The Trench Gun of WW1 – Devastating Firepower At Close Range – The Famous Model 1897 Shotgun

Model 1897 (trench grade) and the reproduced Norinco (riot grade)
Model 1897 (trench grade) and the reproduced Norinco (riot grade)

The Trench Gun, the Winchester Model 1897, was an immensely popular shotgun. Between 1897 and 1956 more than a million were produced by Winchester Repeating Arms.

American Soldiers, Police, and hunters all loved and used the trench gun which is the reason it remained in production for 59 years! As popular as it was before the start of World War One, sales picked up significantly when the U.S. joined the Entente.

Having had the chance to look at Trench warfare in all its brutality for nearly three years, the U.S. Armed services knew they needed a weapon that would have a massive amount of close range firepower.

U.S. Winchester Model 1897 Slide Action Trench Shotgun - Photo Credit
U.S. Winchester Model 1897 Slide Action Trench Shotgun – Photo Credit

This led to the design and production of the Trench Grade version of the Model 1897 in which a perforated steel heat shield was added over the barrel to protect the hand of the user. An adapter for a bayonet was also added to a somewhat shorter barrel.

Buckshot ammunition was used that carried nine .33-caliber pellets for the 20-inch cylinder bore barrel. Carrying six shells, the M1897 gave the American Soldier or Marine considerable firepower in the confined trenches of the western front.

With the Trench Gun gaining in popularity among the Americans, the Germans were dismayed by it. So much so that they began to protest its use in combat, issuing a diplomatic protest against the American use of shotguns, claiming it was prohibited by the law of the war.

Unsurprisingly the Americans rejected the protest causing the Germans to threaten to punish captured Americans in possession of a shotgun. The Americans decided to come with a retaliation threat but if any of the threads lead to punishment or counter-punishment is not known.

The Videos below give us a closer look at this gun, and what it is capable of.

Slam Firing the Trench Gun

This guy has been practicing!

Taking it Apart

How to start the takedown process for a trench gun!

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.