While marketed, and widely recognized as an entirely new firearm, the Winchester 1897 is actually an evolution of the previous Model 1893, albeit a strong one. Essentially, the slide action shotgun was new technology and required the usual problem solving period of rapid competition and innovation. Winchester had started with a Browning design but their own engineers kept improving the 1893 until it became apparent that several major components needed changes. All prior upgrades and quite a few new were rolled into one major update: the 1897. The lineage was so direct that there was no new serial number range assigned for the new firearm, it just carried on the same sequence.
The most noticeable change on the 1897 is that the top of the receiver is now enclosed, preventing any cartridge failures from having direct access to the shooter’s face and providing more rigidity. Other modifications include improvements in the inertia lock system, an action unlocking button, a screw to prevent the magazine tube from rotating, and a longer stock with a steeper drop was fitted. While this was supposed to be the perfected Winchester pump action, more modifications followed for several years.
Pictured here is a “C” series takedown, introduced in 1898. By pressing a captive pin at the front of the magazine, users could turn it 180 degrees and pull it away from the receiver. Pumping further forward and then rotating the whole barrel assembly would free the interlocking barrel threads from the receiver, breaking the gun in half for storage and transportation. It quickly became the most popular seller at only $2 more and eventually the fixed frame version was dropped from production completely.