Winchester Self-Loading Rifles


Hunter-Trader-Trapper, vol 23, No. 1, page 56-59


American Firearms, Part VIII



In previous articles the writer gave a description of the Remington Autoloading shotgun and the .22 caliber Winchester Automatic rifle, the latter of which, by the way, is the only one that is called an "automatic" by the manufacturers, but for the present purpose, all arms that load automatically may be called "automatics." The Remington automatic arms are called "autoloaders" and the Winchesters, other than the .22 caliber, are styled "selfloaders", and the Standard automatics, which are no longer made, are known as "gas-operated” rifles. The automatic rifles remaining to be described are three models of Winchesters and the Remington Autoloading rifles. These are all big-game guns.


Self-loading or automatic firearms are the result of the progress of civilization. The automatic rifle and pistol, also the automatic shotgun, if the use of it is not stopped by law, are the arms of the future, and it will not be many years until the automatic rifle will not only be first in the game field, but every progressive nation will have its army equipped with the same. It is the belief of the writer that the United States troops will, within the next five years, be armed with automatic rifles of even greater power and range than the present New Springfield, unless in the meantime some weapon will be invented which will entirely do away with the use of firearms. Already we have the automatic pistol supplanting the revolver in this country's army, as well as those of many other countries. In the game field the automatics are getting firmly established, and are generally well like by those who want something decidedly modern—a rifle of the greatest convenience and speed of fire.


Years ago the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. realized that the American public would soon demand something more rapid and up to-date than the hand-operated repeaters, and accordingly brought out their .22 caliber rifle of this type. This arm was so well liked that two years later they placed on the market the Model 1905 rifle, in .32 and .35 calibers, and this in turn was followed by the models of 1907 and 1910.



In principle, the Winchester self-loaders are the simplest of all automatics. It can hardly be said that they are operated by recoil, for they are really operated by gas pressure. The Remington is the only recoil-operated repeater. The action of the Winchester is forced open by gas pressure, and closed by means of a spring, the operation requiring only a fraction of a second, and no attention or thought from the shooter.


The Models 1905, 1907 and 1910 all work on the same principle, and there is scarcely any difference whatever in the action of these three models. We show herewith the Model 1910, open and closed, and a description of the action of this rifle will suffice for all three models.


Without a description, the illustrations showing the action of the Model 1910 rifle could scarcely be understood, as they do not show the connection between the bolt-head and inertia weight (heavy forward portion of bolt). It should be understood that the part containing the firing-pin is the bolt-head only and not the complete bolt. For purpose of explanation the bolt may be considered as being made up of three parts, although it is all in one. These three parts are the bolt-head, which contains the firing-pin and extractor; the inertia weight, in the fore-end of the arm, and the two connecting-bars, connecting these two parts. These bars do not show in the illustrations, but they lie on opposite sides of the magazine, and move in grooves in the receiver. This makes a very heavy bolt, and this is necessary in order to give it the necessary inertia (reluctance, or hesitancy to move), for it is not locked in any way against the force of the explosion except by this inertia, and the pressure of the coiled bolt-spring in the fore-end. It is this inertia and the pressure of this bolt-spring that keeps the action from opening before the bullet has left the barrel.


The magazine of the self-loader is of the single column box type and is readily detachable. As in all magazines of this kind the cartridges lie one on top of the other; are forced upward by a spring; and are prevented from escaping at the top by the overhanging edges of the magazine walls, which, however, are springy and allow the top cartridge only to emerge under pressure of the forward moving bolt. The cartridge being round, in cross section under pressure of the magazine spring, presents a small portion of its top above the magazine when the bolt is in its rearward position; the forward moving bolt catches this cartridge and pushes it forward, and the overhanging sides of the magazine yield and allow this cartridge to escape and go forward into the chamber under pressure of the bolt.


As mentioned before, the bolt is forced to the rear by the pressure of the expanding powder gas from the fired cartridge, this action ejecting the empty shell, cocking the hammer, and compressing the bolt-spring. This bolt-spring forces the bolt forward again as soon as the empty shell is clear of the gun, the closing action carrying the loaded cartridge into the barrel, and leaving the arm ready for firing. This is the simplest form of automatic action, and it will be seen that it will not allow of variously loaded cartridges.


With factory loaded cartridges the rifle is as safe as any firearm made, and is very rapid, convenient, and generally efficient.


The bolt-spring is placed on the bolt guide rod in the fore-end. This rod acts both as a bolt guide and a bolt-spring guide.


The complete operation of the rifle is as follows: The magazine is removed by pressing inward on the magazine-lock on the underside of the receiver and at the top of the magazine, when the magazine may be with drawn from the gun. The cartridges are then placed in the magazine to its full capacity, pressing them inward and backward, under the overhanging sides at the back, bullet end forward. When the magazine is fully charged it is pushed upward into its place in the rifle. The action is then thrown open by pulling back on the operating sleeve at the end of the fore-arm. It closes automatically when the operating sleeve is released, leaving the rifle loaded and cocked. The trigger may be locked so that the gun may be carried in this condition with perfect safety. The trigger-lock is located in the trigger-guard, forward of the trigger.


The small lever shown at the base of the hammer and above the trigger-lock is a timing lever, and its work is to block the trigger until the action is closed.


All of these rifles are of the "take-down" style, yet the barrel is firmly screwed into the receiver and remains there, thus leaving this part as strong as in an arm of the regular pattern that does not take down. This point is accomplished by making the receiver separate from the trigger guard, the latter being attached to the butt-stock and the receiver remaining with the barrel. The two parts are held together by a take-down screw, which is located at the same place as the hammer in a hammer rifle. By removing this thumbscrew the gun may be taken down for cleaning and packing in a case. When separated the bolt and its parts remain in the receiver and the other parts are attached to the guard. This completes the description of the action and as before said, the actions of all of them are the same, so this description applies to the Models 1905, 1907 and 1910.

The Model 1905 rifle was the first one brought out. It is adapted to the .32 Self-Loading and the .35 Self-Loading cartridges, illustrations of which, in full size, are shown here. These are short cartridges, as the action of the Self-Loading Rifle will not allow of the use of long ones. In power they correspond so well with the .38-40 and .44-40 Winchester Central Fire cartridges that it seems the manufacturers, in designing these, must have done so with the object of having them supplant these popular old-time cartridges. They are just a little more powerful, the energy and velocity being slightly greater and the trajectory lower. The Winchester people, who give ballistic data very accurately, give the following figures for these cartridges:


Ballistics of the .32 Self-Loading cartridge:

—Weight of bullet, 165 grains; velocity of bullet at the muzzle of rifle, 1392 feet per second; velocity of bullet at 100 yards, 1167 feet per second; energy of bullet at muzzle of rifle, 710.1 foot pounds ; energy of bullet at 100 yards 499.1 foot pounds ; penetration with soft point bullet at 15 feet, ten 7/8 inch pine boards; penetration with full metal cased bullet, 17 boards; trajectory at 50 yards, shooting 100 yards, 1.70 inches; trajectory at 100 yards when shooting 200 yards, 12.48 inches; trajectory at 150 yards when shooting 300 yards, 33.25 inches; free recoil of rifle, 1.92 foot pounds.


Ballistics of the .35 Self-Loading cartridge:

—Weight of bullet, 180 grains; velocity of bullet at muzzle of rifle, 1396 feet per second; velocity of bullet at 100 yards, 1 151 feet per second ; energy of the bullet at muzzle of rifle, 779.1 foot pounds ; energy of bullet at 100 yards, 529.6 foot pounds; penetration with soft point bullet at 15 feet, nine 7/8 inch pine boards ; penetration with full metal cased bullet, 17 boards; height of bullet above line of aim at 50 yards, when shooting 100 yards, 2.74 inches ; height of bullet at 100 yards when shooting 200 yards, 13.07 inches ; height of bullet at 150 yards when shooting 300 yards, 34.35 inches ; recoil of the rifle, 2.83 foot pounds.


The shells of both cartridges are of the straight, rimless type; the bullets project far and have flat points.


The magazine capacity of both calibers is five cartridges, and a sixth may be placed in the barrel.


The Model 1905 rifle is handsome, of graceful outline, and has a solid, smooth appearance. It has a plain pistol-grip stock with shotgun butt and rubber butt-plate. It has a round tapered barrel, 22 inches long. The rifle weighs 7 ½ pounds. The stock is of walnut and the metal work is in blued finish. This model is good for all-around purposes, and will do for all kinds of game that would ordinarily be hunted with the old Model 1873 and the later 1892 model rifles, in .38 and .44 caliber. I would not recommend them for hunting any game larger than deer.

In appearance the Model 1907 rifle is similar to the Model 1905, except that it has a fuller fore-arm, because of the greater size and weight of bolt necessary for the more powerful cartridge, and the fore-end tip is different. The weight is 7 ¼ pounds, and the barrel is 20 inches only. The caliber is .351.

The .351 is a more powerful cartridge than the .32 and .35 calibers used in the Model 1905 and is better for big game. The rifle of this caliber is an excellent one for deer and black bears, especially for fast shooting at running game in brushy places, where the game is seldom shot at long range. It is a great favorite with deer hunters, and may be used for such large game as moose, but is not recommended for such shooting.


The following are the ballistics of the .351 S. L. cartridge:


Weight of bullet, 180 grains ; velocity at muzzle, 1861.2 feet per second; velocity at 100 yards, 1523 feet per second; energy at muzzle 1385 foot pounds; energy at 100 yards, 927.3 foot pounds ; penetration with soft point bullet at 15 feet, thirteen 7/8 inch pine boards; penetration at the came distance with full metal patched bullet, 26 boards ; height of bullet's path above line of sight, at 50 yards when shooting 100 yards, 1.55 inches; height at 100 yards, when shooting 200 yards, 7.60 inches; height at 150 yards, when shooting 300 yards. 21. 1 inches; free recoil of rifle, 5.57 foot pounds.


The Model 1910, the latest put out by this firm, is a heavier rifle, and is suitable for larger game. The caliber is .401 and the cartridges are loaded with two different weights of bullets. This model is particularly well adapted to hunting large game at short and medium ranges, and while it will do good work at long ranges, a cartridge of this type is at its best at the shorter distances. Rapid shooting at long range, where careful aim must be taken is out of the question, also unnecessary, and when shooting at long ranges the value of the self-loading system is not apparent. It hits a heavy blow and its large, blunt point expanding bullet makes it a certain killer. There is probably no better rifle made for large and dangerous game such as Alaska brown bears, grizzlies, elk and moose. The capacity of the rifle is five cartridges only.


In the 1910 Model rifle the barrel, receiver and all metal parts are made of nickel-steel.


The description of the .351 caliber rifle answers very well for the .401, except of course that the latter is a heavier arm. The weight of the .401 caliber rifle is 8 ¼ pounds; the length of barrel is 20 inches.


The cartridges, like those of the other models, are straight and rimless, and the bullets are of the round point kind, the .250 grain bullet being very blunt.


The ballistics of the two bullets follow:


Weight of bullet, 200 grains; velocity at muzzle of rifle, 2141.8 feet per second; velocity at 100 yards, 1721.2 feet per second; energy of bullet at muzzle of rifle, 2037.6 foot pounds; energy of bullet at 100 yards, 1315.0. foot pounds; penetration with soft point bullets at 15 feet, fourteen 7/8 inch pine boards; penetration with full metal cased bullet at 15 feet, 34 boards; height of bullet above line of aim at 50 yards, when shooting 100 yards, 1.01 inch; height of bullet at 100 yards, when shooting 200 yards, 6.47 inches; height of bullet at 150 yards, when shooting 300 yards, 17.06 inches; free recoil of rifle 11.40, foot pounds.


Weight of bullet, 250 grains; velocity at muzzle of rifle, 1875 feet per second; velocity at 100 yards, 1543.7 feet per second; energy at muzzle of rifle, 1952 foot pounds ; energy at 100 yards, 1323.2 foot pounds ; penetration of soft point bullet at 15 feet, twelve 7/8 inch pine boards; penetration with full metal cased bullet at 15 feet, 27 boards; height of bullet above line of aim at 50 yards, when shooting 100 yards, 1.49 inches; height of bullet at 100 yards, when shooting 200 yards, 7.34 inches ; height of bullet at 150 yards, when shooting 300 yards, 20.36 inches; free recoil of rifle 12.18 foot pounds.


The principal points of superiority of the Winchester Self-Loading rifles are:


(1) A detachable box magazine which allows of very rapid loading and rapid fire, if the shooter carries a few extra magazines, already charged, and it also allows one to empty the gun quickly without firing, and without working the cartridges through the mechanism.


(2) The take-down feature which is made without weakening of the junction of barrel and receiver. This also allows of easy access to the action for cleaning.


(3) A rapidity of fire unequaled by any hand-functioned rifle, allowing one to shoot repeat shots without changing his view from the game and the sights, and without moving his hands from their natural shooting positions. This, however, is not peculiar to Winchester rifles alone, but to any kind of automatic arm.


(4) The convenience of the operating sleeve, handy for the left hand to operate when loading the first cartridge or when a shell mis-fires.


(5) A smooth, solid-top receiver, which has no projecting points, and no opening at the top to admit dirt, and which ejects the shells to the side.


When these arms first came out many persons thought there must be some lost power since the breech block is not locked, and a part of the gas pressure, or the recoil of the shell as the manufacturers prefer to say, is used to operate the action. It is claimed, how ever, that there is no lost power and that the ballistics are the same when the cartridges are fired from a barrel with a locked breech. It is said that the bullet moves the entire length of the barrel while the shell is recoiling only a fraction of an inch, and that the bullet has left the gun before the cartridge case has left the chamber. It is certain though that the shell is a part of the way out of the chamber be fore the bullet leaves the muzzle and the gas pressure relaxes, and that there may be no danger from this the shell is made extra heavy towards the head. One thing is certain: The rifl