The .351 WSL Caliber
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.
SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS AND ACCURACY
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.
IN THE WAKE OF
THE GANGSTERERA KANSAS CITY MASSACRE … THE POLICE ACROSS THE NATION UPGRADED THEIR FIREARMS.
THE WINCHESTER MODEL 1907 BECAME AMERICA’S FIRST POLICE PATROL RIFLE.
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.