FIREARM PROFILE: Winchester 1887 / 1901

Winchester Mod 1887 & 1901


The Model 1887 and 1901 are lever-action shotguns designed by John Browning and produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Winchester Repeating Arms Company is best known as the manufacturers of lever-action rifles such as the Model 1873 and they wanted to follow this success with a repeating shotgun. John Browning obliged them by designing a breech-loading, rolling block lever-action, the Mod 1887.

The Mod 87 was designed for black powder shells in both 10 and 12-gauge. 12-gauge guns were chambered for 2 5/8" shells and the 10-gauge chambered for 2 7/8" shells and offered with 30" or 32" Damascus barrels, a 20" version was offered in 1888.

By 1900 it was realized that the action on the M1887 was not strong enough to handle smokeless powder so a redesigned stronger smokeless powder model, the Model 1901 which was released in 10-gauge only so as not to compete with their new 12-gauge Model 1897 pump-action shotgun. Although a technically sound design, the market for lever-action shotguns basically disappeared after the introduction of the Mod 1897 and other pump-action shotguns.

In total Winchester made almost 65,000 Model 1887 and 13,500 Model 1901’s were made before the line was discontinued.

Reproduction 1887 / 1901 shotguns chambered for modern 12ga 2 3/4” smokeless shells have been made by Norinco and Chiappa. Here in Australia ADI made a small run that were meant to be released in 2007 but it never came to fruition and with the Aussie market now flooded with modern lever action shotguns its very doubtful they will.

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I’ve seen one of the ADI ones in Mont Albert, so some made it out. I’ve also seen a Winchester 12g one with a non Damascus barrel, but that may well be a modification.

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They may be clunky but I do like my chiappa more than the Adler and pardus.

I was lead to believe this style of lever shotgun has some feeding reliability issues, which is why the updated ADLER and PARDUS style actions were developed; even if these newer style guns have there own issues.

Is this true?

Lever actions full stop are an outdated design, all levers are essentially clunky and unreliable feeders when gauged against more modern designs like bolt actions, pumps and auto loaders. 1887’s are a piece of nostalgia, not race guns and the newer versions (Radler, Pardus Etc.) while made to look modern are really only a slight improvement on that flawed design.
Right from the get go J. M. Browning wanted to release his much better pump action shotgun design (later released as the Mod 1897) but Winchester wanted a lever action to go with their then famous line of lever action rifles.

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That’s a nice write up mate. You must know shit loads about older firearms. Would SSAA or another mag be interested in you writing a column for them?

Thanks mate, I know enough to know that I don’t know much really! I’m no @no1mk3 that’s for sure.
As for writing for a mag or something its not really my thing, its tough enough trying to build up info here.