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Shotguns are my favorite firearms. I like the recoil and I like the power. I like launching nearly a third of a AR-15 magazine per shot fired. As a shotgun fan and a lover of old guns I, of course, love old shotguns. One of my favorites is the Winchester 1897. While not the first pump-action scattergun, it was the first really successful one.

I love the Winchester 1897, but I settled on a Norinco Model 97 clone. Why? 

Well, actual Winchester 1897s in riot or trench configurations are relatively expensive. On top of that, I likely wouldn’t want to shoot one due to its age, value, and history.

With a Norinco 97, I have a gun similar enough to the Winchester 1897, and I don’t feel bad (or worried) about shooting it. Plus, it only cost $400 and came to me in a nearly new, seemingly unfired condition. I read a lot online and did some research, and the guns seem pretty robust. 

The Norinco Model 97 might not be a real Winchester, but it’s still a really cool gun. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Norinco 97 and Me

I first ran across this Norinco 97 at an auction where several of these were for sale. Alongside this standard ‘riot’ model, they also auctioned a trench model, from which I quickly bowed out.

The auction ended at around $1,200, and I can’t spend that on a Chinese clone of a Winchester shotgun. The trench gun seemed to take some steam out of the bidders, and when the riot model shotgun popped up, I was the only bidder. 

I was admittedly happy because I came to the auction wanting the Savage M1907 and one of the Norincos, preferably the trench gun, but I’m happy with the riot model. Riot model here essentially means it’s a relatively plain clone of the Winchester 1897. It features a 20-inch barrel with a bead sight, a five-round magazine tube, and some genuine Chinese wood furniture. 

Not bad for Chinese wood (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The shotgun itself looks surprisingly nice with a rich blued finish that’s nice and glossy. Perfect for absorbing your fingerprints. The wood might not be walnut, but it looks nice with a solid, even brown finish. I’m not saying it looks like it rolled off the Winchester factory floor, but it doesn’t look bad.

The Norinco 97 is surprisingly nice up close. 

Seriously, not bad at all (Travis Pike for TTAG)

A variety of importers have brought Norinco 97s to market. This includes IAC, who imported mine. These guns seem to come and go in batches. That makes getting one a feast-or-famine situation, and shotguns are one of the few firearms allowed to be imported from China. 

How It Handles

Most of my research stated these guns were solid and popular with SASS shooters. Many forum posters and lots of Canadian gun subreddits have given them solid reviews, but as always, you will also run across people’s complaints. Cracked stocks, failures to eject, parts falling out, and more. It just depends how hard they were cracking the whip at the factory that day. 

While most owners reported that the Model 97s are solid, that small percentage of failures stuck in my mind. 

Yes, it slam fires. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I went to the range with various loads, ranging from high quality, high brass buckshot to the cheapest birdshot Academy has to offer. I started with the lower-powered, lower-priced birdshot. I figured if the Norinco 97 were to fail, I’d rather it fail quickly.

I loaded it up and had fun shooting clay pigeons I put on my berm. The gun cycles smoothly and reliably. It chewed through the Monarch birdshot without issue. 

You can’t beat the look of the Model 1897…as interpreted by the Chinese. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

It chucked shells predictably at the same angle every time, which means the ejector is doing its job consistently. The guts of the shotgun spill out every time you work the action, just like a classic 1897. As the slide snaps rearward, it pushes the hammer down perfectly without issue. Yes, you can slam fire like the original, even if slam fire is silly and kind of useless. Admittedly it’s fun to dump five rounds of twelve gauge while slam firing it. 

The Punch and the Kick 

The Norinco 97 pulls no punches when it comes to recoil. The standard plastic butt plate doesn’t do a great job of anything really. It slams rearward with every shot, and buckshot is borderline painful through this gun. I typically use a push/pull means to mitigate recoil. That’s kind of difficult with the design of the Model 97. 

The front pump is a textured, corncob forend giving you a great texture, but the finish makes it a bit slick. It’s summer in Florida, so I’m sweating even thinking about going outside. With a good push, my hands slip. On the stock end, the grip is more of a straight stock than the pistol grip we are familiar with. Your hand can slip rearwards when you pull rearward. 

It might be a Chinese clone, but its fairly robust. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Also, since that slide comes out of the rear of the shotgun gun, it can catch your hand if you choke up a bit. That makes it tough to pull off modern shooting styles with the gun. Admittedly this is an Obscure Object of Desire and not really a defensive shotgun. With that in mind, I don’t object to it too much. 

The bead sits directly on the barrel. That typically causes point of aim and point of impact issues. However, this little bead is dead-on and buckshot goes right where I want it. The choke is a cylinder bore design, and the gun patterns are like any other cylinder bore. No crazy exceptions here. 

Wood on wood has never looked better. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I only had one failure in about 250 rounds in the reliability department. It occurred while I was slam firing the gun. A round failed to make it fully from the magazine tube into the shell lifter. 

Getting My Riot On 

The Norinco Model 97 is a perfectly shootable clone of the famed Winchester 1897. It’s a shooter first and foremost, and it’s a ton of fun in that department. It’s a great range gun, maybe a competition gun for the SASS fellas, but not much more than that. One day I’ll get my hands on a real 1897 trench gun, and I’ll adore it, but until then, Imma shoot the hell out of this Norinco 97. 

 

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37 COMMENTS

  1. When I was young both model 97’s and model 12’s were still common in the blinds and fields.

    That 97 was a big, mule kicking gun in standard hunting configuration. I preferred the model 12.

    My uncle had a 16ga model 97. The 16 was more common then. Still kicked like a mule.

    • Well… Republicans… got tired of cheap imported guns. So they invoked a sort of gun manufacturer’s protectionism, by regulating imported gun kits, and imported completed guns.

      • Believe me, brother. I know about flying time. But at least I got old. Beat a lot of the predictions and several attempts.

  2. Norinco used to be the kind of firearm you could get cheap second hand mainly because shooters got frustrated when the gun had a hiccup. Not no more, people have gotten pretty proud of Norinco asking prices.

    • My Norinco is a humble commercial model SKS, and it’s a lot of fun. I just wish I bought one new in the early 90s for $80 instead of spending around $300 for a used one a few years ago. Now, it’s probably worth close to $600. For that kind of money, I’d totally prefer my AR15s.
      Still, the old SKS is a fun and useful little rifle.

  3. I have a Norinco shotty — not a M97 though — and I think it’s the real deal. Very reliable and robust, I think it was made of old Russian tank parts. If I could find an M97, I’d buy it.

    In any case, my Norinco is cheap and good. That’s why it’s my wall-leaner.

  4. YA LUCKY GUY , ME TOO , LOVE SHOTGUNS , AT 72 IN RIGHT SIDE DISABILITY , CAN HANDLE A 410 , MY OLD 20 GUAGE COLLECTS DUST JUST CANT LET IT GO .. HA .. MEMORIES.
    THANKS ON ARTICLE

  5. “norinco” sticks in my craw, but some who know far more than i have sworn to their ak’s build quality.
    commie vs. muslim toss up.
    used ithaca’s.

  6. Yep, love mine! I bought it back when I was shooting Cowboy Action matches. I was faster with a double, but using slamfire to take down the he second target really bumps up the fun factor!

  7. Mine is a model 98 12ga, got it at a local pawn shop for $200 came with an extra barrel and a set of chokes, shoots fine, sits next to my dresser in easy reach. Says Bellerica MA on the receiver.

  8. My obscure object of desire is an old J.C. Higgins Model 20, the deluxe version. I’ve been restoring the collection that my grandfather had, and this is one of the last ones needed. Several were lost in a house fire, including this one (yes, a real fire). Heavy steel and walnut, with a weird looking compensator at the muzzle, but man that thing had a slick action and could throw a tight pattern. The uncles and older cousins borrowed it often and won regularly at the local turkey shoots. I miss that gun almost as much as I miss the old bird who owned it. One of these days, the correct one will come up at an auction somewhere…

    • That compensator looked like some kind of odd birdcage. If memory serves it was an adjustable choke. I recall having a wrench thingy to adjust it with.

      Man, I’m getting old.

      • Made in the ’50s and ’60s I think. There were two styles of variable choke thingamabobs. One was a polychoke, which could be adjusted to have a tighter or looser constriction without changing any tubes, and the other that you’re probably thinking of was a vented deal with replaceable threaded choke tubes of various constrictions. His was the second type, and had 3 choke tubes. Slick shooting heavy beast, that would have benefitted from a sling on those hilly grouse hunts of my happy-go-lucky youth.

  9. $400 sounds awful steep even new for a clone, they were selling new just under $300 when I had briefly looked at them. I ended up buying the real deal, (not a trench model). found a 12ga for about $250 plus shipping and accidentally stubbled on a 16ga listed with.22LR pump rifles on gunbroker for $126, couldn’t believe it until it actually arrived at my FFL. love them both. also have 12,16 & 20ga model 12’s. the 12ga was my grandfather’s, full chock, I have never seen another shotgun pattern as tight as it does.

  10. Travis, I shoot my Norinco 97 for SASS meets for the last 15 years, maybe a bit longer. It is a great shotgun but A WORD OF WARNING. Always check the screw that holds the extractor in place. I lost one once, along with the extractor. It was hard to find replacements but the kicker is that the threads on the screw don’t match anything my smith could find. He had to drill and tap it.

  11. Why would anyone give money to the Chinese Communist Party on something they can easily buy from a free people, a free country and not an enemy of the USA?

    • These arent imported anymore, no one in China is making money by Americans selling them to Americans

      • disingenuous.
        you’re not saying that no one in china is making money off these being sold to the u.s.

    • I see your point, but are you applying that to everything in life? Almost everything is made in China. This includes almost all electronics, almost all shoes, many clothing articles, really almost everything.

      Also, China is not the only enemy of the American people. Almost every large bank, and large corporation is working against our interests. Netflix,.Amazon, Apple,.Facebook, Citibank, McDonald’s, Phizer, Walmart, the list goes on and on.

      It is difficult to not support our enemies.

  12. I got mine for just $180 at a gun show, still new enough to need some extra breaking in. My only guess what that the good ol’ boy selling it saw that it was Chinese and assumed it was as poor quality as almost everything else that gets imported from there. I still want to get the heat shield/bayo lug for it, but considering how little the gun cost me, I don’t feel like doubling its price just for the sake of a cool decoration.

    And simmer down; I bought it used, so the Winnie the Ping and his Hundred-Acre Wood already got paid for the thing before I ever came along.

  13. My favorite pump gun is the 12GA Ithaca 37 my dad gave me for high school graduation in 1974. It has thousands of rounds through it and has never had a failure of any kind.

    • Kevin:
      I too am an 12GA Ithaca fan. I’ve had my current one for a little over 22 years. And… no Chinese guns for me.

  14. September of last year Cimarron announced they’ll be producing a new Winchester 1897 Clone.

    https://youtu.be/T2WLfhOAbWk

    No doubt they’ve seen what’s happened with prices for Chinese clones over the last couple of years and thought, PROFIT! It’s still in the works but a couple years off according to the youtube video comments replies by Cimarron.

    They’ve followed through on production of their Winchester 1887 clone so the 1897 will most likely make it to market.

    This is my own speculation but, I’d hazard a guess it probably won’t be a faithful reproduction of the original 1897. Most likely it would be a reproduction of a 6th generation version of a Norinco 97 reproduction. The 6th generation guns were the result of Norinco, I.A.C, and SASS gunsmith Coyote Cap to produce 1897s with improvements to function and reliability desired by CAS competitors. The bulk of Cimarron customers are SASS / CAS shooters, therefore it makes sense, to me at least to build a a 97 clone that includes features desired by customers and already approved for CAS from the get go.

  15. Some people think it is funny to laugh about how hard the communists are cracking the whip on their workers, or the political prisoners / slaves, in the factory. Some people think its funny. Ha. Ha.

    I try not to buy things made by slaves, and when I do, and if you buy anything from China you may have, I try not to joke about the suffering of the slaves.

    • These are no longer imported, meaning all specimens for sale were already purchased from China and the damage is already done. Your virtue signaling makes you a very wonderful and amazing person, since that’s obviously what you want to hear, but the rest of us would rather just have a cool reproduction shotgun that doesn’t cost $1,000.

  16. Disagree about slam-fire. The best dove-shot I have ever seen used a Model 12 in 20ga, and routinely scored triplets faster than I could say “b-b-bang”…

  17. Having worked on a couple of these shotguns, here’s my advice for buyers: keep your expectations in line. They’re not Winchesters. Their parts don’t wear like Winchesters. The replacement parts might be rougher than a cob and have poor availability.

    That said, genuine Winchester parts might not fit.

    • Meh, mine came with 2 barrels, a set of chokes and the tool to change them all for $200 at the local Gun and Pawn.

  18. Norinco = Chinese Communist Party = giving money to an enemy of America.

    Why would any decent American need to know more than that?

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