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Question on lever action shotguns
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January 8, 2023 - 7:29 pm
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About 40 years ago I tucked away both a Model 1887 and Model 1901. I was not that interested in them but since they were scarce in nice condition even back then and since I wanted to have at least one of every lever model,  I figured I better do it while I could. After downsizing my collection to 19th century models I have sold the Model 1901 to another WACA member. Lately, as I have studied available literature, I have started to become really interested in these old shotguns – so much that I have decided I would like to find a really nice checkered (deluxe) Model 1887. There is nothing in my downsize plan that prohibits me from an upgrade. So, if anyone has one or knows where there is one, I would like to discuss it. Now for my question – – both of the models have a hole in the top of the receiver, forward of the hammer. The Model 1887 also has a similar hole in the lever just behind the trigger – this hole only exists on the Model 1887 only – it is not there on the Model 1901. I have looked at lots of photos of both models to confirm the existance and location of the holes. I assume the holes are there for lubrication but I have not been able to find anything which discusses these holes. If you know about a really nice deluxe 87 or have knowledge about the holes let me know. I am assuming our John Browning design expert Bert will probably know something. I have attached photos of the holes on both models.

8701lvr.jpgImage Enlarger8701top.jpgImage Enlarger

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January 8, 2023 - 7:35 pm
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Burt,

The hole in the top of the breech block is a gas vent hole in the event of a ruptured primer.  I do not know what the hole in the lever is for.

Bert

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January 8, 2023 - 8:04 pm
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Bert H. said
Burt,

The hole in the top of the breech block is a gas vent hole in the event of a ruptured primer.  I do not know what the hole in the lever is for.

Bert

  

Thanks Bert – the venting of gas makes sense. I have looked at a bunch of Model 1887 guns and they all have the hole in the lever. As an example here is a photo of a deluxe which Merz has for sale.

merz87.jpgImage Enlarger

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January 8, 2023 - 8:14 pm
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Burt Humphrey said

Bert H. said

Burt,

The hole in the top of the breech block is a gas vent hole in the event of a ruptured primer.  I do not know what the hole in the lever is for.

Bert

  

Thanks Bert – the venting of gas makes sense. I have looked at a bunch of Model 1887 guns and they all have the hole in the lever. As an example here is a photo of a deluxe which Merz has for sale.

merz87.jpgImage Enlarger

 

  

Here is another one for sale at Collectors Firearms – same hole – must have some purpose and it is on all 87’s.

87cf.jpgImage Enlarger

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January 8, 2023 - 8:40 pm
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I will have to dig my old Model 1887 out of the safe and take a look at it.

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January 9, 2023 - 1:16 am
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My early 87 has the hole in the trigger guard too.  It shipped 11 of 89.  I can’t really see a reason for it but if you look on the other side the hole is rectangular and the trigger, when pulled all the way, goes into this rectangular hole.  Maybe is was for some machining process?

Fancy, case colored receivers or engraved 87’s are hard to find in real nice condition.  Charlie May had the best collection of the lever shotguns I have ever seen. There were maybe 4 different butt plates.  Metal, hard rubber and and one only found on the special guns.  The earliest guns had one that wasn’t used for very long, very rare.  It took me years to find one that fit my gun.  I know for a fact at least 2 different stock widths were made.  There are 2 different styles of the barrel band too.

I’ll check and see if I have any references to back this up.  I should have written this stuff down or recorded what Charlie told me, when I was looking to fill my slot 20+ years ago.

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January 9, 2023 - 1:33 am
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Chuck said
My early 87 has the hole in the trigger guard too.  It shipped 11 of 89.  I can’t really see a reason for it but if you look on the other side the hole is rectangular and the trigger, when pulled all the way, goes into this rectangular hole.  Maybe is was for some machining process?

Fancy, case colored receivers or engraved 87’s are hard to find in real nice condition.  Charlie May had the best collection of the lever shotguns I have ever seen. There were maybe 4 different butt plates.  Metal, hard rubber and and one only found on the special guns.  The earliest guns had one that wasn’t used for very long, very rare.  It took me years to find one that fit my gun.  I know for a fact at least 2 different stock widths were made.  There are 2 different styles of the barrel band too.

I’ll check and see if I have any references to back this up.  I should have written this stuff down or recorded what Charlie told me, when I was looking to fill my slot 20+ years ago.

  

Thanks Chuck – I am thinking Mark Douglas will know the purpose of the hole in the lever – seems like it has to be access to something or lubrication. Today I have looked at half a dozen in person (every one I know of in Alaska) and photos of about another dozen – every Model 1887 has the hole in the lever. The Model 1887 also has the hole in the top of the breach block which Bert noted. But, the Model 1901 only has the hole for venting gas with no hole in the lever.

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January 9, 2023 - 2:28 am
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I can not see anything that would lead to something other than the rectangular shaped hole on the other side. 

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January 9, 2023 - 2:59 am
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Burt Humphrey said

Chuck said

My early 87 has the hole in the trigger guard too.  It shipped 11 of 89.  I can’t really see a reason for it but if you look on the other side the hole is rectangular and the trigger, when pulled all the way, goes into this rectangular hole.  Maybe is was for some machining process?

Fancy, case colored receivers or engraved 87’s are hard to find in real nice condition.  Charlie May had the best collection of the lever shotguns I have ever seen. There were maybe 4 different butt plates.  Metal, hard rubber and and one only found on the special guns.  The earliest guns had one that wasn’t used for very long, very rare.  It took me years to find one that fit my gun.  I know for a fact at least 2 different stock widths were made.  There are 2 different styles of the barrel band too.

I’ll check and see if I have any references to back this up.  I should have written this stuff down or recorded what Charlie told me, when I was looking to fill my slot 20+ years ago.

  

Thanks Chuck – I am thinking Mark Douglas will know the purpose of the hole in the lever – seems like it has to be access to something or lubrication. Today I have looked at half a dozen in person (every one I know of in Alaska) and photos of about another dozen – every Model 1887 has the hole in the lever. The Model 1887 also has the hole in the top of the breach block which Bert noted. But, the Model 1901 only has the hole for venting gas with no hole in the lever.

  

I think Chuck’s right.  The hole was drilled in the 1887 levers to mill more depth into the flat portion of the of the rectangular notch for the hook on the bottom of the trigger.  The bottom of the hole is flush with the edge of the notch and was an easy way to add the depth needed for the hook on the trigger to positively seat and keep the lever from being opened with the trigger pulled.  They were able to make this notch without the hole in the 1901’s by integrating the notch into the two-piece lever design.  At least that’s my best guess.  Mark

1887.jpgImage Enlarger1901.jpgImage Enlarger

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January 9, 2023 - 2:59 am
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I just finished a close examination of the Model 1887 I have in my collection (that I bought from Chuck nearly 20-years ago), and it too has the hole in the lever. That hole passes all the way though the lever to the rectangular cut-out area for the trigger when the lever is closed. There is nothing to lubricate in the area, so I am relatively certain that it is not for that purpose. Like Chuck, I suspect that it was for a machining purpose.

The Model 1901 has a 2-piece lever versus the solid piece lever found on the Model 1887.

Bert

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January 9, 2023 - 6:38 am
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Thanks to all who evaluated and commented. As I have always said, this WACA site is how you learn and benefit from the broad range of expertise and experience of members.

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January 10, 2023 - 1:28 am
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In regard to the question of the hole in the lever on an 1887, I believe it may have served two purposes. One, was in fact lubrication, but not for operation, but for the milling process. And two for chip clearance/ removal during that process. See in order to actually cut that slot would require an under cut end mill, meaning the part doing the cutting is larger than the diameter of the shank. And it is being “plunged” into the lever to achieve the desired cut, this type of cutter is weak and sensitive due to the reduced shank diameter and requires extra lubrication and chip release to avoid chatter and cutter failure. Just my thoughts .

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January 10, 2023 - 7:45 pm
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Makes sense to me.  I am not a machinist.

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