Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Winchester Ranger Pump 12 Gauge Shotgun

First came the Winchester 1200 to replace the Model 12 with a more price friendly (i.e. cheap) alternative. Then came the Ranger and 120 models in an attempt to further cut costs and keep the product competitively priced and then the 1300 in an attempt to market the same guns but convince buyers that they were getting quality. Somewhere in all that a friend of mine bought this Ranger with 28-3/4-inch barrel utilizing choke tubes (Winchoke). Then came bankruptcy and he had to sell it. I put $60 into it and had a good toy.

Yep, I've been playing with it over the years. I've bought additional choke tubes, tube tools, stock sets (Pachmayr Vindicator), barrels and even one of those TAC-STAR Sidesaddles. This now resides somewhere close to bedside to reply boarders in the dark of night. With the increasing threat of home invasions, I'm fully prepared to do what must be done to ensure my wife's safety. This shotgun is now part of the plan. To that end the first additional barrel I bought was an 18-1/2-inch "riot" or cylinder bore barrel with bead front sight. I was passing by a table at a gun show and saw it there with a $25 price tag. Of course it had to come home (and the gun is shown here with the barrel and Vindicator forend installed). But, if required, the gun is still a game getting tool.

A while back, somebody asked me why I'd chosen the side-saddle instead of the extended mag. The answer was an easy one. As is, I can simply reinsert the plug to be hunting legal whereas with the extended mag I'd have to do more modification. Conversely, the side-saddle can remain on the gun while hunting.

Hunting is a critical use for such a gun. The original barrel and the interchangeable choke tubes that go with it provide a lot of versatility in the game fields. This is the gun I'd use if I went after waterfowl. Using steel shot in this gun holds no terrors for me. Also, at $60 I hardly have hurt feelings if I put another scratch on wood or metal. Then, today I got another barrel.

I stopped by Nuckols Gun Works and looking into the barrel barrel (just in case) I found a 22-1/4" Winchester 1300 rifled slug barrel. Anyway, I asked Chris the price, was told $55 and it so it has come home, had an experimental ride on the receiver and is now awaiting some good 12-bore "rifle" ammo.
So, "hey," you might say, "are all those parts just plug and play?" Well, yes and no. One of the most noticeable dimensional differences of which one should be aware is the ejector. A flat spring that sits in the left side of the receiver it has a tab that extends into the barrel. Sometime between the 1200 or 120 series, this tab was lengthened. This means that the cut for this tab in the older barrels needs to be deepened slightly (relieved) to avoid excessive wear on or kinking of the ejector. Other than that, all parts have readily interchanged on my gun.

There is one problem with this gun, for me, and that is the over-long length of pull (LOP). It is just a hair too long too shoulder quickly and to operate the forearm. I figured at least an inch would have to come off the stock length to make it work well for me. Today, I found a 1300 beech YOUTH buttstock for sale at AR-7. How much shorter is the youth stock? 1 inch. You can't get any better than that and it comes complete with a recoil pad. I'm sure my wife will appreciate that. The price? $47.95 shipped. Not bad and one has already arrived at the house and been installed. It works and was worth every penny.

One thing this gun lacks is sling swivels. Uncle Mikes makes a mag tube cap set for the 1300 which will fit fine. Installing that mag tube cap (with swivel stud) and a swivel stud in the buttstock can solve that problem and make the gun very usable in the 12-bore rifle mode. This item has arrived, too. However, I haven't had the time to install the stock swivel stud.

Good slug ammo is the next thing to do for this project. There's a lot out there and the July 2008 issue of Guns Magazine has an article on the subject. Apparently, with the new high tech ammo, you can hardly go wrong but there's a lot to choose from.

My former favorite for the smoothbore barrels was the Brenneke. Those cylindrical (mostly) 1 oz slugs with their screwed on wads flew straight and true and struck like Thor's hammer. A quick visit to MidwayUSA shows a wide variety of available ammo. Tim Sundles of Buffalo Bore was also experimenting with deep penetrating loads suitable for use on bears. It has been suggested that I go with the Brenneke Black Magic until the Buffalo Bore loads come out. Sounds good to me! However, I also bought some K.O. slugs (also Brenneke) and some of the Hornady SSTs.
Base gun, issue vent rib barrel, open sighted rifled slug barrel, "riot" barrel (top to bottom).

- Oct 2006 article


Eliza Winters said...

I just bought my husband one of these guns for his birthday. He absolutely loves it. I need find him some bulk ammo because he uses it so much. This is definitely one that I would recommend owning if you are the shotgun type.

Anonymous said...

I have a ranger mod 120 and would like to put a shorter barrel on it (18in). will a mod. 1200 or 1300 defender barrel fit?

Hobie said...

That is exactly what has been done here. There are two different lengths to the ejector spring (the "flat" spring that runs along the left side of the receiver) and one may need either the shorter spring OR to deepen the spring recess in the barrel. It doesn't take much to open up the recess with a burr on a Dremel and you'll be good to go.