Russian Winchester 1895 (Video)

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.

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!


  1. does the magazine of the Winchester have the same interrupter in it as the magazine of the mosin nagant has to prevent the rims from locking up in the magazine ?

  2. Somewhere in Russia there is a warehouse full of 1895 Russian Winchesters. Probably packed in cosmoline after being re arsenaled.

  3. Have only seen two of these. One used to belong to a friend who is into Russian guns-it was somewhat “sporterized”.
    Saw one about three weeks ago, for sale, at a local gun show and it was in beautiful condition, about excellent. Guy was asking $2500 and it certainly looked like it was worth that!
    I have also seen, recently, a 1895 SRC in 7.62x54R.

  4. A common charge is that the War Dept ordinance boards were biased against foreign designs, but in this case they rejected a Browning designed Winchester for the Norwegian Krag, and replaced that with a rifle held to violate Mauser patents. There really was no realistic foreign competition (30 caliber, production ready) to the M-1 in the mid-1930’s, and the M-1 was designed by a Canadian, and a Quebec Canadian at that. Regarding the FAL / M-14, a book that Ian reviewed a while back, Random Shots, stated that until the FAL stumbled in the cold weather trials it was practically a done-deal–the blue prints were being converted to English units to prepare for production up to that point. The aversion to non-US designs of the ordinance boards looks like one of those things that “everyone knows” but that really has more evidence against it than for it.

    All that aside, is there any record of what the Russian users’ opinions were of this rifle compared to the bolt action?

      • The aforementioned issues about the American inconsistencies with arms development can be summed up with conservative attitudes. The Browning-designed Winchester M1895 would have been a good gun for most militias (familiar lever-action unlike European bolt-actions), but the early open-action loading without charger guides disconcerted generals of the time, none of whom had ever seen stripper clips due to isolationism. Most American people, soldiers and civilians alike, were used to loading ammo into a rifle without having the action open (Winchester loading gate for tubular magazine, similar unit seen on Swiss Vetterli rifles). Therefore, the Krag-Jorgensen, with its trapdoor-loading gate, was selected. The Springfield M1903 was made based on observations made during the Spanish-American War. The M1 Garand was chosen over the Johnson due to it being relatively better suited to conventions of the time (long range accuracy and melee durability likely contributing to its selection). As for the M14, it was a tried and true design with a few changes in ammo and feed. But overall, every decision was a conservative one… until Vietnam…

    • It seems pretty clear that the FAL had the inside track in the 1950s competition, until the cold weather Arctic trials took place. It seems from Rayle’s book (I also bought it based on Ian’s recommendation) that the staff at Springfield Armory, knowing with the trials would entail, made a lot more effort to prepare for them then the FN staff did. Once the tests were underway, Springfield Armory did assist M. Vervier and the FN technicians, but they had just spent a considerable period of time developing the T-44 for this specific test.

      Cold-weather testing to -40 or -65°F may seem excessive. But remember, the US Army had just been through a terrible experience in Korea, where American rifles and carbines, and their lubricants, failed miserably in subzero conditions.

      Those cold-weather tests appear to have been the last stand-alone tests of the T –44. Future tests involved both the T-44 Mand the T-48.

      Cold-weather testing also has been implicated in the change from 1:14 to 1:12 inch rifling in the M-16, but Rayle suggests that the change was made strictly on accuracy grounds.

  5. When Winchester re-introduced the 1895 a while back (Japanese made, with a tang safety and angle-eject for scope use) as a sporting rifle – there were .30-06 and .270 sporting rifles, along with a limited run of .405s – they really missed the boat by not offering either military-style rifles or the cavalry/ saddle carbines. Considering how cheap the ammo is, a military 7.62 x 54R offering would have made sense. And the carbines… recently Ian did something on elegant old guns, and my vote would go to the .30-40 M95 carbine that was in a long-dead friend’s collection. Such an elegant little rifle; I suspect that whoever owned the Winchester name at that point could have sold a bunch of them.

    Somewhere I heard that a lot of the Russian 95s wound up in Spain during the Civil War. Anyone know anything about Internationalist use of the 95?

    • “Considering how cheap the ammo is, a military 7.62 x 54R offering would have made sense.”
      But on the other hand remember that you can cheap surplus rifle for surplus cartridge – either Mosin rifle or SVT-40.

  6. I once saw one for sale in a local gun store about twenty years ago. I haven’t seen one since, albeit most stores around here have little of interest to a collector or student of firearms.

  7. Interesting gun Ian. I’ve seen a few full-length military Winchesters but they never really struck me as ideal for combat.

    By the way, has anyone had any luck accessing the forums lately?

  8. Just watched the video – huge fun. Large round, light weight, small buttplate = much recoil. But the one contributing factor unmentioned is straight stock. Amazing how much recoil a curve in the stock soaks up. If you want to do an interesting “forgotten” shotgun you should check out the Ithaca 66 lever-action single shot. Much, much cooler than your average dawgleg breaktop. At one point I owned a battery of them: .410, 20 gauge and 12 gauge. The plan was to rebarrel the .410 as a .32-20 or .44-40, which I never could afford to do. The 20 was hands down the best wing gun for quail, dove or clay pigeons I have ever owned. (Shot a bunch of pond-jump ducks with it as well.) No need to consciously aim… point, shoot, dead bird. However, the 12 gauge was unbearably brutal with anything except very light trap birdshot. About five and a half pounds with a straight stock… even with an aftermarket pad the recoil with 3″ loads was unbelievable. I initially bought the 12 thinking I would trim it to 22 inches and install slug sights (Ithaca sold such a piece; I think they called it the Buckmaster) but one round of buckshot cured me of that notion. Never had the guts to shoot a slug through it. I bought and sold all three for under a hundred bucks in the mid-80s; last time I checked they were going for around $400. Great ergonomic and odd/ cool (work the lever to break the action) and if you are larger than my five-eight 160 lb self the 12 gauge version might make you leave your fancy pump, auto or over-under in the safe come hunting season.

  9. While the lever action isn’t commonly thought of as a military arm, the Turks did use Winchester lever actions, mostly model 1866 rimfire .44s, against the Russians in the Russo-Turkish War, notably at the Plevna siege. (W.H.B. Smith gives a rather romanticised account of one of the engagements in the historical section of older editions of Small Arms of the World.)

    If the casualties the Russians took from the “Yellowboys” were just half as severe as Smith says they were, I suspect that alone would have given the Russians a healthy respect for a Winchester’s combat effectiveness.

    Happy New Year, everybody!



    • During WW1 Russian Army have serious rifles shortage and they bought or acquired every rifle they could, even obsolete and/or with non-standard chambering (examples: French Gras 1874 rifles or Mexican Arisaka).
      Interesting fact: During WW1 Vladimir Grigoryevich Fyodorov [designer of the Fyodorov (or Fedorov or Federov; depend on transliteration) Avtomat.] searched rifles for Russia. Many years later he described this events in book: В поисках оружия. М.: Воениздат, 1964

  10. therussin caveraly was th spearhead of the army, so they got the goodthings 1896 they issued the Madsen semiautomatic rifle.
    Many 95 was sold to Finland, so that is the place to look for them.
    I fired both the russian model and the405 version, the last, was a rather nasty experiance

    • Anyone shot .348 Winchester [Winchester 71, pistol grip stock] and .405 Winchester [Winchester 1895, straight stock] and compare both in terms of feel recoil? Both rounds have similar muzzle energy: 4150J for .348 (with 250 grain bullet) and 4387J for .405 (with 300 grain bullet). Which of these rifles has more harsh recoil?

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