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Discussion Starter #1
I am a huge Winchester fan and have several 1894s and and 1895, but I have been looking around of an 1886 in 45-70. I recently picked up a lot of ammo of various calibers and there was several boxes of 45-70 (45-70 GOV'T 300 DR RNFP COWBOY LOAD is printed on the box end), which from what I was able to search Google on, are medium pressure loads. This has incentivized me to scratch that itch and get an 1886.

I want an older one from the original years they made them. I want something i can shoot (what's the fun in having one if you aren't going to use it?). I have done a little research and was told by a couple of resources to look for one with a Nickel Steel barrel as they can withstand higher pressures. From what I was able to ascertain, Winchester started making Nickel Steel barrels in 1895. I have found various resources with different information, so I was hoping I could get some advice here. I have a few questions:

1. Can I assume any 1886 Winchester made from 1895 on has a Nickel Steel barrel (round and octagon) or was there a mix of them?

2. I want to stick with a longer barrel (26", maybe a 24"). I have found one made in 1896 with a round barrel, full length mag. It looks to be all original. The barrel is not stamped with Nickel Steel, but can I assume it was made from that grade of steel?

3. I have found a couple older ones (1894) that are in really good shape and have really clean bores. Would something with a non-nickel steel barrel handle medium or high pressure loads?

4. On the subject of pressure, what are classified as high, medium and low pressure loads and what is safe to shoot in the older 1886s (refer to question #3).

Mostly I was to do some target shooting, but if I find one in good enough condition to use for hunting, I'd like to use it a bit more. Mostly I am just concerned about what the appropriate ammo is for a gun this old or if I should even worry that much. I don't want to shoot anything special out of it, just normal factory ammo. I might reload in the future, but for now, this is where I want to start.

What should I consider in looking for one of these rifles and what kind of ammo am I ok shooting with it (assuming it has a clean, shiny bore or at least a fine + bore)? Thank you so much for any info and help on this!
 

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If you find and purchase an 1886 made prior to 1900 I suggest you take it to a competent gunsmith and have the gun evaluated for safety and functionality. Many of these older guns have been worked on many years ago and may not have original parts or properly fitted/original parts on them. You're talking about buying a gun that's over a hundred years old and shooting it. If you can find one being sold that has been repaired and inspected by a reputable gunsmith you're going to pay more than a new one will cost you. I suggest you find a newer Win or clone and start there. If you get one of those, any commercially loaded ammo is safe to use in them. All commercially loaded ammo is loaded to pressures safe to use in original Trapdoor guns and as such are safe in the 1886. Good luck and be safe.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks NSB - I read a lot about concerns over pressures of loads, but most of the posts I found were folks loading their own. The two rifles I have it narrowed down to are in very good condition, well kept and maintained, and I plan to have someone check it out before i try shooting anything out of it. I was mostly concerned with shooting any sort of commercial, commonly acquired ammo out of them, that's all.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
crs - I will definitely do that. I just got an 1895 in a .405, so I plan to do the same with that one as well. Is there an appropriate place to post that, or just add it to this post?
 
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