With its 3-inch chambers, the Winchester Select 101 is suitable for waterfowl hunting, but it is an upland gun at heart. It weighs only 6 pounds, 12 ounces with 26-inch barrels, andonly 7 pounds with 28-inch barrels. That is lighter than any current, comparably priced 16-gauge double. It’s even lighter than my single-barrel Browning Auto-5 Sweet 16, which weighs a tad more than 7 pounds.
The Select 101 is the modern incarnation of Winchester’s beloved Model 101, which was made in Japan by Olin Kodensha from 1963 to 1987. The original was available in 12-, 20- and 28-gauge, in many configurations. Durable and ruggedly handsome, the Kodensha 101 points and swings gracefully, but it is heavy and has a reputation for formidable recoil.
Made by Fabrique Nationale, Winchester's Select 101 looks similar to the original 101, but its lines are actually nearer to those of Browning's legendary Superposed, merging the heritage of two storied and beloved over/unders.
In 2000, after a 13-year absence in the over/under arena, Winchester introduced a new line of over/under shotguns made in Belgium by Fabrique Nationale. Its name was “Supreme.” A “101” omission deliberately disassociated the Supreme from its successful predecessor.
Winchester promoted the Supreme as being better than the 101, but a nostalgic shooting media could not resist making comparisons. I recall an article in a national magazine in which an exasperated Winchester executive told a writer that the Supreme would make him forget all about “that (101) number.”
Public reception was cool despite the Supreme’s excellent quality. The Supreme’s quirky styling proved too radical a departure, and its Schnabel forearm accentuated its European origin.
Winchester identifies its Select 101 with sharp, tasteful engraving on the bottom of the receiver.
The Supreme’s insurmountable stylistic offense, however, was its garish textured indentations “oval checkering” on the forearm and grip in lieu of traditional checkering. The finger pads resembled fish gills and serrated the gun’s horizontal lines. The circular, three-dimensional lines of its scalloped receiver completed an inelegant, asymmetrical effect.Furthermore, the Supreme was too similar to Remington’s ill-fated Premier over/under from the same period, which also sported a Schnabel and scalloped receiver.
Instead of punting, Winchester quietly channeled tradition by evolving the “Supreme” into the “Select.” The atonement was sincere because Winchester also restored the original 101’s styling, but not quite. It’s actually closer to the Superposed, which completes the FN heritage loop.
Gradually, the tapered Schnabel yielded to more traditional lines, and tasteful, 20-line per inch checkering replaced the “gills.”
Ejectors on the Winchester Select 101 purge spent hulls with authority.
I held a Winchester Select 101 at a national sporting goods store. I loved how it shouldered, pointed and swung. Having owned an original 101, and also a Nikko 5000 (the 101’s more elegant twin), my reference points were true. The Select 101 is lighter and feels more nimble.
Theretail chain’s versionwas competitively priced, but the muddy wood finish and the delicate engraving on the receiver suggested a distinct “store brand” aura.
A web surfing safari in August 2018 led me to a new standard field grade with the features I wanted for about $1,000 less. My cost, including shipping, was $1,146.
A retro high-gloss finish accentuates well-figured burled walnut. The deep engraving on a deeply blued receiver combines the scrolled style of the old 101 and the Superposed. A White Line Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad adds a 1960s-style touch as well.
To maintain the 16-gauge comparison, I test fired 2¾-inch target loads that are comparable to standard 16-gauge field loads. They were Estate 1-ounce, No. 7½ and Remington Premier STS Light Target with 1⅛-ounce of No. 7½.
Chambered for 2¾- and 3-inch shells and equipped with Invector Plus chokes, the Winchester Select 101 is a versatile shotgun for upland bird hunting and target shooting.
With only a T-shirt for padding, the Winchester Select 101 was sharp against my shoulder. I am sensitive to recoil when test firing, but it was imperceptible when shooting at clay targets, which the Select 101 obliterated consistently.
My standard waterfowl apparel comprised of a thermal base layer, T-shirt, fleece pullover, parka and 5mm Neoprene waders dampened the recoil from 3-inch waterfowl loads.
Nevertheless, I have waterfowl-specific semiautomatic shotguns that are better suited for magnum firepower, and their synthetic stocks are better suited for the abusive waterfowl hunting environments where I want magnum firepower. For me, the Select 101 is strictly an upland gun. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, so when it comes to shotshells 3-inch-level recoil in this platform is simply not a consideration for me.
The Winchester 101 Select is threaded for Invector Plus choke tubes, and it comes with three in Full, Modified and Improved Cylinder. With Skeet tubes, it is outstanding for skeet, dove and woodcock.
Winchester would enrapture a significant market segment if it ever makes a 16-gauge version of the Select 101. Until then, a fine 12-gauge that carries like a 20 is good enough for me.
Bryan Hendricks, an avid shotgunner, is the Outdoors Editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, Arkansas. He also served eight years with Missouri Department of Conservation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. He has credits in more than 1,000 articles in nearly 80 publications worldwide.