August 2008

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 (, 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:

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