Military Wiki
Winchester Model 1887 shotgun
M1887 LH.JPG
Winchester Model 1887
Type Shotgun
Place of origin United States
Service history
Used by Various law enforcement agencies, stagecoach companies
Production history
Designer John Browning
Designed 1887
Manufacturer Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Produced 1887–1901;
1901–1920 (Model 1901)
Variants M1901
Weight 8 lbs. (3.6 kg)
Length 39¼ in. (997 mm)
Barrel length 20 in. (508 mm), 30 in. (762 mm)

Caliber 12-gauge, 10-gauge
Action Lever-action
Feed system 5 round tubular magazine
Sights front bead

The Winchester Model 1887 and Winchester Model 1901 were lever-action shotguns originally designed by famed American gun designer John Browning and produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


The Model 1887 was the first truly successful repeating shotgun. Its lever-action design was chosen at the behest of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, best known at the time as manufacturers of lever-action firearms such as the Winchester model 1873. Designer John Browning suggested that a pump-action would be much more appropriate for a repeating shotgun, but Winchester management's position was that, at the time, the company was known as a "lever-action firearm company", and felt that their new shotgun must also be a lever-action for reasons of brand recognition. Browning responded by designing a breech-loading, rolling block lever-action. To Winchester's credit, however, they later introduced a Browning designed pump-action shotgun known as the Model 1893 (an early production version of the model 1897), after the introduction of smokeless powder.

Shotgun shells at the time used black powder as a propellant, and so the Model 1887 shotgun was designed and chambered for less powerful black powder shotshells. Both 10 and 12-gauge models were offered in the Model 1887. It was soon realized that the action on the M1887 was not strong enough to handle early smokeless powder shotshells, and so a redesign resulted in the stronger Winchester Model 1901, 10-gauge only, to handle the advent of the more powerful smokeless powder. A 12-gauge chambering was not offered, as Winchester did not want the Model 1901 to compete with their successful 12-gauge Model 1897 pump-action shotgun. Other distinguishing characteristics of the Model 1901 are:

  • a two piece lever
  • the Winchester trademark stamp was moved to the upper tang, behind the hammer
  • serial numbers between 64,856 and 79,455

Although a technically sound gun design, the market for lever-action shotguns waned considerably, as John Browning had predicted, after the introduction of the Winchester 1897 and other contemporary pump-action shotguns. Model 1887 production totaled 64,855 units between 1887 and 1901. Between 1901 and 1920, an additional 14,600 Model 1901 shotguns were manufactured before the Model 1887/1901 product line was discontinued. Serial numbers for the Model 1901 started where the serial numbers of the Model 1887 left off at 64,856 and ran through number 79,455. Thus, only 14,600 Model 1901s were produced indicating the declining demand for the lever action design.


Over the years, a number of gun companies tried to produce Model 1887/1901 shotguns that could chamber modern, smokeless shotgun shells—largely for the cowboy action shooting discipline—but with little commercial success. Recently however, three firearm companies have successfully produced viable models for the commercial firearms market:

  • ADI Limited of Australia, produced a small trial run of modern Model 1887/1901 shotguns, chambered for modern smokeless 12-gauge shotshells. This was ostensibly to exploit a loophole in newer tighter gun laws in Australia which prohibited semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and pump action shotguns, amongst others, but still allowed bolt-action and lever-action rifles and shotguns. Commercial production on this firearm by ADI was anticipated for 2007, following several years of delays due to distribution issues, but this has not yet happened.
  • Chinese arms manufacturer Norinco currently produces the Model 1887 shotgun chambered for modern smokeless 12-gauge shells, a version of which (featuring a 20" barrel) is manufactured for the American firearms firm Interstate Arms Corporation (IAC) and exported for sale in the United States, Canada, and Australia. As the only legal repeating shotgun (besides Mossberg bolt-action shotguns) for non-Primary Producer firearms owners in Australia, it has proven very popular with hunters and sporting shooters alike. U.S. and Canadian sales, however, have been largely focused on cowboy action shooting participants, owing to the ready availability of affordable pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns in most parts of the U.S. and Canada. In recent years, this particular firearm has become popular with regular American and Canadian firearm owners.
  • The Italian firm Chiappa Firearms manufactures modern reproductions of the Winchester Model 1887 series shotguns. The shotguns appeared on the Australian and the European firearms markets in late 2008.


  • Madis, George (1977). The Winchester Book. Dallas: Taylor Publishing. OCLC 138931. 

External links

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