As the 19th century was drawing to a close, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company began to feel the pressure to offer its rifles in the new, more powerful cartridges that were becoming popular around the world. The firm turned to John Moses Browning, one of the most successful and prolific gun designers of the late 19th and early 20th century, and Browning provided the firm with the design that would become the Model 1886. This completely redesigned action, with a pair of vertical locking lugs, could handle the pressures of just about any cartridge in use at the time, and allowed Winchester to offer a repeating rifle chambered for .45-70 for the first time. Six years later Browning redesigned the action, made it smaller and created the Model 1892, as the replacement for the old Model 1873. However, firearms technology continued to advance and by the early 1890s the new “smokeless’ powder was starting to supplant black powder as the propellant of choice in firearms cartridges. While the new powder provided significant advantages over the earlier black powder, the significant change in the potential operating pressures and the much steeper pressure curve at ignition meant that it was not suitable for older Winchester action designs, so once again John Browning was called upon to modernize the lever action rifle, with the result being the ubiquitous Model 1894, potentially the most successful lever action design ever and one that remains in production (virtually unchanged) to this day. While the 1894 could handle modern ammunition pressures and made possible new small bore sporting cartridge like the .30 Winchester Centerfire (.30-30), it still had one major drawback; its tubular magazine. This magazine design meant that only flat (or slightly rounded) nose bullets could be safely used, to prevent potential detonation of remaining cartridges in the magazine during recoil. New smokeless cartridges using round nosed and pointed bullets were being developed around the world (usually for use in bolt action rifles) and Winchester wanted to be able compete by offering these new calibers to their customers. Once again John Browning provided the solution with his last lever action rifle design, the Model 1895. This rifle utilized a fixed box magazine under the receiver, making the use of pointed bullets a possibility. In order to keep the receiver from being too wide and ungainly, Browning used a single stack design, rather than a staggered magazine. This meant that the magazine could only accept five rounds, while a staggered magazine design of the same depth would be able to accept 7 or 8 rounds. The box magazine increased the depth the receiver, giving the Model 1895 its unique and instantly recognizable silhouette. The new model went into production in 1896 and was offered in variety of calibers previously only available in Winchester single shot rifles, including the .30-40 Krag (.30 US or .30 Army), .38-72, and .40-72. In 1898 .303 British was added to the lineup, followed by .35 Winchester (1903), .405 Winchester (1904), .30-03 (1905), .30-06 (1908) and finally 7.62mm x 54R (7.62mm Russian). It was the Winchester in .405 that Teddy Roosevelt referred to as “medicine for lions” after an early 1900s African safari and not “big medicine” as the quote is often inaccurately repeated. Winchester produced some 425,881 Model 1895s between 1896 and the early 1930s (different sources list different dates for the end of production, citing between 1931 and 1936). The large majority of the guns, about 293,816 (just shy of 69%), were manufactured as part of a Russian military contract guns for the First World War. As with most Winchester arms of the era, the guns were produced in a variety of models, including carbines (22” barrels), rifles (typically 24”-26” barrels) and muskets (military configuration with sling swivels, 28” barrels and bayonet lugs) and a couple of special “NRA” models with 24” and 30” barrels respectively. Blued barrels and receivers were standard, but as with any Winchester, upgraded finishes, wood, special order barrel lengths, etc. were always available on custom order from the factory. On May 3, 1898, about a week after the United States declared war on Spain, starting the Spanish-American War, the United States government placed an order with Winchester for 10,000 of their new Model 1895 “muskets”, chambered in .30-40 Krag (.30 US), the same cartridge that was used in the current issue M-1892/94/96/98 Krag Jorgenson Rifles. While the US military considered the guns “rifles”, Winchester considered them as being of “musket” pattern. These US contract “muskets’ had the standard blued finish, 28” barrels, were fully stocked with a wooden handguard, had a double-strapped upper barrel band that carried a bayonet lug for Winchester’s Model 1895 knife bayonet, had military sights and sling swivels. The guns were stamped US on the top of the receiver, above the chamber, and were inspected by US government sub-inspector Kelly S. Moore, who inspected contract small arms circa 1893-1915, and whose mark can be found on everything from Colt Gatling Guns and 1911 pistols to Smith & Wesson M-1899 revolvers and Winchester M-1895 Muskets. The first 5,000 Model 1895s were delivered by the end of September, 1898, just weeks after the end of hostilities, as the war had officially ended on August 12. The balance of the rifles were delivered in January of 1899, but all of the US contract guns were produced before December 21, 1898, making them antiques and not modern firearms according to the BATFE. With 10,000 newly delivered rifles on hand, the officials at Springfield Armory decided to test the guns for their suitability for military service. In January of 1899 the Model 1895 was compared against the Model 1898 Krag Rifle and the Model 1895 6mm Lee Navy Rifle. The goal was to determine if the lever action rifle could be loaded and fired as rapidly and accurately as the bolt action rifles then in service. In a comparison of number of rounds that could be loaded and fired accurately in one minute, the Lee Navy came in first with 36, the Krag second with 27 and the Winchester last with 20. In a two-minute experiment the Winchester fared no better, coming in last with only 25 rounds, while the Krag fired 39 and the Lee Navy 55! The stripper clip loading system of the Lee Navy gave it a distinct advantage when it came to loading a rifle quickly, while the testers found the Winchester fixed box magazine awkward and difficult to load, especially the last two rounds. The board also found the the fit, finish and general quality of the Model 1895 was not up to the standards exhibited on the Krag and Lee Navy rifles. The result of the testing was a January 21, 1896 Ordnance Board Report that found the Winchester 1895 unsuitable for military service. Despite this scathing review, 100 of the rifles were issued from the Benicia Arsenal to troops stationed in the Philippines for field trials. The guns were issued to the newly formed 33rd US Infantry who would use them for the next few months in the field fighting Filipino insurgents. The rifles posed the same problem in the field as they had in the trials, they were difficult to load quickly and effectively. As a result, commanding General Douglas McArthur had the guns turned in and shipped back to the United States, where these 100 rifles were promptly sold as surplus to a Boston based military surplus dealer. The remaining 9,900 rifles stayed in storage at Springfield Arsenal until 1906, when they were sold to the New York military outfitter M. Hartley Company (formerly the Civil War era firm of Schuyler, Hartley & Graham and later Hartley & Graham). Hartley sold the Winchesters to Cuba (the very country they had been purchased to fight against), and in the ensuing years the majority of them ended up being sold to Mexico. There many of them saw service in the hands of Pancho Villa’s revolutionaries, in some cased being used against the US Army which had ordered them more than a decade earlier! As a result of the fact that most of these guns saw hard use in Mexico during the c1910-1920, today they are very scarce and most examples that are encountered show hard use and significant wear. For most US martial arms collectors this is rifle that is very hard to find, and complete examples with any condition at all are truly prized acquisitions.
Offered here is a VERY GOOD condition example of the very scarce US Military Winchester M-1895 Rifle. The gun is serial number 17893 and was produced in 1898. Based upon its position in the serial number sequence for 1898 manufactured Model 1895s (serial numbers ran from #7815 to #19871 that year), this rifle was probably part of the second delivery of guns to the US military in January of 1899. The gun is correctly marked with a large US on the forward part of the receiver and the sub-inspection initials of Kelly S. Moore, KSM, appear on the left side of the lever and on top of the bolt. The breech of the barrel, under the handguard is correctly inspected KSM and also marked with the caliber designation 30 US. Additional small inspection marks appear as well, including a B on the bottom of the lever and a C in the tang behind the trigger and serial number. The left side of the receiver is marked in two lines:
MANUFACTURED BY THE WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO
NEW HAVEN, CONN. U.S.A. PAT. NOV. 5. 95. NO. 12. 95. AUG. 17. 97. JAN. 25. 98.
The breech tang is marked in two lines:
- WINCHESTER -
The triggerguard tang is marked with the serial number 17893. The rifle is 100% complete, correct and original in every way and retains its original sling swivels, rear sight and bayonet lug. The action of the rifle is in EXCELLENT condition and functions crisply and correctly in every way. The receiver retains no original finish to speak up, and has a mostly smooth plum-brown patina with some flecked traces of blue visible under strong light. In some of the receiver and lever the wear has left a dull pewter gray color to the metal with no patination of the remaining finish. The barrel has a much thicker and more even plum-brown color and probably retains about 20%-30% faded and oxidized blue, which has turned a very attractive plum-brown as so often happens with old, untouched Winchester finishes. The receiver shows some lightly scattered pinpricking and a few tiny spots of light pitting, along with some scattered patches of minor surface oxidation and light roughness. The barrel remains almost entirely smooth and shows only some very lightly scattered pinpricking and some very light pitting around the face of the muzzle. There is also some wear to the finish and patina at the muzzle from the mounting and dismounting of a bayonet. The buttplate has a moderately oxidized dark gray patina over a mostly smooth, pewter gray base color and shows evenly distributed pinpricking and some scattered surface oxidation as well. The implement trap is in place in the buttplate, but the spring is quite strong and it is difficult to open or close the trap door. The implement compartment in the stock is empty. The bore of the rifle rates about GOOD+ and is relatively dark and heavily seasoned, with even light pitting along its entire length with some patches of more moderate pitting present as well. The buttstock of the rifle rates about VERY GOOD as well, and is solid and complete without any breaks, cracks or repairs. The buttstock shows a significant number of bumps, dings and surface marks, but nothing that rises to the level of abuse, simply real world use. A number of circular impact marks are preset on the obverse of the butt, forming a sort of pattern, and the initials CP are lightly carved in the reverse of the butt, possibly with some other letters. The forend rates about VERY GOOD as well and like the butt remains solid and complete and free of any breaks or repairs. It does show numerous bumps, dings, scuffs and mars like the buttstock does, all indications of some serious real world carry and use. The bottom of the forend, just forward of the receiver is stamped with a small 2 that appears to be an inspection mark. The handguard on the top of the barrel is in about GOOD+ condition. It shows significant wear like the balance of the wood, but also shows some grains cracks. At least four such grain cracks are present, two forward of the rear sight and another two to the rear of the sight. They remain tight and secure and have not been repaired but should probably been stabilized with some gun underneath. The handguard is notoriously weak, as it is fairly thin and has two spring clip inlet into its bottom, thinning the wood even more. The cracks are tight and with the grain but should certainly be attended to at some point in time. Otherwise the handguard is in about the same condition as the forend and butt of the rifle.
Overall this is a very nice, solid and complete example of the scarce US Military Contract Winchester M-1895 Rifle. These guns do not appear on the market very often and when they do they usually show the heavy use and abuse you would expect from a rifle that was likely carried by one of Pancho Villa’s Mexican revolutionaries for many years. This is one of the few cases where it appears nearly every example of this US military arm was sold as surplus and sold out of the country. That means that any US military Winchester 1895 found today was probably reimported into the US at some point in time, after doing duty in Cuba, Mexico or possibly a South American country. That is why the guns are so scarce today, most of them simply did not survive to make it back to the place of their birth! For any serious collector of US military arms this is a very hard rifle to find, and one that is missing from even most advanced collections. The rifle is an appropriate inclusion in a Spanish American War collection, a Philippines Insurrection collection, and one that covers General “Black Jack” Pershing’s punitive campaign against Mexico and Pancho Villa in 1916. This is a very solid, complete, original and authentic example that you will not have to make any apologies for and that you will certainly be glad that you added to your collection of late 19th century US military long arms.SOLD