Slicking up a Winchester 97 - A Few Hints

Written by Marauder SASS #13056

For a Parts Diagram - Go Here

Many folks asked about slicking up the Winchester 97 and the modern made clones.

First, the bad news. These were complicated, handmade guns with each one varying a little bit. As such, it is very difficult to give specific instructions for slicking them up very well. That is especially true for me since I'm not a gunsmith. I'm only a person with a hobby and a little mechanical knowledge.

The good news is that there is some simple things most of us can do that will significantly smooth the action AND prolong the life of the gun. But the standard warnings apply. If you are not familiar with working with guns or fine metal work, tis best to leave such work to a gunsmith that is experienced with the Model 97 - not all are, so check around.


One thing you can to to increase the life of the gun is to shoot only light target or softer ammo.

Lightening the hammer spring will significantly lengthen the life of a 97 as well as making the action much smoother.

Hammer Tension ScrewThis is a primary source of drag in the action and the strong spring increases wear throughout the action.

Instant Action Job
Click on picture at the right for a larger view.

(For an "instant" action job, open the action, with a medium sized screw driver, reach through the "ejecting" port and loosen the hammer spring screw (Mainspring Tension Screw Part #75) until the hammer is much lighter.

Don't loosen it so far that the screw is above the carrier surface OR the screw is at all loose. This only helps so much, but it does help.

Depending on the gun, you may need to use blue locktite, nail polish or similar to held the screw solid.)

IF you are not mechanically inclined you can do this only.
Then you are done and ready to shoot.

The Process

A note on polishing.
When I say "polish" I mean that you do not want to remove any more metal than absolutely needed. You may still have some "texture" to the surface, but as long as it is relatively smooth with no real rough edges, the action will work much better. To "polish" I normally use either a polishing wheel or emery paper. Once in a while I may use 600 grit sand paper and rub fairly lightly. Removing too much metal merely wears out the gun and may result in an inoperable gun.

Take a good look at the Disassembly Instructions You will need to refer to them and the parts diagrams often.

  1. First step, MAKE SURE the GUN is UNLOADED!!!

  2. Now, check the gun again, to be absolutely certain that it is not loaded.

  3. Take off the stock and take the gun a part. You do not normally have to take out the trigger assembly. Just remove the carrier, bolt, action slide, actions lide hook and cartridge guides. Then remove the hammer spring from the carrier.

  4. The hammer spring. You can slightly "hour-glass" shape about 1/16 of an inchon each side of the spring to lesson the tension. You will likely have to putthe gun together and test, then redo the spring again. Be sure that you smooth andpolish any work up so there are only smooth edges on the spring. Springs don't like rough edges as they can cause breaks.
    Be sure to leave some extra tension. The tension can be adjusted lighter by loosening the spring tension screw a turn or two. (The tension screw is accessible by opening the action and using a screwdriver though the loading port.)

  5. While the gun is apart, look at the left and right cartridge stops (part # 26 &27). You can see on the carrier where these rub against the cartridge stops. Polish the surfaces on the cartridge stops - don't "remove" metal, just polish to remove any sharp areas. You can VERY lightly polish the right side of the carrier where the stop rub.

  1. Look at the left side of the carrier to see that "zig-Zag" cut out where the action arm goes to move the carrier up and down. Look for and smooth out any rough spots in that channel. This helps to avoid a possible glitch as you begin to close the action.

  2. Now look at the end of the action arm. Two critical areas.
    First, look at the end of the arm. This is where the action arm fits into the Action Slide Hook. Fit the action slide hook to the end of the action arm and see whow well they mate up. There should be less than 10 thousands separation. A occasional problem is for the action arm to leave too much space. This leads to excessive wear that will eventually let the arm slide slip out of the action hook. Then the action will actually come out of the action. The only way to resolve this is to have the end of the action arm welded up a little, then file to fit it properly to the hook.

    The second area to examine is the "diamond" that fits into the carrier. Make sure it is a nice symetrical diamond that fits pretty well into the carrier. I've seen a few where the angle was wrong - thus causing excessive wear on the front of the carrier. This is critical because that space on the carrier is so thin anyway. Again, IF that is a problem, the only solution is to build it up by welding, then fit it by hand.

  3. Look on the left side of the frame where the action slide hook and the actionslide rub. These are critical wear surface so you don't want to remove metalor the action won't work. But if there are rough spots in the frame, they needto bepolished. It doesn't have to be entirely level but you don't want any reallarge rough spots.

  4. Look at the hammer. On new guns, the top of the hammer has a sharp edge that rubs against the bolt. (On older guns, this is often worn, so don't remove anything.) On new guns, very gently radius this edge. This is more than merely polishing as you want a slight radius rather than a sharp edge. But, if you remove too much, the gun won't cock!

  5. Similarly, look at the bottom of the bolt where it rubs against the hammer. Make sure that surface is smooth.

  6. Look at the magazine tube. You can see where the action slide rubs against thetube. There is normally smooth, but there may be some rough spots. Realize that the tube is very thin metal, so only lightly polish if needed.
    If you see any deep scratches caused by rough spots on the inside of the actionslide, polish off those rough spots. Slightly polish the top and bottom of the action slide where it rubs against the frame.
  1. Before reassembly, clean off all dust, filings etc. I use spray cleaners such as a cheap carburetor cleaner. Then I spray in oil such as Rem Oil, CLP or your favorite, to be sure the metal is not dry as subject to rust.

  2. When reassembling the gun, check the cartridge stop screws. I had one gunwhere the left screw was too long and it was rubbing against the action slide.

  3. After the gun is assembled, but before you install the stock, check the triggerstop. You can reach the screw with the stock off.
    Screw in the screw until the trigger will not release the hammer. Then unscrew until the hammer falls.
    Then hold the trigger back and let the hammer fall, continue to hold the trigger back and slowly cock the hammer. IF you feel the trigger catching on any surface, slightly unscrew the trigger stop and try again. Sometimes the trigger will be rubbing against the hammer and cause wear or misfires.

  4. Concerning the stock, you may want to shorten (or possibly lengthen) it for the proper length of pull (LOP).
    Many shooters find that a slightly shorter stock helps them to load effectively. A general recommendation is a 12.5 inch length of pull (of course the stock would be less than that). But this would vary by shooter. I have short arms so I cut mine to 12 inches. The LOP is not exactly proper for shooting, but works much better for me when loading.

(These instructions do not cover the ejection of shells since tuning the left and right ejectors is kind of an art. An art that I have not perfected. Sorry 'bout that.) But many have merely replaced the parts and they have worked well for them. It hasn't always worked for me...

For Disassembly Go Here

For Assembly Instructions Go Here

To advice me of any needed corrections please email me at

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