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shot range and practical hunting usage of a vintage BP Winchester 1886 rifle?
October 6, 2019
1:50 pm
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Hi everybody,

 

I recently read a lot about my favourite Winchester model, the 1886. I own several vintage ones and must say they really beat everything else in my point of view what Winchester ever produced. Beautiful, rugged.... perfect!

I just wonder how far the old timers were able to shoot with calibers like the .45-70, .45-90 and .50-110 etc. No doubt these cartridges provided a farther range than the 73s with their .44-40s, but how about the accuracy? What would be the maximum distance for hunting moose, for example, have been?

Were these 86s even close to the High Walls or Sharps etc., or was the magazin under the barrel preventing that? Was the accuracy better with extra heavy barrels?

It must have been in Mike Venturino's great book about "Shooting leverguns of the Old West", that I read about the .45-90 cartridge, that Winchester produced it with a lighter bullet for mid range big game hunting instead of the Sharps-produced cartridge. What was considered mid range hunting back then?

Thank you guys for your help, much appreciated!!

October 6, 2019
4:48 pm
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Not wishing to sound elementary, but...
A quite generalized question and including a non tech dimension. ūüôā¬†

May I just speak to the perspective of a maximum "humane" range.  The range reasonably to be assured of a clean kill. "Sporting range", rather than leaving a wounded animal perhaps escaping only to be disabled or lingering death.  That range relating to myriad factors but appreciably to hunter skill, experience and interrelated judgment factors.  Such far more than technical weapon capability regardless the weapon.  I can personally conjure a whole variety of 'shoot/no shoot' factors beyond simple range. 
Assuming you're an experienced hunter, you likely know all this. But the question begging for such a predicate in to my mind. Just supplying here!

Now perhaps yielding to the experts here to discuss the technical areas of which I'm unqualified. 

Just my take
John

October 6, 2019
5:02 pm
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The limiting factor is your ability to hit the animal in the kill zone with the first shot.  With iron sights I would think that 400 yards is not out of the question for an experienced shooter.  These cartridges can shoot much further.  But can the average shooter hit the target? 

October 6, 2019
8:26 pm
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 Felix, I have owned and shot several 86's in 45/90, it's a good caliber for the rifle. I currently own two 45/90 ex hvy, they are both more accurate than the standard weights I owned. I used Remington 300gr. JHP, kept the velocity to period standard (1480), and used a Lyman tang sight. If you go beyond 250yds you have to have a spirit level front sight to keep the gun level, there's lots of elevation and windage. Your loads have to be consistent, 20fps is a must. Your eyes have to be young! I now hunt only with my Model 70 300HH and do not shoot at anything over 250yds, clean kills. It sucks to get old. T/R

October 6, 2019
9:25 pm
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Chuck said 
With iron sights I would think that 400 yards is not out of the question for an experienced shooter. 

The critical word there is "experienced"; the kind of experience that professional market hunters once had, or that of exceptional hunters like Elmer Keith, Jack O'Conner, Townsend Whelen.  Using TR's example of 300 g @ 1500 fps, mid-range trajectory is 56" at 400 yds, & bullet drop below line of sight is 191", according to Lyman's Cast Bullet Handbook.  A 50-yd error in range estimation would add 60" to bullet drop.  

October 7, 2019
4:28 pm
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With my old eyes and iron sights 200 yds is about my limit.

October 7, 2019
6:32 pm
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Hi everyone,

 

thanks a lot for your comments and replies! Indeed I am -very unfortunately- far from being an experienced hunter - I just started into this passion; here in Germany hunting is a little more complicated and requires a long class, exams and everything. You get a lot of knowledge but you pay a lot of money for it and must spend hours and hours in class...

Therefore - I appreciate your views and experience very much.... I was just having the old picture of the buffalo hunter in mind (the beautiful NRA display in some Cabelas Shop in Missouri comes to my mind) - I think they were shooting longer distances sometimes (500yds maybe?) - but no doubt they would care not too much about a fair and clean kill shot that spares the creature any pain...

I just wondered if those 1886 rifles have the similar accuracy as the single shots or which of them would be used for what occasion (if the hunter could choose,  back then)  - of course I know that by the launch of the 1886 the buffalo were gone... that's why I chose the moose as comparable sized animal...

October 7, 2019
6:38 pm
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As usual, it all comes down to the shooter.

In the right hands, the .45-70 can shoot quite a long ways and be very accurate.  Shooting vintage .45-90 and .50-110 not so much due to the slower twists designed to shoot light bullets fast.  This is exactly why many folks, myself included, have built the above calibers in modern rifles with twist rates able to handle much bigger bullets.

I do not think heavier barreled 86's are more accurate than their lighter weight siblings, at least in my experience.

As to the Sharps or 1885, I would absolutely say they are more consistently accurate for a variety of reasons.  But I must say putting on a good tang sight like an MVA on an 1886 and careful handloading can yield some very satisfying results...

October 7, 2019
7:23 pm
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 I have owned and shot 12 heavy barrel Winchester's with my standard loads and I believe they were more accurate than their standard weight counter parts. The calibers were 44-40, 40-82, 45-60, 45-75, 45-90, and 50-95 in 73's, 76's, and 86's. I believe the hvy barrel was manufactured differently than standard hammer forging and straighten procedure. Maybe the same way Sharps made them. T/R

October 7, 2019
7:45 pm
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TR said 
  I believe the hvy barrel was manufactured differently than standard hammer forging and straighten procedure.

You're not talking about modern hammer forged rifling, are you?  Cut rifling would have been used until fairly modern times, although the exact way it was done, the depth & number of passes of the cutter per groove, etc., varied considerably depending on the quality that was expected in the finished barrel.

October 7, 2019
7:57 pm
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F.K. said 
I was just having the old picture of the buffalo hunter in mind (the beautiful NRA display in some Cabelas Shop in Missouri comes to my mind) - I think they were shooting longer distances sometimes (500yds maybe?) - but no doubt they would care not too much about a fair and clean kill shot that spares the creature any pain...
  

No, I doubt the pros lost sleep over that consideration, especially because a gut-shot buffalo would probably just stand around until it bled to death, or was finished off after the long-range shooting was over with.

Best account I've read of how it was done, the "business" of buffalo hunting, was Zane Grey's "Thundering Heard," based on his interviews with surviving buffalo hunters; I've never been able to forget his description of the "red calves," bleating beside the bodies of their dead mothers.

October 7, 2019
9:02 pm
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As a long serving (30 years) Game Warden here in Ontario I have long admired the German hunting licensing requirements which,if I am not mistaken ,require a knowledge of firearm ballistics, game identification, field  dressing of big game and a shooting proficiency test and is not about just hunter safety. This should be a requirement for anyone who is licenced to hunt big game ( bear, moose deer bison etc.). My view is that the hunter with average skill and hunting big game experience armed with a rifle of the 1886 vintage in 45-90 or similar with iron sights should not attempt to kill a moose beyond 200 yards and even less if possible. It's about shot placement not distance.The chance of wounding and losing the animal would be too great. A moose can cover a considerable distance If woundedl The old Buffalo hunters I suspect were careful not to waste ammunition and took care to make every shot count but perhaps I am wrong. 

October 7, 2019
9:36 pm
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Yes, no lost sleep among market hunters.  Shoot the lead cow and the rest stand milling around.  Even if you don't get the lead cow, they often won't run if they don't know what is going on.  Sometimes they will even attack a downed animal, hooking it with their horns.

If the Indians couldn't get a surround going (herd running in a circle) they'd start with gut shots and as the chase progressed, they would work up to more lethal shots toward the end of the hunt.  This was all done in the hopes that the wounded would keep/catch up, dying toward the end.  That way you wouldn't have them strung out over miles of prairie.

I once shot a cow a little far back with a 30.06 200gr silver tip.  She just stood there like nothing happened.  I then shot her right through the heart.  Again, she just stood there.  After about five minutes, she went to her knees.  The others started gathering around, nosing her.  When she went to her side, some started hooking her with their horns, while others started to push each other around.   They didn't leave until I approached with my son and two students.  Even then, they just moved off.  Granted, this was not a "wild" herd, but they were free range on a big ranch.

They are interesting, wonderful animals.  I once saw a video out of Yellowstone.  A pack of wolves were working a cow elk.  She finally tried to take refuge in a herd of bison.  The bison attacked her and ran her out to the wolves.  I don't think they have much in the way of sympathy for the sick, lame, wounded, crazy or lazy.

  

October 7, 2019
9:43 pm
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 My opinion-it’s not about how far you can shoot, but about shot placement.Shot placement is the most important thing regardless of what weapon you choose to use.Shooting out to 200 yards with iron sights with an old Winchester is not as difficult as it seems as long as you PUT IN THE PRACTICE AND KNOW YOUR RIFLE,-I’m speaking from experience. But at 400/500yards and beyond One would be lucky to find the exact spot the animal was standing, and to be able to track a marginally hit animal.i think far to often we compare modern hunting to a man trying to put meat in his freezer for his family to live on. I have been fortunate to meet many an old farmer who could put meat in the freezer but couldn't  hit a bullseye at ant distance.I think it all comes down to time behind the rifle shooting it and forming that’relationship’ with it(for lack of a better term

October 7, 2019
10:19 pm
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Bill Hanzel said
 My opinion-it’s not about how far you can shoot, but about shot placement.

True.  I'm primarily a stick bow hunter and consider hunting to be how close I can get, not how far I can shoot.  It's harder to touch a bull elk than to shoot him from a klick out.  But even, and especially with a bow, it's all about shot placement.

October 7, 2019
10:56 pm
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Could be a mind set thing-I started with a stick and a string in 94....... and still today, even with any kind of firearm, as close as possible....

October 7, 2019
11:08 pm
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 Clarence, I have seen in 73 and 86 barrel bores long lengthwise seams or corrosion lines, not cracks, much like the forging marks you see on receivers. These lines have to be forging marks. I have discussed this subject with several senior Winchester collectors and they all had the same answer, they were hammer forged. I could be wrong but I'm not the only one with that opinion.  T/R

October 7, 2019
11:23 pm
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I've owned a couple 86's that have had lines running down the barrel crossing the rifling and I looked at them with a borescope concerned that they could of been cracks and I found they were forging lines similar to that of a 73 receiver when it gets old. The only way they would be there is if the barrel was forged.

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October 8, 2019
1:08 am
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TR said
 Felix, I have owned and shot several 86's in 45/90, it's a good caliber for the rifle. I currently own two 45/90 ex hvy, they are both more accurate than the standard weights I owned. I used Remington 300gr. JHP, kept the velocity to period standard (1480), and used a Lyman tang sight. If you go beyond 250yds you have to have a spirit level front sight to keep the gun level, there's lots of elevation and windage. Your loads have to be consistent, 20fps is a must. Your eyes have to be young! I now hunt only with my Model 70 300HH and do not shoot at anything over 250yds, clean kills. It sucks to get old. T/R  

Is there a 45-70 cartridge that’s safe to shoot & can be purchased today for the 1886 - DOM 1889 ?

AG

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October 8, 2019
2:08 am
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TR said
 Clarence, I have seen in 73 and 86 barrel bores long lengthwise seams or corrosion lines, not cracks, much like the forging marks you see on receivers. These lines have to be forging marks. I have discussed this subject with several senior Winchester collectors and they all had the same answer, they were hammer forged. I could be wrong but I'm not the only one with that opinion.  T/R  

Sorry, I thought you were referring to the rifling method, not the way the barrel blanks were manufactured.  If these lines are forging marks, then forging is obviously the next step after the rough blanks were cast; in fact, I think I've read that a blank starts out as a short but large diameter cylinder that is gradually, through repeated forging steps, elongated into its final dimensions.

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