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.
The Winchester 101 shotgun was created and designed by American Winchester engineers. But in my opinion the Winchester 101 shotgun owes much to Browning, in terms of appearance and influence. Secondhand Winchester shotguns are sought after, so here are some tips and advice if you’re in the market.
Taking a look at a secondhand Winchester 101
I think 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.
I had thought that Winchester 101 shotguns sold in the USA and Europe were made to the same specification. Now I am not so sure, having read a reputable American book, “Sporting Arms of the World” published in 1976. This made me think that European-market barrels were built on the monobloc principle for a lighter construction. The author, Ray Bearse, explains: “Europeans like light guns, and use light loads”.
Winchester shotguns – the backstory
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, a parent corporation of Winchester in those days.
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 forgot about 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. The 1980s were not good for 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. Jason Harris, Sporting Gun’s tester, was an early reviewer and gave the gun a positive write up. The Supreme was subsequently been improved and 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.
I decided to investigate the new model of the Winchester 101 after a reader contacted me to see if I had seen it on sale in the USA. Excited, I took a look at the Winchester USA website and found the new gun. However, after looking at the photographs I was a bit disappointed.
I noted that the new Winchester 101 was built on the same stub-pin action as the “Select” series. I suppose the logic behind this for Browning Winchester is that if you’re after a gun that handles like the old 101, then buy a Browning.
Winchester shotguns post the 101 pivot on stub pins, have shallow actions and appear to owe their design to Beretta principles. I took a look at the action and thought it was a bit tall – jointing is via a full-width hinge pin.
Prices for secondhand Winchester shotguns
The 101 series has held its value well despite there being a shortage of spare parts.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.
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