Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
The Winchester 1300 Defender has an old-world charm to it. It’s something we don’t see much these days, but it shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the Winchester Repeating Arms company. The classic American gun maker might still exist in name, but its glory days seem long gone. Winchester has two distinctive generations. We have its era as the lever gun company and its second era as the shotgun company.
Winchester produced the first successful pump action shotgun and continued to perfect the design along with the Model 12 and later the Model 1200, but finally concluding their reign with the Winchester Model 1300 shotgun. Although the 1300 is the accumulation of several small changes to the Winchester 1200 and not necessarily a distinctly different gun.
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The 1200 and 1300 series were designed to compete with the Remington 870s and Model 500s of the world. They required less skilled labor and craftsmanship than the Model 12 and were easier to mass produce. At the same time, these guns are a step above the Remingtons and Mossbergs of the world. They were quite successful and came in a number of different configurations, including the aptly named model.
The Defender Difference
Winchester built the Model 1300 to be a general-purpose shotgun. They produced models focused on hunting deer and birds, turkey models, slug guns, and the Defender model we are discussing today. Winchester picked a great name for a defensive shotgun. The Defender was built for tactical use, mainly aimed at police, military, and home defense markets.
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The Defender sports a standard 18.5-inch barrel and a magazine tube that extends the entire length of the barrel. This allows you to hold seven rounds in the magazine tube. For tactical use, shorter is better, and so is more ammunition. A simple bead sight tops the barrel, and we get the furniture you expect from a tactical shotgun developed in 1964. Meaning no black plastic. It’s pure wood and arguably looks fantastic.
Other than that, it’s not much different from other Winchester 1300s. It lacks the fancy texturing of the Deer Slug models and is not optics-ready. The gun is plain, but shotguns can be quite plain and remain effective. If you want to replace the stock and pump with polymer goodness, that’s possible, but the wood has too much charm to get rid of it.
Old School Ergonomics
Pump action shotguns haven’t changed much since the 1960s and 70s. That’s where the dominant designs still come from, and the Winchester 1300 still keeps up with guns like the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 series. We get a simple cross-bolt safety that’s in front of the trigger and a rather small pump release behind the trigger.
The pump is a little dinky and surprisingly small for a tactical shotgun. It’s a corncob design that is quite small. It’s still easy to grab and use, but compared to most guns, it’s rather small. Heck, even compared to other models of the Winchester 1300. My Winchester Deer Slug gun’s pump is quite a bit larger than the Defender’s model.
The stock has that 14-inch length of pull that we are used to with these old guns. It’s fairly long for modern shooters. A big, thick recoil pad might help soften things. The Defender models lack any fancy checkering around the grips, and it’s just a straight wood stock.
You won’t be impressed by the gun’s ergonomics if you’ve ever handled nearly any other pump shotgun. The Winchester 1300 doesn’t stand out in any way. The ergonomics aren’t excellent, but they are functional and useable.
One stand out is how easily everything glides and pops into place. The action is slick and smooth. Thumbing rounds into the tubular magazine is very smooth, and the shell elevator moves out of the way with very little effort. Winchester certainly built these guns well and didn’t skimp on their quality control.
The Defender At the Range
The Defender seems pretty standard compared to most other pump-action shotguns. Where it does stand out is the use of a rotating bolt. Shotgunners will know that the Benelli SuperNova and Nova utilize a rotating bolt, but Winchester did it first. The rotating bolt does two things for us. First, it exerts rotation force on the shell along with rearward force, which could help with a hull that might otherwise get stuck.
The second benefit is the speed pump design. After you fire the gun, the pump wants to automatically unlock and even slightly pushes the pump and action rearward oh so slightly. This, combined with the slick pump action, makes this a blazingly fast pump action gun. You can rock and roll with this gun a good bit faster than others. Against the clock, it might only be fractions of the second, but those fractions can matter. It’s fun to see just how fast you can run the gun’s seven rounds.
The textured pump provides enough texture to run the pump quickly. It is small, but the texture allows you to grip it tightly and surely. You can run the action and control the gun. I would like a bigger pump with some more material on the rear to make it less of a reach, but it’s workable. The biggest challenge comes from the long length of pull, which makes it tough to square up behind the gun.
Riding the Recoil
Recoil from a 12 gauge pump gun doesn’t change much. You can get a hefty dose of it if you aren’t using the right recoil mitigation techniques. My chosen technique is to push the pump forward while pulling rearward with the stock. This creates tension, which stabilizes the gun and helps defeat recoil.
The Defender’s front grip provides enough texture for an easy push forward. The rear pistol grip has enough of a hook to pull it nicely into your shoulder. With these techniques in place, I kept the gun from getting too far ahead of me. I had enough control the recoil pad didn’t matter much.
The bead isn’t big, and it’s welded directly to the barrel. Even so, there isn’t a noticeable issue with the point of impact and the point of aim. It hits a little high with slugs, but this is a buckshot gun. With buckshot, it’s dead on and hits where you’re aiming. Heck, even the trigger is surprisingly nice.
As you’d expect, the Winchester 1300 is as reliable as it gets. A pump action shotgun design from a legendary American company better be functional and reliable. The 1300 eats up whatever you put through it. High brass, low brass, whatever, as long as it’s standard length.
On the Defense
The Winchester Defender series is long gone these days, but not forgotten. They are still common enough to pop up on the used market, and if you can get one for a good price, they are a worthwhile investment. I imagine in the next few years, they’ll start to climb in price, so if you want one, this might be the time to act. They are solid shotguns that still keep up with the current crop of modern pump shotguns.