There is a timeless appeal to the Model 1887 lever action shotgun, and this latest rendering of the famed Winchester scattergun made by AmriSport Chiappa offers a great many modern-day advantages — some of which didn’t exist in the 1880s when the original Winchester was the most feared shotgun on the American Frontier.
Given the exceptional quality of the Chiappa 1887 and its authentic detail, fit, and finish the most important difference between it and an original, aside from collector value, is the capability of loading this modern version with low recoil defensive shot shells such as Federal Premium Reduced Recoil 9-pellet Tactical Buckshot and Remington Law Enforcement Reduced Recoil Rifled Slugs. Back in the day of the originals there was only full load black powder buckshot with a kick like a mule.
A true sawed-off shotgun with both a shortened barrel and cut down stock, is easy to maneuver in close quarters, and in a sudden encounter, presents less of an opportunity for an attacker to block or disarm by grabbing the barrel. The sawed off 1887 stock configuration also makes it easier to use a strong side butt stroke in close quarters self defense as there is no shoulder stock for an assailant to block and the you have the full force of your body behind that rounded off walnut knob.
For the best performance with a sawed off shotgun the use of low recoil ammunition is highly recommended because the last thing you need is heavy recoil, whether it is an 1887 lever gun or a brand new Mossberg pump with a pistol grip. In discussions with ammunition experts the order in which shotshells are selected and loaded in a repeating shotgun, be it pump, semi-auto, or lever action, is dependent upon specific needs. For the Chiappa 12 gauge lever action, which holds five rounds in the magazine, options should utilize only low recoil shot shells. One formula is to first load two 2¾ length 00 buckshot, followed by two rifled slugs, and last (the first round that will be chambered) a heavy 2¾-inch birdshot load like No. 8. This can also be substituted for BB shot (devastating power but low penetration through walls). The No. 8 or BB shot at close range is going to do a lot of damage and probably end the confrontation, either putting a home invader on the ground or forcing a retreat. No. 8 and BB shot is almost the shotgun equivalent of a frangible bullet with little likelihood of penetrating the target or the walls behind, if you miss. If that fails the next two rounds chambered are rifled slugs, which will knock anyone off their feet with a hit to center body mass. However, a slug is only one 1-ounce lead round, so you have to hit the target, and it is amazing how easy it can be to miss, even at close range. Going to the 00 buckshot ups the capability from one large pellet to nine of approximately .33 caliber size. The other option is to load No. 4 buckshot (24 pellets) for a greater spread.
Another proven theory is to load three 00 buckshot and two low velocity, low recoil rifled slugs for the first two rounds that will be chambered. A hit with a 2¾-inch slug usually stops the fight. If not, there is still the 00 buckshot. The idea in any loading scenario is to end the confrontation as quickly as possible. There is one other option that stems from law enforcement, and that is to make the first round a Law Enforcement Concussion shell (powder only, no pellets; such as Federal Premium Flash Bang shells) to disorient an intruder1. The combined sound and concussion at close range would put most home invaders on their knees, and there is almost no risk of collateral damage. And lest we forget that unmistakable sound of a round being chambered into any lever action weapon? That would give most clear thinking individuals with any sense of self-preservation reason to retreat before the first shot is even fired.
On the subject of thinking clearly, keep a good electronic noise-reducing headset by your shotgun. These allow enhanced hearing of normal sounds but instantly block loud sounds such as a pistol, rifle or shotgun discharge up to 20 decibels. This is a good safety measure to protect you from the same disorienting effects (noise) of a shotgun discharge in close quarters, while not decreasing one’s ability to detect ambient sounds.