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FIRST WORLD WAR 1914 - 1918 ........................................................... SECOND WORLD WAR 1939 - 1945

Whilst the main reason for this rifle's presence on our site is due to the employment in British service of one of the last model types,

it is still perhaps worth giving a brief run-down of the Winchester single-shot musket's history.

The Winchester single-shot musket was, in its time, produced in three main types, the first two of which were of High Wall and the latter of mainly Low Wall configuration.

In his article entitled "They called it a Musket" published in the American Rifleman of November 1956, James Servern included a photograph of four types, with a brief description of each. This is replicated below.

The first, straight-stocked, model in the photograph is noted as "The original model of the Winchester single-shot musket brought out in 1905. Its characteristics are high-wall receiver with solid frame, straight forestock held by two bands, military rear sight, caliber .22 Long Rifle."

The next rifle is captioned "Second model has high-wall receiver with solid frame, improved forestock held by one band, and was available in .22 Long Rifle and .22 Short."

The third rifle down is entitled "This variation of the second model has a take-down barrel and a locking ring forward of the receiver."

The bottom rifle is described as the "Third and final model, discontinued in 1920. Low-wall receiver, Lyman receiver sight. Made principally in .22 Short, but available in .22 Long Rifle if required."



It will be seen that an earlier version of the first model, also produced in 1905, was fitted with a tangent-leaf rear-sight further forward on the barrel. The rifle in Servern's photograph is one of those on which the rear-sight was subsequently mounted right back against the receiver; a modification intended to improve sighting and accuracy, partly by the increase of the sight radius.

The next two images can be rotated and zoomed, either as initially loaded or full-screen for higher definition.

Slide cursor < > to rotate, and Click to zoom.

This image rotates on the bore axis.

The serial number of the above featured rifle indicates that it was one of 4,699 manufactured during 1905 within the serial range 96001--100700.

Originally a Browning design, the action's patent and rights to manufacture were bought by Winchester in 1883. Browning's 1979 Patent for the falling-block action is shown below.

The following link will take you to the Patent Application.

Or you can scroll through the Patent in the window below



This single-shot rifle, in sporting and Schützen, half-stocked configuration was, in the U.S.A., produced in a plethora of calibres, and remains in wide use by enthusiasts to this very day.

The first .22 rimfire rifle using this action was the Model 1885 and the latter, the Model 1887. These rifles were used for target and training purposes well into the early Twentieth Century. Between 1918 and 1919, a little under 11,500 rifles were purchased by the United States Ordnance and many were issued to American N.R.A. affiliated rifle clubs. superseded by the 1922 Model bolt-action training rifle, the Winder muskets were sold off. By mid-Century these sturdy stalwarts were becoming almost cast-off, as more modern and efficient designs came into being Post WWII.

Even the barrel internals of the Winchester Model 52 target rifle was a development of the 1885 design . The Winchester 52 rifle was first made available in 1919 at the National Matches at Caldwell, New Jersey, just one year before the demise of the single-shot "Winder" .22 rifle. The Model 52 was intended to as closely match as possible the weight, size and handling of the Sprinfield 1903 service rifle of the day. As did the Model 1885 and 1887 rifles, the Model 52 went through a number of configurations over the years, and was still serving until well after the second World War.


Designation or Type :    
Action Type :    
Nomenclature :    
Calibre :    
Weight :    
Length - Overall :    
Length - Barrel :    
Pull :    
Furniture :    

Rifling - No. of Grooves :

Rifling - Twist & Direction:    
Rifling - Groove width :    
Rifling - Land width :    

Rifling - Groove depth at muzzle :

Sight - Fore :    
Sight - Rear :    
Sight - Radius :    


Below is a view of a disassembled first pattern of the 1885 Winchester Musket.

Click image for a higher resolution view.

The above rifle is of high-wall configuration, and the side of the receiver is relieved, resulting in it being also widely known as the "thin-wall". A later model with a flat-sided receiver is thus known as the "thick-wall".

The next rifle shown on this page is in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, and the images were taken by courtesy of the Museum Trustees.

Below: The Winchester "Winder" Musket military style training/target rifle in .22 rimfire calibre.

The rifle was so named after its development had been actively promoted by Col. C.B. Winder of Ohio, an officer who recommended the use of a near service-rifle weight miniature calibre arm for economical training. The term "Winder" was never officially recognised by Winchester, but became a household name nonetheless. The term is only attributable to the .22RF calibre rifle, and specifically only those of military configuration.

The next two images can be rotated and zoomed, either as initially loaded or full-screen for higher definition.

Slide cursor < > to rotate, and Click to zoom.


The serial number of the above featured rifle "115760" indicates that it was one of the last manufactured between 1919-20.

Designation or Type :    
Action Type :    
Nomenclature :    
Calibre :    
Weight :    
Length - Overall :    
Length - Barrel :    
Pull :    
Furniture :    

Rifling - No. of Grooves :

Rifling - Twist & Direction:    
Rifling - Groove width :    
Rifling - Land width :    

Rifling - Groove depth at muzzle :

Sight - Fore :    
Sight - Rear :    
Sight - Radius :    

The falling-block action is not a milion miles away from the design patented more than twenty years earlier by Chritian Sharps of the then "Sharps Rifle Company".

Above: The rear-sight is a traditional ladder type shown in the long range vertical position. This later configuration used the US Krag-Jorgensen rifle's rear-sight, rather than the Hotchkiss unit fitted to the early First Model two band Winder Muskets.

The above example is in .22 Long calibre and is a "High-Wall" and "Thin Wall" version, as already mentioned, referring to the height of the side walls of the action receiver either side of the falling block and the hammer, and the reduction in width of the whole action from about a quarter-inch behind the front of the action. On the "Low-Wall" rifle, the action sides are cut lower in a concave radius; the hammer is thereby more exposed and the chamber easier to load with the small .22 rimfire cartridge. Rifles

The advertisement below for the Winchester Musket, still with no official mention of "Winder", was published in the year that the U.S.A. entered the First World War in Europe - 1917. This was a critical period in the history of U.S./British relations, and "all hands to the pumps" was the call on both sides of the Atlantic, and on both sides of the U.S. Canadian border. Teaching recruits to shoot straight was an important part of the training manta of the day, and the "Winder" musket played a not insignificant part in such work . Encouraging young men, both as cadets and civilians, was high on the list of the needs of all involved allied nations, and rifle clubs were also at the forefront of these efforts.

With the advent of the 21st. Century, the "Winder" Musket has become a much sought-after collector's piece, and many of these 1880s designed rifles are still to be found in use on the ranges by enthusiasts shooting in historic competition, just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Below is an extract from the American Rifleman of an article published in October 1966.

This covers the Winchester single-shot rifle in general, and affords parts listings and diagrams, as well as details for disassembly.

The Winchester lever-action single-shot rifle was manufactured from
1885 until 1920, and at one time or an
other during this period was available
 in six styles of frame and in seven different barrel
weights. It was chambered for a great 
many rimmed cartridges, ranging in cal
ibre from the .22 short rim-fire through
and including the .50 Eley centre-fire. There was limited production in rimless calibres, including 7 mm. Mauser, 7.65 mm. Mauser, and .30-'06. This falling-block action was also used for a 20-gauge shotgun first made in 1914, and the shotgun was offered in both solid- frame and take-down styles.

The actions of Winchester single-shot rifles were case-hardened in colors until August 1901, but those manufactured in following years were heat-treated and given a blued finish. Color case-hardening was obtainable on special order following the institution of an improved heat-treatment method. The Winchester firm would at one time re-heat-treat the older case-hardened actions, but this service was subsequently longer offered by that company.

Plain triggers were standard on most versions of this rifle, but set triggers could be furnished on special order. The single-shot rifle in a takedown version was first offered in 1910. The development of this system necessitated a change in the design of the mainspring. The flat mainspring of the solid-frame rifle was attached to a base on the barrel, but in the takedown type the mainspring of music wire was fitted around the hammer assembly. This latter action is commonly called the coiled- spring type, and it eventually became standard for both take-down and solid-frame rifles.

The final version of the Winchester single-shot rifle was the Model 87 musket introduced in 1918 in cal. .22 rimfire. Large numbers of this model were purchased by the U. S. Government for troop training purposes during World War I and were later issued to shooting clubs through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship. This rifle was the first of the series to be given a model number. Until that time this basic rifle was merely listed as the Winchester Single Shot, without the customary model number applied to other Winchester rifles and shotguns.


The design of the Winchester single-shot rifle was based upon a patent granted to John M. Browning in 1879. The Browning firm produced nearly 600 of these rifles in its Ogden, Utah, shop, but sold the manufacturing and sales rights to the Winchester firm in 1883. Winchester engineers made only minor design changes in tooling up for its manufacture.


Drop the under-lever (32) and check the chamber to be sure rifle is not loaded. Unscrew fore-arm screw (7) and remove wood fore-arm to expose mainspring (5). Unscrew main spring screw (6) and remove mainspring. Loosen under-lever pin stop screw (34) and drift out under-lever pin (33) with a suitable punch. Pull breechblock (23) with firing-pin (24) and hammer (27) attached out bottom of receiver by under-lever (32). Extractor (25) will drop out bottom of receiver after removing breech-block. Above parts may all be parted by drifting out their respective pins.

To disassemble trigger mechanism, unscrew the upper and lower tang screws (22 & 13) and remove butt-stock to rear. Unscrew side tang screws (14) from left and right sides of receiver and remove tang (15). Remove knock-off spring screw (16) from underside of tang and remove knock- off spring (17). Trigger (20) and knock- off (18) can be removed by drifting out their respective retaining pins (21 & 19). Unscrew sear spring screw (9) from top of receiver tang and drop out sear spring (10). Drift out sear pin (12) and remove sear (11) from receiver.

Reassemble in reverse (see Fig. 1) .

To reassemble breech-block (27), hammer (22) and under-lever (32) in receiver, place them assembled in the position shown, and push them partly into position from the underside of the receiver. Replace extractor (25) in receiver and push breech-block, hammer, and under-lever up into position, aligning front hole of under-lever with its corresponding hole in receiver. Replace under-lever pin (33) and tighten under-lever pin stop screw (34).


a picture


Parts Legend

 1. Front sight

 2. Barrel

 3. Rear sight

 4. Mainspring base

 5. Mainspring

 6. Mainspring screw

 7. Forearm screw

 8. Receiver

 9. Sear spring screw

 10. Sear spring 11. Sear

 12. Sear pin

 13. Lower tang screw

 14. Side tang screws (2)

 15. Tang

 16. Knock-off spring screw

 17. Knock-off spring

 18. Knock-off

 19. Knock-off pin

 20. Trigger

 21. Trigger pin

 22. Upper tang screw

 23. Breechblock

 25. Extractor

 26. Firing pin stop pin

 27. Hammer

 28. Hammer pin

 29. Link

 30. Link pin, long

 31. Link pin, short

 32. Finger lever

 33. Finger lever pin

 34. Finger lever pin stop screw

 35. Butt-plate

 36. Butt-plate screws (2)

 Note—Butt-stock and forearm not shown.






The most unusual aspect of the little 1903 Winchester semi-automatic in .22 rimfire calibre shown below

is not so much the rifle as where it has been, and the uses to which it has been put.

Whilst of .22 calibre, the rifle was chambered for the rimfire Winchester Auto cartridge rather than the .22 Long or Long Rifle cartridge more regularly seen in the U.K. at that time. The 1903 was the first semi-automatic "miniature calibre" rifle manufactured by Winchester and, since the British .22 rimfire ammunition was loaded with fouling and corrosive black powder, the smokeless-powder loaded Winchester round was deemed more suitable for a semi-automatic action.

Above: a comparison of the .22 Winchester Rimfire calibre rimfire cartridge (left) with the .22 Long Rifle cartridge (centre),
and the Winchester Auto (right) as used in the 1903 rifle.

The latter cartridge's images are courtesy of the late A.O. (Tony) Edwards

Here shown at approximately 150% of actual size (at a standard 1024x768 resolution), the Winchester cartridge cases are approximately 20 "thou" greater in diameter than the .225" of the Long Rifle cartridge and have a tapered crimp at the neck of the



Below: the "business" side of the Imperial War Museum's 1903 model

Shown below is the top of the action marked as U.S. property and carrying the military "Flaming Bomb" stamping.

The top LHS of the action body also carries the well-known British acceptance mark of the "Broad Arrow", along with the inspector's mark.

This rifle was introduced into British service in two small batches - each of 300 units - in 1916 and 1917 respectively - specifically for assistance in training Royal Flying Corps and, latterly, Royal Air Force aircrew in gunnery; (the Air Force Bill received Royal Assent in November 1917, the Air Ministry was formed on 2nd. January 1918, and the Royal Air Force officially came into being on 1st. of April of that year). It has, however, been reported elsewhere that only 500 of the 600 contract came to Europe as late as 1918.

Full-bore Winchester under-lever rifles were known to have been used by Royal Flying Corps pilots and observers during the early stages of the First World War (1914 -1918) in addition to their side-arms. The side-arms most commonly in use were .455 calibre revolvers and, later, when the British Government bought in small batches specifically for R.F.C. aircrew use, .455 calibre Colt 1911 Automatic pistols. Such small-arms were really more used in the air to dissuade enemy reconnaissance aircraft from loitering over one's own lines than with specific intent to shoot down enemy aircraft. The infliction of damage or wounding in this way was not completely unknown, but comparatively rare. Pistols were carried rather as personal protection in the event of a forced landing on the "wrong side of the lines" than as weapons of attack.



For many years, aircrew have been encouraged to shoot small-arms of all kinds to "sharpen" their reflexes and practice gunnery. Clay pigeon shooting with shotguns has been a particularly popular and useful 'training' discipline - of great assistance in teaching the "leading" of fast moving targets. Indeed, at about the same time that these .22 rifles were brought to the U.K. by the British Government, a batch of 12 bore shotguns was also procured from Winchester via the U.S. Government.

The rifle is shown below with the butt and action separeted from the receiver and fore-end. The spring-loaded magazine feed tube is withdrawn as if for loading.

In his fairly recently published book "British Secondary Small Arms 1914-1919 - Part II, R.F.C. and R.N.A.S." the late Tony ( A.O.) Edwards stated that over half-a-million rounds of .22 Winchester Auto rimfire ammunition was bought in with the first batch of 1903 rifles, with a further contract for 300,000 rounds per month. This would indicate that, by the time all 600 rifles were in service, each one was firing an average of 1,000 rounds every month.

The illustrated example of this wartime purchase was, until recently, the only one then known to the Imperial War Museum, which left 599 to be accounted for! The screw-threaded muzzle on the IWM rifle, for the fitment of a sound moderator, would suggest that it moved into private hands as a sporting rifle after the Great War; this could, most likely, have been the fate of many of the worthy 600.

A reader has advised us of another rifle presently in South Africa, and we are grateful for the images shown here.

This example caries the same Broad Arrow and inspector's mark as those on the rifle in the I.W.M., but has, in addition, the initials "R.A.F." stamped into the left-hand-side of the receiver.

The barrel markings have the basic standard model number, manufacturer's details and U.S. trade mark reference, but further marks for calibre and proof have been added, with a zig-zag bordered "NOT ENGLISH MAKE" in addition.

Below is shown the right-hand-side of the above R.A.F

. marked rifle.

That many of the rifles were not returned to the U.S., after the War, (those stamped 'US Property' would have been part of a wartime lend-lease arrangement), is evidenced by the fact that, in the early 1920s, A.G. Parker of Birmingham were advertising them for sale. They marketed them alongside their other imports, the Winchesters '90 and 1906, Savage Model 1914, and Remington No.12A U.M.C. pump/slide-action repeating rifles, as well as the ubiquitous Browning semi-automatic .22 rifle. The pump action repeaters sold, at that time, for between five and six pounds, whilst the Browning semi-auto was marketed at just under three pounds, putting the Winchester 1903 semi-autos at a significant premium.

We replicate the advertisement below.

Since A.G. Parker & Co. were then still offering 'large quantities' of .22 Winchester Auto ammunition, evidently far from all of the contracted ammunition was consumed before the end of the First World War.

In 1925, A.G.Parker advertised the previously mention take-down Model 1903, for which their catalogue entry is shown below.


Interestingly, by 1941, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company's own catalogue advertised a "Model 63", which item is illustrated below.

This rifle appears to be outwardly almost identical to the 1903 model in most respects, other than the modification of the butt-stock to a pistol-grip design with reduced curvature of the butt-plate and a slightly higher comb, no doubt commensurate wih the fashion and thinking of the day. The rifle was available in the .22 calibre, but intended for the Long Rifle Super-Speed and Super-X cartridges by then in use in North America .


We have been passed the following additional information by a reader and researcher Alan David, now in Australia, who has Royal Air Force documentation of the:

"Establishment of Gunnery and Armament Stores and Equipment" - D9362.

Alan writes:

"With regard to the Winchester Model 1903 being used in British Service, this is recorded in the Aircraft Armament Handbook CB1161 dated 1917.

There are a few different versions of this, but in the training aid section there is a nice drawing of an '03 Winchester conjoined to a Lewis gun.

I would imagine that this was the main use for the rifle certainly in the latter part of the War."

This document gives details of that unusual use of the Winchester .22 Semi-Auto rifle "in the field" as a sub-calibre training attachment for the Lewis machine gun, which was one of the most common aircraft armament fitments. By dint of brass straps and wood packing blocks - as illustrated below - the Winchester was attached to the Lewis gun and a trigger linking bar fixed across both weapons. The whole was then to be fitted into a surplus aircraft nacelle mounted on a platform approximately 7 feet x 10 feet, with a handrail, raised onto a tapered wooden tower nearly twenty-three feet high and all constructed out of 4" x 4" and 4" x 2" pine bolted together. Butts were to be constructed with earth and railway sleepers at a range of 90 feet. A moving target system had to be made up using rope and pulleys.

Alan David, to whom we pass a note of thanks, additionally advises us that:

" There are the two known orders to the London Armory Company, the UK Winchester agents, for 300 rifles each, totaling 600 rifles. However I have seen a memorandum at the PRO ( Public Records Office - Kew ) making reference to previous small orders to the LAC including one for 37 rifles. In addition, in the book Winchester Repeating Arms Company by Herbert G. Houze, there is a reference, on page 191, to 550 '03 Winchesters being ordered by Great Britain in 1918, which is well after the two LAC orders which were placed, the first in 1916 and the second in 1917. So it would appear that over 1,000 rifles were purchased in total. Interestingly a number of these rifles have shown up in New Zealand, many with RAF stamped on the receiver, I have one in my collection, complete with a vestige of red paint on the safety button. Some of these rifles have Enfield inspection marks, others do not.

The second source of reference is a hitherto unknown document which I came across at the RAF Museum Library at Hendon – “Gunnery Memoranda”, July – December 1916. This mentions the Winchester .22 rifle, noting that they have plenty on hand for training. Also mentioned are .351 Winchester S/L’s along with .401 Winchesters S/L’s, ( which is, thus far, the only known official reference to these Model 1910 .401 self loaders being used, although this has always been suspected). The reference to them is for training and I suspect the quantity involved was small, probably less than the 120 1907 .351 Winchesters. These .401’s may have been borrowed from France, which nation had a reasonable quantity of them; on the other hand they could have been ordered from the LAC, or a mixture of both!

Interestingly the Gunnery Memoranda goes on to mention the Farquhar Hill rifle also being used as part of the training syllabus. There is no mention of Winchester 1911 shotguns which were definitely purchased, instead Browning S/L shotguns are mentioned, again in the training role. These probably would have been purchased from Le Personne, the UK agents for Browning, as Belgium was over run at the beginning of the Great War."


Other Winchester small-bore rifles were supplied to Britain in the Second World War under the American "Lend Lease" programme, in which arms and other military equipment were provided by the U.S.A. on what was effectively a 'Sale or Return' basis. Arms not retained post-war were to be returned, and those kept were to be paid for over a period of time. It is understood that repayment, in whatever 'quid pro quo' form finally agreed, has only very recently been completed, sixty years after the end of the War.

Of particular note, amongst those .22 RF rifles imported, were Winchester 74 semi-automatics. It has been suggested that, amongst a variety of other American manufactured telescopic sights as sold with these rifles by Parker-Hale pre-war, a number of these rifles were fitted with the No.42 straight-sighting telescope, which 'scope was more usually utilised for artillery work, and the rifles moderated with a silencer manufactured, in a batch of 660, by Parker-Hale in March 1942, (see "British Small Arms of WWII" - I.Skennerton). The same reference book indicates that sufficient rifles were possibly not available until acquired via Parker-Hale in mid August of that year, all previous Winchester imports being only in batches of a few tens of numbers. Thus, rifles so configured seem unlikely to have seen the light of day until later in 1942.


Above is an artstic representation of a Winchester 74 similarly configured

These rifles were supposedly intended for use, by specially trained Home Guard underground units, in the event of an invasion of the U.K. by the German forces; their work was expected to be akin to that undertaken by any disruptive guerrilla force, harrying the enemy and assassinating senior officers or important administrators should the opportunity arise. (see also the Lee-Enfield Rifle No.4T). Veterans of this secretive organisation confirm the use of these rifles in various configurations, and mention the the more likely anticipated usages to include the elimination of guard dogs and sentries, as well as the necessary and practical task of supplying fresh meat to members concealed in their secret "OB" hideouts (Operational Bases).

The official designation for such components of this force were the "Auxiliary Units" of the British Resistance Organisation. This Organisation was the brain-child of Brigadier Colin Gubbins M.C. (Maj. Gen. at close of hostilities) who was one of the formative number in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1940, and later became its Executive Officer (CD).

A Junior Officer of the Dorsetshire Regiment latterly described the purpose of these Auxiliary Units as follows:

" The gist of it was that each county along the coast of the U.K. would have its private army of approximately 500 men who would live in underground hideouts , which would be stored with food, ammunition etc., - wait for the invasion to pass over them, then emerge from their Operational Bases causing havoc to the enemy's lines of communication". *

We are fortunate to be able to illustrate the appropriate page from a manual for the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) showing the modified Winchester 74 with covering notes. The text is somewhat small, so we copy it alongside the image.

"DESCRIPTION: The Sniper's Rifle is a specially configured .22 calibre Winchester, Model 74 Rifle. The weapon is fitted with a silencer and powerful telescopic sight.

PURPOSE: The Sniper's Rifle is intended to provide special forces personnel with a weapon capable of inflicting a lethal wound at a range of up to 100 yards.

Length without silencer ........ 44"

Length with silencer ........ 52"

Ammunition ....................... .22LR

Magazine capacity ........ 14 rounds

The sketches are of a "Sniper shown in a concealed firing position" and of " The target as seen through the telescopic sight"

"A Weapon that eliminates muzzle flash and muzzle noise offers several advantages to special forces personnel.

(1) The source of the fire is masked.
(2) The location of the weapon is difficult for the enemy to pinpoint.
(3) The enemy can not identify the numbers or type(s) of weapons firing, or their range.
(4) The weapon has less recoil and is more accurate to fire.
(5) The enemy is harassed and confused.
(6) The sniper has a psychological advantage over the enemy."


Later in the War, once the threat of invasion had receded, many of those trained for the Auxiliary Units volunteered for transfer to the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service (SAS and SBS), subsequently rendering " Stirling" service to the Nation in not dissimilar clandestine duties to those for which they had originally prepared.

Below is the advertisement for the Winchester 74 rifle taken from the company's catalogue of 1941.


A more mundane wartime Winchester import was the Model 67, a single-shot bolt-action rifle intended for use as a training rifle. Should you know more of the service of either of these two rifles with the British military or Home Guard during WWII, or even perhaps own an example, then we would be delighted to hear from you.

Below is the advertisement for the Winchester 67 rifle taken from the same catalogue of 1941


* "Stirlings' Men" - by Gavin Mortimer - Cassell 2004

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