Lever Ac­tion

An old clas­sic – and some mod­ern up­grade op­tions

Airgun World - - Contents -

Russ Dou­glas has fun try­ing out a Winch­ester lever-ac­tion re­peater

You may have no­ticed my club mate, Steve, us­ing a Winch­ester lever-ac­tion re­peater, in March’s li­cens­ing ar­ti­cle. Sev­eral club mem­bers have these now, from the plain black ver­sion to the en­graved bling ‘Yel­low­boy’ spe­cial edi­tion, with open sights or op­tics. I saw these and my eyes nat­u­rally lit up. I was kindly al­lowed to try them – thank you Steven and Paul – and was hooked; so much so that I ‘might’ have spo­ken to Lloyd be­fore my Fe­bru­ary visit to BAR, to check if one was in stock.

This grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion was helped by the first time I fired half a dozen shots through one, stand­ing at 10m with iron sights. I shot a short, straight, ver­ti­cal line of crisp holes, so whilst I might have been a bit off for el­e­va­tion, there was no doubt this ri­fle could group. The next time I tried – again at 10m, with a low-mag scope fit­ted via a scope rail adapter – I ba­si­cally cut out a crisp pound-coin-sized hole, with 32 rapid-fire shots. The holes in the card tar­get also told me that de­spite be­ing CO2-pow­ered, there was some de­cent oomph be­hind the wad­cut­ters. My ob­vi­ous next thought was, ‘How will this group at 25m?’

BACK TO BA­SICS

The Winch­ester is a clas­sic de­sign, light­weight – 1m long/6lbs – with a sad­dle-friendly car­ry­ing ring on the left side, and a throughac­tion push safety. Push in from the left for ‘SAFE’, ham­mer blocked; push from the right, so the red ring shows, for ‘FIRE’. The ac­tion is pleas­ingly ro­bust, re­quir­ing a firm push down­ward on the lever with the trig­ger hand, then a firm pull back up, to prime fully. Load­ing is via a pop-out panel, af­ter press­ing on the faux car­tridge load­ing port. It ac­cepts a stan­dard Umarex 8-shot al­loy .177 pel­let cylin­der, and two are sup­plied.

The Winch­ester ac­tion is de­signed for an 88gm CO2 cylin­der, screwed in through the stock af­ter first re­mov­ing the plas­tic butt pad, us­ing the sup­plied key. The up­side of the lever ac­tion is that no gas is ‘wasted’ when cy­cling the ac­tion, leav­ing more for fir­ing the. The down­side of this econ­omy is that af­ter even a shoot­ing ses­sion of a de­cent length, you’ll still have loads of gas left, but you lose this when you con­sci­en­tiously re­move the cap­sule to store the ri­fle, to avoid un­duly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing the gas seals. There’s a way round this – read on.

OP­TICS OP­TIONS

The iron (plas­tic) open sights are great, very re­al­is­tic and per­fectly func­tional with a sight ra­dius of 43cm. El­e­va­tion ad­just­ment is via a

sprung ramp and stepped wedge, and ba­sic windage ad­just­ment is by drift­ing the fore­sight bead side­ways too, but there’s more ver­sa­til­ity pos­si­ble by us­ing an add-on, Walther op­tics rail. I’ve dis­cov­ered that’s very much a love/ hate op­tion, and many purists I’ve spo­ken to shud­der at the very thought of fit­ting a scope.

The scope adapter has two up­per sec­tions of 9mm dove­tail rail above two sec­tions of Weaver rail, al­though your Weaver mounts would need a gen­er­ous stand off to clear the up­per dove­tails. Per­haps a deluxe fu­ture ver­sion will come with both op­tions, swap­pable with the use of Allen bolts to main­tain the low pro­file. To at­tach it you un­screw a slim, slot-headed screw from the right side of the ac­tion (re­tain this), the rail fits tightly in place and you re­place the sup­plied longer screw and large washer.

I tried var­i­ous scopes from the min­i­mal­ist 3 x 20 op­tion, to a proper 3-9 x 50. The lat­ter was frankly OTT for the low-ly­ing, slim Winch­ester re­ceiver, and the nec­es­sary high mounts, to al­low the ob­jec­tive lens to clear the rear sight, caused an eye align­ment is­sue for me.

The Winch­ester’s shal­low stock an­gle is per­fect with the open sights, where your cheek­bone is right at home against the min­i­mal stock comb, so even with a low-pro­file scope/mounts you must change your head po­si­tion. You do this by rais­ing the point where your face meets the stock, but by the time I’d mounted the 3-9 x 50 scoped ri­fle, only the low­est edge of my chin was still against the stock it­self. Not ideal, but some of you might be happy with this con­ces­sion in or­der to mount your favourite op­tics.

COMB RAISER

That brings us to an af­ford­able pos­si­ble so­lu­tion, in the form of a very af­ford­able syn­thetic comb raiser from eBay. This raiser is ad­justable and am­bidex­trous, and a Vel­cro-at­tached side panel has slim slots for full-bore car­tridges.

GAS POWER OP­TIONS

An­other top tip for cheaper run­ning costs came from Paul at the range. Walther do a re-use­able, faux 88gm re­place­ment cylin­der made from bead-blasted Alu and it takes two 12gm CO2 cap­sules. The beauty of it is that the noz­zle in­cludes a valve, so you can re­move it from the stock/ac­tion mid-ses­sion with­out losing any gas, to pre­serve the seal. You

“you can re­move it from the stock/ac­tion mid-ses­sion with­out losing any gas”

un­screw the outer plas­tic screw to re­lease any left-over gas, then un­screw and re­move the larger knurled end cap. Drop two 12gm CO2 cap­sules in, bases to­gether, screw in the end cap, then turn the smaller screw to pierce the two cylin­ders. This is then screwed in as if it’s an 88gm cylin­der, but at much cheaper run­ning cost. For an ex­tended range ses­sion, screw in an 88gm cylin­der and blast away to your heart’s con­tent. For a shorter ses­sion the twin 12gm adapter is per­fect, still giv­ing a sur­pris­ing num­ber of shots.

GAS ECON­OMY

I wanted to do a thor­ough test, so I set up my R2A chrono’, loaded with twin 12gm cylin­ders – not for­get­ting the pre-CO2 Pell­gun Oil – and hoped to get 50-plus shots. To my very pleas­ant sur­prise, the lever ac­tion ate up cylin­der af­ter cylin­der of pel­lets. I pre­fer to use lighter wad­cut­ter pel­lets with 6 ft.lbs. ri­fles (e.g. SIG MPX/MCX), and the Winch­ester is no dif­fer­ent.

As ex­pected with CO2, the power slowly dropped as the ses­sion went on, but the first eight shots av­er­aged 565 fps (4.96 ft.lbs.) and the FIF­TEENTH eight-shot mag still av­er­aged 488 fps (3.7 ft.lbs.). I stopped there be­cause I had other things to do, but you get the pic­ture. This ac­tion is se­ri­ously eco­nom­i­cal with its gas, so I rec­om­mend get­ting the 12gm adapter, and buy your 12gm in bulk for econ­omy. Hey presto! Your fun/tar­get shoot­ing is as cheap as chips. I’d also in­vest in a de­cent batch of the eight-shot mags, to load up be­fore­hand be­cause shoot­ing the Winch­ester is SO much fun, you won’t be­lieve how quickly you empty them.

RING­ING THE STEEL OUT­DOORS

I shot the Winch­ester first in­doors, at 25m, with open sights off a bean­bag, get­ting a tidy 3-4cm group. Re­mem­ber, you need a solid black tar­get (e.g. 60mm dia) be­cause you’ll be fo­cused upon the fore­sight.

Next was a scope, and af­ter try­ing as many op­tions as pos­si­ble, I set­tled on a cheap low-pro­file, low mag’ 1.5-5 x 20 model. The re­sult­ing group was no bet­ter, if I’m hon­est, thanks to the par­al­lax er­ror I got with my el­e­vated cheek po­si­tion, but there’s lit­tle can com­pete with ring­ing the dan­gling steel plates out­doors to 25m, work­ing the lever ac­tion, and quickly reac­quir­ing the open sights as fast as you like. Im­mense fun, as the queue of fel­low mem­bers wait­ing to try their hands at­tested.

DE­CENT RE­SULTS

My pref­er­ence is def­i­nitely for us­ing this ri­fle with open sights out­doors, ring­ing dan­gling steel plates and com­pet­ing against your friends whilst drop­ping gallery tar­get sil­hou­ettes, but the op­tic op­tion is there if you want it. Af­ter ad­just­ing the open sights onto tar­get, my rested group was 4cm; lean­ing on one el­bow it was 2.5cm; and free­stand­ing a flukey 3cm - plus two fly­ers.

DOWN­SIDE OF THE AC­TION

My only com­plaint when us­ing the lever ac­tion, is that the fir­ing hand’s wrist an­gle is very shal­low – this is no ver­ti­cal pis­tol grip! I have a ten­dency to­ward wrist pain from the crutches, so an ex­tended shoot­ing ses­sion can be un­com­fort­able, but this ri­fle is cheap to buy, eco­nom­i­cal to run, and so much fun that I rec­om­mend you try it for your­self. As al­ways – en­joy your shoot­ing.

Thanks to Bri and Sam for their help with the pho­tos, and to my fel­low GARC-ers for the chance to try this cool ri­fle in the first place.

32 shots at10m with a scoped Yel­low­boy – I was hooked.

As na­ture in­tended: John Wayne didn’t use a scope.

Test­ing kit.

… and load up a mag’.

88gm CO2

… or the Walther twin C02 adapter.

Re­sults rested, off one el­bow, and stand­ing off-hand.

Adapter in place and se­cure. Note 9mm dove­tails.

More comfy with £5 comb raiser.

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