Winchester Model 1895 Saddle Ring Carbine Review
November 25, 2019
Superbly engineered and redolent of a time near forgotten, the Winchester Model 1895 is one of America's great rifles.
Winchester’s Model 1895 was John Browning’s last and strongest lever-action design. It was also Winchester’s first to incorporate a box-type magazine compatible with pointed bullets.
Introduced in 1895, it served in at least nine wars. Slightly more than 425,000 were made before the model was officially discontinued in 1936. A few more were made by special order until 1940.
Although chambered in 10 different cartridges, vintage Model ’95s are most commonly encountered in the United States in .30-40 Krag.
While rifle and carbine variations saw limited use by various American military branches, more than 66 percent of the Model 1895s manufactured were built under contract for the Russian military. These were chambered in 7.62-54R, fitted with stripper clip guides and bayonet lugs, and featured long musket-type fore-stocks.
While made in large quantities, Russian military Model 1895s are rare in this country. Another very rare variant is the flatside Model 1895, which comprises the first 5,000 made. Deluxe versions of the ’95 were made by special order, as well as takedown models and some fitted with octagon barrels.
The Model 1895 is complex. I’ve heard that the Winchester employees who originally built them used special jigs. So leave working on them to qualified gunsmiths.
To load, open the lever. This runs the bolt rearward, exposing the top of the box magazine. Rimmed cartridges, such as the .30-40 Krag, must be loaded with each successive rim located in front of the rim of the cartridge below it. Holding each cartridge perpendicular to the action, use the base to press down on the previously loaded cartridge, then rotate the nose forward and down, simultaneously sliding the base of the cartridge rearward beneath the feed lips.
Magazine capacity is five rounds. Before attempting to close the action, press the final cartridge down into the magazine until you hear or feel a slight click. You can then either close the lever and chamber a round or hold the top cartridge down and close the lever on an empty chamber.
The rearward reciprocation of the bolt cocks the hammer, so all that’s required to fire is to aim and squeeze the trigger.
Opening the lever causes the bolt to slide rearward. A sturdy hook-type extractor located slightly right of top center in the boltface draws the empty case with it. As the mouth of the empty clears the chamber, a robust plunger-type ejector flings it clear of the action. A fresh cartridge rises to the top of the magazine, ready to be chambered.
There’s a locking feature on the lever that holds it in the closed position, but unlike previous models of Winchester’s lever actions, the lock is automatic and does not need to be manually engaged. The lever loop comprises two separate parts, and opening it causes the lower, or outside, portion to unlock the lever latch.
As with all of Winchester’s exposed-hammer lever guns, the 1895’s hammer may be lowered to the halfcock “safety” position with a live round in the chamber. Recent-manufacture Winchester Model 1895s all have rebounding hammers and tang safeties.
Manufactured in 1901, the Model 1895 saddle-ring carbine I used for this report was traded for sight-unseen by a buddy of mine. The previous owner claimed his grandfather had obtained it new or almost new but rarely used it.
But when my friend received the rifle, it showed obvious signs of rigorous use on the metal parts, plus misguided restoration efforts by inexperienced hands. The carbine had been reblued and assigned poorly fitted new stocks. Almost every screw was buggered. Three holes were drilled and tapped in the left side of the action for various receiver-type sights. The upper portion of the forearm was cobbled to a pair of retaining clips and the fastening screws or rivets covered with wood filler. Just in front of the ladder-type adjustable rear sight a screw hole in the barrel had been filled.
It appears that the main blade of the rear sight was filed to a gigantic U-shaped notch almost a quarter-inch wide. Later, it was rebuilt to robust height with well-applied but poorly finished brazing.
Thankfully, the action is sound and very smooth. With my buddy’s permission, I went to work to heal some of the scars, filing the blotchy brass of the rear sight blade to a crisp shape; cleaning up, polishing, and bluing the horribly buggered screw heads; and adjusting the fit of the stocks. Now the superficial blemishes are gone and the rifle is positively charming.
The .30-40 Krag ammo isn’t exactly hard to find, but it’s not easy, either. Obtaining several boxes of Hornady 180-grain InterLock loads as well as reloading dies from Hornady, I set to work testing.
First, I had to empty some brass to reload, which provided an excellent opportunity to function-test the rifle. It fired and ran cleanly except for one failure to extract. Accuracy was minute of rock, firing offhand at distant boulders.
Due to the very long throats of .30-40 Krag chambers, which were originally designed for heavy, long roundnose bullets, most .30-40s will shoot best with heavy bullets. It certainly proved true with this one. From the bench, Hornady 220-grain RN bullets and Barnes 200-grain TSX bullets grouped about 3.0 inches, impacting a couple inches above point of aim at 100 yards.
I kept the handloads conservative, charging 46.5 grains of Reloder 16 beneath the 220-grain RN and 44.0 grains of IMR 4350 beneath the 200-grain TSX.
The chamber’s size is generous, which is common in rifles of this vintage. To tighten up accuracy and provide crisp headspacing, I ran my .30-40 case necks over an 8mm expander ball and then adjusted the .30-40 sizing die to size them down until the cartridges are chambered comfortably but snugly.
Winchester Model 1895 Saddle Ring Carbine Specs
- Manufacturer: Winchester Repeating Arms
- Type: Lever-action repeater
- Caliber: .30-40 Krag
- Magazine Capacity: 5 rounds
- Barrel: 22 in.
- Overall Length: 40 in.
- Weight, Empty: 8.38 lbs.
- Stock: Walnut
- Length of Pull: 12.75 in.
- Finish: Blued barrel and action, oil-finished stock
- Sights: Ladder-type adjustable rear, brass bead front
- Trigger: 6.88-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Halfcock notch