By the 1890s, Winchester had established an extremely successful business in lever-action rifles. John Browning’s designs for the 1886, 1892, and 1894 models had proven very popular, and so Winchester (seeing the potential of the new smokeless powder developments) requested that he design a new lever action rifle specifically for the new high-pressure cartridges. This became the model 1895, and was initially offered in .30-40 caliber (as well as .38-72 and .40-72 black powder rounds, so Winchester could hedge their bet on smokeless powder).

Russian-contract Winchester 1895 with bayonet
Russian-contract Winchester 1895 with bayonet

The Winchester 1895 involved several significant design elements to safely accommodate high pressure smokeless ammunition. The most obvious is a fixed 5-round box magazine in place of a traditional tube mag. This box magazine allowed the use of pointed bullets, as the bullet tips would not be resting against the primers of other cartridges. The 1895 also used a strengthened locking design and better grade steel to withstand higher operating pressure. While it is true that the earlier lever action rifles were able to use smokeless rounds as well, this is due to their being overbuilt – the 1895 was the first such design made form the ground up for smokeless powder.

The model 1895 went on to be offered by Winchester in .35 WCF, .405 WCF (widely recognized as Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Medicine), .30-03, and .30-06 for the American sporting market (although about three quarters of commercial sales were in .30-40). This doesn’t touch on what was by far that largest sale of model 1895 rifles, though: the contract with the Russian Imperial military. In 1915, Russia was in serious need of small arms, and approached many of the major American factories. Remington and New England Westinghouse both took contracts to make Mosin-Nagant Rifles, and Winchester struck a deal to produce 300,000 Model 1895 rifles in the standard Russian military 7.62x54R cartridge. Unlike the Mosin-Nagant orders, all of the Winchester rifles were delivered prior to the Russian Revolution.

In addition a rather distinctive military style fill-length stock, the Russian contract guns are also notable for their inclusion of stripper clip guides. Standard Mosin-Nagant clips were used to reload the box magazine, making the process much quicker and easier than loading individual cartridges by hand. Still, the 1895 was not originally intended to be a combat rifle, and its characteristic of exposing all the internals to intrusion of mud when being cycled must have resulted in problems for Russian soldiers who weren’t careful with it.

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I have to say that I found the 1895 very nice to shoot, sticky chamber aside. I definitely need to add one of these to my personal collection!

17 Comments

  1. Writing a book on the Winchester Model 1895. Any additional info on the Russian Contract, Winchester model 1895 would be appreciated

    • I collect Model 1895’s but probably can’t help out by adding anything for your book. Would like a copy when it’s done.
      Best regards,
      Andy Muenich, Eau Claire, Wi.

      • I have a 1895 Winchester Rifle .30us, MFG. in 1899 that has the letters “BGJ” stamped on the strap above the chamber, Any idea on what that may be?

  2. I would be interested in buying your book when it comes out! I have Winchester’s 1907 & 1910 and am looking for John Henwood’s ‘Forgotten Winchesters’ Do you know of any sources/ Thanks, Nick

  3. And how I wish somebody would issue a Russian 1895 replica, long fore end, sights graduated in lines, bayonet lug (and bayonet, if that’s legal), clip guide, and all. I just once got to hunt w/ a 95 in .30-06, and I liked it! a lot! And I’m not even a lever-gunner!

  4. Hi!

    I live in finnland and during our history numerius 1895’s are left here by russians. Most of those rifles are “sporterised”.. stocs made more like huntting rifle. Many of those “ryssän winsu”‘s (as there are called in finnland..) are rechambered wildcat calibers like 8.2×53R, 9.3×53R. I do actively use my 9.3 to hunt moose. My winsu is light, accurate, bigbore, stopper and being light kicking like a mule.. im big robust guy but feld recoil tames me after five rounds. In huntting situation you do not feel nothing as adrenaline kicks in..

  5. Hello Gents.

    Sorry Trygge but,
    SS John Grafton was carrying Swiss made Vetterli M 1869 rifles,
    not Winchester 1895 rifles.
    These Vetterli are in Finland often called as a Grafton-rifle.
    SS Grafton was blown up in 1905.
    The Winchester Model 1895 rifles was manufactured mainly between 1915-1917.

    Most of m1895 are “imported” to Finland during Finnish civil war and world war 2, 1918-1945.

    Certain number was confiscated from the cold hands of soviet soldier.

  6. Been collecting Winchester Model 1895’s for a long time and have the full run of the 10 calibers manufactured. Parts are a continuous problem, especially when acquiring one that needs certain parts. Evil Bay and Gun Broker are the first choices and inquiring among folks that deal in Winchesters at gun shows sometimes will yield results, especially if you are a customer. Hope that helps. Best regards. Andy M.

  7. Sometimes it takes a long time. I’ve been looking for a butt stock for a ’95 with a shotgun style butt plate for over a year. I know I’ll find one eventually, or, hopefully come on to a junker at a gun show that I can buy and do some switching.

    • mr meunich,my name is frank richardson i live in florence alabama and i own a 1895 winchester manufatured around 1910.have you ever came aross one with a 1917 enfield barrel.chamber is unmarked.i can see the number 6 and faint outlines of flaming bomb beside front sight.has a circled vp proof mark and a large p under the forearm.any info would be greatly appreciated and thank you for your time.

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