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An 1885 followed me home from the Helena gunshow
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February 27, 2023 - 11:37 pm
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I was gifted my first Highwall 36 years ago by a favorite aunt who lived on the South Fork of the Shoshone near Cody. An old trapper named Max had given it to her for being nice to him before he died. It was in caliber .32-20 and the bore was terrible, while the rest of the rifle was just fine, including its double-set trigger. Its serial number placed it in 1894. I had it re-barreled in .38-56 by a Bozeman gunsmith who also cleaned it up and added some good sights. I shot lots of paper and several mule deer with it with very good results. It wasn’t until last year that I gained another 1885, this one a Low-wall in .32 Ideal. I reported on it on the forum several months ago. Now I have another 1885, this one dated 1887 in caliber .38-40. As you’ll see in the photos, it’s not in bad shape, although at some point the stock had been broken and repaired. This event had evidently slightly damaged the lower tang which received a repair effort. You will see that for no reason known to me, a hole was drilled through the lower tang. There is no evidence that a wood screw ever passed through it into the stock. Please let me know if you have any guesses as to why the hole was drilled! Some brazing was also done on the lower tang. 

The bore after 135 years of aging is in fairly good condition. I haven’t tried to clean it yet and am hoping it will be targetable should spring ever arrive in Montana. I’ve included a few photos of my new acquisition of two days. I’m looking forward to fixing it up and putting it to work. I’ve done some preliminary searching for a replacement buttstock and would appreciate any leads you may provide. Thanks in advance!

 

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February 28, 2023 - 12:15 am
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Brian,

You are now officially a Single Shot accumulator (collector)CoolLaughCool and it is an incurable disease!!

I have no idea why the hole was drilled in the lower tang or what its purpose might have been.  In regards to the butt stock, if you intend to reuse the butt plate, you will need to find an early production stock.  Throughout the production run, Winchester changed the length of the butt plate tang five times (gradually reducing the length each time).  The early crescent butt plates had a 2-1/2″ tang then were shortened to 2-3/8″ (which is what I suspect you have), then to 2-1/4″, then to 1-5/8″, and then to 1-9/16″.

Bert – an Incurable Single Shot accumulatorCool

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February 28, 2023 - 12:18 am
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I wouldn’t invest great effort in replacing buttstock.  Whatever you found probably wouldn’t match fore-stock well, & anyway this old gun is always going to show its battle scars.

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February 28, 2023 - 12:33 am
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Is the extra hole in the tang threaded?  If so, I would guess it’s for a non-Winchester tang sight.  In other words, a tang sight that doesn’t have Winchester sight spacing.  

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

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February 28, 2023 - 12:41 am
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Bill Hockett said
Is the extra hole in the tang threaded?  If so, I would guess it’s for a non-Winchester tang sight.  In other words, a tang sight that doesn’t have Winchester sight spacing.  

  

Bill,

The extra hole is in the lower tang (through the last digit of the serial number).

Bert

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February 28, 2023 - 1:39 am
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Nice rifles Brian!  I recently picked up another 1885 high wall, also made in 1887.  

These 1885’s kind of grown on you!

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February 28, 2023 - 2:05 am
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Bert and Clarence, I really appreciate the information on the buttstock and the advice regarding replacement of the butt stock.  It looks like variable size of the butt plate tang would have caused me endless grief in seeking a replacement. I am going to take the advice of Clarence and re-work the failed repair of the split stock at the tang rather than chasing a replacement. I’ve repaired broken stocks before with some success so I’ll make that my next project. I think I’ll also put a filler in that drill hole.

My first inclination on getting this rifle was to refurbish it but as I ruminate on it, it seems I could/should just let it bear its scars of age. I’m finding I’m having to do that as well! 

And yes, I do find myself an “incurable Single Shot accumulator”. My C. Sharps 1875 .32-40 was a 2007 hook, and I’m currently chasing after a .38-55 RB.  Those new-fangled bolt action repeaters in my safe are going down the road. They’re just gathering dust anyway.

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February 28, 2023 - 2:09 am
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Excellent start on an 1885 collection, Brian. Unlike Bert et al I only have a few Single Shots and I can quit any time I want. As a matter of fact I’ve already quit…counting. I really like the chambering of your latest acquisition, unless it was in a group of like rifles a few minutes with the ledger may reveal or hint at the last digit of the serial number.

 

Mike

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February 28, 2023 - 3:42 am
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TXGunNut said
Excellent start on an 1885 collection, Brian. Unlike Bert et al I only have a few Single Shots and I can quit any time I want. As a matter of fact I’ve already quit…counting. I really like the chambering of your latest acquisition, unless it was in a group of like rifles a few minutes with the ledger may reveal or hint at the last digit of the serial number.

 

Mike

  

Thanks for the suggestion about the serial number, Mike. And the chambering is also interesting to me. I like that cartridge and have had a lot of fun with it in my old Md 92 rifle (1897), which even with a pitted bore made little bitty cast bullet groups at 100 yards. But why a .38 W in a heavy 1885? What would you use the rifle for? Yes, you could hunt nearby deer with it, and small game, but still………?  The first 1885 I had was in .32-20 which I’m sure was fine for Max the trapper, as he had cut 4 inches off the barrel and probably packed it with him as he checked his traps and snares. He could shoot leg-trapped coyotes or badgers with it and take a shot at close range coyotes or bobcats. But back in 1887 someone wanting a .38-40 rifle or carbine might just as well have a Winchester Md. 66 or 73. This 1885 is big and heavy for what is basically a handgun cartridge. 

I’m a member of the Buffalo Bill Center and will be in Cody in a couple of weeks doing some browsing. This will give me a chance to learn what I can about this Highwall. I wish the serial number was also on some other part of the rifle!

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February 28, 2023 - 4:30 am
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Brian Sindelar said

  But why a .38 W in a heavy 1885? What would you use the rifle for? Yes, you could hunt nearby deer with it, and small game, but still………?

You hit the nail on the head, Brian!  I can just barely conceive of someone ordering a 4 lb Baby Carbine in this caliber (maybe as a companion to his six-gun), but WHAT was the buyer of this gun thinking!  It’s a miserable deer round, & lacks accuracy for small game.

But then I also wonder what the buyer of my .32-20 HW with a 30″ #3 brl was thinking, or the buyer of a .22 Long HW I once had, with the same brl.  Factory orders did not require proof of good judgement.

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February 28, 2023 - 7:14 am
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Brian,

The last digit of the serial number cannot be determined because there were (6) identical rifles in the 18290 – 182999 serial range.  All of them were manufactured with a 28-inch No. 2 octagon barrel.

Bert

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February 28, 2023 - 7:34 am
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Clarence,

I own two Single Shot rifles that you apparently will find very hard to conceive;

1.  Plain Sporting rifle (high-wall) in 22 Long Rifle with a 30-inch No. 3 full octagon barrel, single set trigger

2. Plain Sporting Rifle (high-wall) in 38 W.C.F. with a 30-inch No. 3 full octagon barrel, Schuetzen double-set triggers, Winchester globe front sight, Mid-range vernier tang sight.  This rifle was formerly owned by the original Charleston, SC gun club & range.  When they were forced to shut-down the range more than 20-years ago (due to noise complaints), they sold the rifle to me.  I first saw the rifle in 1983 when I was stationed at the old Charleston Navy base.  The Club used it in their annual Turkey Shoot match (all contestants were required to shoot this one rifle).  While you may not have much confidence in the accuracy of the 38 WCF cartridge, I most certainly do.  On many occasions it has shot amazing 5-shot groups at 100-yards (less than 1.5″ groups). 

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February 28, 2023 - 3:16 pm
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Bert H. said
Clarence,

I own two Single Shot rifles that you apparently will find very hard to conceive;

1.  Plain Sporting rifle (high-wall) in 22 Long Rifle with a 30-inch No. 3 full octagon barrel, single set trigger

2. Plain Sporting Rifle (high-wall) in 38 W.C.F. with a 30-inch No. 3 full octagon barrel, Schuetzen double-set triggers, Winchester globe front sight, Mid-range vernier tang sight.  This rifle was formerly owned by the original Charleston, SC gun club & range.  When they were forced to shut-down the range more than 20-years ago (due to noise complaints), they sold the rifle to me.  I first saw the rifle in 1983 when I was stationed at the old Charleston Navy base.  The Club used it in their annual Turkey Shoot match (all contestants were required to shoot this one rifle).  While you may not have much confidence in the accuracy of the 38 WCF cartridge, I most certainly do.  On many occasions it has shot amazing 5-shot groups at 100-yards (less than 1.5″ groups). 

  

No trouble conceiving #1–I had one just like it, which I eventually traded because of the irritation of loading it.  Unlike you, I could never afford to keep them all.  What I can’t conceive is the motivation of the buyer who could have ordered an easy to load Low Wall.

Neither do I get the point of #2, unless minimizing noise & recoil was the intention. But the Schuetzen match results published in The Rifle, Shooting & Fishing, etc., which included make of gun & caliber, leave no doubt that .38 WCF was a bizarre choice for such a purpose.

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February 28, 2023 - 6:27 pm
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Bert H. said
Clarence,

I own two Single Shot rifles that you apparently will find very hard to conceive;

1.  Plain Sporting rifle (high-wall) in 22 Long Rifle with a 30-inch No. 3 full octagon barrel, single set trigger

2. Plain Sporting Rifle (high-wall) in 38 W.C.F. with a 30-inch No. 3 full octagon barrel, Schuetzen double-set triggers, Winchester globe front sight, Mid-range vernier tang sight.  This rifle was formerly owned by the original Charleston, SC gun club & range.  When they were forced to shut-down the range more than 20-years ago (due to noise complaints), they sold the rifle to me.  I first saw the rifle in 1983 when I was stationed at the old Charleston Navy base.  The Club used it in their annual Turkey Shoot match (all contestants were required to shoot this one rifle).  While you may not have much confidence in the accuracy of the 38 WCF cartridge, I most certainly do.  On many occasions it has shot amazing 5-shot groups at 100-yards (less than 1.5″ groups). 

  

Bert’s comment:

“While you may not have much confidence in the accuracy of the 38 WCF cartridge, I most certainly do.  On many occasions it has shot amazing 5-shot groups at 100-yards (less than 1.5″ groups).” 

This sure agrees with my experience with my 1892 rifle’s performance, even with a pitted bore and iron sights.  Here are my typical cast bullet groups with this 120 year-old lever action:

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April 21, 2023 - 9:57 pm
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To anyone who may have followed this thread about a Highwall in .38 W that I bought recently:  I am offering it for sale on the board. I had planned to keep it but after thorough cleaning, the bore isn’t the pristine one I was hoping for. AND I was just delivered a Highwall in .38-55 that has a nearly new barrel. I can have one, but not both! The .38 is a nice old rifle with a perfect action. I would like to find a good home for it.

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