Winchester 1901 question

Discussion in 'Rifle Discussion' started by funfflyer26, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. funfflyer26

    Oregon City
    New Member

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    I currently have a friend's Winchester 1901 10 gauge lever action shotgun, to clean it up and try to see if it can be fired. It's in really good condition especially since it was made sometime around 1902 and is ~110 years old. The part that I can't figure out is what length of shell it was designed for. I've read a couple different things online, but sources don't seem to agree if its 2-3/4" or 2-5/8". I'm not sure how to measure it since the only measurable base point in the barrel is the forcing cone, and that doesn't start till after the crimp folds have expanded.

    Does anyone know much about these guns? Anyone have some ideas on what I should look for to get some shells and shoot it?
  2. jbett98

    NW Oregon
    Silver Supporter Silver Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Found this online:

    Loads for a Vintage 10 Gauge, The 2-7/8 Inch Shotshell
    10 Gauge 2-7/8" Loads
    10 gauge short hulls
    Vintage 10 Gauge
    10-Gauge Cowboy Action

    So, you found yourself a sharp 10-gauge built early in the 1900s. Maybe it's a Winchester Model 1901 10 gauge. Whatever it is, it may predate John Olin’s 3-1/2" magnums, so it’s chambered for 2-7/8" shells.

    These shotguns were designed more as a utility shotgun than today's extra-big 10 gauge shotguns. Geese, ducks, even upland, these were yesteryear's utility shotgun in the United States. If it's still in good shape, it's a nifty, versatile shotgun that deserves to be brought out to the field. Around here, we have some favorite old doubles that fall into the "functional antique" catagory, probably similar to yours, and we still enjoy using them regularly. You have probably deduced that due to age and the effects thereof, you don’t want to use the latest high-energy loads which are designed for modern shotguns.

    Your 2-7/8" chambered 10 gauge works best when used with loads typical of the era when it was manufactured.

    The 2-7/8" loads are usually roll crimped because the modern presses have difficulty accommodating a fold crimp on the shorter shells. Roll Crimping tools as well as the proper card wads are available and easy to use with modern cases. Furthermore, roll crimps allow for a greater shot payload by leaving more space after closure.

    Shotguns manufactured early in the 20th century were designed for shells using cardboard wads, with all the effectiveness a cardboard seal will offer. Cardboard wads are not the most effective seal, plastic replaced cardboard in the 1960s and 1970.

    However, it's around these cardboard wads that I would design my loads. With the inherent leakage around the cardboard seal overall pressure (and to a degree, performance) is reduced putting less stress on the older joints and hinges of a well-used gun. Furthermore, the barrel is choked to accommodate the pellets without a shotcup - and shooting without a shotcup delivers you the "correct" constriction and ultimately, pattern for which the shotgun was designed.

    Of course, this mandates using lead or Bismuth® NoTox® pellets, which will not harm your barrels with direct contact.

    We are hoping Tungsten-Matrix® will be made available by Kent Cartridge Co.® for handloaders eventually also.

    The recipes we have designed for vintage 10s follow a few basic parameters. I would look for the following for an excellent all-around 10 gauge load:

    1-1/4 oz lead shot payload
    Card wads
    Medium burn-rated powder

    These ingredients, with a nitro-proofed 2-7/8" 10 gauge, will offer an authentic load and decent performance.

    Click here to return to Reloading Technical Guide Index

    This excerpt from The Mighty 10 Gauge, 2006.
    © 2006 Ballistic Products Inc. / All rights reserved.
  3. Spitpatch

    Forest Grove, Oregon
    Well-Known Member

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    I certainly got an education toward a subject of which I had not been seeking.

    I would add for the OP: nose around the Cowboy Action websites (Single Action Shooting Society, aka: SASS). I know some of the waddies there are messing with these guns. There may actually be loaded rounds now available.

    Thanks, Jbett!

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