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1885 25-20 wcf
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January 3, 2024 - 5:42 pm
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Old-Win said
The Winchester barrel marking from a #2 low-wall barrel prior to it being changed to 25-20 SS around 1895.  Rabbeth worked for Remington and had them make up a .25 caliber barrel for him around 1886 and I believe it went on a Stevens single shot.  Later, in 1889, he wrote an article for “Fishing and Shooting” about his Maynard in 25-20 SS.  Union metallic made the cartridges.  This according to Ned Roberts.

You’d also find Harvey Donaldson’s commentary interesting in Yours Truly.  I think in the beginning UMC made only cases, not loaded cartridges, as Phil Sharpe said earliest buyers of the Maynards & Stevens chambered for it had to hand-load.

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January 3, 2024 - 5:47 pm
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mark minnillo said

Bert H. said

clarence said

That won’t be easy, unless he knows someone who has a few–most gun stores don’t carry it in stock.  Can’t you tell for sure by the ser. no. ?  

Ordinarily Yes, I can tell by the serial number.  However, I cannot tell if somebody reamed out the chamber on a 25-20 S.S. in an attempt to shoot the much more common 25-20 WCF.  Based on the ledger entry for this rifle’s serial number, it should be a 25-20 S.S.  Because the extractor is broken (or was intentionally altered) I suspect that somebody tried converting it from 25-20 S.S. to 25-20 WCF.  The only way to know for sure, is try seating a 25-20 WCF cartridge in it.

If the OP knows how to remove what is left of the extractor, the mystery of what it was originally chambered for can be answered by the marking on the side of the extractor base.

  

Bert,

Was the 1885 ever chambered for the 25-20 wcf cartridge or just the single shot version? I understand guns were marked both 25-20 wcf and 25-20 ss but all were chambered in 25-20 ss. Thoughts? Thanks.

  

Yes, the Winchester Single Shot was factory chambered for the 25-20 WCF (repeater) cartridge, but not very many of them.  The vast majority were chambered for the 25-20 Single Shot cartridge.  The 25-20 Single Shot was introduced in 1890, and it was originally marked “25 W.C.F.” on the barrels.  When Winchester eventually introduced the 25-20 W.C.F. (repeater) cartridge for the Model 1892 (in the year 1895), Winchester changed the caliber marking for the 25-20 Single Shot to “25-20 S.S.” and added the “25-20 W.C.F.” marking for the repeater cartridge.  The “25 W.C.F.” marking was discontinued late in the year 1895.

If you encounter a Single Shot rifle with a “25 W.C.F.” caliber marking, it left the factory chambered for the 25-20 S.S. cartridge.  Due to the confusion that was created by having two cartridges with nearly identical names, a fair number of original 25-20 S.S. chambered rifles have had their chambers reamed after the fact to the larger diameter (but shorter) 25-20 WCF cartridge, and then (usually) a hack job to the extractor to make it functional with the larger rim diameter of the 25-20 WCF repeater cartridge.

In my article (published in the Winter 2021 WACA Collector magazine), I briefly discussed this same topic.  In my survey of the Single Shot, the 25-20 S.S. was the vastly more common cartridge as compared to the 25-20 W.C.F. cartridge… 7,585 versus just 58.

Bert

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January 3, 2024 - 5:56 pm
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mark minnillo said

I’m sure Bert will chime in eventually but was the 1885 ever chambered for the shorter 25-20 wcf repeater cartridge and if so when?

As late as the 1918 catalog, .25 WCF is not included in the listing of cartridges for which the SS model was chambered, which surprises me. 

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January 3, 2024 - 6:08 pm
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clarence said

mark minnillo said

I’m sure Bert will chime in eventually but was the 1885 ever chambered for the shorter 25-20 wcf repeater cartridge and if so when?

As late as the 1918 catalog, .22 WCF is not included in the listing of cartridges for which the SS model was chambered, which surprises me.  Possibly .22 WCF could be special ordered?

  

Typo, I’m sure.  The 22 WCF is not the same as a 25 WCF, 25-20 SS or the 25-20 WCF. 

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January 3, 2024 - 6:10 pm
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clarence said

mark minnillo said

I’m sure Bert will chime in eventually but was the 1885 ever chambered for the shorter 25-20 wcf repeater cartridge and if so when?

As late as the 1918 catalog, .25 WCF is not included in the listing of cartridges for which the SS model was chambered, which surprises me. 

  

Winchester discontinued all of the Single Shot “rifles” in March 1918… only the .22 Winder Muskets remained in production.

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January 3, 2024 - 6:27 pm
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Bert H. said

Winchester discontinued all of the Single Shot “rifles” in March 1918… only the .22 Winder Muskets remained in production.

The #81 must have been printed before that decision was made.  My copy contains a price change flyer dated June 12 which raises the Musket price from $27.50 to $34, but then changes that with a hand-stamp to $42!  Effect, obviously, of the war.

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January 3, 2024 - 6:36 pm
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Looks to me like this was a “special sporting” rifle.  It has a pistol grip and looks like remnants of checkering on the forend.  It must have been a beautiful rifle in it’s day.

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January 4, 2024 - 2:16 am
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Bert examined my 1885 Low-wall chambered in 25 W.C.F., right after I purchased it at the Big Reno Show back in Aug. 2003.  He was impressed with the clean bore and special wood.  Nothing more was discussed about the chambering.  I was aware it was the 25-20 W.C.F. repearter chamber and didn’t think anymore about it.  So that wasn’t discussed.  Years later we communicated about the chamber and the early date of the rifles manufacture.  The serial number is 60131 and the letter states it was shipped in March of 1893.  Another “Winchester Mystery”.  RDB

25-WCF-001.JPGImage Enlarger1885-25-WCF-003.JPGImage Enlarger1885-25-WCF-007.JPGImage Enlarger1885-25-WCF-004.JPGImage Enlarger

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January 4, 2024 - 2:35 am
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rogertherelic said
Bert examined my 1885 Low-wall chambered in 25 W.C.F., right after I purchased it at the Big Reno Show back in Aug. 2003.  He was impressed with the clean bore and special wood.  Nothing more was discussed about the chambering.  I was aware it was the 25-20 W.C.F. repearter chamber and didn’t think anymore about it.  So that wasn’t discussed.  Years later we communicated about the chamber and the early date of the rifles manufacture.  The serial number is 60131 and the letter states it was shipped in March of 1893.  Another “Winchester Mystery”.  RDB

25-WCF-001.JPGImage Enlarger1885-25-WCF-003.JPGImage Enlarger1885-25-WCF-007.JPGImage Enlarger1885-25-WCF-004.JPGImage Enlarger

  

Roger,

It is simply too early for it to be a factory original 25-20 WCF (repeater).  The caliber marking indicates that it was originally a 25-20 Single Shot.  I currently suspect that somebody reamed the chamber and converted it to the repeater cartridge after the fact.

Can you provide a clear close-up of the barrel breech face?

Bert

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January 4, 2024 - 2:51 am
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He was impressed with the clean bore and special wood.rogertherelic said

I guess!  Deluxe LWs are few & far between!  I wouldn’t care if the chamber had been reamed on such an exceptional piece as this.

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January 4, 2024 - 7:11 pm
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Bert, This is the breach photo.  Unless I am mistaken, the single shot 25-20 cartridge is too long to chamber in a repeater chamber and the repeater is too big around to chamber in the single shot chamber.  Hope this helps.  RDB

1885-25-20-chamber-001.JPGImage Enlarger

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January 4, 2024 - 7:25 pm
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 Unless I am mistaken, the single shot 25-20 cartridge is too long to chamber in a repeater chamber and the repeater is too big around to chamber in the single shot chamber.rogertherelic said

Correct, that’s why chamber would have to be reamed to shoot .25 WCF, if originally a .25 SS. 

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January 4, 2024 - 8:01 pm
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rogertherelic said
Bert, This is the breach photo.  Unless I am mistaken, the single shot 25-20 cartridge is too long to chamber in a repeater chamber and the repeater is too big around to chamber in the single shot chamber.  Hope this helps.  RDB

1885-25-20-chamber-001.JPGImage Enlarger

  

Roger,

Correct, and I can see now that the extractor has been reworked to make it work for a 25-20 WCF cartridge.  It actually does not appear to an original extractor (the shape of it is not right).

For those who are wondering… 25-20 S.S. on the left

25-20-SS-vs-25-20-WCF.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Bert

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January 4, 2024 - 8:34 pm
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Bert H. said For those who are wondering… 25-20 S.S. on the left

25-20-SS-vs-25-20-WCF.jpgImage Enlarger

Bullet of a rechambered .25 WCF would have to jump about 1/2″ to reach rifling; not conducive to best accuracy, I would guess.

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January 4, 2024 - 8:34 pm
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Thanks Bert.  I still like the rifle and the cartridge.  It will not chamber the Single Shot cartridge, as it is too long.  This would explain the pristine bore too.  RDB  Embarassed

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January 4, 2024 - 8:34 pm
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rogertherelic said
If the chamber were simply reamed out to allow for the repeater cartridge to fit, then you should be able to still chamber a Single Shot cartridge.  The  chamber is too short and will not allow the single shot cartridge to fully chamber.  The 25/20 SS cartridge lacks 1/4″ of fully going in the chamber.  Please explain to me how that is possible.  I must be missing something.  Thanks, RDB

  

Roger,

Who knows for sure how it was actually altered/modified, but the one fact that cannot be explained is how your March 9th, 1893 manufactured Single Shot rifle could have been made for a cartridge that did not exist until 2+ years later.  The only explanation is that it was originally a 25-20 Single Shot, and later reworked for the repeater cartridge (and not by Winchester).  The ledger record for it does not show a “R&R” or return to factory for rework.  Have you inspected the underside of the barrel for an unusual markings?

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January 4, 2024 - 8:35 pm
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rogertherelic said
Thanks Bert.  I still like the rifle.  RDB

Was hoping you’d be so disappointed you’d sell it to me!

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January 4, 2024 - 8:41 pm
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rogertherelic said
Thanks Bert.  I still like the rifle and the cartridge.      RDB

  

I do too… any Special Sporting (low-wall) rifle is “likeable” to me Cool

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January 4, 2024 - 9:23 pm
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Roger’s report that a .25 SS can’t be chambered is perplexing, as if only the chamber had been reamed, it ought to fall right in.  Only explanation I can think of is a chamber insert, which requires more finesse than a lining job I’ve been told.  Am assuming there’s no evidence of a lining job, or Roger would have spotted that.

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January 6, 2024 - 3:35 am
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The rifle shows no modifications that I could make out or am able to identify now..  Bert pointed out the extractor being incorrect.  That is way out of my knowledge relm.  His expertise in the Single Shot rifle is far above my knowledge level.  I also had been misinformed as to the date of introduction of the 25-20 Repeater cartridge.  It’s a dandy little rifle and it was something I had been looking for for a long time.  Perhaps in my excitment of discovering this little jewel I failed to ask  “the right people” the “right questions” before grabbing it up.  No matter, I am pleased to have it and will always cherish the moment I got it.  It’s an accurate little shooter with no recoil and mild report.  Thanks Bert, as always your input is invaluable.  RDB

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