Winchester 1885 (Low Wall) Returned to the Fray



  • The older I get the older my rifles get too. May be showing matchlocks before long. Anyway, this is my latest toy to be completed. It is an original Winchester 1885 Single Shot chambered in 32-40 Ballard appropriated by Winchester as the 32-40 Winchester. The cartridge was originally introduced by Marlin in the Union Hill 8 & 9 Ballard rifles in 1886 and was loaded with a 165 grain 16:1 lead bullet over 40 grains of (black) rifle powder. Marlin, Winchester and others soon began chambering lever action rifles for the cartridge which required a flat nosed bullet. C. H. Ballard designed many rifles and cartridges that were produced by a number of manufacturers in the mid to late 1800s. A distinctive feature of most of his centerfire cartridges was the use of small diameter primers which was a result of his witnessing a magazine tube explosion caused by cartridges slamming around under recoil and the hard round nose bullets detonating the large rifle primer in common use at that time. Another peculiarity is that the folded head original Ballard cartridges generally had no headstamp and were loaded with paper patched bullets. This rifle was made in 1900 and wears a #3 weight full octagon barrel with a target globe front sight and a tang rear sight. The trigger is a single set which breaks cleanly at 2# unset and 1 ounce the way I have it adjusted when set. The rifle was "restored" in the 1980s by a previous owner who had it reblued and re-case colored to orignal Winchester specifications then put it away unaware that he had fitted a single trigger hammer in place of the correct hammer containing a piece called a fly. He also had the stocks cleaned and encased in what appears to be spar varnish which is incorrect but since most Winchester rifles of that period were delivered with a varnish finished stock isn't too bad a mistake. I purchased a new production correct style set trigger hammer and new springs for the trigger from Montana Vintage Arms and had the hammer color case hardened by Wyoming Armory so that the sear would not be broken by firing with the trigger set. My cartridge is Starline 38-55 (Winchester length 2.085") that I annealed then re-formed to 32-40 yielding an original 32-40 Ballard length case of 2.13" length. Although Winchester used the shorter case dimension for Ballard cartridges they appropriated all their chambers were made long enough to fire the longer Marlin manufactured ammunition. After Marlin ceased ammunition production, Winchester chambered their rifles for their shorter brass. Modern solid head brass won't hold 40 grains of modern black powder making it impossible to attain the original 1440 fps muzzle velocity with modern components using black powder. But, that is a minor concern since I will be using this rifle in schuetzen competition with that nasty nitro powder anyway. The bullet is a 170 grain grease groove bullet measuring .323" that matches the groove diameter of the barrel. Load development is delayed by inclement weather but I will be shooting it in the iron sight Traditional class in our Spring Match.
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    Timin' has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

    7


  • That’s a cool old gun, I’ve always been intrigued by the old falling block rifles. I have a .22 falling block made in 1912 I believe. I can’t shoot it though because the chamber is swollen and cases swell up and stick inside of it.



  • It's possible your rifle is chambered for 22WRF which is the same diameter as a 22Mag. Most 22WRF chambered rifles will fire 22LR but the cases tend to rupture and stick. If the bore is good, a sleeved breech can be installed and if the bore is gone a full length liner will breathe new life into an old 22.

    Timin' has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

    1


  • @rr2241tx
    Thanks I may look into that. I wish it was still in its original condition, my house burned when I was in my late teens all the guns got water damage so my dad sent then to be refinished and the guy costed them all in a cerakote type stuff. At the time I wasn’t thinking how much that took away from the old gun



  • @bull81 Sorry to hear about your misfortune. Our home was erased by a tornado when I was a teen, anything that didn't blow away was soaked by a heavy rain that followed. Incredible luck that no one was home and I was only a few blocks away at the time. Even better, the local gunsmith was driving by from the opposite direction and recognized my car. He loaded up all the guns and returned them when the house was rebuilt, cleaned and adjusted. Howard Dietz, RIP.

    The good news is that the cerakote can be removed and the surface won't be too rough beneath it. Wyoming Armory will strike (polish) and refinish your rifle. Their work is top notch and their prices are reasonable. Give them a call and talk over the project with George.

    Timin' has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

    1


  • @rr2241tx
    I may look into that cause I really hate what ended up happening to it. The coating is not actually cerakote, it’s a home brew stuff a local guy came up with years and years ago, pretty neat stuff but I don’t know too much about it. The old man has passed away but his son has kept the business going.



  • Put 20 rounds through the low wall this afternoon. Easily breaking rocks the size of golf balls at 70-100 yards on my buddy’s pond bank Offhand. Light was poor due to heavy clouds so those were the least things we could see through the iron sights. Load was 14.6 gr 2400 WLR 170 gr plain base cast bullet. Deer were feeding less than 30 yards from our impact zone. They know deer season is closed.

    Timin' has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

    1


  • @rr2241tx said:

    Put 20 rounds through the low wall this afternoon. Easily breaking rocks the size of golf balls at 70-100 yards on my buddy’s pond bank Offhand. Light was poor due to heavy clouds so those were the least things we could see through the iron sights. Load was 14.6 gr 2400 WLR 170 gr plain base cast bullet. Deer were feeding less than 30 yards from our impact zone. They know deer season is closed.

    In PA I think deer can read posted signs. A friend of mine rear Pittsburg has about a 6 acre field in front of his house that he doesn't let anyone hunt in. Every time I'm over at his place deer come out in that field at dusk...EVEN IN HUNTING SEASON....



  • @bull81 said:

    @rr2241tx
    I may look into that cause I really hate what ended up happening to it. The coating is not actually cerakote, it’s a home brew stuff a local guy came up with years and years ago, pretty neat stuff but I don’t know too much about it. The old man has passed away but his son has kept the business going.

    Sounds just like the story about Birdsong coatings I have heard before.



  • @datec said:

    @bull81 said:

    @rr2241tx
    I may look into that cause I really hate what ended up happening to it. The coating is not actually cerakote, it’s a home brew stuff a local guy came up with years and years ago, pretty neat stuff but I don’t know too much about it. The old man has passed away but his son has kept the business going.

    Sounds just like the story about Birdsong coatings I have heard before.
    It was birdsong coatings, small world. They are about 10 minutes down the road from my house



  • @bull81 said:

    @datec said:

    @bull81 said:

    @rr2241tx
    I may look into that cause I really hate what ended up happening to it. The coating is not actually cerakote, it’s a home brew stuff a local guy came up with years and years ago, pretty neat stuff but I don’t know too much about it. The old man has passed away but his son has kept the business going.

    Sounds just like the story about Birdsong coatings I have heard before.
    It was birdsong coatings, small world. They are about 10 minutes down the road from my house

    I have looked into it pretty good and even spoke to Jafa there. It goes back quite a ways and read some independent lab tests and results that they tested it with Cerakote, Duracoat and a couple others and all others failed in the salt spray some lasted longer then others but they all failed except Birdsong, they pulled it out after over 7k straight hours in the spray tank with no issues what so ever and figured that after that long nothing would.

    It has other cool features too like not showing up with IR devices.

    It is good stuff no doubt but that firearm would look way better the way it was originally for sure.


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