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GUNS Magazine September 2011 Digital Edition - Page 48

Mike “Duke” venturino Photos: yvonne venturino hort rifle: Isn’t that what a carbine is? In fact, my tattered old desk dictionary says that is so. But in regards to Winchester Repeating Arms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries a short rifle was a beast of its own. Here’s the deal. Look at any vintage Winchester carbine from Model 1866 to 1895 and you will see features specific to that genre. S The 1886 Short Rifle fed and functioned flawlessly during the test. Note the spinning, ejected cartridge case is a blur just in front of Duke’s forehead on it’s way over his shoulder. The following are traits of a “standard” 19th century Winchester lever-action carbine. They had a slightly curved steel buttplate, steel bands securing the forearm and magazine tube to the barrel, a flip up “ladder-type” rear sight and a front sight pinned to a stud atop the barrel. Of course carbines had short, light, round barrels of 20" to 22" depending on exact model. Now, let me describe a “standard” Winchester lever-action rifle of that era. They had a crescent-shaped steel buttplate, a forearm with a steel cap and both front and rear sights were dovetailed into the barrel. Also regarding the rear sight, usually they were of the buckhorn variety with elevation being provided by a notched slider. Depending on exact model, barrel lengths would have ranged from 24" to 28". (Here’s an interesting little fact. According to The Winchester Book by the late George Madis, only one of every five Winchester Model 1886s had a round barrel. The other four had octagon barrels even though that was an extra cost option.) What Do you Need? Let’s return to the short-rifle concept. Not every shooter/hunter during the heyday of Winchester lever guns felt the need for a long barrel. They added weight and the extra sight radius wasn’t needed for the modest effective hunting ranges offered by open sights and the high trajectories of black-powder powered cartridges. Therefore, Winchester allowed buyers to order “short rifles.” In essence, such buyers wanted the crescent buttplate and dovetailed sights of rifles, but didn’t want the barrel bands or very lightweight barrels of carbines. So a Winchester lever gun in the “short rifle” configuration was precisely that. It wasn’t a carbine. It was a rifle with a shorter than standard-length barrel. The prices of Winchester lever guns of that era can only make us laugh today, perhaps laugh a bit sadly. A standard Winchester Model 1886 with round barrel 26" long was priced at $19.50 in the company’s 1899 catalog. The same rifle with an octagon barrel was $21. Now get this: Order your The new Winchester Model 1886 Short Rifle features a 24" round .45-70 barrel, finished in full blue, with an oil-finished American walnut stock. Alas, the maker of the knife is unknown. 48 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • SEPTEMBER 2011

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