I don't do a whole lot of shotgun work, but this one's been on my list for quite a while and by the time I got to it I was ready for the diversion. I've always loved the Model '97, and never, ever had a problem with the bolt hitting my thumb when it comes out the back of the receiver-- or with it going "full auto" by not getting off the trigger soon enough. They are fascinating on the inside and oh so classic on the outside. Lots of parts too-
79 parts total
10 flat springs not counting the buttplate trapdoor spring
4 coil springs
...and lots of things happen every time you rack it. One thing 97's are not is smooth and light of stroke-- you hafta rack it like you mean it.
The spec on this gun was, "Take this beat up, well-worn '97 with its 30" barrel and send it back to me looking like something from Indiana Jones or The Untouchables,"
No prob, but more work than one might think, more than just sawing it off. Everything had to stay within the bounds of what might have been done to it in the '20's, so no plastic, nothing Phillips or Allen-screwed, no glowing in the dark thingies. The customer wanted a good stout sling point up front which is hard on a '97, because the barrel band really is rather delicate in itself and in how it is attached to the barrel, so you don't attach to it or the mag tube. I made something up that was silver-brazed directly to the barrel. We wanted to go 18" but in order to get the sling point far enough foward to still allow not just take-down but complete disassembly, the barrel had to go to 20". 5mm ivory bead front sight is actually something I will consider in the future for any shotgun other than those spec'd with rifle sights-- it is fast.
The buttplate is off a Thompson, and honestly I'm not sure I didn't break the motif here, as I'm not 100% sure this isn't an M1-M1A1 part rather than a 1921-28 part (but I think they were all the same). But at any rate it looks and is very stout, really good for staving in those barrels of moonshine. The wood was all stripped, some dents steamed out (I'm no stock expert), sanded and left a little rough, and treated with linseed oil. Screws and internals were bead blasted and/or polished and blued by local gunsmith Mike Kloster, great job, and the rest was zinc phosphate Parkerized. I felt all blue would be more proper, you know, more like what a gunsmith in 1927 would have done, but there were just too many rough areas on the outside.
It came out looking pretty good though, and at least as far as I'm concerned it is still a completely viable fighting shotgun. One thing in particular I've always liked operating a '97 is that there is no damned cartridge lifter to contend with when loading the magazine. The ability to hold the trigger back and keep pumping shots off is of no use, no matter what anybody tells you. I used a '97 for years in competition, and let's just say even if you had 5 whiskey bottles to break at 5', 10', or 15' distance, spaced 5" or 2' apart from each other, whatever combo you think is easiest to hit, you would miss some or most of them going "full auto".