.17 HMR Winchester Model 1885 Low Wall Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
The Winchester 1885 Low Wall is an exceptionally attractive rifle. And the fact that it is available in one of our all-time favorite calibers, .17 HMR, only increases its appeal. So it was with some excitement that I sliced open the end of the cardboard shipping container and slid out the red Winchester box inside. Within the latter, cradled in Styrofoam, nestled the Low Wall along with the usual gunlock (padlock), owner's manual, safety literature, and owner registration card.
The (new) Model 1885 Low Wall rifle was a Browning brand product from 1995 until it was discontinued in 2001. In 2003 it was reinstated as a limited production item wearing the Winchester name. There are reviews of the centerfire 1885 Low Wall and High Wall Browning/Winchester rifles on the "Product Review Page." Like the previous Browning versions, this Winchester Low Wall is made in Japan by Miroku, with whom Browning has had a long and successful relationship.
The barrel, hammer, trigger and all screw heads on the Low Wall are polished and deeply blued. The tapered 24" octagon barrel is screwed into a color case hardened receiver. The operating lever and curved rifle buttplate are also color case hardened. The straight hand buttstock and slender Schnable forearm are walnut and wear a satin finish. There are generous areas of bordered cut checkering in point patterns. Bases for detachable sling swivels are provided. Iron sights are standard. The latter consist of a semi-buckhorn rear sight and a brass bead front sight, both of which are mounted on the barrel.
The front of the receiver and the rear of the barrel are drilled and tapped for two-piece scope bases. These are of the basic Burris/Leupold pattern. I was told that the Browning brand bases (and the matching rings) are being discontinued. When the present supply is exhausted Low Wall buyers will have to rely on the aftermarket.
One good feature that was carried over from the Browning version of the Low Wall is a 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 supposed to be 3.5 to 5 pounds. I set the test rifle for the minimum available trigger pull, which measured 3.75 pounds on my RCBS Premium Pull Scale. The trigger itself is wide and grooved for easy control.
The Low Wall action is a good one. It is strong and very smooth in operation. Operating the lever to load the chamber automatically cocks the external hammer. The hammer is of the rebounding type, and it is also provided with a "half cock" safety position. When the action is opened after firing, the Winchester Low Wall ejects the spent shell casing to the right, left, or center, depending on where a built-in deflector is positioned.
The overall fit and finish of this Winchester is good. The lines of this rifle are excellent, slender and graceful. The straight grip stock is definitely an aesthetic improvement over the pistol grip buttstock of the earlier Browning Low Wall. Despite its traditional appearance, this stock has a reasonably high, fluted comb that is adequate for use with telescopic or iron sights.
Here are some basic specifications for the Winchester 1885 Low Wall rifle:
During the preliminary range session with the Low Wall using the supplied iron sights I fired a couple of 100 yard groups, even though my aging eyes are definitely no longer up to the task of shooting with iron sights at that distance. One was a 6-shot group that measured 3" and the other was a 3-shot group that went into only 1-5/8". The Winchester Low Wall is included in the article ".17 HMR Rifle Accuracy Test Results," which can be found in the "Rifle Information" section of the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page. There you can compare its range results with other .17 HMR rifles tested by Guns and Shooting Online.
Functioning of the rifle was perfect. The Low Wall single shot rifle was a real pleasure to shoot at the range, since there is no pesky magazine with which to fiddle.
The Low Wall's long barrel and substantial weight (about nine pounds with scope and mounts) makes it relatively steady to shoot from unsupported positions. It balances between the hands, about 1" forward of the junction of forend and receiver.
Its modest overall length, courtesy of its compact falling block action, makes it convenient to carry slung over either shoulder, barrel up or down as desired. (For comparison, my bolt action .17 HMR Ruger K77/17 varmint rifle, also with a 24" barrel, is 2-1/4" longer overall than the Low Wall.) Despite the fact that it is rather heavy for a rimfire hunting rifle, the Winchester Low Wall is handy in the field.
In summation, this is a small game/varmint hunting rifle, a stalking rifle if you will, not a dedicated varmint rifle. If you intend to do most of your .17 HMR shooting from a bipod or a sandbag rest, one of the bolt action varmint rifles would probably be your best bet. However, if you intend walking the woods and fields in pursuit of small game and varmints, the Winchester 1885 Low Wall would be a good choice.
Note: A full review of the Winchester 1885 Low Wall rifle can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2005, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.