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

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?