(GunReports.com) — Gun Tests magazine tested two rifles in a May 2013 showdown of lever actions. They were the Mossberg Model 464 XMB Lever Action No. 41026 30-30 Win., $535; and the Winchester Model 1895 Lever Action Carbine 30-40 Krag, $1000-$1500.
For some shooters, Hollywood seems to have become a prime factor in choosing the style and type of firearm finding favor on the range and in the field. This truism seems to be particularly prevalent when dealing with lever-action rifles. In the old days, Westerns ruled the movie screens and a true-blue cowboy had three good companions – “my rifle, my pony and me” – as sung by Dean Martin in the classic western Rio Bravo.
One of those good companions for quite a few cowboys and hunters of that time period was the Winchester Model 1895. The Model 1895 was the first Winchester rifle to feature a box magazine located underneath the action instead of the tubular magazine design, allowing for the use of military and hunting cartridges with pointed bullets, and was the last lever-action rifle to be designed by legendary gunsmith and inventor John M. Browning.
For our test, we were able to obtain a vintage Model 1985 in 30-40 Krag that dates back to the early 1900s, when it sold for a mere $25. The specific firearm we used in the test had spent countless hours in a rifle scabbard on horseback or on the side of a truck bouncing through the South Texas brush near Laredo and has accounted for more jack rabbits, coyotes and whitetail deer than can easily be counted.
On the more modern side of the Hollywood depiction of a lever-action shooter is the recently introduced Mossberg Model 464 ZMB 30-30 Win., offering a variety of high-tech features to handle the highly promoted zombie apocalypse. Short and quick with the ability to add all kinds of optics and lights for effective firepower to stop the undead — if they ever make their appearance — or varmints and deer-sized big game, the Mossberg has upgraded the lever-action rifle to a space-age weapon.
Although the calibers are identical — the 30-40 Krag is also known as the 30 U.S. — the Krag provides a little more punch with a larger bullet than the 30-30 Win. Both cartridges are considered prime brush guns for handling small game up to animals the size of a whitetail deer at ranges of 100 yards or less.
Here’s an excerpt from that report, used with permission:
Winchester Model 1895 Lever Action Carbine 30-40 Krag, $1000- $1500
After handling hundreds of rifles over the years, there have been few times when picking up a fresh firearm and sighting down the barrel is like encountering an old friend. The Winchester Model 1895 is one those cases. This rifle should be listed in the dictionary under “old school” with its well-worn stock and forearm and gun-metal blue barrel and receiver — also displaying years of use but not abuse — as appealing to the eye as a fine painting.
As noted earlier, the Model 1895 was the last lever-action rifle ever created by the fertile mind of John M. Browning. The strongest lever-action rifle produced by Winchester, the Model 1895 was designed to handle the increased pressures of smokeless-powder cartridges that were becoming common at the time. One of the rifle’s earliest fans was Theodore Roosevelt, who personally purchased and equipped each of his fellow officers in the Rough Riders with a Model 1895 Winchester in 30 Army (30-40 Krag) for use in the Spanish-American War.
In 2001, Winchester reintroduced the rifle during the 100-year anniversary of Roosevelt’s presidential administration, offering it in 405 Winchester (a caliber highly praised by Roosevelt) as well as 30-06 Springfield and 30-40 Krag. With history on its side, the Model 1895 began with a slight edge in the match-up, and its performance on the range and in the field upheld its lead.
Weighing in at 8 pounds compared to the Mossberg that tipped the scales at 6.75 pounds, the Winchester had a nice heft and balance and produced no more recoil than the smaller 30-30 Win. The average three-shot groups of 2.3 inches with the Winchester 180-grain Power Point bullets and 4.8 inches with the Remington 180-grain Core-Lokt bullets using open sights at the 100-yard indoor range was considered very good by our shooting team.
Sighting down the 22-inch barrel over the V-notched rear sight and tiny bead front sight was both easy and quick. A trigger pull of 4.5 pounds was also a well-appreciated feature of the veteran rifle. It came as no surprise that the action of the Model 1985 was very smooth, making second shots in the field extremely effective. There is a lot to be said about the workings of a vintage rifle that has seen years of quality trigger time and proper maintenance. Although rifles of this quality may be hard to find and carry a hefty price tag when they can be located, this specimen certainly demonstrated that even an old war horse is capable of meeting or exceeding the needs of today’s hunter.
Our Team Said: Very nice accuracy, smooth action, and classic, comfortable handling and features earned the veteran carbine high marks. We can understand why Teddy was such a fan of this Winchester model. The price tag is a little high, as it is with most desirable collector-quality firearms, but that should not be a deterrent for lever-action fans.
Admittedly, nostalgia was a factor in ranking this veteran firearm slightly better than the new-age Mossberg, but overall performance and handling of this classic smokepole was superb. If price is not a concern and if a Model 1895 becomes available, any lever-action fan should jump at the chance to own one.