Equipping for disaster

Review: Century Arms/Zhang Zhou PW-87

By Blaise Uriarte

The Basics:

In this review, I have a Chinese made recreation of the 1887 lever action shotgun designed by John Moses Browning for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The original gun was chambered for either 12 or 10 gauge black powder shells.

Winchester and Browning redesigned the 1887 for smokeless shells, and released it as the model 1910. The model 1910 also had a locking mechanism, so the lever would not disengage from battery when the shooter did not want to cycle the action. This reproduction features a similar locking mechanism to the 1910.

At first glance this appears to be a fine weapon. The walnut stock is very attractive, while the bluing is also deep and rich. However the words “Zhang-Zhou Machine Works China” are crudely stamped on the receiver, ruining the otherwise good looks of the gun.

The Ammo:

This gun is only chambered for 2 ¾ inch shells. The barrel also indicates that the use of steel shot on this gun is strictly prohibited. Steel shot is typically used for waterfowl, so this is not too much of an issue; however it raises the question of the quality of steel used on this firearm.

Test ammo was Winchester Military Grade Buck shot and Remington Slugger shells.

The Range Test:


Upon opening the action to load the gun I found the internal parts too be very rough in the fit and finish. So much so that, I might say that loading this weapon is a bit painful. Shooting it was not so bad, because the gun is so heavy it helps to keep the recoil down.

After the first round I worked the lever, and found that the spent shell would extract but not eject. No matter how vigorously I worked the lever I had this issue. I had to dig the shell out with my trusty Swiss Army knife. I fired each shell in the magazine, each with this same issue. At this time I switched to the Remington Sluggers, and had the same issue.


At ten yards this was the pattern with 00 buck. Not a great pattern, but not terrible either.

The Pluses/Minuses:

I don’t really like too just demagogue on a piece of equipment, but there really are no pluses to this gun. It is heavy, unwieldy, and doesn’t work. You do not have versatility with your ammunition, because you cannot use steel shot nor 3 inch loads. Loading it is unwieldy at best, and if you have to pry the spent shell casing out of the chamber in a fight, you might as well use it as a club. As a matter of fact, that is about what this shotgun is good for, especially so, since it is unnecessarily heavy.


I would have to recommend that if you are planning on using this gun for home defense, hunting, or defense against the undead that you do not purchase this gun. I find this gun makes a handsome paperweight, but not much else otherwise. At the price point of $350, you can most assuredly find a working shotgun for your kit. Avoid this weapon, unless you have no other choice. As always, stay vigilante and be prepared.

3 replies »

  1. Excellent review! I bought one of these for $250 a couple years back and my experience with a slightly wider variety of shells was largely the same. I detail stripped it (NOT for the faint of heart and something I swore I’d never do again), polished all the bearing surfaces, greased the right spots, etc. Upon reassembly (you need three hands, four eyes, the patience of Job and the vocabulary of an angry, drunken sailor) it still won’t feed reliably. Every once in a while, as in at best a statistical anomaly, it’ll feed a round or two correctly. I haven’t given up, figuring on my old standby of “Polishing Via Heavy Use,” but am still working on growing enough callouses on my thumb and fingers to make that less of a blood-letting experience for me. I’d have passed this thing on or turned it into a Steam Punk prop long ago but … darn it … they had to go and make it so darn BEAUTIFUL with the finished wood and deeply blued steel. — Low marks on the piece for now, but I have not given up hope.

  2. I slightly polished the chamber mouth on mine with a high speed drill and an old brass brush. A thick one. Its so very slow going as the brush is not best suited for this, but I will tell you that it worked so far. I also noticed that the left extractor was not sharp enough, and was not cast cleanly enough to allow it to grip the rim on the casing positively. After I took care of those two issues for the most part, I can get through around 20 rounds before I feel that lever start to get a bit tougher to operate. Mind you I just started trying to tune this thing, and I know it needs more work. Its good fun for me and the gun is already so much better. Should one have to tune a finished product like this? No. But, its been fun for me. I have no issues with ejection until the mag is empty and I have fired the last round. The last round usually stovepipes. Its not 100%, but I will take it for now!

  3. The first few rounds were spotty. Some extracted, some didn’t. After about 200 rounds of “low brass”, it functions fine. As in the originals, you have to work the action just right to have it work right.
    Also, keep an eye on the reciever screw on the right side. It tends to loosen. Maybe some blue loctite qould help.

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