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Question about Winchester terminology and the SingleShot Model
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December 28, 2021 - 11:59 pm
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As some here know, I have an interest in the terminology Winchester used vs. the terms collectors came along with.  For example, Winchester didn’t use the term, “saddle ring carbine.”  Winchester used the term, “carbine” and, “sling ring” for those equipped with a ring.  On the topic of the single shot model, as I understand it, Winchester didn’t use the terms, “high wall” or, “low wall.”  My question today has to do with the model designation. In the original catalogs, the model was designated the Single Shot Rifle” and no reference was made to, “Model 1885.”  Additionally, nearly every Winchester lever rifle from that era (e.g. Models 1873, 1876, 1886, 1894, 1895) were marked on the tangs with the numerical (i.e. year of origin) model number.  The the tangs on the Single Shot rifles were not marked Model 1885.  My question has to do with museum letters I have seen for Single Shot rifles.  They list the rifles as, “Model 1885.”  Are they designated as Model 1885 in the factory ledgers?  

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December 29, 2021 - 12:12 am
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steve004 said  My question has to do with museum letters I have seen for Single Shot rifles.  They list the rifles as, “Model 1885.”  Are they designated as Model 1885 in the factory ledgers?    

An anachronism.  During the time they were in production, the designation was as you pointed out, “Single Shot Rifle,” & with no distinction even in the parts list between what modern collectors call “high walls” (#3 action in factory terminology) & “low walls” (#2 action).  Maybe the idea was to leave the choice of the most suitable action to the factory, rather than allow customers to choose what might be inappropriate combinations. No idea how the ledgers were marked, but I’d guess “SS.”

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December 29, 2021 - 2:13 am
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Steve,

The warehouse ledger records for the Single Shot were not marked with a model designation. As Clarence mentioned, Winchester did not ever refer to the frame types as “high-wall” or “low-wall”. The controlling factor in determining which frame type was provided was the specific cartridge chambering was specified. Winchester in their early literature specified that the #2 action (low-wall) would be provided for all rim fire cartridges unless specifically requested.

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January 1, 2022 - 6:02 pm
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So during the period of manufacture, internally, Winchester used the terms No. 2 and No. 3 action.  Was there a No. 1 action?

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January 1, 2022 - 6:13 pm
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Steve,

Not that I am aware of.

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January 1, 2022 - 7:59 pm
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Bert H. said
Steve,
Not that I am aware of.
Bert  

One of the great mysteries of Winchester Single Shots. Or maybe not. In my admittedly disturbed mind the model we call the High Wall should have been the “#1” action and the Low Wall the “#2” action. I believe Campbell has an enjoyable discussion of the issue in his first book on the Single Shot. Just another example of topics that people of the day would probably find very amusing. 

 

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January 1, 2022 - 9:27 pm
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TXGunNut said

 In my admittedly disturbed mind the model we call the High Wall should have been the “#1” action and the Low Wall the “#2” action. I believe Campbell has an enjoyable discussion of the issue in his first book on the Single Shot.  

Yes, he thought #1 might have referred to a prototype incorporating the changes made to Browning’s original design, which seems reasonable to me.  Another curiosity is that the factory did not distinguish by name or number, so far as anybody has discovered, between HW rcvrs having the thick sidewalls vs the common ones with milled sidewalls, or between the early 3-sided rcvr rings (which I particularly like) vs the common round-topped ones.

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January 2, 2022 - 3:45 pm
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Were there any particular calibers that were produced in both “low wall” and “high wall”?

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January 2, 2022 - 4:35 pm
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dbro said
Were there any particular calibers that were produced in both “low wall” and “high wall”?  

Several, though Bert is the one to name them all.  For ex., most .32-20s were LWs, but I have a HW with a #3 brl!  The reason, probably, for using the HW rcvr was that the #3 brl shank was too large for the LW rcvr.  Ditto for .22 RFs ordered with #3 or larger brls; I had one of those, but loading was such a pain I eventually traded it.  But the offhand RF shooter who wanted a heavier brl had to put up with it; or, as some of them did, have the right sidewall milled down.

At least one .38-55 (I think, or another large cartridge) was originally built using a LW action, though that was an extreme case.  Someone posted the story about it some time back.

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January 2, 2022 - 4:43 pm
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My particular interest would be in finding a very nice low wall in 25-35 but have been told by those more knowledgeable than me “good luck”.

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January 2, 2022 - 5:20 pm
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dbro said
My particular interest would be in finding a very nice low wall in 25-35 but have been told by those more knowledgeable than me “good luck”.  

A much higher pressure cartridge than those of the BP era!  Though the factory would build anything “within reason,” that would be “a bridge way too far.”  However, I remember someone posting a story about finding a LW rebarreled to .30 WCF, or another cartridge far beyond what we would expect a LW capable of handling safely, & it wasn’t blown up!  But then, who knows how many times it had fired; or maybe the builder was handloading to lower pressures.

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January 2, 2022 - 5:56 pm
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dbro said
Were there any particular calibers that were produced in both “low wall” and “high wall”?  

Yes there were.  All of the various rim fire cartridges were manufactured in both the low-wall and high-wall, as well as all of the Model 1873 and Model 1892 cartridges (e.g. 32 WCF, 38 WCF, 44 WCF, and 25-20 WCF).  Additionally, a substantial number of the rifles chambered for 25-20 S.S. and 32 Ideal cartridges were made in both frame types.

There are a few know (verified) exceptions, and thus far I have documented a very small number of low-wall rifles manufactured in cartridges designed for the high-wall, e.g. 32-40, 35-55, 38-56 WCF, and 40-65 WCF (all black powder cartridges).

I personally would be very leery about shooting any low-wall chambered for a smokeless powder cartridge, e.g. 25-35 WCF, 30 WCF, etc.

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January 2, 2022 - 6:07 pm
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dbro said
Were there any particular calibers that were produced in both “low wall” and “high wall”?  

Take a look at Bert’s article in the Winter 2021 WACA magazine.  It appears that only 64 25-35’s were built in the recordable range. 

As far as which calibers were produced in both frames, Bert is the one to answer this like Clarence said, but I have seen 44 WCF’s and would suspect other small to mid range calibers.  I have a 22 WCF and a 25-20 SS in a highwall. 

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January 2, 2022 - 7:10 pm
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clarence said

Several, though Bert is the one to name them all.  For ex., most .32-20s were LWs, but I have a HW with a #3 brl!  The reason, probably, for using the HW rcvr was that the #3 brl shank was too large for the LW rcvr.  Ditto for .22 RFs ordered with #3 or larger brls; I had one of those, but loading was such a pain I eventually traded it.  But the offhand RF shooter who wanted a heavier brl had to put up with it; or, as some of them did, have the right sidewall milled down.

At least one .38-55 (I think, or another large cartridge) was originally built using a LW action, though that was an extreme case.  Someone posted the story about it some time back.  

Clarence – I pretty sure the Low Wall you are referring to is one I remember well.  It was a .38-56.  I think it was on a gunbroker auction and we were all watching it.  It was set with an opening bid around $5000.  It ended with no bids but I believe someone here contacted the seller after the auction ended and purchased it.  It was a high condition rifle and I seem to recall some special features.  I also recall it lettered all the way Cool

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January 2, 2022 - 7:49 pm
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steve004 said

Clarence – I pretty sure the Low Wall you are referring to is one I remember well.  It was a .38-56.  I think it was on a gunbroker auction and we were all watching it.  It was set with an opening bid around $5000.  It ended with no bids but I believe someone here contacted the seller after the auction ended and purchased it.  It was a high condition rifle and I seem to recall some special features.  I also recall it lettered all the way Cool  

Yes, that was it; no one could believe it was real…but it was!

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January 2, 2022 - 8:36 pm
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Bert H. said

Yes there were.  All of the various rim fire cartridges were manufactured in both the low-wall and high-wall, as well as all of the Model 1873 and Model 1892 cartridges (e.g. 32 WCF, 38 WCF, 44 WCF, and 25-20 WCF).  Additionally, a substantial number of the rifles chambered for 25-20 S.S. and 32 Ideal cartridges were made in both frame types.
 

Since the regular catalog provided no simple way (like a name or number) for a customer to specify which rcvr. he might prefer (if he had a preference, which few did, I suspect), but made brl. wt. an option that could be specified, I think that may have been the deciding factor as to which rcvr. was used in assembling a particular gun.  So generally, without some special intervention on the customer’s part, if the brl. selection was a #1 & 2 wt, the LW was used; #3 & above, it was the HW.

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January 2, 2022 - 11:59 pm
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Thank you all for the great information. I don’t know why I posted the 25-35 cartridge when I meant the 32-40. I must have the 1894 on the brain. I have a high wall in 32-40 with a #3 octagon barrel. Would be fun to have a low wall in the same caliber but I know my chances are slim.

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January 3, 2022 - 12:19 am
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dbro said
Thank you all for the great information. I don’t know why I posted the 25-35 cartridge when I meant the 32-40. I must have the 1894 on the brain. I have a high wall in 32-40 with a #3 octagon barrel. Would be fun to have a low wall in the same caliber but I know my chances are slim.  

I know I’ve seen one low wall in .32-40.  More than, one… maybe, but maybe not.

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January 3, 2022 - 2:28 am
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dbro said
 Would be fun to have a low wall in the same caliber but I know my chances are slim.  

Chances are astronomical.  If you want one badly enough, & cost is no obstacle, you could have one of the Uberti or Mirikou repros rebarreled; the steel in those actions is stronger than the originals…maybe even strong enough for a .25-35!

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clarence said

Since the regular catalog provided no simple way (like a name or number) for a customer to specify which rcvr. he might prefer (if he had a preference, which few did, I suspect), but made brl. wt. an option that could be specified, I think that may have been the deciding factor as to which rcvr. was used in assembling a particular gun.  So generally, without some special intervention on the customer’s part, if the brl. selection was a #1 & 2 wt, the LW was used; #3 & above, it was the HW.  

That is my belief as well after the low-wall was introduced.  In the early production years, there were a substantial number of early high-walls with No. 1 barrels manufactured in the Model 1873 cartridges.  After the low-wall was introduced, if a non-standard barrel size was specified in an order, Winchester matched the frame type to the barrel size.  Winchester for many years listed in their catalogs what the standard barrel length and barrel size was for each cartridge.

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