Uberti Winchester 1885 Low Wall
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- Last updated: 04/02/2017
John Moses Browning was one of the greatest firearms inventers of all time and became one of the most respected designers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the time he started working with the Winchester they were well established as a major lever-action rifle producer. However, what they needed to expand their portfolio was a large calibre single shot model to compete with the likes of the 1874 model Sharps.
John Browning and his brothers were producing just such a rifle in their small shop in Ogden, Utah and a visit from a Winchester representative resulted in a contract being drawn up in mid-1883. This assigned to Winchester a patent for the single shot rifle, the upshot being he agreed not to make any more rifles and paid Winchester to finish the 125 sets of castings that they had on hand.
At factory a few minor alterations were made, most significant of which was changing the integral lower tang to a detachable version. Manufacturing began shortly afterwards and the rifle was introduced as the 1885, but called the ‘Single Shot Model’ in Winchester catalogues.
Winchester produced the new rifle in a variety of calibres, from .22 rimfire to .50 calibre centre fire, the greatest range of any of their products. They also offered two distinct receiver designs, known as the High Wall, in which the sides of the frame covered the breech block and all but the hammer spur, and the Low Wall, in which more of these parts were visible. For a production run of 35-years, from 1885 until 1920, 120,000 to 130,000 units were produced and established Winchester did more than make lever-actions!
Uberti, well known for their fine historical reproduction firearms offers the 1885, but with fewer options. However, there’s a choice of calibres to suit the interests of most shooters, from the diminutive .22 that we have here to the powerful .45/120 centre fire.
Both high and low wall versions are available along with three barrel lengths/ profiles; a 28” round barrel carbine in high wall configuration, with 30 and 32” octagonal tubes in both frame types. The Special Sporting model, which we have here, has a semi-pistol grip and chequering to the grip and forearm. Carbines are equipped with a straight ‘shotgun’ butt whereas the others have a typical Winchester crescent fitting. The butt plate on this model is plain, whereas the larger calibre versions have a sliding trapdoor over a cut out to take a three or four-piece cleaning rod.
Though large and heavy by today’s standards this 30” model is surprisingly well balance! The trigger guard/lever looked a bit ‘different’ on this rifle, as well as the fact that it had double set triggers. Let me explain, inside the guard are two trigger levers (one behind the other), the front trips the hammer with what is a standard pull weight, while the one at the rear is used to set the front to a lighter release. Henry Krank’s catalogue showed these to be something of a ‘special’ feature found on the Schuetzen version. The American walnut exhibits Uberti’s standard high gloss finish and the chequering is nicely presented.
The receiver, lever, hammer and breechblock – are colour case-hardened with the barrel, butt plate and small parts being a nice gloss black. Wood to metal fit is excellent and with almost no gaps. The rear sight is the ubiquitous semi buckhorn with elevator wedge found on many of these 19th century rifles and the front is a tapered blade on a base, which is fitted with a locking screw should you wish to alter the windage. This set up is adequate for short range, but for the larger calibre, longer-range models the top tang is drilled and tapped for the fitting of an optional Creedmoor/aperture sight, which could be mated with a tunnel-type at the muzzle.
The action is both simple and strong, dropping the lever requires a little more pressure and gives a positive click as it pushes the hammer back to half cock and activates the ejector. Load the cartridge until the rim touches the ejector and raise the lever, whereupon a slope in the upper face of the block feeds it into the breach. Pull the hammer back to full cock and you are ready to go.
The set trigger works very well, out of the box it measured 10 oz and I was happy to leave it at that! It’s adjustable via a screw in between the two levers. As would be expected, the recoil is extremely mild in 22 and that long barrel keeps the muzzle down. Gently lowering the lever after firing brings the spent case far enough out to remove with your fingers, do it faster and you can get full ejection. In use this simple system worked faultlessly throughout. Several brands of ammunition were tried with little variation, although the CCI Minimag would probably just edge the others. I was fairly happy with a sub-2” group at 50-yards without a rest but better sights would doubtless improve on that.
In this guise, even with the set triggers, the rifle could not be said to be a ‘target’ model, but probably fits more into the ‘plinking’ field. Single shots are relaxing to shoot and this is one that you could play with all day without getting bored. It’s a great classic design, very well executed by Uberti. The double set trigger is listed on one Internet site as a regular option, so it would be well to check the availability with the distributor.
If rimfire is not your choice, then I’m sure you can find something a little more to your liking in the dozen or so calibres listed in the Krank catalogue.
CONTACT: Henry Krank, 0113 256 9163, www.henrykrank.com