As shotguns made today go, I consider the Remington 870 the very best choice for personal defense, but...
As shotguns made today go, I consider the Remington 870 the very best choice for personal defense, but the one standing in the corner of my bedroom as I write this was built about half a century before the 870 went into production. A Winchester Model '97 pump gun, I bought it sometime back for cowboy action shooting, but upon discovering that was not my game, the old pumper became my think-of and go-to gun when something goes bump in the night. No fancy bells, whistles, or blinking lights here, just a grease-on-glass smooth action capable of filling the air with double-ought buck in no time flat. Its balance and feel make for comfortable handling under uncomfortable circumstances, and its exposed hammer is not a bad idea.
--Layne Simpson, Executive Field Editor
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Like me, my favorite shotgun is old. My 12-gauge home insurance policy is a Winchester Model 1897 with a receiver built in 1930 and a Cylinder Bore riot barrel assembly produced in 1919. The factory stock was ruined, so I replaced it with a Boyds' stock duplicating the original. It's had a few parts replaced over the years, including a new magazine spring from Wolff.
I like it because it's short and handy with a 20.5-inch barrel, there's easy access to the chamber, and with the exposed hammer, you never have to guess if it's cocked and ready to fire. The finish is worn, and it's not pretty, but it'll do the job!
--Reid Coffield, Gunsmithing Editor