The Winch­ester Model 1907 .351 WSL of­fered near-.30-30 per­for­mance in a low-re­coil semi­au­to­matic car­bine, mak­ing it the most used po­lice ri­fle in the 1920s and ’30s gang­ster era.

Gun World - - Contents - By Ed Sanow

“The Gun That Shoots Through Steel.”

That is how Winch­ester in­tro­duced its Model 1907 ri­fle cham­bered in .351 Winch­ester Self Loader (WSL). In the wake of the gang­ster­era Kansas City Mas­sacre, when four law en­force­ment of­fi­cers were killed, the po­lice across the na­tion up­graded their firearms. As a re­sult, the Winch­ester Model 1907 be­came Amer­ica’s first po­lice pa­trol ri­fle.

The Winch­ester Model 1907 is a blow­back-op­er­ated semi­au­to­matic ri­fle pro­duced be­tween 1907 and 1958. Winch­ester de­signed the Model 1907 to be a car­bine-length ri­fle with a mag­a­zine large enough for law en­force­ment. The ri­fle was sim­ple, re­li­able and quick-han­dling, with fast fol­low-up shots. The Model 1907 in .351 WSL was the most widely used law en­force­ment ri­fle dur­ing the gang­ster eras of the Roar­ing ’20s and the Wild ’30s.


The 1933 Kansas City Mas­sacre was the am­bush and mur­der of four fed­eral and lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cers. A fugi­tive in the cus­tody of th­ese of­fi­cers was also killed. The shootout prompted a na­tion­wide up­grade in po­lice firearms.

This am­bush took place in the park­ing lot of the Union Sta­tion rail de­pot in Kansas City, Missouri. It was an at­tempt by the Ver­non Miller gang to ei­ther free Frank Nash, a fed­eral pris­oner, or it was an act to kill him to pre­vent him from tes­ti­fy­ing. He, as well as the seven of­fi­cers es­cort­ing him, came un­der fire from three or four gun­men, some armed with ma­chine guns, in an am­bush last­ing about 30 sec­onds.

FBI Direc­tor J. Edgar Hoover re­acted quickly; first, to get his agents prop­erly armed, and sec­ond, to arm them with pow­er­ful weapons. (Prior to this mas­sacre, FBI agents did not have the au­thor­ity to carry firearms fed­er­ally [state to state]

and had to ob­tain per­mits and li­censes in ac­cor­dance with lo­cal laws and each in­di­vid­ual state. In May 1934, Congress ex­panded the FBI’s au­thor­ity to carry firearms na­tion­wide.)

The first weapons au­tho­rized for carry by the FBI were the Thompson .45 Auto sub­ma­chine­gun, the Spring­field and Rem­ing­ton .30-06 bolt-ac­tion ri­fles, and the Winch­ester Model 1907 .351 WSL self-load­ing ri­fle. This act by the FBI made the Model 1907 Amer­ica’s first true po­lice pa­trol ri­fle. The Winch­ester Model 1907 im­me­di­ately gained pop­u­lar­ity with the po­lice across the United States as they also up­graded their firearms dur­ing the De­pres­sion era of vi­o­lent gang­ster ac­tiv­i­ties.

Although the FBI later adopted the Rem­ing­ton 81 in .35 Rem­ing­ton, the Winch­ester Model 1907 be­came the po­lice pa­trol ri­fle-of-choice for most county, and es­pe­cially state, po­lice of­fi­cers. The .351 WSL had the ideal com­bi­na­tion of stop­ping power, car body pen­e­tra­tion and con­trol­lable re­coil for rapid fol­low-up shots.

It was such a pop­u­lar and widely used pa­trol ri­fle that it would have been rare for the po­lice in any of the 50 states not to have used one at some point dur­ing its hey­day in the pe­riod be­tween the 1930s and the 1960s. Some po­lice de­part­ments still used them and had them in their ar­se­nals un­til the mid-1980s.

It was also used in the fed­eral prison sys­tem and state pris­ons through­out the na­tion. It had am­ple power for po­lice and guard duty with­out the dis­ad­van­tage of ex­treme range and heavy re­coil found in some of the more-pow­er­ful ri­fle cal­ibers. In th­ese prison roles, the .351 Winch­ester re­mained the ri­fle-of­choice un­til it was re­placed in the 1980s by the Ruger Mini 14.


The Model 1907 uses a de­layed blow­back ac­tion—mean­ing that it fires from an un­locked breech. The blow­back bolt is con­nected to a 2.5-pound breech­block that cy­cles back and forth un­der the ri­fle’s hol­low fore­arm. The com­bi­na­tion of a strong bolt­spring and the weight of the bolt and breech­block



slows the bul­let’s re­coil im­pulse enough so that a locked breech is not nec­es­sary. That means no gas tubes, no pis­tons, and no ro­tat­ing bolts or lock­ing lugs.

The breech re­mains com­pletely closed by the force of the bolt­spring and in­er­tia of the breech­block un­til the bul­let ex­its the bar­rel. Then, the re­coil of the fired round forces the bolt back far enough to eject the empty case, strip a loaded round from the mag­a­zine and cham­ber it.

The Model 1907 is fed from a de­tach­able box mag­a­zine. The hunt­ing and po­lice ver­sions used five- and 10-round mag­a­zines, while the mil­i­tary ver­sion used 15- and 20-round mag­a­zines.

The Model 1907 had fa­mil­iar er­gonomics for weapons of the time. For ei­ther a right- or left-handed shooter, the sup­port hand sim­ply pulled back on the cock­ing lever to cham­ber a round. This is the same mo­tion of their sup­port hand to pump a slide-ac­tion shot­gun.


The Winch­ester Model 1907 came in two ver­sions: pre- and post-World War II mod­els. About 30,000 ri­fles of the Model 1907s are pre-war (1907–1942), and about 28,500 ri­fles are post-war (1948–1958). For the post-war ver­sions, the Model 1907 moniker was short­ened to “Model 07.” The big­gest im­prove­ment with the post-war ri­fles was the use of thicker wood for the fore­arm and butt­stock. The pre­war fore­arm was very thin. The re­cip­ro­cat­ing breech­block beat against the wood to the point at which about two-thirds of the pre-war ri­fles have cracked fore­arms. Like­wise, the slim butt­stock would crack where it met the re­ceiver. The post-war up­grades to the Model 07 butt­stock and fore­arm to­tally solved those is­sues.

An­other im­prove­ment, es­pe­cially for law en­force­ment of­fi­cers who change mag­a­zines un­der stress, was a big­ger mag­a­zine thumb re­lease. The wider, longer and knurled post-war re­lease re­placed the smaller and smoother pre-war ver­sion. This was an im­por­tant change, be­cause the mag­a­zines are a tight, al­most gun­smithed, fit. It takes some force and pre­ci­sion to re­move

them, and it starts by proper pres­sure on the mag re­lease.

A third big im­prove­ment was an up­grade to the op­er­at­ing rod tip. The pre-war Model 1907 used a coin-like cir­cu­lar cap on the end of the op rod. The post-war Model 07 got an ag­gres­sively curved, hooked cap on the end of the op rod. Un­der stress, it is eas­ier to grab the post-war curved hook to cham­ber a round.

Mi­nor changes in­cluded a swap from a Winch­ester em­bossed plas­tic buttplate to a more-durable, heav­ily check­ered steel buttplate. The de­tent hold­ing the take­down screw was elim­i­nated. Sling swivels in­let­ted into both the butt­stock and fore­arm were added.


The Model 1907 came in many mod­els dur­ing its 51 years of pro­duc­tion. The Plain Model was the base, hunt­ing grade ri­fle. The Deluxe Model used a higher grade of mar­bled wal­nut stock and had heavy check­er­ing on the fore­arm and pis­tol grip area. A lim­ited num­ber of Prince of Wales grip (English straight stock) ri­fles were also pro­duced.

In 1917, Winch­ester pro­duced a mil­i­tary-only ver­sion called the Mil­i­tary Model 1907/17. The fully au­to­matic Model 1907/17 fired at a rate of 650 rounds per minute and came with 15- or 20-round mag­a­zines.


The Mil­i­tary Model ri­fle used a larger-di­am­e­ter bar­rel with­out a front sight. The bull bar­rel ac­cepted a sleeve with an in­te­grated lower bay­o­net lug and up­per front sight. The sleeve slid over the sight­less muz­zle and was held in place with two screws. The lug was de­signed to ac­cept the bay­o­net from the Model 1896 Krag-Jor­gen­son bolt-ac­tion ri­fle.


In 1935, Winch­ester used some of the left­over Mil­i­tary Model com­po­nents for a short run of the Po­lice Model. An ex­tremely rare ri­fle, the Po­lice Model was dropped from the Winch­ester lineup in 1937 be­cause so few were sold.

The post-war Model 07 Po­lice Model used the same large-di­am­e­ter bull bar­rel as the Mil­i­tary Model 1907/17 and used the same bay­o­net lug-front sight sleeve. In fact, the Po­lice Model al­lowed Winch­ester to use up parts left over from the French mil­i­tary con­tract, which was can­celed in 1918 when World War I ended.

The Po­lice Model came with one five- and one 10-shot mag­a­zine. The Po­lice Model rear sight was a sim­ple V-groove plate drifted into a dove­tail that was ma­chined 23/8 inches far­ther to the rear of the fully ad­justable Plain Model. The Po­lice Model, like the Mil­i­tary Model, was not ad­justable for el­e­va­tion but was drift ad­justable for windage. The Po­lice Model came with an M1907 leather sling vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to the M1 Garand-type used by the mil­i­tary. Oth­er­wise, the Po­lice Model was sim­ply a modified pre-war Model 1907.

The Winch­ester Model 1907 (Model 07) be­came Amer­ica’s first widely used po­lice pa­trol ri­fle. The “gun that shoots through steel” had enough power to get in­side cars with the fastest fol­low-up shots of any high-pow­ered ri­fle of the era. I

The Winch­ester Model 1907 (Model 07) was widely used in front­line ser­vice by fed­eral, state and lo­cal law en­force­ment from the 1930s to the 1960s. It was still on ac­tive duty in some cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties un­til it was re­placed by the Ruger Mini 14 in...

The Winch­ester Model 1907 (Model 07) was put to work by the FBI against the Karpis and Barker gangs. This ri­fle was at the Bon­nie and Clyde shootout, dur­ing which the Brown­ing Au­to­matic Ri­fle (B.A.R.) in .30-06 did all the heavy lift­ing. The...

Fol­low­ing the Kansas City Mas­sacre, the FBI au­tho­rized a num­ber of high-pow­ered weapons, start­ing with the Winch­ester Model 1907 (bot­tom), shown here with the Winch­ester Model 12 shot­gun. Both are on dis­play at the In­di­ana State Po­lice Mu­seum. A ma­jor...

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