Updated my email near the end of this piece to [email protected]
is no longer a valid email address for me.
For Christmas of 2005 I was given a Winchester Model 1905 rifle in .35 Winchester Self Loading caliber. This is one of the first semi-auto rifles produced commercially.
It was the first Winchester semi-auto that used a centerfire cartridge, and the first Winchester to use a detachable box magazine.
Winchester made more than 29,000 Model 1905s from 1905 to 1920. It was offered only in .32 Winchester Self Loading and .35 Winchester Self Loading calibers, commonly called the .32 WSL or .35 WSL.
The .35 WSL is roughly equal to the .357 Magnum, tossing its 180 gr. jacketed bullet at about 1,400 feet per second.
The .32 WSL is roughly equivalent to the M1 Carbine round, though the two are not interchangeable. Interestingly, the .32 WSL was the basis for what was later adopted as the .30 M1 Carbine round. In fact, some very early M1 Carbine rounds, used in testing, still bore the .32 WSL headstamp. These are highly desirable collector rounds.
The 35 WSL was not well-liked by hunters. They said it was marginally effective on deer but I wonder if they weren‚€™t trying to stretch this cartridge into a 200-yard shooter. Within 75 yards or so, the .357 Magnum has proven effective on deer; I don‚€™t see why the .35 WSL wouldn‚€™t be as well, given its ballistics.
Anyway, Winchester decided to introduce a more powerful .35-caliber cartridge for its autoloading line.
In 1906, Winchester introduced the Model 1907 for an improved .35 WSL. This new cartridge, the .351 WSL (note the 1 in its name) had a longer case to hold more powder. The .351 WSL tossed a 180 gr. jacketed bullet at about 1,800 fps, fully 400 fps more than its parent .35 WSL cartridge.
This made it a more powerful deer round but it's still no powerhouse.
The .351 WSL operates at higher pressure than the .35 WSL that preceded it and loads for it should not be used in the .35 WSL. Reloading data for the .35 WSL is scarce, while information on the .351 WSL is more commonly found.
The .32 WSL and .35 WSL were only offered in the Winchester Model 1905 rifle. When the rifle was discontinued after 15 years of production, no other rifles were chambered for these cartridges.
I will deal strictly with the .35 WSL and the Model 1905 rifle, since that‚€™s what I have.
The Model 1905 Winchester is a blowback action design. That is, the resistance of the bolt‚€™s weight, a counterweight inside the wooden forearm, and the spring pushing the bolt against the cartridge, are all that keep the cartridge in the chamber during firing.
This is not a particularly strong design but amply strong for the .35 WSL cartridge.
The use of loads more powerful than the factory standard will damage the action and may be dangerous.
The use of loads less powerful than the factory standard will not cycle the action. Such loads are not dangerous unless you get a load so weak that the bullet gets stuck in the bore, then you try to fire another bullet behind it.
In the jargon of experienced reloaders, what follows is called an, ‚€œInstant Disassembly.‚€Ě
This action is delicately balanced against a narrow pressure and bullet weight range, for proper functioning. If you reload, for best results try to match the factory standard of a 180 gr. bullet at about 1,400 feet per second.
If you are lucky enough to receive a box or two of original .35 WSL ammo with your rifle, don‚€™t shoot it! These cartridges and boxes are good collectibles. Save them for display, or sell them and buy the newly offered ammo. A full box of .35 WSL ammo may well bring over $100 from a cartridge collector, depending on its condition. Save these old cartridges and boxes for posterity.
BE WARY of any loads you find for the .35 WSL on the internet. They may have been posted by someone unaware of the power difference between the .35 WSL and .351 WSL. Loads for the .351 WSL are too powerful for the .35 WSL, will damage the rifle and may even be dangerous to the shooter.
Because the .351 WSL cartridge is longer, it SHOULD NOT fit in the Model 1905 magazine or go all the way into its chamber. However, the only absolute is the speed of light and there may be the odd rifle out there that will chamber a .351 WSL round for whatever reason. Be mindful of what you put into your Model 1905.
WINCHESTER 1905 SERIAL NUMBERS
This rifle was numbered sequentially, making it possible to determine the date of manufacture. The serial number will be found in two places on the left side, on the lower frame and upper receiver, just above the trigger.
At the end of the calendar year, the last serial number reached was:
1905 --- 1 through 7224
1906 --- 7225
1907 --- 18307
1908 --- 22214
1909 --- 23406
1910 --- 24302
1911 --- 25446
1912 --- 26527
1913 --- 27627
1914 --- 28585
1915 --- 29137
1916 --- 29589
1917 --- 29938
1918 --- 30326
1919 --- 30615
1920 --- 31318
1921 --- 31391
1922 --- 31447
1923 --- 31457
The highest serial number known is 31467. Though the 1905 was discontinued in 1920, complete rifles continued to be assembled from parts into the early 1920s.
BASIC DISASSEMBLY OF THE MODEL 1905
All Winchester Model 1905s are breakdown models, meaning that the rifle can be taken down into two major components for easy transport, cleaning and storage. Here‚€™s how to do it. Warning! If a part is stiff, do NOT use bare pliers to turn it or you‚€™ll mar the metal. Instead, lightly glue a couple of pieces of hard plastic or even wood to the plier jaws. A rag around the part is insufficient and will still allow the pliers to damage the steel.
A. Remove the magazine by pressing the magazine catch inward (right side, ahead of trigger).
B. Put the rifle on SAFE, by pushing the round button ahead of the trigger from left to right. It should project from the right side of the trigger guard.
C. Push back the operating sleeve, under the barrel, to move the bolt back.
D. With the operating sleeve fully back, turn it right or left to lock the bolt back.
E. With a strong light, check the chamber to ensure there is no cartridge in it. CAUTION: Keep your fingers out of the ejection port of the receiver. The bolt is under heavy spring tension; if it slips forward it will crush your fingers!
F. With the chamber clear, turn the operating sleeve back to where it was and the bolt will slam forward. Again, watch those fingers!
G. At the top, behind the receiver, is a large, knurled knob (takedown screw). Behind the takedown screw is a small projection (takedown screw lock). Press down the takedown screw lock and turn the takedown screw counter-clockwise.
H. When the takedown screw is free of the threads, pull the wooden handguard and barrel assembly forward. At the same time, pull the rear, wooden stock backwards.
I. The rifle should come apart as two sections, exposing the trigger assembly.
J. Do NOT pull the trigger and trip the hammer! You should not be able to do so, because of a disconnector that prevents this. If your rifle fires while disassembled, it is defective and you should seek a knowledgeable gunsmith.
K. No further disassembly is required for regular cleaning.
Ensure that the hammer is cocked (down) before reassembling the rifle.
A good exploded view of the Model 1905 Winchester, and directions for disassembly, are found in the American Rifleman, Nov. 1967, p. 58.
REMOVING THE WOOD
The Model 1905 Winchester has a rather thin wooden forearm, since it is hollow and houses the counterweight, recoil spring and other parts. These rifles are often encountered with a split or broken forearm.
Use a screwdriver that fits perfectly in the screw head. Often, screw heads are filled with dirt and grime. An old toothbrush and a bit of gun solvent will scrub out any grime, allowing the screwdriver bit to reach fully into the screw slot.
To avoid losing any parts, place them in plastic bags or sealed containers according to the area from which they were removed. This will save you a lot of grief and mystery when reassembling.
Removing the forearm is not difficult but does require attention to detail.
1. Turn out the forearm screw, on the right side, that goes through the metal forearm tip. The screw turns counterclockwise for out. On my particular rifle, the screw came out about 1/8 of an inch, continued to turn, but would‚€™t come out. I simply used a small punch to push against the bottom of the screw, on the other side of the forearm tip, and the screw backed out fine.
2. Push the metal forearm tip forward. CAREFUL! The operating sleeve and its spring will pop forward too! This spring is not real strong but you should watch for it. Slide the operating sleeve and the metal forearm tip forward and off the barrel.
3. The wooden forearm is now loose. Slide it forward off the barrel.
Removing the wooden butt stock is not difficult.
1. Remove the two screws holding the rubber buttplate to the stock.
2. Remove the rubber buttplate.
3. With a strong light, examine the hole at the back of the stock. You will see a large slotted screw down at the bottom, which attaches the receiver to the wooden stock. You will need a regular screw driver with a shaft at least 8‚€Ě long to turn that screw. If you can, use a 9 or 10‚€Ě shaft screwdriver to avoid knocking the screwdriver handle against the wooden stock.
4. The screw turns out counter-clockwise.
5. Later models of the Winchester 1905 also have a grip cap on the wooden stock. This is easily removed with a proper-fitting screwdriver.
6. This completes removing the wood from the metal.
Do NOT strip the rifle any further. This rifle has a lot of springs, pins and small parts that are easily lost and difficult to get back in place.
If your rifle is badly fouled, blast the gunk out with an aerosol can of gun scrubber or brake cleaner. A brass brush will help remove the most stubborn crud but don‚€™t scrub too hard on visible areas or you may leave a brass tinge to the blue metal. A stiff, natural bristle brush may also be used.
Keep the solvent well away from the wooden stock, as it will damage the wood finish. NEVER use these strong solvents with the wood attached.
Do this outdoors in a well-ventilated area. The solvent that runs out will kill plants and poison soil, so do this over a concrete driveway or sidewalk, away from vehicles, pets and children. Wear eye protection. Do not smoke or use near flame.
When the rifle is blasted clean, spray some light oil --- made specifically for guns --- on the parts and reassemble. I do NOT suggest using WD-40! WD-40 will congeal into a varnish after time. It will also creep into the primer of a loaded round, deadening it. I stopped using WD-40 years ago because of these characteristics.
Spraying gun oils made by Remington, Winchester, Birchwood Casey or Tetra Gun are recommended.
The wood may be cleaned quickly with a plastic scrub brush and some hot, soapy water. You have to work quickly, to avoid soaking the wood too much. If the wood is nearly black with grime and old oil, you can take the drastic move of dousing the wood with Easy Off oven cleaner or the like. Allow to work for a few minutes, then rinse off with hot water. However, this is a very drastic measure and will ruin the finish on the wood. If you have an old clunker, it‚€™s not such a big deal but if your wood shows good grain and some of its original finish, I‚€™d just use the soapy water routine.
After cleaning the wood allow it to dry indoors, at room temperature, for at least a week. I like an oil finish on my stocks, so I use Old English Lemon Oil on the wood before reassembly. NOTE, this is not the waxy, spray polish containing lemon oil, but the liquid, pee-colored lemon oil in a bottle. It will restore the wood‚€™s natural oils yet leave no waxy residue.
After the rifle is thoroughly clean, reassemble. Store the rifle in a gun safe or a dry place of constant temperatures. NEVER store a gun in a gun case, where moisture might be trapped and cause rust. I strongly recommend storing all guns in a gun safe, away from unauthorized hands.
LOADING THE .35 WSL CARTRIDGE
I received my rifle as a gift just a few weeks ago so I have yet to load for it. However, I‚€™ve found some information on the internet that will be useful.
WARNING! Do NOT use .351 loading data for .35 WSL cartridges or you'll likely damage your rifle. The .351 is a much higher-pressure round!
You can trim back .351 WSL cases to about 1.14 inches to create .35 WSL cases. However, even .351 cases can be difficult to find, though Winchester made .351 WSL ammo well into the 1970s.
All loading data I've found is very old, some of it approaching the 75-year mark. Be cautious when using old loading data for any cartridge. Today's powders may bear the same name as classic powders --- Unique, IMR3031, IMR4227, Bullseye, etc. --- but the newer powders are a little stronger than their grandfathers.
The Hercules and DuPont powders of yesteryear are not quite the same as today's. I'd reduce loads found in older reloading sources by at least 10 percent then work up from there. These old semi-auto rifles are not particularly strong. Upon firing, the bolt is held against the cartridge by the pressure of the recoil spring and the counterweight inside the wooden forearm. This is a blowback action that does NOT lock up tight like a bolt-action or most other semi-auto centerfires.
ALSO ... be very wary of confusion between the .35 WSL and the more powerful, higher pressure .351 WSL.
I found one message board where a reader posted .351 WSL loads, taken from an old Lyman reloading book, as suitable for the .35 WSL. The loads are FAR ABOVE any safe loads in the .35 WSL.
These two calibers are as different as the .38 Special is from the .357 Magnum.
The Model 1905 in .35 WSL or the Model 1907 in .351 WSL require a bullet of .351 or .352 inch diameter, of 180 grs.
The .35 WSL and .351 WSL use the same shellholder for reloading dies. These are:
Hornady --- 12
Lee --- 19
Lyman --- 15
RCBS --- 27 or 19 (don't know why two are listed)
Redding --- 5 (Redding also lists its extended shellholder No. 5E with this caliber. Dunno why)
Old West Scrounger sells ammo and bullets (projectiles) for the .35 WSL and the Model 1907's .351 WSL. These cartridges are NOT interchangeable. As I write this, the cost at OWS is $12.99 for 100 bullets, full metal jacketed or softpoint. These are the proper .351 inch diameter and 180 grains.
There is a fair amount of loading data for the .351 and .401 Winchester Self Loading calibers on the internet and in books, but reloading info on the .35 WSL is lacking.
Here's what I've found on the .35 WSL:
Bullet diameter: .351 inches.
Case length: 1.14 inches
Rim diameter: .405 inch
Neck diameter: .374 inch
Base diameter, ahead of rim: .378 inch
Overall cartridge length: 1.64 inch
Primer: Small rifle
I hope the above is true. I've only found one source with these dimensions. Two sources agree on rim diameter and case length.
The 8th edition of Cartridges of the World lists a few loads for the .35 WSL. The standard bullet for this caliber is a 180 gr. jacketed bullet of softpoint or full metal jacket construction.
180 gr. JSP or FMJ
Winchester factory load --- 1,450 fps
DuPont IMR4227 --- 13.5 grs. Muzzle velocity --- 1,440 fps
Hercules 2400 --- 13.0 grs. Muzzle velocity --- 1,430 fps
165 gr. lead
Hercules 2400 --- 8.0 grs. Muzzle velocity --- 920 fps
Handloader magazine No. 79, p. 14, includes a reader's notes on making cases for the .35 WSL and loading for it.
He made cases from .38 Special or .357 Magnum brass. Rims were turned to .415 inch and an extractor groove was cut, all on a lathe. Cases were trimmed to 1.14 inches.
The writer used Lyman 358429 lead bullet, cast very hard of Linotype. He does not say if he sized them down but I certainly would! I'd size them to .351 inch, which would require a special-order sizing die. He reported good functioning and accuracy with 10.0 grs. of Hercules 2400.
He polished the magazine ramp a bit so the semi-wadcutter 358429 bullet would feed better, since the Model 1905 is designed to feed rather blunt bullets.
AGAIN, I warn against using a standard .358 inch bullet in that rifle‚€™s .351 inch bore. Pressures would be higher than if the correct .351 inch bullet were used.
The Lyman No. 2 Cast Bullet Handboo lists the Lyman 350319 bullet. This is the bullet designed for the .35WSL and .351 WSL. This mould is long out of production but you may find an old mould.
167 grs. when cast of Lyman No. 2 alloy
Uses a .348 gas check, NOT the more common .35-caliber gas check.
Top Punch, for lubricator: Lyman 447
Seating Screwing, for seating bullets in case: Lyman 447
A couple of companies sell the Lyman 350319 as a cast bullet (see below).
As I write this (January 2006) Old Western Scrounger has loaded ammo and projectiles. Loaded ammo is about $35 per 20 cartridges.
Full metal jacket or softpoint jacketed bullets of .351 inch, 180 grs. are sold by OWS for $12.99 per 100. I just received 700 of them and they are of excellent quality. Haven't fired them, though.
GAD Custom cartridge at www.gadcustomcartridges.com
offers .35 WSL ammo for $18 per 20. Empty cases, presumably made from .357 brass, are $10 per 20. Lyman's 350319 is the proper bullet mould for the .35 WSL or .351 WSL. GAD Custom Cartridges sells these cast bullets too. You can buy 500 cast bullets --- fitted with a .348 gas check --- for $50. I haven't ordered yet but I expect to soon.
For emtpy brass, also check out Quality Cartridge at www.qual-cart.com
. The cost is $54.97 per 50.
Buffalo Arms also offers empty brass and reloading dies, made by others and marketed by them.
Bertram's in Australia makes .35 WSL brass.
Redding and RCBS offer .35 WSL dies on special order, but you‚€™ll pay about $150 for a three-die set.
Perhaps the best buy on reloading dies is offed by CH-4D at http://www.ch4d.com
Cost is $74.25 for a three-die set, which is about half of what RCBS and Redding want. I have no experience with CH-4D dies but I'm told they are of very good construction.
My sources for much of the above info:
American Rifleman, May 2003, p. 48 (big article on Winchester's autoloading rifles).
Rifle magazine, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 1969, p. 49 (small article on disassembly)
Stoeger's reprint of its 1939 catalog (ammo listing)
Stoeger's Shooter's Bible, 48th edition, 1957 (ammo listing)
Cartridges of the World, 8th edition, copyright 1997
GAD Custom Cartridges website
Buffalo Arms website
Custom Cast Bullets website
Shaw website at http://members.shaw.ca/cstein0/riflelist3.htm
American Rifleman, November 1967, p. 14
Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook No. 2, circa 1974
Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook No. 1, circa 1958
The above should start you on the road toward reloading for that old Winchester. Model 1905 in .35 WSL. I haven‚€™t even started but I‚€™ve assembled what I believe to be good info. Hwever, I cannot be responsible for the loads quoted above. Use them at your own risk.
Moreover, if you have an old rifle you'd do well to have it checked by a gunsmith knowledgeable in these old Winchester autoloaders. Who knows what it went through before reaching your hands?
If you have any more information on the Model 1905 Winchester I'd like to hear from you. Contact me at [email protected]
Amazing ‚€¶ haven‚€™t even fired one shot from my Model 1905 and already I‚€™m sounding like an expert! That‚€™s the internet for ya!