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The Winchester Model 1885 lever-action rifle was a revelation to single shot rifle afficionados when it debuted in 1885. And the relaunched modern versions provide a great replica of a legendary masterpiece. Current production models include Model 1885 Hunter Rimfire, Model 1885 Low Wall Hunter High Grade, 1885 High Wall Hunter, Model 1885 High Wall Hunter High Grade, and 1885 Traditional Hunter High Grade.

Winchester wasn’t known for single shot guns but rather lever-action repeating rifles which were the high-capacity guns of their day. But thanks to elite long range single shot shooting competitions at Creedmore, New York, Winchester decided to get in the game with its own secret weapon. And that was the classic falling-block action rifle John Browning designed in 1875. Browning had sold his design to Winchester in 1883. Winchester started producing it in 1885 hence the rifle’s name.

Note: A falling block action uses a steel breechblock to open and seal the breech for loading and firing; actuating the lever opens pulls down the falling block that slides up and down between two corresponding vertical grooves in the receiver. This type of action results in a very strong chamber. And Winchester’s 1885 was reputedly the strongest of all. The original gun was the High Wall, called thus because of its thick, built up receiver breech block flanks. The Low Wall carbine had lower and thinner ones, hence its name.

Winchester relaunched production in 2005. Current production model barrel lengths include 24” and 28”. Current model caliber choices include 22 Hornet, 223 Rem, 243 Win, 6.5 Creedmore, 6.5X55 Swede, 22 LR, 17 HMR and a raft of others. However, some classic calibers such as 38-55 Winchester and .40-70 Government and 26” and 30” barrels are now out of production.

So back to the current (as of 2021) production models.

The Model 1885 Hunter Rimfire is the entry level though it’s still extremely accurate and full of nice features. It has a brushed polished steel receiver and full octagon contour 24” steel barrel into a nice Grade I satin finished walnut stock. The stock has a slightly curved grip and a Schnabel forend. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope, topped by a Marble Arms gold bead sight, and there’s a polished chamber inside. The trigger is brushed polish steel, and you get a fantastic Pachmayr Decelerator pad in back. The swivel studs are also gloss blued. Length of pull is 13 1/2", drop at comb is 3/4” and drop at heel is 1 1/4". This model weighs 7 pounds 8 ounces. Calibers are 22 LR, 22 WMR, 17 HMR and 17 WSM.

The Model 1885 Low Wall Hunter High Grade has the same dimensions and almost the same other details as the Hunter Rimfire with the following differences. It gets a polished blue steel receiver, a beautiful, upgraded Grade III/IV oil finished black walnut stock, a matte black trigger. Calibers include 22 Hornet, 223 Rem, 243 Win, 6mm Creedmore, 6.5 Creedmore and 6.5x55 Swede.

The 1885 High Wall Hunter also uses Grade I satin finished black walnut but has longer 28” full octagon contour barrels. Length of pull is the same as the others but drop at comb is 5/8” and drop at heel is 1 1/8”. Overall length is 44”. With greater length comes greater weight, so the High Wall Hunter tips the scales at 8 pounds 8 ounces. Calibers include 30-06 Spfld, 300 Win Mag, 22-250 Rem and 6mm Creedmore. 243 Win, 6.5 Creedmore and 308 Win were part of this lineup but are no longer in production.

The Model 1885 High Wall Hunter High Grade uses a beautiful Grade III/IV stock. It also includes a one-piece Talley scope base. This model spans many calibers: 220 Swift, 22-250 Rem, 243 Win, 6mm Creedmore, 6.5 Creedmore, 308 Win, 6.5 PRC, 270 WSM, 300 WSM, 270 Win, 30-06 Spfld, 264 Win Mag, 28 Nosler, 300 Win Mag and 300 PRC.

The 1885 Traditional Hunter High Grade is no longer in production. It was essentially the same as the above model but came with a fold down tang sight and weighed 9 pounds. Its calibers were 45-70 Govt and 38-55 Win.

No matter which you get, an 1885 single shot gives you a legendary heritage replica gun made in a modern factory. You get all the good of these legends without having to hawk your home or your kids to get one. Isn’t that a good thing?

The 1885 is delightfully faithful to the original. There are no modern sights, no thick rubber butt pads, Picatinny rails or any other modern touches. Safety? Sure, the hammer position tells you if the gun is in fire mode or not. The trigger is screwdriver adjustable from 3.5 to 5 pounds of pull weight. The forearm is free-floating. The hammer has three positions: full cock, half cock and dropped.

The High Wall version has an adjustable shell deflector that’s a nice touch. It’s screwdriver adjustable to change the angle of deflection! All three models have receivers drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The High Wall and Low Wall get front and back swivel studs and the marvelous sinewy lever that snakes below the trigger to guard it before tailing out by the grip. The butt is gently contoured.

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