The .351 WSL Cal­iber

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The Model 1907 ri­fle was cham­bered for just one round: the .351 Winch­ester Self-Load­ing (WSL) car­tridge, also known as the .351 Winch­ester and .351 SL (Self-Load­ing). The .351 WSL fires a true, .351-inch-di­am­e­ter bul­let us­ing a semi-rimmed, straight-wall case. This semi-rimmed car­tridge de­sign al­lows feed­ing from mag­a­zines but also sim­pli­fies the head spac­ing in a straight-wall car­tridge.

The orig­i­nal Winch­ester-West­ern fac­tory load­ing for the .351 WSL was a 180-grain bul­let at 1,860 fps, pro­duc­ing 1,385 foot-pounds of en­ergy. The Model 1907 can take mule deer, black bear, moose and elk out to 150 yards.

The .351 Winch­ester is mid­way be­tween the .30 M1 Car­bine and the .30-30 Win. in both re­coil and en­ergy. The .30 M1 Car­bine fires a 110-grain bul­let at 1,990 fps, pro­duc­ing 970 foot-pounds of en­ergy. The .30-30 Win. fires a 170-grain bul­let at a ve­loc­ity of 2,230 fps, pro­duc­ing 1,870 foot-pounds of en­ergy. The .351 WSL car­tridge pro­duces 15 per­cent less re­coil than the .30-30 Win. car­tridge, and the Model 1907 semiauto ri­fle weighs 25 per­cent more than the Model 1894 lever gun. The Model 1907 has very lit­tle felt re­coil for the power of the car­tridge.

In the mid-1930s, the test for the power of a hunt­ing ri­fle was the num­ber of 7/8-inch pine boards the bul­let could pen­e­trate with hunt­ing-ori­ented soft-point am­mu­ni­tion. The Winch­ester cat­a­log at the time showed the .30-30 Win. pen­e­trated 12 pine boards, and the .351 WSL pen­e­trated 13. About 80 years later, we du­pli­cated those re­sults ex­actly.

The 300 AAC Black­out is fre­quently her­alded as the ul­ti­mate po­lice and tac­ti­cal cal­iber. While it is avail­able in a wide range of bul­let weights, the 300 AAC Black­out pushes a sub­sonic .30-cal­iber, 208-grain bul­let to 1,020 fps with 480 foot-pounds of en­ergy. It pushes a 110-grain bul­let to 2,300 fps with 1,310 foot-pounds of en­ergy. The .351 WSL pushes a .35-cal­iber, 180-grain bul­let to 1,800 fps pack­ing 1,398 foot-pounds of en­ergy. The .351 WSL has al­most three times the power as the sub­sonic load and a lit­tle more than the sonic load. This is no hand­gun car­tridge; the .351 WSL is a true ri­fle car­tridge.

The 351 Model 1907 was the gun that could shoot-punch 1930s-era auto bod­ies, in­clud­ing pickup trucks. It also had the abil­ity to pen­e­trate the best soft-body ar­mor of the day. Yet, it had a low enough re­coil for fast fol­low-up shots. All of that was rare for the time in such a por­ta­ble and ma­neu­ver­able ri­fle.

How­ever, there is a lot of con­fu­sion about the Po­lice Model. To make it clear: The Po­lice Model of the 1935 Winch­ester took the pre-war Plain Model and modified the butt­stock, buttplate, fore­arm, mag­a­zine re­lease and op­er­at­ing rod cap.

The Po­lice Model was dropped shortly there­after (in 1937). How­ever, all the im­prove­ments made to the Po­lice Model— ex­cept for the fixed rear sight and bay­o­net lug-front sight— were in­cor­po­rated into the re­designed Plain Model. This im­proved Plain Model came to be called the Post-War Ri­fle due to the ob­vi­ous changes, even though the changes were ac­tu­ally made in 1937 when the Po­lice Model was dropped.

It’s com­mon to see a post-war Model 07 “used by a po­lice depart­ment,” but don’t con­fuse this as be­ing a Model 07 Po­lice Model. Most .351 Winch­ester ri­fles that are called a Po­lice Model are ac­tu­ally post-war Plain Model ri­fles. The bay­o­net lug/front sight sleeve is the best way to iden­tify the Model 07 Po­lice Model. If the bar­rel does not have a sleeve with an in­te­grated bay­o­net lug and front sight, it is not a Po­lice Model.


The Model 1907 is heavy but well bal­anced. It is car­bine in length but not in weight. At 8 pounds, it has the heft of a fully loaded, ex­tended mag­a­zine pump-ac­tion shot­gun. The ab­sorbed re­coil from the Model 1907 al­lows faster fol­low-up shots than any lever-, bolt- or pump-ac­tion ri­fle. The semiauto Model 1907 pro­duces less dis­rup­tion to the sight pic­ture and in­volves zero hand move­ment for re­peated shots.

The fac­tory sights com­prise a fully ad­justable Buck­horn rear sight and blade front sight. A fac­tory peep, or aper­ture, rear sight was a fac­tory op­tion. The benchrest ac­cu­racy is some­what ham­pered, both by th­ese open iron sights and the duty-ori­ented trig­ger pull. It is per­fect for po­lice op­er­a­tions but not so much for match and tar­get shoot­ing. The of­fi­cial ac­cu­racy numbers for the Model 1907 are 3.5 MOA with iron sights. We got 3.3 MOA with a 180-grain jack­eted soft point; 3.5 MOA with a 180-grain full metal jacket; and 3.7 MOA with a 170-grain flat­point lead.

Today, new fac­tory am­mu­ni­tion us­ing new car­tridge cases is read­ily avail­able from sev­eral reloaders and can eas­ily be found via a Web search. For in­stance, Load-X Am­mu­ni­tion in Cal­i­for­nia does good work. New .351 WSL ammo comes in jack­eted soft point, full metal jacket, to­tally cop­per plated, and swaged, flat­point lead bul­lets. That said, the Model 1907 is ex­pen­sive to shoot at $1.35 to $2.65 per round.

We fired the .351 WSL 180-grain jack­eted soft point into a block of bal­lis­tic gelatin. It pen­e­trated 27 inches. I’ve been do­ing gelatin test­ing for 30 years, and I could not tell any dif­fer­ence in the wound chan­nel be­tween this .35-cal­iber 180-grain soft point and the .30-cal­iber 170-grain soft point from the 30-30 Win. The .351 WSL makes up in cal­iber what it gives up in en­ergy.

Think of the .351 WSL as a re­duced-re­coil .30-30. The Model 1907 is a true deer ri­fle that “shoots through steel.” No won­der it dom­i­nated law en­force­ment dur­ing the gang­ster era, be­com­ing Amer­ica’s first po­lice ri­fle. GW

About the Au­thor

Lieu­tenant Ed Sanow is the pa­trol ri­fle in­struc­tor and the direc­tor of train­ing with the Ben­ton County, In­di­ana, Sher­iff’s Depart­ment and co-au­thor of three ammo stop­ping-power books.




The .351 WSL has the same per­for­mance in bal­lis­tic gelatin and the same pen­e­tra­tion in wood as the .30-30 Win. for the same weight bul­let.

The semi-rimmed, straight-wall .351 WSL

(cen­ter), com­pared to the .30 M1 Car­bine (left) and .30-30 Win.


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