Winchester over-and-under shotguns you find on the secondhand market today will fall into two main families – those which are part of the famous 101 family, and those which are not. Mike George investigates.
Despite being envisioned and designed by Winchester engineers in America, I’d say that the Winchester 101 shotgun owes much of its appearance and and influences to Browning.
Beretta inspired design
I found the action on the Winchester 101 to be rather tall – jointing is via a full-width hinge pin. Winchester shotguns post the 101 pivot on stub pins, have shallow actions and appear to owe their design to Beretta principles.
Finest handling ever in a shotgun
It’s my opinion that the 101 over-and-under was one of the finest-handling shotguns ever created. It was introduced as a 12-bore in 1963, and the smaller gauges of 20 and 28-bore and .410 came three years later. However these were never really taken up by shooters in the UK.
1966 saw the appearance of Winchester Magnum field models, plus skeet and trap models.
In 1981 the XTR was launched and replaced previous field models. Two years later diamond-grade guns in trap and skeet configurations appeared. Multichoke versions date back to the late 1970s.
The 101 Super Grade Game was taken up enthusiastically by the UK market and became a favourite when it arrived in the 1980s.
It had been my assumption that Winchester 101 shotguns sold in the USA and Europe were made to the same specification. However, I’m now not convinced about this.
I’ve come across a reputable American book, “Sporting Arms of the World” published in 1976 which led me to believe that European-market barrels were built on the monobloc principle for a lighter construction.
“Europeans like light guns, and use light loads”, instructs the author Ray Bearse.
In any case, the Winchester 101 was not built in the USA or Europe but in Japan in the Olin-Kodensha plant which was part-owned by Olin Industries. At the time it was a parent corporation of Winchester.
The same Japanese factory also built another three guns specifically for the European market – the 5000, 6500 and 8500. The 8500 reached the UK in the late 1980s and was sold under the Classic Doubles name.
After this the Kodensha plant was closed and the result seems to be that Winchester took its eye off the over-and-under market for a few years.
An Italian failure
The company was then sold by the Olin Corporation and bought by Browning and the 1980s were somewhat turbulent years for Winchester.
One of the low points of the era was one of Winchester’s few real failures – the fated Model 1001.
The shotgun was built for Winchester by an Italian company. In 1993 it was introduced to the USA and just two years later in 1993 withdrawn with great haste. This was rumoured to be on safety grounds.
Despite investigating further, I couldn’t get a complete picture of what actually was behind this. However I understand that some UK customers were able to exchange their guns for Mirokus.
Browning and Winchester
Things went quiet after this for a while for Winchester on the over-and-under side and then in 2001 the Supreme arrived.
Browning produced the Supreme in Belgium – however a Beretta-style action hinged on stub pins gave this shotgun a point of difference from all other Brownings.
Early in 2001 Sporting Gun’s tester, Jason Harris, gave the gun a tentative thumbs-up.
The Supreme was impressive but not totally right, and since being launched a number of improvements have been made to it. Then in 2004 it was re-introduced as the Select Energy series.
The current range comprises Select Energy Sporting and Trap Adjustable Signature models, the Select English Field 12M, the Select Light Gold 12M, the Select Sporting II 12M, and the Select Sporting II Top Cote 12M Signature.
That was the story for a while.
Then a Sporting Gun reader contacted me to ask if I had seen the new Model 101 on sale in the USA.
I hotfooted it to the Winchester USA website as I was excited at the prospect of the 101 being resurrected. There I found the new gun.
I was a bit disappointed when I looked at the photographs carefully.
I noted that the new Winchester 101 was built on the same stub-pin action as the “Select” series.
However I can understand the logic of this for Browning Winchester. If you’re after a gun that handles like the old 101, then buy a Browning!
What you can expect to pay
The 101 series has held its value well despite there being a shortage of spare parts. Good 6500 models in sporting and trap configurations now have asking prices of up to £1,000, and immaculate Diamond Grade 101s can be even more expensive.
Of the modern series you can expect to pay around £1300 for a Select Energy Sporter with all the extras.
Visit the Shooting UK marketplace to find more second-hand shotguns.
Contact the UK importers BWM Arms for more information 01235-514550. Visit Winchester for a guide to current guns.
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