The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Secondhand Winchester selection

Mike George pits two classic Winchesters against a more modern design

Fifty-two years ago, Winchester introduced a new O/U shotgun which, in the eyes of many shooters on both sides of the Atlantic, set the standard for all medium-priced factory-made guns to be judged by. It was the famous Winchester 101, built on the Kodensha plant in Japan, and it was to remain in production for more than 20 years.

Production ceased in 1987, not because there was anything wrong with the gun but because of gun trade financial tactics. Winchester formed a new partnership with Browning, and was not to produce another successful break-action shotgun until 2001.

Among the last 101-series Winchesters to come off the Kodensha plant was the Model 6500 Sporter, made especially for the European market. The 6500 and the 101 Super Grade Game were favourites in the UK, so this month we are going to contrast them (both examples from my own collection) with the more modern Select Energy.

Nowadays late-model 101s, not to be confused with a brand-new gun Winchester has seen fit to also call the 101, enjoy something of a cult following, thanks to their superb handling. This means that prices are a bit inflated when you consider that most guns are going to be more than 30 years old and spares are almost non-existent. Let’s take a further look.

Winchester 101 Super Grade Game Target price: £500+

“Super Grade” suggests a gun with fine hand engraving and something close to exhibition-grade woodwork, which this gun is not. In Winchester speak it means an affordable gun with engraving and woodwork.

What is super about it is that it is light and pointable, but not so light as to cause undue recoil problems over long strings of shots. Apart from its handling, two other features sell the gun to me. The first is that the trigger is set to the second barrel by a purely mechanical system, and not reliant on the recoil of the first cartridge. The second is that the gun is a fixed choke, so there’s no agonising about which choke tube use. Chokes are approximately ¼ and ½ and I’ve never seen a gun with barrels longer than 28in.

As far as price is concerned, I paid £450 for mine in the late 1980s, and I got a bargain. Don’t touch any gun with cracked or flaking plating on the action.

Unfortunately Winchester/Browning doesn’t have spares for this series.

Winchester 101 Super Grade Game

Winchester 6500 Sporter Target price: £750

This was, in the view of many, the finest handling Sporter of its era. Barrels were generally 28 or 30in, and the gun was available with either multichokes or fixed chokes. Fixed chokes are ¼ and ½, and it is those that handle marginally better.

The woodwork is rather plain, but straight-grained and strong. The action is similar to the Super Grade, but there are a couple of points to watch out for on clay shooting guns. The first is that the firing pins may have cratered tips.

There are very few genuine Winchester pins about, but good gunsmiths can always make pins to fit. The second is that the ejector kickers attached to the fore-end iron can crack and break. But again, good gunsmiths can make replacements.

Prices are difficult to predict, because of the different marks and grades. All I can suggest is that buyers go for the tidiest gun they can afford.

Unfortunately Winchester/Browning doesn’t have spares for this series.

Winchester 6500 Sporter

Winchester Select Energy Target Price £950+

When the Winchester Supreme came out in 2001, it was the first successful O/U the American company had produced in around 15 years. Okay, there had been the unsuccessful Model 1001, which had to be withdrawn on safety grounds, but there’s no need to go into that sad saga here.

The Supreme was a good-enough gun, but it came in for some criticism in Europe because it didn’t handle that well. I suppose we all had fond memories of the legendary 6500 Sporter’s handling, so Winchester had to live up to their own high standard.

The company countered with a relaunch in 2004, and the tweaked gun was called the Select Energy. The handling was improved, and the gun is still available new. In all, there are seven different guns with a selection of barrel lengths in the Select series, and the average price of a new Sporter in the UK is around the £1,400 mark. One version has an adjustable stock.

All of the guns are multichokes, and the barrels, built on the Monobloc principle, have 3in chambers. Extended chokes areavailable on the competition models.

Woodwork is generally rather plain, and dimensions vary from one model to another, but Sporter stocks generally have a length of just over 15 ½in, and drops at comb and heel of 1¾ and 2½in.

Winchester Select Energy

More information: From the importers BWM Arms, tel 01235 514550, or any Browning/Winchester dealer. Full specifications on