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BROWNING & WINCHESTER "MODERN" 1885 LOW
WALL RIFLE HISTORY
(& OPTIONS FOR .22BPCRA)
By Wayne McLerran
Updated 7/26/20

I authored and published a book titled Browning Model 1885 Black
Powder Cartridge Rifle which included some information on the later
Winchester BPCR versions.  Therefore many incorrectly assume that
I’m an expert on all versions of the modern Miroku-manufactured
Browning and Winchester 1885 rifles, including the High Wall and Low
Wall models.  The latest (3rd Edition) of the book is still being sold
and I’m very active in big bore BPCR and 22 BPCRA silhouette
competitions.  Hence I continue to get questions about the rifles,
some which I’ve had to plead ignorance, especially concerning the
Low Wall models.  Since the Low Wall versions are not mentioned in
my book, I had not researched the rifle’s history.

So as not to continue showing my lack of knowledge and disappoint
those with questions, I felt compelled to “dig into” the history of the
modern Low Wall versions.  By modern I’m referring to rifles designed
by Browning but manufactured by the Japanese company Miroku for
sale by Browning and Winchester, see the note below.  I stress the
word “modern” here since the original Winchester 1885 Low Wall was
introduced in May 1886 and discontinued in March 1919.  If you are
interested in a detailed history of the original Winchester Single-Shot
rifles there are two excellent books authored by John Campbell titled
The Winchester Single Shot and the Winchester Single-Shot Volume II.
Note: In August 2006 US Repeating Arms, a division of the Olin
Corporation, announced a long-term licensing agreement with
Browning for the manufacture and distribution of Winchester-brand
rifles and shotguns.  The company had been plagued by slumping sales
for several years and, prior to the licensing agreement, had
announced the closing of their 140 year old firearm factory based in
New Haven, CT.  In 2007 US Repeating Arms changed their name to
Winchester Repeating Arms.  Winchester and Browning are now
located in the same facility in Morgan, UT.

Although the receiver and profile of the modern Browning and
Winchester rifles appears to be very close to the original 19th and
early 20th century Winchester’s, Photo 1 is an example, the internal
action components are not the same.  Browning describes the modern
action design used in both the 1885 High Wall and Low Wall rifles as
an “improved” version of the action used in their prior Model 78
(B-78) High Wall single-shot rifles.  The redesigned incorporated a
couple of effective safety features and a limited-range trigger-pull
adjustment that complicated the action with additional parts.  I’m
betting that the legaldepartment influenced the design in order to
minimize the possibility of product liability issues.  Another change is
a forearm hanger mounted directly to the front of the receiver for
the purpose of “free-floating” the barrel from the forearm.
Uncovering specific details about the modern Browning and
Winchester versions was a lot harder than I expected.  Neither
Browning nor Winchester maintains a detailed timeline of rifle
models on their websites and do not make a policy of releasing the
quantities manufactured with the possible exception of limited runs
or limited editions.  And searching the Internet for information was a
frustrating effort.  Fortunately I had archived files from an old
Shooters.com black powder forum which surprisingly included a
thread on when the modern Winchester’s Low Wall .22LR was first
available.  I also had a few Winchester catalogs from the same dates.
By the way, since many shooters prefer to use tang-mounted iron
sights, the following details mention if/when versions of the rifle
with an extended tang, drilled and tapped for a tang sight, were
available.

The Modern Browning Low Wall:
Referred to as the Model 1885 Low Wall, Browning introduced the
modern version in 1995, but it was only offered in four rifle
chamberings: 22 Hornet, 223 Rem., 243 Win. and 260 Rem.  For lack
of a better name I’m referring to this model as the “standard” Low
Wall as displayed in Photo 2.  The Traditional Hunter model (Photo 3)
was added to the line in 1998 with a case-colored receiver, 1/2
octagon 1/2 round 24” barrel, extended tang and a Lyman tang
sight.  It was listed as available in three popular handgun
chamberings: .357Mag, .44Mag and .45Long Colt.  Although not listed
in any of the catalogs, very small quantities were
also manufactured
in .30-30 Win. and .38-55 Win. chamberings.  Though both the
standard 1885 Low Wall and the Traditional Hunter model were
listed in Browning’s 2001 – 2002 combined two-year catalog, the
rifles were discontinued in 2001 along with the full line of 1885 High
Wall rifles.  
Browning never offered a Low Wall .22 rimfire
version.
 Also note that Browning’s catalogs never listed the
manufacturing suggested retail prices (MSRP).
The Modern Winchester Low Wall:
Although first listed in Winchester’s 2000 catalog, in late 1999 and
in 2000 Miroku manufactured a limited run of 1885 Low Walls for
Winchester.  2,400 Grade 1 and 1,100 High Grade rifles were
manufactured in .22LR.  The Grade 1 was very similar to the
Browning Low Wall Traditional Hunter pictured in Photo 3 but with
a blued receiver and no gold plated trigger.  Some Grade 1 and
High Grade rifles were manufactured in 1999 with serial numbers
xxxxNNSAR.  NN is the 1999 date code and SAR indicates a
prototype.  The rest of the rifles have serial numbers that deviate
from Browning and Winchester’s serial number standard.  The
serial numbers are 0000EFxxxx for the Grade 1 and 000EFHxxxx for
the High Grade rifles.  The High Grade version is pictured in Photos
4 and 5.  Both grades featured a 1/2 octagon 1/2 round 24” barrel
and an extended tang which was drilled and tapped to accept a
tang sight (available separately).  The MSRP was $775 and $1,234
in the 2000 catalog, $828 and $1,180 in the 2001 catalog.  The
2001 catalog noted that, “Very small numbers of this limited run
remain”.  Due to the price the High Grade version may not have
been as popular as Winchester had anticipated, hence one possible
reason for the slight price reduction in 2001.  The rifles were not
listed in the 2002 catalog.
In 2003 Winchester once again reintroduced the 1885 Low Wall but
only in .17HMR (.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire).  The catalog photo
looks identical to Photo 6 below but lacks the top of the case
deflector sticking up behind the hammer.  See the details discussed
below concerning the 2005 catalog listing.  So it may have only had
an extractor?  The MSRP was $936.  The MSRP and listing in the
2004 catalog were the same as in the 2003, but with one
exception.  The photo is identical to Photo 6.  The top of the
rotate-able ejector stop is clearly sticking up but there’s no
mention of the feature and how it works.  The rifles did not have
an extended tang.  It should be noted that, while the original
Winchester Low Walls featured a spring loaded ejector, many of
the modern Browning and Winchester Low Walls only have an
extractor.  An extractor pushes the spent case back out of the
chamber sufficiently for manual removal vs. an ejector that’s
spring loaded and forcibly “ejects” the case.  A modern rifle with a
case deflector has an ejector.

The rifle displayed in Photo 6 was listed as a new (referring to the
chambering) historical firearm in the 2005 catalog and again in the
2006 catalog.  The new chambering was .17 MACH 2 (aka .17HM2
or .17 Hornady Mach 2).  It featured a selectable ejector stop or
case deflector enabling either ejecting and holding the spent case
(catch position) for manual removal or ejecting the case to the left
or right of the shooter.  The feature was discussed in the catalog.  
If you look closely, the top of the mechanism can be seen sticking
up behind the hammer.  The rifle did not have an extended tang.  
The MSRP was $1,014.  The Low Walls were not listed again until
2013.
In the 2013 catalog the 1885 Low Wall was displayed and listed as a
historical limited production model which may not be in the
production line every year.  Other than noting it was available in
rimfire and centerfire chamberings, no other details were
provided.  The 2014 and 2015 catalogs display and list the Low Wall
as being available in .22LR, .22WMR (.22 Winchester Magnum
Rimfire), .17HMR and .17WSM (.17 Winchester Super Magnum).  But
it was designated as the Model 1885 Rimfire in 2014 and as the
Hunter Rimfire (Photo 7) in 2015, the first time the Hunter name is
used.  As in the 2013 catalog, the 2016 catalog displays and lists the
1885 Low Wall as a limited production rifle in rimfire and centerfire
chambering with no additional details.  The 2017 thru the current
2020 catalogs display and once again lists the rifle as the Hunter
Rimfire in .22LR, .22WMR, .17HMR and .17WSM, but all the listed
chamberings were or are not available every year.  The current
rifles have an ejector with a case deflector.  From 2014 to 2020 the
MSRP has remained at $1,469.99.
Although not discussed or listed in any of the catalogs, Winchester’s
website indicates the Low Wall was also available in the following
chamberings: 22 Hornet, 222 Rem, 223 Rem, 22-250 Rem, 243 Win,
6.5x55 Swedish and 204 Ruger.  The MSRP was $1,399.99.  I did find
Internet sales listings for the rifles in all the calibers.  Most likely
they were limited runs made exclusively for and distributed by the
well-known distributor Davidson’s.  See more details on Davidson’s
below.

Options for 22 BPCRA:
During the last few years’ interest in 22 BPCRA competitions has
grown immensely resulting in an increased interest in the Browning
and Winchester 1885 Low Wall rifles chambered in .22LR.  By the
way, 22 BPCRA is somewhat of a misnomer since modern .22LR ammo
with smokeless powder is used, not black powder.  The term comes
from a non-profit corporation titled
22 Black Powder Cartridge Rifle
Association which was established to govern the sport.  22 BPCRA
regulations define the types of firearms used and the rules governing
silhouette competition are very similar to big bore BPCR competition,
hence the justification for the 22 BPCRA title.

So what’s the bottom line for the shooter looking for a Browning or
Winchester Low Wall chambered in .22LR?  As noted earlier,
Browning never offered a .22 rimfire version, so that option is out,
leaving only an original or a modern Winchester.  If you only plan to
use a vintage-style external-adjustable scope than any .22LR version
of the original or modern Winchester works once the barrel is drilled
and tapped appropriately.  But if a tang-mounted sight is desired
than the shooter is limited to locating an original Winchester or one
of the Grade 1 or High Grade modern rifles listed in Winchester’s
2000 and 2001 catalogs with an extended tang.  If you’re not in a
rush, there is a possibility that Winchester may offer a Traditional
Hunter in .22LR in the future, which will have an extended tang.  If a
set trigger is preferred, the only option is an original Winchester
since none of the modern Miroku manufactured rifles feature a set
trigger.  There are a couple of relatively simple modifications that
can be made to the rifle to reduce the trigger pull but unfortunately
no one makes an after-market set trigger for the modern Low Walls.

Concerning availability, besides other distributors, current
Winchester Low Walls may be available through Davidson’s, a well-
known wholesale firearms distributor.  The company has a long-term
relationship with Browning and Winchester.  Many versions have been
exclusively distributed by Davidson’s as Limited Editions or Limited
Series rifles.  Their current inventory can be accessed by going to
their Gallery of Guns website:
https://www.galleryofguns.com/.

Prior to closing I thought I’d offer some general comments about 22
BPCRA competition and other rifle options.  Shooters competing in
sanctioned matches must use a rifle that meets the rules established
by the 22 BPCRA.  Although it’s allowed and some shooters get
excellent results utilizing a .22LR barrel insert in a vintage-style
centerfire big-bore caliber rifle, the majority use a vintage or
vintage-style modern single-shot rifle chambered for .22LR.  The rifle
must be capable of reliably hitting a ram silhouette (10.7” high x
12.9” wide) at 200 meters, and even harder, a turkey silhouette
(7.7” high x 7.5” wide) at 150 meters.  In addition to the original,
some modern Winchester 1885 Low Walls as noted and vintage
Stevens models (Photo 8) fit into this category as do modern
reproductions of Stevens and Low Wall rifles displayed below.
Three examples of current production rifles that meet 22 BPCRA
rules include very high-quality version of the Stevens 44 1/2  rifle
(Photo 9) by CPA Rifles (
https://www.cparifles.com/), Uberti’s
copy of the Winchester Low Wall (Photo 10) made by the Italian
firm exclusively for Taylors & Co. Firearms (
https://www.
taylorsfirearms.com/) a USA-based firearm distributor and C.
Sharps Arms’ Winchester Low Wall copy (Photo 11).  The CPA 44
1/2 rifle only comes with a double set trigger and an extended
tang.  Taylors’ Uberti Low Walls feature an extended tang and are
available with or without double set triggers.  C.Sharps Arms’ Low
Wall has an extended tang with several optional upgrades available
including a pistol grip, set trigger and other features.
Wishing you great shooting,
Wayne