What Happened Winchester Model 1911 SL? The Widow Maker’s Fate

A recoil-operated and self-loading shotgun, the Model 1911 SL of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company (1911-1925) was the first of the company’s auto loading shotgun.

However, it had issues in the design and it failed to get even closer to the success of competitor Remington Arms and Browning Arms Cos. autoloading shotguns.

In this article, we’ll uncover the fate of the Winchester Model 1911 SL and important information about its flaws.

What Happened Winchester Model 1911 SL

Winchester Model 1911 SL Design Flaws

“Often considered as a real failure in the firearm’s world, the Model 1911 stopped production in 1925 after bad sales and shotgun users favoring the auto 5 by Browning.”

It’s an auto loading shotgun, which was the first of its offerings in this category, from the Winchester Company.

The company rejected the conditions of John Browning, who required payment for royalty, while retaining his rights for the shotgun design.

What Winchester rejected later became the Auto 5 that later became the auto loading shotgun design standard until after WWII.

The company failed to imitate Browning’s design due to patents.

That’s why they needed to adapt it for production without violating any patent.

The Winchester Model 1911 SL Shotgun goes by a lot of names and titles, including being the worst shotgun ever made.

It was because it’s all too easy for the shotgun user to make a mistake in terms of properly loading the gun.

Its barrel was used to charge it wherein the operator should initially have to engage the bolt lock, and then pull the barrel to charge the shotgun.

The barrel had to be cycled to unlock the gun’s chamber in order to insert its shell. Once loading had been accomplished, one would have to disengage its bolt lock before the shotgun would be chambered and it would be ready to use.

This was the design flaw.

Some operators had the mistake of cycling the barrel through putting the weapon’s butt against the floor but without engaging its bolt lock, and then forcing down its barrel.

Thus, it was more likely that the user would fire his own because of the muzzle being pointed towards his face. This couldn’t only injure but also kill the shotgun user.

However, this design flaw of a potential slam fire wasn’t the only mistake in the design it had.

The buffer ring system also failed more often. With recoil of the firearm, the breaking down of such rings just increased more and more once a shell had been fired.

And with every shot, its recoil due to the barrel being slammed over again led to the splitting of the butt stock.

1911 “The Long Recoil Shotgun”

The auto 5 was popular, and Winchester recognized this. That’s why they’d decided to have a semi auto shotgun in their offerings.

Thomas Crossley Johnson, who also designed the Model 12 pump, created the Winchester 1911 SL.

Unfortunately, John Browning patented almost every part of the auto 5, the first ever mass produced semi automatic shotgun that was patented in 1900. The auto 5 was produced by several manufacturers before its production ceased in 1998.

The 1911 SLs are long recoil shotguns that recoil as a unit when a shot is made.

The barrel and bolt locked together and then recoiled as one, hitting the rear’s receiver and then locking the bolt to the gun’s rear, while the shell’s case was held by the gun’s extractor, which is located on the right portion of the bolt.

When the barrel was released, the spring, which was wrapped around the tube of the magazine, pushed it forward.

Meanwhile, the ejector that was on the barrel extension’s left side is what was used to catch the fire hull’s head and to flip out this hull in the shotgun’s ejection port.

The round was released, if there’s any in the magazine, leading the gun’s bolt to drive forward in order to chamber the new round.

Thomas Crossley Johnson used two buffers, which wore out quickly because they were made of compressed cloth, to absorb recoil at the action’s front.

However, this didn’t do anything at all when it comes to the recoil of “the skull cracker.”

[Browning had metal recoil ring patents. That’s why Win 1911 had fibrous recoil rings that often wore out and became damaged. Thus, the resulting recoil was always too much and led to the stock’s cracking following a lot of shots.]

The 1911 also didn’t have a charging handle, which was also patented by Browning, so instead of a charging handle, its barrel had a 3.5” section that was five inches of the magazine cap’s forward section.

To operate the 1911, the operator had to hold its butt against their leg, and then to grip the knurled part before pulling the shotgun barrel’s back. Next, they needed to push its bolt lock located at the action’s rear portion towards the left, with the bolt remaining open.

However, this was unsafe.

As said earlier, some operators mistakenly put the stock’s butt on the ground, with their hand over its muzzle or around the barrel and then they had to push the barrel down so that the bolt could open. This put their face staring straight into the gun’s muzzle.

This could result in negligent discharge when unloading the shotgun, potentially injuring or even killing the user himself. In the past, many souls were claimed by the Widow Maker.

More problems with the 1911

During its time, paper shells were the material of shotgun shells. So when they would be wet, they’d swell obviously, making it difficult for users to unload their shotgun.

Plus, they didn’t have the charging handle, either. Although there was the checkered barrel, it didn’t do much to make operation smooth when removing jammed shells.

In this case, the operator would have to hold its stock against the ground. But then again, the 1911 wasn’t a drop safe gun.

Final Thoughts on the Winchester 1911 SL

The shotgun, which is considered the worst firearm ever produced in history, had a lot of design flaws, which would not only injure but also kill its operator; thus, it’s called the Widow Maker.

The shotgun, which more than 80,000 units were manufactured, wasn’t commercially successful, not even close to the Auto 5. The company ceased its production in 1925 after producing this number in gauges 12, 16, and 20.

While there had been bad gun engineering inventions in the semi auto shotgun world, nothing matched the flaws of the Model 1911.

Even so, the 1911 became an interesting piece of history that a lot of gun aficionados would rather put in the safe than use it in action.

Related Post: