First Look: Winchester Model 1885 Low Wall Hunter Rimfire Octagon .17 WSM Rifle

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Winchester Model 1885 Low Wall Hunter Rimfire Octagon Rifle
Illustration courtesy of Winchester Repeating Arms Co.

The Winchester (www.winchesterguns.com) 1885 Low Wall Hunter Rimfire Octagon is the second .17 WSM rifle to be introduced by a major manufacturer. The Winchester Low Wall is made in Japan by Miroku, with whom Browning/Winchester has had a long and successful relationship that has resulted in many fine firearms bearing the Browning and Winchester names. Inside our sample's white Winchester box, the Low Wall came with the usual gunlock (padlock), owner's manual, safety literature and owner registration card.

Winchester (Olin) used their .27" industrial blank case designed to drive concrete nails as the basis of the .17 WSM cartridge. Reinforced with a stronger case head and body to operate at higher pressure (33,000 psi), necked-down to accept .172 caliber bullets and given a sharp shoulder, the .17 WSM was born. The result is a rimfire that is substantially larger than the .17 HMR or .22 WMR cartridges.

The .17 Winchester Super Mag is the fastest rimfire cartridge ever offered to the public. The Winchester Elite Varmint HV load launches a 20 grain V-Max bullet (BC .185) at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 3000 fps with 400 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy (ME). The companion Elite Varmint HE load uses a 25 grain V-Max bullet (BC .230) at 2600 fps MV and 375 ft. lbs. ME. Winchester Elite Varmint HV and HE .17 WSM ammo is packaged in 50 round boxes similar to those used for centerfire handgun ammunition. In both price and performance the .17 WSM is in-between the previously reviewed rimfire .17 HMR and centerfire .17 Hornet cartridges. (See the Rimfire Guns and Ammo and Rifle Cartridges pages for more information about those cartridges.)

The Winchester 1885 Low Wall is an exceptionally attractive rifle built on John M. Browning's elegant falling block action, the first design the great man sold to Winchester. The tapered 24" octagon barrel is screwed into a machined steel receiver. The metal finish is gloss blued steel. The overall fit and finish of this Winchester is good and its lines are slender and graceful.

The Low Wall action is a good one. It is strong and smooth in operation. Operating this falling block rifle is very simple. Swinging the action's under lever down and forward lowers the falling breech block and causes the ejector to eject a fired case (if present) to the right, left or center, depending on where a built-in deflector is positioned. Opening the action allows the shooter to insert a fresh cartridge directly into the chamber. Returning the under lever to its original (up) position raises the breech block to its closed position and cocks the external hammer. The rifle is now ready for firing by simply pulling the trigger. Operation is as simple as that.

The hammer is powered by dual coil springs and requires noticeably more pressure to cock manually than the hammer of our .243 centerfire Low Wall. This is due to the heavier hammer springs required to crimp the rim of the thick .17 WSM case for reliable ignition. For safety, the hammer incorporates a manual "quarter cock" position.

A good feature of the Winchester Low Wall is its user adjustable trigger. There is a small screw in the bottom of the trigger that is turned clockwise to lighten or counter-clockwise to increase the trigger pull. The adjustment range is specified as 3.5 to 5.0 pounds, although our rifle's trigger actually released at a measured three pounds with the adjustment screw turned fully clockwise. The trigger itself is wide and grooved for easy control. This is a good trigger with a crisp release.

Iron sights are standard equipment. There is a barrel mounted semi-buckhorn rear sight and a tall, gold bead front sight. In addition, the front of the receiver and the rear of the barrel are drilled and tapped for the Winchester 1885 one-piece steel scope base (2014 MSRP $133). This base accepts Talley style steel scope rings (2014 MSRP $131), which are available from Winchester for rifle scopes with 1" or 30mm diameter main tubes.

The pistol grip buttstock and slender Schnabel forearm are standard grade black walnut and come with an oil finish. A few additional coats of hand rubbed oil would add greatly to the beauty of the stock. This should have been done at the factory, but it is easy for the rifle's owner to do at home with Outer's stock oil or a similar product. The comb height is obviously designed for use with telescopic sights, as we found it too high to allow any of us to align the supplied front sight bead in the rear sight's small notch. If you buy a Low Wall, order a scope base and rings at the same time. The butt pad is black rubber and there is no grip cap. The four panel checkering is cut by an automated router at 20 lpi and wraps most of the way around the forend. Bases for detachable sling swivels are provided.

Specifications

  • Model - 1885 Low Wall Hunter Rimfire Octagon
  • Item number - 524100186
  • Caliber - .17 WSM
  • Type - Single shot, falling block action
  • Metal finish - High luster blued
  • Stock - Oil finished, checkered, Grade 1 black walnut w/pistol grip
  • Barrel Length - 24" octagon
  • Rate of Twist - 1 in 9"
  • Trigger - User adjustable, 3.5-5.0 pounds
  • Sights - Semi-buckhorn rear, bead front; drilled and tapped for scope mounts
  • Length of Pull - 13-1/2"
  • Drop at Comb - 3/4"
  • Drop at Heel - 1-1/4"
  • Overall Length - 40"
  • Weight - 7.5 pounds
  • Country of origin - Japan
  • 2014 MSRP - $1469.99

As you can tell from the above specifications, despite its slender appearance this is an adult size and weight rifle. The Low Wall's 24" octagon barrel and medium weight (a suitable scope and mount should add at least a pound to the rifle's total weight) makes it relatively steady to shoot from unsupported positions. It balances between the hands, about 1" forward of the junction of forend and receiver. The Low Wall's modest overall length, due to its compact falling block action, makes it convenient to carry slung over the shoulder.

John Browning's Winchester Model 1885 falling block action is exceptionally smooth in operation and it comes with a good trigger, which is very beneficial to practical accuracy. This is a deluxe rifle chambered for the world's fastest rimfire cartridge that any rifleman would be proud to own.

Note: Full shooting reviews of Winchester/Browning .17 WSM, .17 HMR and .243 Win. 1885 Low Wall rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.




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