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Building an M1897 Trench Gun

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Old March 24th, 2011, 07:55 PM   #1
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Building an M1897 Trench Gun

Building an M1897 Trench Gun

Part I

I have spent most of my life working overseas in South East Asia in very fortunate circumstances; privileges and exceptions abound in that region for Americans. There was one passion, however, I could never pursue while in these countries due to local governmental fears of the citizens becoming restless. Guns! Finally on my return after 24 years overseas, I vowed to collect, restore and "qualify" with every major rifle and carbine used in the U.S. army since we used metal cartridges. This turned out to start with the Springfield Trapdoors and end with the Colt M16 series.

My mission would be to collect these guns and restore them, but not to the fullest extent; I wanted all of these guns to look the part. Many of these guns had seen decades, in some cases a century, of use in and out of war and I wanted to maintain this look; war is hell and thus I want them to look like they have seen a bit of that. Most of these guns can be found in excellent condition for 400 to 900 dollars; all but the M14 which normally reaches around 1300 if one is patient sitting on Gunbroker. However, there was one gun that was, if an original, was between double or quadruple the prices found on the M14! It was the Winchester M1897 Trench Gun!

Now the Norinco / IAC replica may be enough for some but I wanted all my guns to be US made and as close to the original as I could get for my budget; sub $1000. For me, they just looked too new. They just didn't fit the look of a battle weary warrior that I was looking for. However with a little research and a couple of spare hours I managed to get an $800 Trench Sweeper that comes as close to the real thing as one can get! Here are the items you will need, in the order you need them, with the prices that I found:

East Taylor LLC Bayo Lug 175
East Taylor LLC Mag Plug 39
Winchester 1897 321
Transfer Fee 20
Brownells Oxpho Blue 4oz 10
Birchwood Casey Plum Brown 11
Shipping for Above 60
Cooler *
1 Lemon *
Double sided tape *
Steel Wool *
Small Paint Brush *
Hair dryer *
2 glass jars *
WCA Recrown Mag Plug 193

Total 829
*I already had these on hand

You will want to give the East Taylor guys some lead time to manufacture the bayonet lug and mag plug; at least 2 weeks ( http://www.partsforantiqueguns.com/winreparts.html ). In the meantime you can hunt for your Winchester 1897. I lucked out and found one on Gunbroker which was a beautiful brown patina with the blue at less than 50% (http://www.gunbroker.com/ search for 1897 ). The serials on the receiver and the barrel match it up to a manufacture date of May of 1914 assuming even run rates ( http://marauder.homestead.com/Model97sn.html ). Oh did I mention the Buy It Now price was $321? I snapped it up. It needed a little love on the stock as it had been varnished; I like to strip, darken, boiled linseed oil and Howard Feed N Wax all my stocks ( Ace Hardware had all of these items ). A beautiful stock and well aged metal is the goal! A quick note on the barrels of the trench guns was that they had no choke so the mark on the barrel was CYL. I didn't realize this and I got my barrel marked as FULL meaning it had a full choke. If possible, try and look for one with CYL marked on the barrel for a wee more authenticity!


Fig. 1
That done I looked around the web, while I waited for my East Taylor items to arrive, on how the heck was I going to antique those very items. If I couldn't make the gun and the lug match it would be like putting a carbon fiber hood on a model T!

I needed a spelled out solution but everything came in bits and pieces on the web. Guns that have a good patina on them are really guns that have been abused and then cared for repeatedly over time; the patina is actually rust! But does one achieve this over a period of a week in what should take a very full lifetime. Well it turns out I took a risk and it came out like perfection in the end. After reading a lot I came to 4 quick points of consensus on the internet on restoring and firing antique guns:

Lemon juice and water do an excellent job accelerating the rusting process.
Brownell's Oxpho Blue Cream formula is an excellent cold bluing formula.
Birchwood Casey's Plum Brown Barrel Finish is an option to cold bluing if you want an antique look. ( You can order both from ( http://www.brownells.com/ )
Ammo costs more than it used to.

I was going to take a chance; not being able to do anything about the cost of ammo I decided the only sane thing to do was to jump off the bridge of reason headlong into the gorge of a wild abandon. Soon the Lug and the Plug came in from East Taylor and I immediately set upon destroying these beautiful replicas.


Fig. 2

Into the bayonet lug I inserted a 1/2" inch piece of dowel stock that had some double sided foam tape snaking around it to take up the space between. With a twisting motion I pushed the stock through to the top of the Lug and let it stick out about 1 inch (the red tape and dowel in the lug can be seen in Fig 4). The length of the dowel was about 38"; the approximate length of a Trench Gun. I stood in my driveway like a mad scientist straight out of the loony bin in front of all my neighbors carefully letting the Lug mated dowel stock fall randomly onto the asphalt of my driveway. I did no pushing whatsoever. I would just let go and allow the stick fall at random. Thinking back on it now I should have tied on some lead weights or used a steel rod instead of dowel to replicate the weight of the gun. Here I was just trying to reproduce the innumerous times the gun may have fallen over on the battlefield. That said doing this did produce some fantastic dents in the hand guard and put a nice pattern into the brass sight. After 5 or 6 falls my heresy was almost complete; as I walked by the basketball pole I gave the muzzle end 2 good whacks and with a beautiful hollow ping I tolled in my new project for the entire neighborhood. I removed the dowel, bent back the heavy dents in the hand guard and dumped the Lug and the Plug into 2 gallons of cold tap water mixed in with the juice of one large lemon.


Fig. 3

I left this in the garage for about 4 days at a temperature of around 50F. Lo and behold when I yanked out the Lug and the Plug they both had some serious rust on them especially in the places where they struck the asphalt. Further the lemon acids had etched areas around the holes in bayonet lug leaving a blackish halo pattern on those areas where edges met up. Setting the lug aside, without wiping it down in any way, I assembled the rest of my materials as shown below.


Fig. 4

I put a quarter by the brush so you can get an idea of it size which will play in important role next! I wanted some browning to happen to the gun but not a lot; it needed to match the old guns patina which was a splotchy grey and brown patina. So I knew I needed, clearly both properties of the Oxpho Blue and the Plum Brown; but would they mix? I tested one piece of bare metal with the Plum Brown and I can tell you that it is FAST acting and over powering stuff. Clearly I didn't need much. Further, I realized that the Plum Brown came in a glass container, so I made sure I didn't use a plastic mixing jar; I chose an old glazed pottery butter container. In it I gleefully poured 1 oz of Oxpho Blue and then dipped my horse hair (not plastic!) brush into the Plum Brown, soaking it and quickly shoving it into the butter jar while mixing vigorously. I mixed the two for a full minute. Oxpho Blue works really well if it is warmed up, just slightly too hot to touch so with the hair dryer on full blast (and my wife, with hands on hips, tapping her left foot in disgust) I dried the Lug and the Plug; rust and lemon black oxide and all caked on. Once the whole Lug was hot and dry I mixed the Oxpho and Plum Brown one last time and began to brush, in long even strokes, the mix all over starting from the hand guard portion and ending up at the muzzle end; knowing that the muzzle was thicker and thus would keep it's heat longer. After a full 2 minutes I ran over to my garage sink with the lug, brush and with hot water going I washed off the lug. YIKES! What had I done!? It looked a sick blue with bronze blotches everywhere! Thinking of committing ritual seppuku with the M1917 bayonet I had just bought I realized I would get blood all over the new carpet I had just laid in the house trying to get my wife's hairdryer back into her section of the bathroom in my final moments. Then I remembered you had to use the steel wool! The wool dulled and blended everything as well as doing something unexpected to the simple minded, it removed the lemon oxide and the heavy rust. I danced back to the workbench and repeated the process of painting on the mix with 2 minutes of setting time, washing with hot water and rubbing the lug down with steel wool two times. The end result was an almost perfect match with my old Winchester. The lemon oxide and rust spots got attacked and accented quickly with the aggressive Plum Brown but was toned down by the Oxpho Blue; a fantastic pattern appeared around the hand guard holes that seemed to indicate that the edges would, over time, be attacked by rust faster than the spaces in between. I covered the entire Lug and Plug in 3 in 1 oil to neutralize all the chemical reactions going on with an old tooth brush (not pictured ) and wrapped both in newspaper. In the morning the pattern had dulled and blended even more. Perfection!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg MyM1897Pre.jpg (37.8 KB, 160 views)
File Type: jpg TrenchBayoLug.jpg (42.8 KB, 137 views)
File Type: jpg LemonRust.jpg (22.8 KB, 116 views)
File Type: jpg TrenchBayoAging.JPG (84.2 KB, 132 views)

Thanks from sgt 0311, SGTPinder and LausDeo
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Old March 24th, 2011, 07:57 PM   #2
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Part II

Part II

I ran down to the EXCELLNT folks at West Coast Armory ( http://www.westcoastarmory.net/wca-contact-lander.html ) and handed off all the parts to Jim, their excellent gunsmith, for him to crown, fit and test fire all the parts. Normally the charge would have been much less but as she was an old gun he had to disassemble most bits on the gun to get it working like butter; a request I made.

Next I needed to install my M1903A1 sling swivel ( http://e-sarcoinc.com/springfield.aspx ). I made sure mine was milled because they didn't do much stamping of parts back then. I used a 1/2" wood bit to route out the space for the swivel. The top of the swivel is 4 inches away from the end of the butt stock. You have to be very careful about lining up the middle of the stock. 1/8th to the left or right and the swivel will look funny. I took my time with a pencil, clamp and tape measure to find the middle. 1/4" from where the cut begins is where you put the center of the bit; for both top and bottom. I made 2 more drills in the middle to clear out material; I just eyeballed the depth and went very slowly whittling out excess wood with a razor pen. My razor pen had a blade on it that was 1/4" wide. I cleaned up any exposed edges with some dark wood stain. It came out perfect! It was so tight I had to tap it in with a hammer.


Fig. 5

The final step was to re blue the area that was covered by the magazine band. The top part of the band on the barrel is pretty easy to cover up. In fact it is so obscured by the hand guard it is hardly worth doing. The more difficult part is blending in the magazine tube portion of where the band was. It took me 4 sessions over 1 week to get it right. Again I used a blend of Oxpho and Plum Brown making sure to heat the barrel. Heating the barrel with a hairdryer (or anything that will deliver mild heat) is very important for the reaction.

Remember if you are doing a 4 hole Bayonet Lug for WWII, Korea or Vietnam you could probably just jump straight into getting it zinc ( pre and some WWII ) or manganese ( late WWII and post ) parkerized. I was going for the 90 year "been to hell and back" look! Happy collecting folks!

I have much larger shots I can send if anyone is interested. The ageing worked great!

Cheers,

etexastea
Attached Images
File Type: jpg MyM1897Postw1917.JPG (72.7 KB, 253 views)

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Old April 2nd, 2011, 02:38 AM   #3
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Damn nice. I too want to build one of those someday. Not a fan of anything Norinco, so I'll create a repro like you did. Thanks for the posting.

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Old April 2nd, 2011, 08:02 PM   #4
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Good to see it was useful! Post a pic when you are finished with her!

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Old April 2nd, 2011, 08:11 PM   #5
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That is beautiful and very cool. Please post range report.

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Old April 2nd, 2011, 09:21 PM   #6
 
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Great write up!
Could you show a photo of how the heat shield attaches?
I have one of these, a riot model.
It's in very good condition and would not want to muck it up.
Thanks.

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Old April 2nd, 2011, 10:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MtScout View Post
Great write up!
Could you show a photo of how the heat shield attaches?
I have one of these, a riot model.
It's in very good condition and would not want to muck it up.
Thanks.
Hi scout. It is pretty self explainatory once you get the parts, the only tricky bit is that there are 3 screws that vise the hand guard/bayonet mount to the barrel. I had a gun smith do this because it only takes about 10 mins with the right tools; I wanted him to test fire it so it didnt blow up in my face...1914 gun and all. The screws won't clear the barrel so you need to carve out just a bit of the barrel to do this in 3 places. You could do this easily with a file and a hand held drill with a steel drill bit. First mount the hand guard with mag plug and then put the screws in until they are semi tight; don't tighten too much! You should be able to jiggle the screw a bit, twisting the mount back and forth with hand pressure. This should score the barrel. Then take a file and make a groove into the barrel just 5 or 8 strokes worth; go VERY shallow. These grooves should guide the drill bit (Dremil tool even better). Take a little material off then try a screw and repeat until the screw goes all the way through then repeat for the other 2. Pretty easy but you must be patient. The nice part is the hand guard covers any slipps.

Cheers,

etexastea
Attached Images
File Type: jpg barrel grooves.jpg (16.7 KB, 50 views)


Last edited by etexastea; April 2nd, 2011 at 10:17 PM. Reason: Spelling
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Old April 3rd, 2011, 09:22 AM   #8
 
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etexastea,

Thanks for the photo.
I think I'll leave my '97 the way it is.
Maybe find a reproduction model for a trench gun.
Your gun with the bayonet is really nice.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg DSCN7592.jpg (8.5 KB, 82 views)

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Old April 3rd, 2011, 10:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MtScout View Post
etexastea,

Thanks for the photo.
I think I'll leave my '97 the way it is.
Maybe find a reproduction model for a trench gun.
Your gun with the bayonet is really nice.
I am 100% with you. A riot gun like yours deserves not to be mettled with. There are lots of 1897'sguns on GB going for $200-250 that can be tweeked.

Cheers,

etexastea


Last edited by etexastea; April 18th, 2011 at 08:19 AM.
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Old May 5th, 2011, 11:42 PM   #10
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Great write up!

Many good pointers and great detail.

Can I please take you up on having you send me bigger/more detailed/additional pics of the build and gun?

For some reason I've been consumed by collecting US military shotguns (clones/copies that is) and would like to build a couple Winchester 97 Trench Guns (WWI and WWII era) as well as a Model 12 or two (all in a big long line with the Navy/Air Force and Marine Corps Remington 870s happening now and starting to collect info on the Remington 7180/7188 ...and then I see East Taylor is making an Ithaca bayonet mount with heat shield now too - will it ever end)

Thank you for sharing.

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Old May 23rd, 2011, 08:49 PM   #11
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Hi TB. Just sent you an email. Sorry for the delay.

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Old May 26th, 2011, 06:59 PM   #12
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I think I saw one of these not too long ago in a small gun shop about 40 miles north of here. I'm gonna look for it next time I go that way. I didn't know what it was with a bayonet likme that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by etexastea View Post
Part II

I ran down to the EXCELLNT folks at West Coast Armory ( http://www.westcoastarmory.net/wca-contact-lander.html ) and handed off all the parts to Jim, their excellent gunsmith, for him to crown, fit and test fire all the parts. Normally the charge would have been much less but as she was an old gun he had to disassemble most bits on the gun to get it working like butter; a request I made.

Next I needed to install my M1903A1 sling swivel ( http://e-sarcoinc.com/springfield.aspx ). I made sure mine was milled because they didn't do much stamping of parts back then. I used a 1/2" wood bit to route out the space for the swivel. The top of the swivel is 4 inches away from the end of the butt stock. You have to be very careful about lining up the middle of the stock. 1/8th to the left or right and the swivel will look funny. I took my time with a pencil, clamp and tape measure to find the middle. 1/4" from where the cut begins is where you put the center of the bit; for both top and bottom. I made 2 more drills in the middle to clear out material; I just eyeballed the depth and went very slowly whittling out excess wood with a razor pen. My razor pen had a blade on it that was 1/4" wide. I cleaned up any exposed edges with some dark wood stain. It came out perfect! It was so tight I had to tap it in with a hammer.


Fig. 5

The final step was to re blue the area that was covered by the magazine band. The top part of the band on the barrel is pretty easy to cover up. In fact it is so obscured by the hand guard it is hardly worth doing. The more difficult part is blending in the magazine tube portion of where the band was. It took me 4 sessions over 1 week to get it right. Again I used a blend of Oxpho and Plum Brown making sure to heat the barrel. Heating the barrel with a hairdryer (or anything that will deliver mild heat) is very important for the reaction.

Remember if you are doing a 4 hole Bayonet Lug for WWII, Korea or Vietnam you could probably just jump straight into getting it zinc ( pre and some WWII ) or manganese ( late WWII and post ) parkerized. I was going for the 90 year "been to hell and back" look! Happy collecting folks!

I have much larger shots I can send if anyone is interested. The ageing worked great!

Cheers,

etexastea

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Old May 29th, 2011, 06:32 AM   #13
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I love this write-up!

I have a Stevens 520a that I wanted to convert into a repro 520-30.

Very nice work!

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Old June 22nd, 2011, 09:35 PM   #14
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I recuped an old mod 97 from the pdj in laos while flying there. I had a friend who worked in the weapons referb group who completely rebuilt it back to new condition and even reblued it.
Customs took it in california from my personal effects while returning after five years there. When seeing a lawyer about it, he said it'd cost about $10mil to retrieve it. Enough said.
Mac

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Old April 2nd, 2012, 02:32 AM   #15
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etexastea,
Nice description of the conversion.

About 5 years ago, I bought what I thought was a built-up '97 riot gun at a gun show in Dallas. Today I happened to look in the Blue Book of Gun Values in the Trench/Riot Shotgun Section and discovered the write-up on Model 97 Military Shotguns.

It turns out my '97 has all the elements of being a trench gun except for the bayo lug and handguard are not there and there is no evidence of them ever being installed. It is a polished and blued takedown model, s/n 942,000, which is in the middle of the 1941-1942 production run of trench guns, WB and crossed cannon cartouche on the buttstock, US and ordanance bomb on left side of receiver, ordanance bomb proof mark on top of barrel, finger groove stock with hard rubber buttplate, and 3-screw grooved 20" barrel.

It's possible it was originally built up as a riot gun using trench gun parts, no way to tell now though. After reading your post, I think I'll get the magazine plug and bayo lug/heatshield from East Taylor and try to age them following your description.

A close-up picture of the handguard/bayo lug showing the rusting/blueing results would be helpful.
Thanks

Thanks from etexastea

Last edited by stonyriver; April 2nd, 2012 at 02:40 AM. Reason: omission
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