When you hear people talk about a Winchester gun you automatically think of the classic Winchester lever action rifle of the Old West and the cowboy jacking rounds into the chamber to ward off attacking Indians. Whilst these rifles are very fine guns indeed (I have fired an original Winchester Model 1873 whilst on holiday in Tombstone Arizona in 2008) Winchester also makes shotguns and I am a proud owner of one these guns.
Nowadays the Herstal Group own the Winchester brand along with Browning and FN. The Winchester I now own was made in the FN factory in Liege, Belgium but is still a very good gun indeed. When I went shopping for my first shotgun I was originally looking at some guns around £600-£700 mark but then I spotted a legendary name nestling amongst the Browning’s and Berretta’s. Winchester. Now as a former Old West re-enactor I do admit to having a soft spot for Winchester so I was immediately drawn to them. I asked if I could have a closer look at one so the gun shop owner unlocked one and handed it to me. Immediately I was struck by how nice it felt in my hand and at £1300 was within my budget for a shotgun. But, unusually for me, I held back as we were due to visit another gun shop the next day and I had the FEO coming round to check my security for my change of address on my certificate.
The next day on a whim, we decided to visit another shop we’ve been recommended; Malmo Guns. They had only one O/U Winchester and I immediately fell in love with it. It had 30” barrels, adjustable chokes, adjustable stock, came in a abs case and with a combination trigger lock. But that is not what made this gun stand out from the rest. It was the furniture. The stock and fore grip were made from a grey laminate and it looked beautiful. The scroll work was just as nice but also subtle (I don’t like in your face engraving as to me a gun is there to used on the range rather than stuck in a cabinet to be admired). It was also £200 cheaper than the Winchesters I saw the previous day. I was cursing the FEO as he took my certificate away to be updated but the gun shop came to my rescue and said I could reserve the gun with a small deposit. The gun was mine. I paid for the gun in full and then waited for my certificate to be returned. A week later I had the certificate and the gun.
This particular gun is a Winchester Select Sporter 12 Gauge in Over/Under format. It comes in a red ABS case with the Winchester horse and rider logo emblazoned on it. When you open the case you are presented with the gun sitting in its foamed lined compartments with the tools, spare choke and trigger lock in a separate compartment. I found putting the gun together a bit tricky at first but that was probably due to my lack of experience and it has become easier as I have gotten used to it. The gun itself weighs a hefty 3.45 kilos (7.6 lbs) (hefty for me that is) but when you are shooting the gun it doesn’t feel like it is that heavy. The chokes supplied are Imp. Mod or ¾ choke, Mod or ½ choke and Skeet.
I first used the gun on a Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club day just 8 days after I picked the gun up. The recoil wasn’t as hefty as I expected. In fact, I found I had to really pull the stock into my shoulder to make the second barrel fire. Pointing the gun and tracking the clays was really easy with the Winchester. I needed to adjust the comb to make the gun fit to me but once it was properly set up and fitted my target hit rate shot up.
The trigger action is just right for me straight out of the box and has a good solid feel plus plenty of room inside the trigger guard for gloved hands on a cold winters day.
Would I recommend this gun as a novice clay shooter. The simple answer is yes i would. it feels like a much more expensive gun and is well presented both as a package in the case and as a working gun. It handles well and is very comfortable to shoot. It deserves the Winchester name.