I grew up in a Winchester family. Winchester-Remington was like Ford-Chevy, Republican-Democrat or Catholic-Lutheran where I grew up. My best friends and neighbors the Fink boys, were democrat, Ford, Remington nuts, what's worse is they went full bore using semi-auto shotguns for duck hunting. Our family was more conservative, My dad drove an Oldsmobile, voted republican and shot Winchesters, Model 94 lever actions on the ranch, Model 70 .257 Roberts for deer hunting and the trusty old Model 12 for small game and birds, he wouldn't dream of using a finicky auto in the marsh over the proven pump gun. The thing is my Dad never duck hunted while that was the whole world to the Finks, so I was heavily influenced by them when I started duck hunting at 15. Here's a pic of me at 15 with Dave Fink's (he was 12) Savage Stevens .410/22 over under.
A year later my Dad surprised me with my fist gun. Though he and I would spend hours reading the Shooters Bible, endlessly pouring over the ballistics tables and arguing the merits of the 30-06 versus the .270 for deer size game, checking out all the guns and dreaming about our perfect arsenal, we somehow missed the big news that things had drastically changed at Winchester the prior year, this was 1965. So my dad meaning to buy me a Model 12 was forced into the new and improved Model 1200. Regardless I loved that gun and shot very well with it right out of the box. It was a field grade 12 gauge with 28" modified barrel and vent rib. I shot three pheasants with my first three shots, a year later on a dove hunt in Arizona I shot nine straight, missed one then got my tenth (a limit) with my next shot. I also got my first double on ducks with it that first duck season. All that said, I started comparing it to the solid steel, beautifully machined Model 12, and even the much less finished, solid "ordinance steel" 870, and became disillusioned with the 1200. So I sold it to a guy to buy an 870.
My Dad and I drove down to Pachmyers in downtown LA and ended up buying a nice used 870 TB that came with two barrels, a 30" full choke that would be my pass shooting duck barrel and a 26" modified that I used for upland and decoying ducks. The gun was 2-3/4" which I didn't consider a handicap even though the Fink boys now had 3" Magnum Remington 1100's. This trap grade with standard stock dimensions had upgraded wood and was very nice. I still have it to this day. It was a better built gun than the 1200 and better looking too, but I never shot it as well as that good old 1200. That 1200 just fit me better. I learned to shoot the 870 and killed many limits of ducks over the years, but I had just learned to adapt to the gun, it wasn't a natural fit. That truth became evident some thirty years later when I was hunting with Neil. it was afternoon and we were picking up. Neil was out wading to pick up decoys while I was on shore putting gear away. A flight of mallards swung in as they only do with everyone standing out in the open and no gun in hand. I looked around saw Neil's old beat up 1200 laying against a log, picked it up and shot a double out of the flock without thinking.
Now that I'm older and have a little more means I own way too many shotguns, a few nice over under's, Parker and Lefever side by sides, 870s, my Dad's 16 ga. Model 12 and more than I can think of off the top of my head, but there is something to be said for sticking with the gun that fits you best. I wish I still had that plain Jane Model 1200.