Used Over/Under 12s: Buy the Bird-Bustin’ Winchester 101
We looked for a bargain in the used-gun rack and walked away with a Winchester Model 101 and a Charles Daly Superior—both made in Japan and both introduced to the U.S. in 1963.
Stretching a dollar to obtain the most bang for the buck is not a habit that is unique among shooters, but many seem to have become masters of the technique. Rarely does anyone attend a gun show, visit a sporting goods store, or spend some down time in the field without hearing: "I’m looking for a good used over-and-under shotgun, but I don’t want to spend more than $1,000."
While there are several knock-off models that have been introduced to the U.S. market in recent years that can carry a bargain price tag, finding a "veteran" shotgun with such a price limitation can result in a frustrating search. Nonetheless, during one of our forays into the well-stocked shelves of Dury’s Gun Shop in San Antonio (www.durysguns.com), we found two over-and- under 12 gauges that fell within the search parameters—a Winchester Model 101 and a Charles Daly Superior model. Both shotguns can trace their introduction to the U.S. market back to 1963, with the Charles Daly produced until 1976 and the Winchester Model 101 production stopped in 1984. Manufactured in Japan, both shotguns are similar in appearance and feature dimensions that make them near twins. (An updated version of the Model 101, now called the Select 101, was offered to shooters beginning in 2006 and features a Belgium-made firearm.)
With many fans favoring veteran firearms, both models have passed the test of time and continue to provide good service to users in both the field and on clay target fields. We were pleasantly surprised to find that both used shotguns were in good to excellent condition. They had been used, but not abused, and both actions were smooth and solid (except in several situations with the Charles Daly that will be noted later).
Although the weight of the both shotguns was exactly the same, the Charles Daly had a heftier feel up front, probably because of a thicker and heavier forearm that gave the shotgun more weight in the shooter’s lead hand. This came as a surprise to us because the shorter barrels on the Daly would normally have meant a faster acquisition of targets.
We also noted that the automatic safety feature in the Charles Daly was still in operation, while the Winchester featured a non-automatic safety. If a shooter is planning to spend more time on the clay target range than in the field, we would recommend a little gunsmith work to remove the automatic safety. An automatic safety is a common cause of lost targets because the shooter will forget to take off the safety before attempting to smack a clay.
Our ammunition selection for this test included the Winchester AA Xtra-Lite Target 2.75-inch loads that were 2.75 dram equivalent shells with one ounce of No. 8 shot traveling at 1,180 fps; Remington STS Low Recoil 2 3/4-inch loads with a 2.5 dram equivalent, 1 1/8 ounce of No. 7 1/2 shot and a muzzle velocity of 1,145 fps; and Estate Super Sport Competition Target 2 3/4-inch loads with 2.75 dram equivalent, 1 ounce of No. 8 shot and a muzzle velocity of 1,180 fps.
We encountered no malfunctions with any of the ammunition, and recoil was manageable with both. Otherwise, here’s our report:
Winchester Model 101
12 Gauge, $900
This was the company’s standard stack-barrel model from the time it was introduced in 1963 until production was discontinued in 1984. To this day, there are tens of thousands of shooters who swear by the "Old 101" as their shotgun of choice for field and target use.
Weighing in at exactly 7 pounds, our test shotgun featured a 28-inch barrel with fixed chokes of Modified and Full. The drop at the comb was 1.5 inches and drop at the heel was 2.75 inches, with a length of pull of 14 inches. An aftermarket recoil pad had been added to the stock, but none of our test team had any problems adjusting to the stock dimensions.
We were particularly pleased with the slim and trim pistol grip of the Model 101. Even for our shooters with large hands, the grip provided a firm hold and smooth handling of the shotgun. Although the Winchester has a reputation of excessive recoil because of the design of the shotgun, we found that the punch was not unpleasant. In fact, we found little difference in recoil between the Model 101 and the Charles Daly.
The 28-inch barrels of the Winchester and overall balance provided an excellent platform for handling all types of targets. We were very impressed with the way the shotgun smacked targets. Part of the target-busting performance could be attributed to the tighter chokes, but another part was the gun’s handling. On the patterning board, the Winchester produced a 50-50 spread (an equal number of pellet strikes above and below the center of the target) with the Modified barrel.
We were also impressed with the 101’s trigger pull. The top barrel and the bottom barrel were both very crisp, and both broke at 5 pounds. Although not as important as with a rifle or handgun, trigger pull on a shotgun should be smooth and light to prevent any jerking that will cause a shooter to pull off of the target.
Overall, we could find no faults with the Winchester other than the fixed chokes. Adding another couple hundred dollars to the price tag to have screw-in chokes installed would be worth the extra cost for this fine field and target shotgun.
Charles Daly Superior
12 Gauge, $890
This was also introduced to shotgun-shooting patrons in 1963 and, like the Winchester, has a hefty following of fans. Our test shotgun featured 26-inch barrels and an overall length of 43 inches. These dimensions are more suitable for quick action in the field, rather than for handling clays on the range. However, we did not experience any major problems in any of our shooting situations.
We were surprised to find that both shotguns had identical weights (7 pounds) and similar dimensions, with the Charles Daly’s drop at the comp of 1.5 inches and drop at the heel of 2.5 inches. The LOP was 14.25 inches, and the shotgun also had an aftermarket recoil pad.
The trigger pull of the Charles Daly was a very pleasant 4.5 pounds for the bottom barrel and 5 pounds for the top barrel. In our experience, used shotguns often feature very crisp and light triggers, which are much easier to handle than typical out-of-the-box new-gun pulls of 6 pounds or heavier.
On the range, we noted a slight but noticeable difference in the Daly’s handling compared to the Winchester. Naturally, the shorter barrels required a little adjustment by each shooter to make sure that targets were not bypassed with a faster swing. The glide factor for long-distance targets was not as smooth, but short-window targets were easier to handle. As noted earlier, the heftier forearm countered the normal tendency for the shorter barrels to whip through targets.
We did encounter a minor malfunction with the Charles Daly in that about one time in every box of shells, the shotgun’s break-open action locked up and would not allow the spent shells to eject. The problem was corrected by returning the shotgun to the closed position and then reopening it. Also, the action of the Charles Daly was much stiffer than that of the Winchester, and we were not happy with the automatic safety.
In the patterning test, the Charles Daly’s modified barrel consistently produced a 40-60 pattern, with more pellets below the center of the target than above it. We would have preferred a 50-50 pattern like that of the Winchester, or a 60-40 pattern that is a desired spread for bird hunting or for straight-away shots.
The ejectors on both barrels of the Charles Daly worked without error with all of the test ammunition, and recoil was also acceptable. Takedown and assemblywere accomplished with ease, and cleaning the shotgun was no problem.
Other than the stiff action and the short barrels that caused slight problems with long-distance targets, we were satisfied with the overall performance of the Charles Daly.