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Winchester Model 1895 Saddle Ring Carbine Rifle

The Winchester Model 1895 saddle-ring carbine rifle was quick-handling and powerful and ideal for Western mule-deer hunting.

Winchester Model 1895 Saddle Ring Carbine Rifle

Used for 60 years by one Utah hunter, this fine old Winchester Model 1895 in .30 Army (.30-40 Krag) took several huge bucks, and it still shoots well.

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Every once in a while, I have the privilege of handling and writing about a family heirloom firearm that has deep history. The Smith & Wesson Victory revolver I wrote about a while back was one. It flew on bombing missions in the South Pacific with my friend’s grandfather. More recently, the Arisaka bring-back from Iwo Jima was another. It was picked up by my friend Brad Kendrick’s father while he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

This month, I have the privilege of shooting and writing about a Winchester Model 1895 Saddle Ring Carbine that belonged to Marilyn Kendrick’s father and was handed down to her.

Introduced in 1895, the Model 1895 action is the strongest lever gun ever designed by Winchester. Its box magazine enables the use of pointed bullets with better aerodynamics than the flatnose or roundnose bullets most lever-action rifles are limited to.

Two primary versions were made: rifles with long barrels and carbines with short barrels. Variations were nearly endless: sporting rifles with barrels from 24 to 30 inches, a crescent buttplate, and a sleek forearm reminiscent of the splinter-type fore-ends of the great British guns; musket-configured long arms with ladder-type rear sights and shallow, slightly curved buttplates and full-length stocks replete with heat shields up top; and, of course, the ever-popular carbines.

Generally, carbine versions were equipped with a 20-inch barrel, a curved carbine-type buttplate, a barrel-band forearm with a handguard/heat shield, and military sights. And, of course, they had that distinctive “saddle ring” fixed to the left side of the receiver.

Of course, what with Winchester’s manufacturing ethos of the time, many rifles and carbines featured custom-order work. Odd barrel lengths, shotgun-style buttplates, special sights, upgraded wood, and so forth were relatively common.

Aside from Theodore Roosevelt’s personal use when leading his Rough Riders and a few 1895s that were issued to certain brigades of the Arizona Rangers, few Winchester ’95s saw service in the U.S. military or law enforcement. However, Russia ordered and put to work nearly 300,000 chambered in 7x62x54R. Some of those saw combat in the Baltic states, during the Spanish Civil War, and other smaller-scale deployments.




Famously, Roosevelt also took a pair of Model 1895s chambered in .405 Win. to Africa on a specimen-collecting safari for the Smithsonian. That’s where he wrote about the rifle/cartridge combination as his “medicine gun for lions.”

In all, around 425,000 Model 1895s were manufactured.

Mechanicals

Model 1895s are complex. Do not attempt to take one apart for deep cleaning unless you have access to the factory jigs and clamps needed to reassemble it. A massive bolt reciprocates in grooves inside the top of the receiver. Lockup is achieved via a robust rear locking block. Bolts are driven by a unique self-locking and unlocking lever.

Recommended


To load, open the lever. Lay fresh cartridges inside the receiver and press them down into the magazine. In the case of rimmed cartridges—such as the .30 Army (.30-40 Krag), for which Marilyn’s carbine is chambered—be sure each cartridge ring is positioned in front of the rim below it to avoid hang-up.

Closing the lever chambers a cartridge. If you’re ready to hunt, that’s fine; just lower the hammer to the halfcock (safety) notch. If you’re not ready to hunt or shoot, press the cartridges down low in the magazine while carefully closing the bolt over the top of them.

When it’s time to shoot, operate the lever to chamber a cartridge, or if one is already in the pipe, ear the hammer back. Squeeze the trigger to fire. Opening the lever operates the bolt, which draws the fired case out of the chamber and ejects it, cocking the hammer meanwhile. Closing the lever chambers a fresh round, closes the bolt, and locks the bolt into battery.

Provenance

According to Marilyn, her father began hunting with this rifle in 1952. It was the only rifle he hunted with for 60 years! “He shot some huge deer with that gun and only open sights,” she told me.

“He may have gotten that gun from my great-grandfather. He was a sheepherder and taught my dad to hunt. You could always tell when Dad got a deer by the sound of that gun!”

Very probably, the carbine did come down from her great-grandfather because it was manufactured in 1907. That’s 45 years before her dad began hunting with it, so the timeline jibes.

As you can see in the photograph, the carbine was beautifully cared for. Like most well-used vintage sporting firearms, it’s had some modifications. At one point, it was re-blued. Probably at that same time, the wood handguard was removed, both sights were replaced, and a ventilated rubber buttpad was added to the stock. All are modifications that a very serious sportsman would make to refine a favored hunting tool. The saddle ring must have gone missing at some point and was replaced by a well-forged handmade ring.

Winchester Model 1895 Carbine Accuracy and Velocity Results Chart

Rangetime

Few hunting rifles feel quite so good in the hands as fine vintage guns made by Winchester. I placed the Model 1895 Saddle Ring Carbine across my favorite shooting bags, lay prone behind it, and fired a pair of three-shot groups with each of the different test loads (Hornady 180-grain InterLock and Winchester Super X 180-grain Power-Point).

The carbine shot a few inches to the right at 100 yards, but the trigger released smoothly. Group sizes ranged from 2.5 to 3.5 inches.

While loading, cycling, and firing Marilyn’s ’95 I couldn’t help but note its smooth feel, the satisfying bank-vault-like lockup, and the wonderful “spang” of the cartridge report.

MODEL 1895 SADDLE RING CARBINE

  • MANUFACTURER: Winchester Repeating Arms
  • TYPE: Lever-action repeater
  • CALIBER: .30 Army (.30-40 Krag)
  • MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 5 rounds
  • BARREL: 22 in.
  • OVERALL LENGTH: 40.5 in.
  • WEIGHT, EMPTY: 8.75 lbs.
  • STOCK: Walnut, aftermarket recoil pad, grooved barrel-band forearm
  • LENGTH OF PULL: 13.5 in.
  • FINISH: Blued barrel and action, oil-finished stock
  • SIGHTS: Elevator-type rear, bead front
  • TRIGGER: 4.25-lb. pull (as tested)
  • SAFETY: Halfcock hammer notch

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