Icon Logo Gun Mart

Uberti Winchester 1885

Uberti Winchester 1885

Over the years, the Winchester name has become associated with lever-action rifles to the point that the uninitiated will call any lever-gun ‘a Winchester’, due in no small way to the use of Winchesters and clones in the movies. The company indeed built its reputation on the production of lever rifles and shotguns, but there have been other notable guns that have borne the famous name, not least of which is the model initially named by the company as ‘The Single Shot Rifle’.
Whilst competitors were quick to take advantage of the .45-70 government cartridge, introduced in 1873, by producing single-shot rifles in this calibre, Winchester doggedly stuck to what they knew best - lever guns. Their first attempt at competing in the big bore market was the Model 1876 ‘Centennial’ rifle, which was little more than an enlarged Model 1873. Despite being in production for around 20 years, a relatively small number left the factory. Hampered by the perceived weakness of the toggle link action, and a frame too short to accept the .45-70 government cartridge, the 1876 was offered in only four calibres. It would be almost another decade before Winchester was able to compete on a level playing field with the other manufacturers.

Enter John Browning
In September 1880, Victor King was granted a US patent for an improvement in a cartridge loading tool, which he immediately assigned to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Representatives from Winchester paid a visit to the Browning brothers’ shop in Ogden, Utah in May of 1883, as it had been discovered that the brothers were infringing this patent by manufacturing a similar tool. An agreement was reached whereby Browning could, on payment of one dollar to Winchester, complete the 125 castings that they had on hand, with the understanding they would produce no more.
The meeting would turn out to be extremely fortuitous for Winchester as it turned out to be the beginning of a lucrative partnership between the two companies. At the time of Winchester’s visit, the Browning brothers were working on a single-shot rifle designed by John Browning. Seeing the potential in the gun to compete with the big bore rifles of other manufacturers, Winchester purchased the manufacturing rights and, after some slight modifications, introduced the gun to the public in 1885 as the Single Shot Rifle, which, like the company’s lever guns, soon became known by the year of introduction as the Model 1885.

story continues below...

Long production run
Beginning with serial number 1, by the time production ceased in 1920, some 139,725 units had left the factory, offering the shooters of the day and the collectors of today a vast variety of features with regard to calibres (the largest variety in the history of Winchester firearms), barrel lengths and weights, stocks, and a host of differences in minor parts.
There are two frame types, the high wall, and the low wall, with the former concealing the breech block and all but the tip of the hammer. The low wall model, as its name implies, has a lower profile to the receiver and the breech block and hammer are clearly visible.
Three years after Winchester purchased the rights to this rifle, they began offering another John Browning design, which was the gun they really wanted, the Model 1886, a lever-action rifle that could handle the .45-70 government cartridge.

Simple but strong
Just like Winchester, Uberti offers both the High Wall and Low Wall versions of this rifle (there are 31 options on the Henry Krank website). The Low Wall offers a more limited range, being available in only seven small calibres, two of which are rimfire. The High Wall version, an example of which we have here in Special Sporting guise, caters more for the larger calibres up to the potent .405 Winchester, but some of the larger examples may only be available to order, with a (long) wait for delivery.
The ‘Special’ designation refers to the pistol grip stock, with chequering around this area and on the forend. The wood is plain walnut with the standard Uberti high gloss finish. The chequering is well executed, and the wood-to-metal fit is very good. The grip is very comfortable, with a basic trigger guard, better, in my opinion, than the longer guard fitted to models that have double set triggers. While this is a fairly long rifle, it is very well balanced, although, at a shade over 10.5 lbs, it does not lend itself to extended periods of offhand shooting. The frame, top and bottom tangs, trigger, and trigger guard have decent case colours, as do the two vertical locking lugs. These lugs provide this simple action with its strength and the feature was carried over into the Model 1886 and subsequent Model 1892 lever-action Winchesters. 
The tapered 30” octagonal barrel has a glossy black finish and precise edges. It features six-groove rifling with a 1:12” twist. The crescent-shaped steel butt plate is also black and is fitted with a sliding trapdoor covering a recess to accommodate the optional 5-piece brass cleaning rod. The sights are fairly basic, and the same setup can be found on other Uberti models. The rear is a semi-buckhorn that’s dovetailed into the barrel, and it can be drifted left or right, with a sliding, stepped elevator to cater for vertical adjustment. At the front end is a tapered blade, also dovetailed, which can be moved for lateral tweaking and is locked in place with a small screw. This setup is adequate for shorter distances but longer ranges would be better served with an optional long-range tang rear (the top tang is drilled and tapped for this purpose) and one of the tunnel front sights that employ changeable inserts. 
The whole package is well finished and put together, and the Model 1885, viewed in profile, offers the cleanest lines around the action of any of the reproduction single-shot rifles on the market. 

Still around
The .38-55 cartridge was developed and introduced in 1884 by Ballard, and several manufacturers offered rifles in this calibre, including Marlin, Colt, Stevens, Remington, and as we see here, Winchester, who later used this case as a basis for their first smokeless cartridge, the .30-30, in 1894. Dropped from the Winchester catalogue in 1940, it was later re-introduced and is now available in reproduction rifles from Uberti and Pedersoli. The advent of Cowboy Action Shooting in the USA may have helped to resurrect this old timer. Created initially as a target cartridge, the .38-55 has proved itself to be a capable deer number when loaded to velocities of over 1,500 fps.
My reviews of centrefire models are generally carried out at a distance of 100 yards, so powder charges are reasonably light. In this instance, I used 6.9-grains of Trail Boss powder (sadly no longer available) behind a 250-grain RNFP bullet cast from a Lee mould (#90324), with ignition from Fiocchi large rifle primers, and the whole ensemble wrapped in Starline brass. This combination, along with the weight of the rifle, provided very moderate recoil and reasonable accuracy, the latter probably more down to the shooter than the gun, so results will differ between operators. Varying the powder charge and/or type will also affect your results, but my Yorkshire breeding instils in me the desire to keep costs down, more so with today’s prices!

Nice and easy does it
The action on this rifle is very smooth. The long ‘tail’ on the trigger guard provides a purchase for your thumb to push the lever down, which drops the breech block and hammer below the bore level, low enough for you to slide a cartridge into the breech, the concave top of the block forming a channel to aid this. Bringing the lever back up, you will find the hammer is at half cock, so pull back to full cock and you are ready to go. The trigger is fairly light, with no creep and a crisp break. Drop the lever after shooting and the extractor, a small lever on the left of the breech, brings the empty case far enough back for you to pull it out with your fingers. Raising the muzzle slightly above the horizontal, and dropping the lever a bit more smartly, will throw the empty case clear.
I’ve said before that I find shooting single-shot rifles rather relaxing (I often shoot my bolt action magazine rifles the same way) and it does not take long to get into a steady, unhurried rhythm. With very little to cause a problem, the Model 1885 performed faultlessly, and it seemed no time (actually a couple of hours) before I had gone through almost 100 rounds. Time flies when you are enjoying yourself!
Cleaning is very easy, as the open channel allows you to get a rod with accessories and/or a bore snake into the barrel from the breech end.
The Henry Krank catalogue shows variations of the rifle with 28” and 32” barrels, along with an interesting ‘Courtney’ stalking rifle in .303” British.

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Uberti Winchester 1885 - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • click on image to enlarge

gun
features

  • Name: : Uberti Winchester 1885
  • Calibre::  .38-55
  • Barrel Length:: 30”
  • Overall Length::  46.5”
  • Weight::  10.5 lbs
  • Length of Pull: : 14”
  • Price::  £1139.00
  • Contact::  Henry Krank - www.henrykrank.com
Arrow