Video: Winchester’s Unique Lever-Action Shotgun

Video: Winchester’s Unique Lever-Action Shotgun
As this replica Winchester Model 1887 demonstrates, a lever-action shotgun is a strange design. But the gun was one of the first successful repeating smoothbores.
As this replica Winchester Model 1887 demonstrates, a lever-action shotgun is a unique design.
As this replica Winchester Model 1887 demonstrates, a lever-action shotgun is a unique design.

Typically, when Winchester and shotgun appear in the same sentence one thing comes to mind – the Model 12.

The pump-action is among the most storied guns of the 20th Century, having perhaps collected more game than any other smoothbore. But it is far from Winchester’s only venture into the world of repeating shotguns.

In fact, the company produced what it billed as the first “successful” repeating shotgun nearly 25 years before the Model 12. Of course, the Model 1887 is a much different concept than most are use to when it comes to smoothbores.

The gun was yet another brainchild of prolific gun designer John M. Browning, who utilized one of the most popular actions of the day – the lever. Strange as a lever-action shotgun sounds, it was a natural choice for the time the 1887 was designed.

The blackpowder shotgun – offered in 10 and 12 gauges – appeared on the heels of one of Winchester’s most fabled firearms of all time – the Model 1873. The lever-action rifle earned fame as, “The gun the won the West.”

While the 1887 – and the later 10-gauge smokeless powder version, the 1901 – was a gun of its time, it seems quite out of place to modern eyes. The video below from the NRA National Firearms Museum points out perhaps the gun’s biggest flaw, the inordinately long lever stroke required to cycle the shells.

Of course, as the video also points out, the unique look and sound of the action did make the shotgun iconic appearing in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hands in Terminator 2.

Perhaps the neatest aspect about the 1887, at least from a collector’s standpoint, is the shotgun’s accessibility. The Standard Catalog of Firearms puts the gun’s value, in excellent condition, at $2,750. A quick look at some popular online firearms auctions/retailers had the shotgun selling for right around that price.

By modern standards, the 1887 might not be the most functionally practical gun. But at its price, the shotgun is very affordable option in 19th-Century firearms.


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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


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