World War I other than a force multiplier. American soldiers who were skilled at trap shooting were armed with these guns and stationed where they could fire at enemy hand grenades in midair. This would deflect the grenades from falling into the American trenches and therefore protect American soldiers.

Unlike most modern pump-action shotguns, the Winchester Model 1897 (versions of which were type classified as the Model 97 or M97 for short) fired each time the action closed with the trigger depressed (that is, it lacks a trigger disconnector and is capable of slamfire). Coupled with its six-shot capacity made it effective for close combat, such that troops referred to it as a "trench sweeper". The slamfire allowed troops to empty the whole magazine tube into enemies

 with great speed. The spread of the buckshot allowed the weapon to hit many targets with minimal aiming.  The Model 1897 was so effective because it was devastating, and feared, that the German government protested (in vain) to have it outlawed in combat. The Model 1897 was used in limited numbers during World War II by the United States Army and Marine Corps, although it was largely superseded by the similarly militarized version of the hammerless Model 1912.

Other military uses of the shotgun included "the execution of security/interior guard operations, rear area security operations, guarding prisoners of war, raids, ambushes, military operations in urban terrain, and selected special operations."

World War I Protests

Although the Model 1897 was popular with American troops in World War I, it wasn't so popular with the German troops. "On 19 September 1918, the German government issued a diplomatic protest against the American use of shotguns, alleging that the shotgun was prohibited by the law of war." A part of the German protest read; "It is especially forbidden to employ arms, projections, or materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering". "This is the only known occasion in which the legality of actual combat use of the shotgun has been raised." However, the United States interpreted their use of the shotgun differently than Germany. The Judge Advocate General of the Army, Secretary of State Robert Lansing carefully considered and reviewed the applicable law and promptly rejected the German protest. France and Britain considered using shotguns as trench warfare weapons during World War I. The shotgun in question was a double-barreled shotgun, which was not used because they were unable to obtain high powered ammunition and that type of gun is slow to reload in close combat.

German Response

The rejection of their protest greatly upset the German forces, because they believed they were treated unjustly in the war. Shortly after the protest was rejected, Germany issued threats that they would punish all captured American Soldiers that were found to be armed with a shotgun. This led to the United States issuing a retaliation threat, stating that any measures unjustly taken against captured American Soldiers would lead to an equal act by the United States on captured German Soldiers.

Other uses

After the war, a shorter-barrelled version of the Model 1897 was marketed by Winchester as a riot gun. Messengers of The American Express Company were armed with this weapon as were various police departments throughout the US. The differences between this riot version and the trench version were the riot version lacked the heat shield and bayonet lug, and all trench guns were equipped with sling swivels, whereas most riot guns were not.

All articles submitted to the "Brimstone Gazette" are the property of the author, used with their expressed permission. 
The Brimstone Pistoleros are not responsible for any accidents which may occur from use of  loading data, firearms information, or recommendations published on the Brimstone Pistoleros web site.