One of my favorite rifles of all time is the Winchester 1895 (or in my example here, the Browning 1895, but we’ll get to the difference in brands in a bit).
While I’ve always been a fan of Winchester lever action rifles, there’s just something about the Winchester 1895 that causes it to stand out amongst any other rifle that Winchester put out. Contrast the 1895 with any other Winchester lever gun (such as the 1873, 1886, 1892, or 1894), and you’ll see what I mean.
But the differences and appeal of the 1895 go beyond its unique visual appearance, which is instantly obvious. This rifle truly is something special, and famous names such as President Theodore Roosevelt and Western author Zane Grey, among others, swore by it.
My personal 1895 is a Browning-branded 1895. In this Browning 1895 review, we’ll get into how this rifle came about and what sets it apart from the Winchester-branded guns below.
Development of the Winchester 1895
The Winchester 1895 is one of the most unique lever action rifles ever produced, and not only because of its appearance but also because of its unique action and purpose.
The 1895 was designed by John Moses Browning from the get-go to be able to fire larger, spitzer-type cartridges that at the time could only be chambered in single shot or bolt action rifles.
Back then, most lever action rifles fed soft-point ammunition where the tip of one round could be safely placed back up against the primer of the round in front of it. When the 1895 was released, lever action rifles were chambered in soft-point rounds such as .45-70, .30-30, .38-55, and the ever venerable .44-40.
But by the 1890s, smokeless powder cartridges with pointed tips on the end of the bullets were starting to come into fashion as they offered superior long range performance. The problem when it came to lever actions, however, was that if the pointed tip of one bullet was placed up against the primer of another bullet, it could present an obvious safety hazard.
John Browning had a unique gift to come up with truly innovative and long-lasting firearm designs, and the 1895 rifle he designed for Winchester is perhaps one of his most overlooked inventions.
Rather than having a magazine tube running under the barrel like most lever actions that feed soft-point ammunition, the Winchester 1895 has a boxed magazine where the rounds stack over one another, similar to a bolt action rifle.
The box magazine of the 1895 allows Spitzer-type rifle rounds to stack over one another, similar to a bolt-action rifle.
At the same time, Browning ensured that the action of the 1895 was strong enough to handle these cartridges as well.
The 1895 ended up being released in a myriad of different calibers, but the most common ended up being the .30-40 Krag, .30-06 Springfield, .405 Winchester, and 7.62x54R. A smaller number of rifles were produced in calibers such as .35 Winchester, .303 British, .30-03 Springfield, .38-72 WCF, and .40-72 WCF.
Use of the 1895
1895 rifles found wide success because they were the only lever action rifles on the market at the time that could accommodate the spitzer-type bullets that were becoming popular with hunters. People now had a repeating rifle that could shoot bullets to much longer ranges than lever action rifles could previously.
At the time, it was truly revolutionary. Even to this day it’s still pretty cool, and while there are other lever action rifles that can take the longer spitzer-type bullets as well (such as the Browning BLR) the 1895 is still quite remarkable thanks to its slick action and ergonomics.
Hunters took special note of the 1895, and it found wide success as a hunting rifle around the world, including in North America and Africa. Theodore Roosevelt’s 1895 in .405 was arguably the most famous rifle he ever owned, famously calling it his “medicine gun” for taking down lions. Contrary to popular belief, Roosevelt did not call the 1895 “big medicine,” as this is a common misquotation.
Military forces took note of 1895 after its release as well. The Russian army ordered hundreds of thousands of 1895s in 7.62x54R to help supplement their Mosin-Nagant rifles in the same caliber. These rifles were the ‘musket’ variants with a longer barrel, longer stock, and the ability to accept a bayonet.
1895 rifles in .30-40 Krag were also used by Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American war. The Texas Rangers also adopted it as one of their standard issue rifles up until the 1930s.
The 1895 officially ceased production in 1940 with over four hundred thousand built. The 1895 would then remain dormant for quite some time…but not forever.
Enter The Browning 1895
In 1984, a Japanese arms manufacturer named Miroku released a limited-edition reintroduction of the 1895 under the Browning brand name.
Miroku had already been producing other rifles and shotguns for Browning, and since John Browning was the original designer of the 1895, the rebranding was just the opposite from egregious.
The Browning 1895 is a beautiful rifle that closely replicates the original design, only the metals the gun is made of are more durable so it can withstand the increased pressures of modern day .30-06 ammunition.
Around 10,000 Browning 1895s were produced in total, of which 6,000 were in .30-06 and the remaining 4,000 were in .30-40 Krag.
My personal Browning 1895 is in .30-06 Springfield. The blued finish is very deep and rich, the wooden furniture is very high quality, and the action of the rifle is also incredibly smooth.
Today, Miroku produces rifles for both the Browning Arms Company and the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, including another 1895 only this time under the Winchester name.
The 1895 Today
In 1995, Winchester finally re-introduced the 1895 and has been producing it in limited runs ever since. The Winchester-branded Miroku has three major differences over the Browning 1895.
The first is the presence of an ambidextrous tang-mounted safety on the rear of the receiver. Most Miroku-made Winchester lever actions have this same tang safety. It’s very convenient and easy-to-reach, but personally, I’m not a fan of manual safeties on lever actions. I’ve always grown up with older lever actions were putting the rifles on half-cock acted as the safety features, so I appreciate the Browning’s faithfulness to the original design.
The action of the Browning 1895 is buttery smooth. Miroku knew what they were doing when they made this rifle.
The Winchester-branded Miroku 1895 also has a rebounding hammer (so the hammer is retracted immediately from the firing pin after hitting it when the trigger is pulled) and the presence of checkering on the stock and wooden forend.
The Winchester-branded Miroku has been produced in .30-40 Krag, .30-06 Springfield, .405 Winchester, and for a time was also chambered in .270 Winchester.
I actually originally owned a Miroku-made Winchester 1895 in .270. It was a very high quality rifle, but I yearned for the safety-less 1895 like John Browning had intended. My yearning was strong enough that I ended up selling the .270 1895 to finance the Browning 1895 in .30-06 like you see in the photos.
Conclusion: Browning 1895 Review
The Winchester 1895 lives on today.
The new Winchester 1895s made by the Miroku factory are very nice rifles, but I am more drawn to the 1984 Browning limited run because it’s more faithful to the original design.