Winchester '97- faster than a double on long stages, used by most of the top guns. Original 97s absolutely requires a gunsmith to be checked over. They're all 40-100 years old. They have 100 parts. Parts break. A good gunsmith with experience in '97s is a requirement if you're going to use it extensively.

97 Clones like the Norinco '97 -- 4th generation models seem to have the kinks worked out. Yes, the Norinco is made in China.

Doubles--must not have ejectors. Can have hammers or be hammerless. Most hammerless guns are not designed for CAS. Shooting the shotgun is secondary. Targets, except for aerial targets which plague some events, are usually 10 yds away and stationery. You should be able to hit them with #9 Winchester Featherlights. But every stage starts with the shotgun empty and ends the same way. Pick up most shotguns, open the lever, and note that the barrels, unsupported, will tilt back up and try to close, making it difficult to load them.

Your double should be:

1. Easy to open. Thumb pressure should do it. It shouldn't require breaking the shotgun over your knee.

2. The barrels should hang down enough for you to load two rounds with one hand, the other holding the butt of the gun, preferably at your shoulder.

3. The empties should fall out when you tilt the barrels or jerk the open shotgun rearward. If you have to pick the empties out, the chambers need to be polished with a flex-hone kit. Brownells sells them. Use their flex-hone oil, nothing else. Follow the instructions.

Screw In Choke Tubes: The trend in Cowboy Action Shooting is toward knock-down shotgun targets. At Winter Range 2003 the knock-downs spelled disaster for many of us with open-choked guns. If you're starting out, get a gun with factory-installed choke tubes. Adding them to a '97 is no big deal. Adding them to a double isn't as successful.

I've managed to live without screw-in choke tubes, but I'll never buy another gun without them. If you don't need them, that's wonderful. It's better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. (My shotgun loads are now quite hot, but they've successfully knocked down all targets encountered since WR 2003.)

Winchester 1887: This lever action shotgun is rare at matches because it's rare period. Tri-Star promised a high quality replica, but it never quite happened. Norinco is promising one now at a low price. (May 2003--delayed by the SARS scare.) If you have to have a lever action shotgun, that's the way to go. If you use an original, stick with black powder or black powder substitutes.

If you're buying, get 12 gauge. You can get Winchester Featherlights and get less felt recoil than with a 20 gauge, and if you encounter hard-to-knock down targets, you can use hotter loads. Dad's old 16 gauge is legal, but it's a pain in the neck getting cheap ammo. Ditto 10 gauge.

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