Winchester 1885

Brownings first for Winchester

The Model 1885 High Wall

(foto; Winchester 1885 High-wall Deluxe) 


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True to the spirit of the riders of the frontier, these replica single-shot rifles will delight cowboy enthusiasts and collectors alike.


Winchester's Model 1885 was a tremendously popular design, with nearly 150,000 being manufactured from 1885 to 1920. It was also made in virtually every cartridge chambering that would fit in a rifle.


At least 65 cartridges found their way into the 1885's chamber. Everything from the .22 Rimfire through sixgun cartridges such as the .38-40 and 44-40; "modern" smokeless rounds of .30-30, .303 British, .33 WCF and .35 WCF; buffalo hunting rounds such as .45-90, .45-120, .50-110; the ever popular .45-70; and such all time powerful loads as .405 Winchester (Teddy Roosevelt's Big Medicine cartridge), and .577 English. No other rifle has ever seen such varied use as the Model 1885.


The 1885 Single-Shot was also found in both High Wall and Low Wall versions. These terms refer to the sides of the receiver and their position in relation to the hammer. With the High Wall version, built for the more powerful cartridges, just the tip of the hammer is visible when viewed from the side; the Low Wall, chambered for such pleasant shootin' rounds such as the .22 Rimfire and .25-20, exposes the entire side of the hammer.


Both Sharps and Remington single-shots were large actions with large exposed hammers, the Sharps being a side-hammer model and the Remington having a prominent hammer in the center of the action. Both hammers had to be cocked or half-cocked to open the block for loading or unloading.


The Model 1885, on the other hand, has a very small, nearly imperceptible hammer that is almost out of sight. To operate the action, the lever is rotated downward and the hammer automatically cocks itself. Close the action and the 1885 is ready to fire.


The 1885, as with most Winchesters of the time, was offered with many options including barrel length, round, octagon barrels or a combination thereof, set triggers, fancy wood and special sights. Accessories included special carrying cases and cartridge belts. Shooters could even have a Schuetzen rifle on a Model 1885 complete with palm rest, double set triggers, special cheekpiece stock, and longrange target stocks.


Today a Japanese-made replica of the 1885 is available from Browning or Cimarron as an Italian import. While both of these single-shots are based on the same design, they are quite different and are used for entirely different applications.


The Italian Frontiersman


With its case-hardened receiver and lever, blued barrel, and oil-finished walnut stock, the Cimarron High Wall takes one's soul and spirit back well over 100 years. Conjuring visions of sitting astride a pinto pony, an octagon-barreled rifle across the saddle, a gentle breeze blowing across the prairie grass, this gun embodies the frontier spirit.


Winchester 1885 High-Wall)


Cimarron's High Wall comes with a 30" heavyweight octagon barrel in four chamberings, .38-55, .40-65, .45-70 and .45-90. Our rifle is in .40-65, an old-time cartridge that is enjoying a well-deserved comeback. Based on the .45-70 case, .40-65 brass is easily formed by simply running a .45-70 case through an RCBS .40-65 sizing die. RCBS offers a full set of dies for the .40-65 and case forming simply takes the place of full-length re-sizing for the first loading of .40-65 rounds.


Standard sights furnished on the Cimarron High Wall are a blade front and buckhorn rear sight in standard dovetails. Both have been replaced, with a Lyman Globe on the front and a Cimarron Tang Sight on the rear.


Being a replica black powder cartridge rifle, the 1885 is best used only with black powder loads or the equivalent thereof. RCBS has bullet moulds for the .40-65 casting both a 350 gr. and 400 gr. bullet. These, were cast fairly soft at a lead-to-tin ratio of 30:1 and lubed with Lyman's Black Powder Gold Lube especially designed for use with black powder. This soft lube keeps fouling to a minimum and the fouling that does occur is kept fairly soft for ease of cleaning.


The 400 gr. RCBS bullet is more accurate in this rifle than the 350 gr. bullet. Using 23.0 grs. of Accurate Arms XMP5744, muzzle velocities are 1,365 fps for the 350 gr. bullet and 1,338 fps for the 400 gr. with groups of 1 1/2" and 1" respectively. Switching to black powder, 53.0 grs. of Goex's Cartridge Grade under the RCBS 400 gr. bullet gives a muzzle velocity of 1,063 fps and groups of 1 1/3". Very pleasant shooting and very accurate.


Browning's 1885 Stable


In the 1880s shooters had several options they could exercise when choosing a Winchester Model 1885. The days of selecting a rifle to fit one's personality and having it virtually custom built by the factory are just about gone. However, Browning does offer four versions of the Model 1885 -- three High Walls and one Low Wall.


The Low Wall comes with a lightweight octagon barrel, smaller receiver, in calibers .22 Hornet, .223, .243 Win, and .260 Remington. All of these feature a walnut pistol grip stock with a Schnabel forend. Three different variations of the Model 1885 High Wall are offered with all three chambered for the .45-70.


The competitive shooter is offered the Browning BPCR (Black Powder Cartridge Rifle) complete with Badger barrel, Vernier rear sights and a windage adjustable globe front sight with spirit level. The rear sight has three interchangeable apertures and the front sight comes with eight inserts. In addition to being offered in .45-70, it also comes in .40-65.


For the hunter, Browning's .45-70 of the same name offers a crescent butt plate, tang mounted aperture sight and octagon barrel. This 1885 High Wall Traditional Hunter also comes chambered in .30-30 and .38-55.


Browning's third High Wall offering is the Single Shot Rifle. In addition to .45-70, this model can be had in .22-250, .270, 7mm Rem., .30-'06 and .454 Casull. This most popular 1885 version has a 28" medium weight octagon barrel, is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and has large recoil pad that really works to reduce the felt recoil of heavyweight .45-70 loads.


A much-appreciated touch is the fact that the muzzle crown is recessed to avoid damage. This 1885 also has a checkered walnut forearm with Schnabel tip and checkered, straight-grip butt stock with excellent quality, high gloss finished wood throughout. Sights are a black front sight in a dovetailed adjustable for windage and a traditional rear sight on a step adjustable ramp. The rear sight on our rifle has now been replaced by a Weaver 4x on Weaver mounts.


Handloading For The 1885


Browning's rugged 1885 will see mostly heavy-duty hunting loads, both factory and custom built. Buffalo Bore, Cor-Bon and Garrett offer .45-70 hunting loads for really big stuff these days. Garrett's excellent 530 gr. Hammerhead, which works so well in Marlin leverguns, will not chamber in the Browning High Wall .45-70. Likewise, Cor-Bon's 405 Penetrator, again a stellar performer in the Marlin .45-70 levergun, is not accepted by the tight chamber throat of the Browning.


What does work factory-wise is Cor-Bon's 350 gr. JFP that clocks out at 2,042 fps from the Browning and groups three shots in 1 1/4" at 100 yards; and Buffalo Bore's 350 gr. JFP, 405 gr. JFP, and 430 gr. LBT Hard Cast. Muzzle velocities of these three respectively are 2,250, 2,090 and 2,015 fps. Also respectively, they shoot into 1 1/4", 1 3/8" and 1 5/8", three shots at 100 yards.


My favorite heavy-duty handloads for the Browning or any other heavy-duty .45-70 are assembled with 400 gr. bullets and Hodgdon's H322 powder. Northern Precision's 400 gr. JPP over 54.0 grs. of H322 delivers a bone-crushing 2,057 fps muzzle velocity while the Speer 400 gr. JFP over 50.0 grs. of H322 is a little easier-shooting 1,869 fps.


With its well-designed stock and thick recoil pad, Browning's High Wall 45-70 is one of the more pleasant shooting .45-70s, hut even it can get to the shooter with a long string of heavy loads. Actually I found my right hand getting more punishment than my shoulder, as the lever would hit it in recoil. When very many loads are going to be tested I found it quite prudent to wear a shooting glove.


Whether you are looking for a traditionally styled single-shot rifle for shooting black powder loads and competing in Black Powder Cartridge Silhouette competition. or a thoroughly modern up-to-date, state-of-the-art, single-shot rifle that will handle the heaviest hunting loads, the 1885 High Wall will do quite nicely. John Browning, as with most of his designs, was simply ahead of his time.


 (foto; Winchester 1885 Low-Wall .22 Short Cal. van R. Meeuwse)