Pedersoli winchester 1886/7 lever action
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- Last updated: 26/01/2017
The Winchester Repeating Arms Company is synonymous with lever action rifles, seen in a myriad of movies and TV shows and observed today on the shooting line in many cowboy action shooting matches, in both original and reproduction examples.
John Moses Browning began his association with the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. when the company purchased the manufacturing rights to his design for a rifle which the arms company subsequently introduced as their Single Shot Rifle or Model 1885. Following quickly on the heels of the acceptance of his first offering, Browning submitted his design for a powerful lever action model. After some improvements by Winchester’s own William Mason, a former Colt employee who played a large part in the development of the Peacemaker, the new rifle was offered to the public as the Model 1886. This new rifle was a dramatic improvement over earlier Winchester lever actions and was available in a number of big game chamberings from .33W.C.F. to .50-110 Express, which made it popular with big game hunters, not only in America but also Africa. One of its great admirers was hunter, rancher and soonto- be president Theodore Roosevelt. The key to the Model 1886’s improvements over its predecessor, the model 1876, was in the strength of the improved bolt and its locking mechanism, using twin vertical locking bolts. The frame was shorter than the two previous models and gone were the removable side plates, giving it a more streamlined appearance. A new three-piece loading gate was incorporated to allow for the longer cartridges for which the rifle was chambered.
The Model 1886 was available as a carbine, rifle or musket and a new innovation was the ‘take down’ version, with the gun coming apart at the front end of the receiver. With a production run lasting some 49 years (1886-1935) the total number of pieces manufactured was relatively small at 160,000. In 1935 Winchester made a modification to the frame of this rifle and it was renamed the Model 71 and offered in only one calibre, the .348 Winchester. Pistol grip stocks and a 3/4 length magazine were standard along with a choice of 20 or 24 inch barrel. By the time the model was discontinued in 1957 a little over 47,000 guns had been produced.
With their expertise in manufacturing large calibre single shot rifles it seems natural that Pedersoli should choose to produce the Winchester 1886 as their only lever action model to date, and offer it in a classic Western chambering. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I challenge anyone to say that this Pedersoli is not a beautiful looking rifle. This model surely does look streamlined when compared to the earlier 1873 and 1876 models, and I do not think I have seen such a high gloss finish on any reproduction firearm over the last 25 years. Open the box and everything about the look of this rifle shouts class. Showing it to a non-shooting friend his comment was: “That’s too nice to shoot!” But it was made for shooting and shoot it we would, albeit with a great deal of care.
All of the metal work is a very deep black, with the receiver being especially glossy. The two pieces of walnut have what appears to be an oiled, semi-gloss finish and both are nicely checkered, the pistol grip being finished with a metal cap. Wood to metal finish is 99.9% with the tiniest perception of movement in the forearm. The butt is topped off with a nice rubber pad which proved very welcome during shooting, a measured improvement on the standard Winchester curved metal plate for these large calibres. Oddly enough, for a rifle with a strong Western flavour, this pad does not look out of place. The rifle is fitted with two QD rings for the attachment of sling swivels lending weight to the argument that this is intended probably more as a hunting rifle than a target arm. Sights are fairly basic with the typical semi-buckhorn rear which allows for elevation and lateral adjustment. The front features a base screwed to the barrel and having a sloping, serrated front edge leading up to a blade with a brass bead on top. This unit is covered with a removable hood. The rear has a square notch in the blade and the sight picture is quite good.
While the top tang is not tapped for the usual Creedmore-type sight, there are a couple of options for improvement in this area. The top of the bolt has a couple of slots and holes for the fitting of a small aperture sight, while the top of the barrel shows two tapped holes filled with screws (there may be one or more under that rear sight too) that allow for the fitting of a scope base. A check on the Pedersoli web site will show you photographs of these two options fitted to a rifle.
The curved operating lever looks much smaller than the standard straight version but in actual fact accommodated the various hand sizes of all who handled the rifle. It does feel a shade more uncomfortable than the usual lever, particularly at first when the action was a little stiff. There was a noticeable improvement in the operation as the day wore on so maybe the comfort would pick up too.
Bring the gun up to the shoulder and it feels really comfortable with its 14¼ inch pull length and a reasonably high comb meaning there is no need to tilt the head to pick up the sights. Trigger pull was around the 5¾lbs mark and broke cleanly. So, we have a rifle that looks good and feels good – let’s go and shoot it.
As stated earlier this gun looks set up for hunting so it is one lever action that you will not see at a Western shoot. I have to say that hunting is not my idea of sport and I could not look down a rifle barrel and shoot a wild animal unless I was starving. However, each to his own. From what I read this cartridge – the .45/70 Government – is well-suited to short range big game work or boar hunting but I restricted my use to killing pieces of paper and it did an admirable job!
The shorter than normal magazine holds five rounds and I loaded it to capacity only once to check the feed, not that I doubted it would be flawless. After that I fed the rounds singly through the ejection port, an operation made simple by the Winchester’s top ejection design. I figured it would not take too many of these large cartridges to mark that nice finish on the loading gate!
I have a single shot rifle in this calibre so always have some ammunition in the cabinet, usually some black powder and some smokeless. The smokeless on hand was a mild combination of a 405 grain bullet with 12.5 grains of Trail Boss powder, running out at around 1000fps, quite adequate for up to 100 yards, and at half that distance my best three shot group was a tad over three inches. Although the gun weighs in at only 7½lbs that rubber recoil pad did its job admirably and felt recoil was about the same as my much heavier Sharps repro.
The addition of the optional sights would no doubt help to reduce group size, particularly in the hands of a more capable shooter. I am a big fan of lever action rifles and were it not for the fact that I have the above mentioned Sharps in this calibre I might consider adding one of these to my safe. Although this is a relatively expensive piece of kit for what would be, for me, a ‘fun gun’, it is quality all the way and would doubtless be giving someone else years of pleasure long after it was prised from my cold dead fingers.
PRICE: £1145.00 *
DISTRIBUTOR: Henry Krank 01132 569 163, www.henrykrank.com