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GUNS Magazine April 2013 Digital Edition - Page 36
he Model 89 lever-action from Big Horn Armory is an outstanding rifle. It is exceptionally well made, reliable, accurate, well balanced, with the classic looks of traditional lever actions. Handling the Model 89, I’m reminded of its illustrious ancestors, the Winchester 1886 and 1892 rifles, and the explorers and adventurers who depended on them. And yet it is not a nostalgic reproduction. It is a tough, hard-working and practical sporting rifle. Chambered for the .500 S&W cartridge, it puts tremendous power in a relatively compact and lightweight package. The rifle model is featured here. There is also a carbine model with an 18-inch barrel and full-length magazine. The Model 89 designation (midway between 86 and 92) is a gesture of respect to the original rifles and to their designer, the legendary John Browning. It isn’t an exact copy of either, nor is it intended to be. The 86 was made for big, powerful cartridges such as .45-70 and .50-110 while the 92 was for smaller cartridges from the .25-20 to the .44-40 Winchester. While the Big Horn Armory 89 uses the operating principle of the 86/92, it is roughly between the two in size. The .500 S&W is a cartridge of intermediate size, but more powerful than any of the older cartridges for which the Winchester’s were chambered. 36 T Dave anDerson Speaking of Winchester, the Model 89 traces its roots back to the 1880s. Winchester needed a replacement for its 1876 lever action. Though made with excellent workmanship and capable of taking big cartridges, the ’76 design was inherently not very strong. John Browning designed the prototype which would lead to the 1886—a very strong, smooth-working, reliable and durable rifle that easily transitioned from black powder to smokeless powder. In the opinion of many of those who study firearm design, “… a more ingenious and wholly admirable mechanism was never embodied in a firearm than that lever-and-lock combination in the 86 and 92 models.” (John M. Browning, American Gunmaker by John Browning & Curt Gentry) The book recounts how John Browning and his brother Matt showed the prototype to a Winchester representative, who examined it carefully, passed it back to John, and commented, “John Browning, I W W W. G U N S M AG A Z I N E . C O M • A P R I L 2 0 1 3