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Dream Guns: The Winchester Model 1887, A Black Powder Lever Action Shotgun

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September 12, 2013

Dream Guns: The Winchester Model 1887, A Black Powder Lever Action Shotgun

By Phil Bourjaily

The gun in this picture is a Winchester Model 1887, and an old one at that, made in 1888. With a 32-inch, tightly choked barrel and three inches of drop at the heel, it’s not the first gun you would think of as a dove gun, but that’s one of the beauties of dove hunting: you can bring any gun you want to the dove field.

This particular ‘87 belongs to my friend Brian Lasley, whom I knew in his former life as shotgun product manager first for Remington, then Beretta.  Now that he no longer works for a gun company he can shoot whatever he pleases. After doing some reading on older guns, Lasley realized that his inner cowboy wanted him to hunt with a lever action shotgun. 

The 1887 was a John Browning design, although, as Lasley pointed out to me, it was not a gun Browning wanted to make. Winchester wanted a lever shotgun to go with its lever rifles. Browning thought pumps were a better idea, but he took Winchester’s money and designed a lever shotgun for them and the 1887 was born. About 64,000 were made between 1887 and 1901, when the model was discontinued. Pumps, of course, remain in production today, proving once again that John Browning knew what he was doing.

At any rate, given the fact that even the newest Model 1887 is 112 years old, and given how badly black powder can corrode guns, it’s no surprise that very few 1887s survive in shootable condition.  Lasley tracked down not one, but two, so that he and his son Zack each have one. The guns have 2 ½-inch chambers and are made for black powder. Lasley shoots either blackpowder shells or very low pressure RST Falcon Lites in them.

On opening day of dove season the Lasleys took their 87s to the field. Brian killed a dove with his first shot. If that wasn’t enough, when their retriever Hoss found the bird in the tall grass and brought it back, the dove turned out to be banded.

How cool is that?

Comments (10)

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from Mark-1 wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

The only time and chance to see and feel one of these creations was in a 10-ga. Is this a 10-ga shotgun???

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from Harold wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I think 12ga was also offered. Have heard they kicked like mules! Another reason for light loads

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from FirstBubba wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

WOW! Phil B.! That's what it's all about!
To find, purchase and use antique firearms like this is a real thriller!
I am amazed! ...and in awe!
Did you get to shoot either one of them? ...or just have to sit back and salivate? LOL!

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from Longrifle wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

Hunting with vintage guns adds so much to any hunt. I recall a story some time back where Keith McCafferty told of hunting deer with an exotic old double rifle. Loved the story, and the idea. I have found the most interesting men in camp usually have the most interesting and offbeat weapons.

I will on occasion hunt with something out of the ordinary. But typically the weather has me hunting with the soulless plastic stocked modern apparatus.

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from jay wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I have one of these in my gun safe. Inherited from my Dad and not sure where it came from. I wish he would of told me or I would of asked while he was still around. I have several dozen guns from my grandad and dad. I'm sure they have stories to tell; wish I would have heard them.

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from Treestand wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

Very Nice...Centry Arms makes a Reproduction #PW87 in 12Ga
with the 1901 improved lever. MSRP $450.00

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 31 weeks 4 days ago

Odd looking gun, and yes the pump is a better idea!

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 31 weeks 4 days ago

I brought a Model 1901 home from the gun shop once to see how it would shoot. Dad sent me out of the house with it. His uncle had taken his life with one.

The 1887 and/or Model 1901 were favorite weapons of the mobsters and law enforcement during the Roaring Twenties. Sawed off versions of course.

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from JohnR wrote 31 weeks 10 hours ago

If it's good enough for the Terminator, it's good enough for me :-).
Replicas of the 1887 are used quite a bit for Cowboy Action Shooting. I've never seen one used for dove hunting yet. I'll stick with my Winchester 1887 pump which I did take dove hunting last Saturday. For some reason though it kept missing. May have to get it checked out.

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from JohnR wrote 30 weeks 6 days ago

Oops, my bad, I meant Winchester 1897 pump!

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from Mark-1 wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

The only time and chance to see and feel one of these creations was in a 10-ga. Is this a 10-ga shotgun???

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Harold wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I think 12ga was also offered. Have heard they kicked like mules! Another reason for light loads

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

WOW! Phil B.! That's what it's all about!
To find, purchase and use antique firearms like this is a real thriller!
I am amazed! ...and in awe!
Did you get to shoot either one of them? ...or just have to sit back and salivate? LOL!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longrifle wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

Hunting with vintage guns adds so much to any hunt. I recall a story some time back where Keith McCafferty told of hunting deer with an exotic old double rifle. Loved the story, and the idea. I have found the most interesting men in camp usually have the most interesting and offbeat weapons.

I will on occasion hunt with something out of the ordinary. But typically the weather has me hunting with the soulless plastic stocked modern apparatus.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

I have one of these in my gun safe. Inherited from my Dad and not sure where it came from. I wish he would of told me or I would of asked while he was still around. I have several dozen guns from my grandad and dad. I'm sure they have stories to tell; wish I would have heard them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Treestand wrote 31 weeks 5 days ago

Very Nice...Centry Arms makes a Reproduction #PW87 in 12Ga
with the 1901 improved lever. MSRP $450.00

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 31 weeks 4 days ago

Odd looking gun, and yes the pump is a better idea!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 31 weeks 4 days ago

I brought a Model 1901 home from the gun shop once to see how it would shoot. Dad sent me out of the house with it. His uncle had taken his life with one.

The 1887 and/or Model 1901 were favorite weapons of the mobsters and law enforcement during the Roaring Twenties. Sawed off versions of course.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 31 weeks 10 hours ago

If it's good enough for the Terminator, it's good enough for me :-).
Replicas of the 1887 are used quite a bit for Cowboy Action Shooting. I've never seen one used for dove hunting yet. I'll stick with my Winchester 1887 pump which I did take dove hunting last Saturday. For some reason though it kept missing. May have to get it checked out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 30 weeks 6 days ago

Oops, my bad, I meant Winchester 1897 pump!

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