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Winchester 1876 Action Strength
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July 17, 2023 - 3:01 pm
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I was just reading in my 1876 Winchester book about the history of the 1876. There have been many stories spread about how weak the 1876 Winchester action is and I find it interesting to see what the actual field test was to determine just how weak/strong that action is. Everyone parrots the same old saying about how weak it is and yet this study seems to nullify that rumor.

Here is a picture of a blown up 1876 that the action held and yet the barrel was blown completely off the action…

 

https://i.imgur.com/GSW8nEw.jpgImage Enlarger
https://i.imgur.com/Kri7BkI.jpgImage Enlarger

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July 17, 2023 - 3:28 pm
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Like warnings about the 1903 Springfield rcvrs made at outset of WWI, several hundred thousand of which were used in service without any problems.  But weren’t earliest ’76 rcvrs iron, not steel?

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July 17, 2023 - 3:44 pm
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clarence said
Like warnings about the 1903 Springfield rcvrs made at outset of WWI, several hundred thousand of which were used in service without any problems.  But weren’t earliest ’76 rcvrs iron, not steel?

  

Most certainly they were iron. The test was also done in 1877.

I am not aware of Winchester using steel for the 1876 at any time of their production, but maybe they did…

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July 17, 2023 - 6:04 pm
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Shrapnel said
I was just reading in my 1876 Winchester book about the history of the 1876. There have been many stories spread about how weak the 1876 Winchester action is and I find it interesting to see what the actual field test was to determine just how weak/strong that action is. Everyone parrots the same old saying about how weak it is and yet this study seems to nullify that rumor.

Here is a picture of a blown up 1876 that the action held and yet the barrel was blown completely off the action…

 

https://i.imgur.com/GSW8nEw.jpgImage Enlarger

https://i.imgur.com/Kri7BkI.jpgImage Enlarger

  

That is really interesting.  It took me years to get brave enough to quit using black powder in my 76’s.  But, I have friends that have shot old guns safely for years and had them blow up for no known reason.

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July 17, 2023 - 8:01 pm
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Chuck said

Shrapnel said

I was just reading in my 1876 Winchester book about the history of the 1876. There have been many stories spread about how weak the 1876 Winchester action is and I find it interesting to see what the actual field test was to determine just how weak/strong that action is. Everyone parrots the same old saying about how weak it is and yet this study seems to nullify that rumor.

Here is a picture of a blown up 1876 that the action held and yet the barrel was blown completely off the action…

 

https://i.imgur.com/GSW8nEw.jpgImage Enlarger

https://i.imgur.com/Kri7BkI.jpgImage Enlarger

  

That is really interesting.  It took me years to get brave enough to quit using black powder in my 76’s.  But, I have friends that have shot old guns safely for years and had them blow up for no known reason.  

Have these blown up using smokeless powder?  Or was it black powder?

Many claim it’s okay to fire mild smokeless loads in any Model 1873, 1876, 1886, 1892, & 1894.  I’m not so certain.  I tend to err on the side of caution and generally don’t fire smokeless in anything prior to about 1905 in the Colt Single Action Army revolver when the proofmarks on the trigger guard came out, generally about the same time frame for Winchesters, and save smokeless ammunition for about 1908 and after in the Smith & Wesson Triple Lock revolver ( when that model was introduced), and use black powder in anything earlier, including all top breaks.

Don’t snub HOLY BLACK until you’ve tried it!

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July 17, 2023 - 8:44 pm
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mrcvs said

Chuck said

Shrapnel said

I was just reading in my 1876 Winchester book about the history of the 1876. There have been many stories spread about how weak the 1876 Winchester action is and I find it interesting to see what the actual field test was to determine just how weak/strong that action is. Everyone parrots the same old saying about how weak it is and yet this study seems to nullify that rumor.

Here is a picture of a blown up 1876 that the action held and yet the barrel was blown completely off the action…

 

https://i.imgur.com/GSW8nEw.jpgImage Enlarger

https://i.imgur.com/Kri7BkI.jpgImage Enlarger

  

That is really interesting.  It took me years to get brave enough to quit using black powder in my 76’s.  But, I have friends that have shot old guns safely for years and had them blow up for no known reason.  

Have these blown up using smokeless powder?  Or was it black powder?

Many claim it’s okay to fire mild smokeless loads in any Model 1873, 1876, 1886, 1892, & 1894.  I’m not so certain.  I tend to err on the side of caution and generally don’t fire smokeless in anything prior to about 1905 in the Colt Single Action Army revolver when the proofmarks on the trigger guard came out, generally about the same time frame for Winchesters, and save smokeless ammunition for about 1908 and after in the Smith & Wesson Triple Lock revolver ( when that model was introduced), and use black powder in anything earlier, including all top breaks.

Don’t snub HOLY BLACK until you’ve tried it!  

Come to think of it, I think it should be okay to fire smokeless rounds in a Winchester 1894 manufactured in 1895 in .30-30, as that  round was introduced in 1895 as a smokeless round.

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July 17, 2023 - 9:35 pm
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mrcvs said

Don’t snub HOLY BLACK until you’ve tried it!

I HAVE tried it, plenty of it, & that’s why I “snub” it!  Ammo makers at transition to smokeless were well aware of safety issue & developed safe smokeless loads; even in some cases HV smokeless loads.  Nobody at this transition was calling it “holy”; what most were saying is “hooray, finally!” (And the best makes of BP then was better, cleaner burning, than most made today.)  Only exceptions were Schuetzen shooters, many of whom found they obtained better accuracy with carefully loaded black, but even most of them used smokeless as a 5-10% priming charge, as I also used to do. 

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July 17, 2023 - 10:27 pm
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Clarence said.

“Only exceptions were Schuetzen shooters, many of whom found they obtained better accuracy with carefully loaded black, but even most of them used smokeless as a 5-10% priming charge, as I also used to do”. 

My friend shoots a duplex load in his repo highwall in 45-70.  Not seen many that can out shoot him.  I know I have said this before but.  Some guys with modern guns were trying to shooting golf balls at 200 yds.  My friend could hit more of them than they could.  Put them to shame.  If any of you know Denny Hanel ask him about his friend Frank that lives in So Cal.
  

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July 17, 2023 - 10:47 pm
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Chuck said
Clarence said.

“Only exceptions were Schuetzen shooters, many of whom found they obtained better accuracy with carefully loaded black, but even most of them used smokeless as a 5-10% priming charge, as I also used to do”. 

My friend shoots a duplex load in his repo highwall in 45-70.  Not seen many that can out shoot him.  I know I have said this before but.  Some guys with modern guns were trying to shooting golf balls at 200 yds.  My friend could hit more of them than they could.  Put them to shame.  If any of you know Denny Hanel ask him about his friend Frank that lives in So Cal.

  

  

Even that small charge of smokeless burns up almost all BP fouling.  Cases must still be cleaned with water, which was the part I hated most.  Do you know if Frank uses a Duplex powder measure?

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July 18, 2023 - 12:41 am
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  I have shot every 1876 I every owned with smokeless powder, never used black powder. Never had a problem, always use a filler, only load to original velocity, and bullet weight.

 The toggle system is strong and not a problem. The weak part is the chamber area on 45-75 and 50-95 especially on serial numbers below 12,000 with the small barrel threads. The bottle neck cartridge in these calibers make the threaded area of the chamber very thin. Later they increased the thread size to keep the threads from cracking. This was to keep the barrel from falling off. This area is the weak spot of a 76. A shaped charge in a partially filled cartridge will bulge the chamber downward and crack the receiver between the barrel threads and the magazine tube hole. The 45-60 and 40-60 do not have this problem, the barrel is thicker in this area due to cartridge diameter. The receiver on all 76 calibers are the same size but the chamber on the barrel is thinner on the large bottle neck cartridges.

 That said I have unintentionally shot a few hot loads in 50-95’s and luckily no damage, that gun kicks. If you shoot bottle neck calibers the chamber is thin. T/R

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July 18, 2023 - 2:02 am
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Only way I know how to reliably rupture a barrel is to fire it with an obstruction, even then it may take repeated attempts. A barrel obstruction is commonly achieved by firing a cartridge with little or no powder causing the bullet to leave the case and chamber but fail to exit the muzzle. The partially filled case (flashover) phenomenon is nearly impossible to duplicate under controlled conditions.

 

Mike

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July 18, 2023 - 3:04 am
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  I have bought three Winchester black powder guns with blown chambers, 1873 44-40, 1886 45-70, and a 1876 50-95. Don’t know how they did it but all three blew out down cracking the receiver to the magazine hole. This makes it very difficult to unscrew the barrel. None had a barrel bulge or action damage. This is impossible to see without removing the forearm or shooting a round and not being able to eject the cartridge. The 86 seller took it back, the others would not.

 As to the cause, chamber pressure? T/R

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July 18, 2023 - 3:26 pm
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TR said
 As to the cause, chamber pressure? T/R  

What else?  Question is, how?  HV smokeless might have been shot in first two (though can’t believe it would crack rcvr), but factory HV wasn’t available for .50-95.  Only thing I can think of is bad handloads–an overcharge of smokeless by a careless reloader.

If you could ever get brl off, a chamber insert could be made to restore chamber.  I have an early .32-40 High Wall with a slightly bulged chamber I suspect had been fired with factory HV, but not so bad as to hinder extraction.

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July 18, 2023 - 4:24 pm
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clarence said

Chuck said

Clarence said.

“Only exceptions were Schuetzen shooters, many of whom found they obtained better accuracy with carefully loaded black, but even most of them used smokeless as a 5-10% priming charge, as I also used to do”. 

My friend shoots a duplex load in his repo highwall in 45-70.  Not seen many that can out shoot him.  I know I have said this before but.  Some guys with modern guns were trying to shooting golf balls at 200 yds.  My friend could hit more of them than they could.  Put them to shame.  If any of you know Denny Hanel ask him about his friend Frank that lives in So Cal.

  

  

Even that small charge of smokeless burns up almost all BP fouling.  Cases must still be cleaned with water, which was the part I hated most.  Do you know if Frank uses a Duplex powder measure?

  

I’ll ask him next week.  Didn’t get to shoot today.  Mother has air conditioner problems that require my attention.

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July 18, 2023 - 4:47 pm
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Chuck said I’ll ask him next week. 
  

Might mention you know where a nice Ideal #6 Duplex measure could be found.

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July 18, 2023 - 7:58 pm
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TR said
  I have shot every 1876 I every owned with smokeless powder, never used black powder. Never had a problem, always use a filler, only load to original velocity, and bullet weight.

 The toggle system is strong and not a problem. The weak part is the chamber area on 45-75 and 50-95 especially on serial numbers below 12,000 with the small barrel threads. The bottle neck cartridge in these calibers make the threaded area of the chamber very thin. Later they increased the thread size to keep the threads from cracking. This was to keep the barrel from falling off. This area is the weak spot of a 76. A shaped charge in a partially filled cartridge will bulge the chamber downward and crack the receiver between the barrel threads and the magazine tube hole. The 45-60 and 40-60 do not have this problem, the barrel is thicker in this area due to cartridge diameter. The receiver on all 76 calibers are the same size but the chamber on the barrel is thinner on the large bottle neck cartridges.

 That said I have unintentionally shot a few hot loads in 50-95’s and luckily no damage, that gun kicks. If you shoot bottle neck calibers the chamber is thin. T/R

  

This is very interesting information.  What have you typically used for a filler?

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July 18, 2023 - 11:16 pm
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This is very interesting information.  What have you typically used for a filler?

  

 I use cornmeal on everything except 45-75 and 50-95 which I use TP folded and rolled. I use a thin paper wad between the powder and filler. I can achieve strings with 20 fps variance. With the filler I can use less powder than the reloading manual and achieve the same velocity.

 . The 73 had an extra heavy barrel and came from a gunsmith out of Wyoming (Perry)? I knew something wasn’t right when I bought it, to good to be true price. I put a sleeve in the chamber made from high quality steel, worked good. Since I have had the problem three times, I ask the seller when I buy a gun if he guarantees the gun to feed and fire. Also I have stopped buying fixer-uppers. T/R 

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July 18, 2023 - 11:33 pm
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TR said I use cornmeal on everything except 45-75 and 50-95 which I use TP folded and rolled. I use a thin paper wad between the powder and filler. I can achieve strings with 20 fps variance. With the filler I can use less powder than the reloading manual and achieve the same velocity.

I’ve used cornmeal, & a synthetic product made specifically for this purpose, I forget the name.  One of the easiest fillers I’ve used is the “fluff” from milkweed seeds, with the seed detached. Not my “invention,” I read about someone doing it. They can be counted out, so no weighing, & they weigh nothing anyway.  Just 4 or 5 fill 45-70 sized cases & will hold powder firmly back against primer.

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July 19, 2023 - 4:38 pm
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I use TP for all my black powder cartridge guns that I shoot with smokeless powder.  Cheap, everyone has some and it doesn’t add volume to the case.  I do as TR does.  Fold it and roll it.  No compression on the powder but just enough of a wad to keep the powder against the primer.  I have tried wads but usually don’t use them.  Generally I am not trying to get a great amount of precision but with a hunting load I’ll spend more time and effort.

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July 20, 2023 - 4:47 pm
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An interesting topic.  The Model 1876 action was plenty strong enough for any factory cartridge that Winchester loaded for it back in its heyday.  The experimental Model 1878 used the .45-70-405 government cartridge and was strong enough for it.  The Model 1878 was a lengthened Model 1876 action used for 1878 military trials.  

I don’t know exactly when Winchester changed from wrought iron to steel for the Model 1876 receiver.  Probably about the same time they changed the Model 1873.  The catalog of September 1, 1884 is the first one I can find where the Model 1873 says the receiver is made of steel.  Gordon says it was around SN 40,000.  Probably the catalogs were the behind the time noting the change.  We know that Winchester didn’t like to waste parts so they would have used up the iron receivers.

Probably the Model 1876 changed to steel receivers in the 1882-83 time period when they went to third model style receivers.  

Neither Madis or Pirkle in their books notes any change that I can find.  

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

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