Gun Review: Turnbull Winchester Model 1886 Reproduction Action Rifle

Turnbull winchester model 1886

Mike Arnold for TTAG

The beauty and elegance of the Turnbull Winchester Model 1886 Reproduction is undeniable. The rich color and grain of the walnut stock and forearm, the crisp and intricate checkering, the octagonal nickel-steel barrel and the bone charcoal color case hardening on the action, lever, trigger and forearm cap denote the unmistakable artistry of Turnbull Restoration.

When I asked Doug Turnbull about the process he developed to produce the magnificent Turnbull-ized metal finish, he responded “I will be glad to give you the details, but it will cost you the price of my company.”

That’s understandable. Doug and his colleagues have used this process to restore, and reproduce, scores of firearms to their period-appropriate finish. This includes the restoration of an antique Model 1886 for Tom Selleck, now emblazoned with a brass plate sporting the inscription, ‘From Magnum to Blue Bloods’.

Turnbull winchester model 1886

Mike Arnold for TTAG

In my mind, the Turnbull artistry results in firearms that beg to be held and relished…but most especially, taken to the range and field and fired. My first step, then, with the Winchester Model 1886 lever action rifle chambered in .475 Turnbull – after some well-deserved time in front of the camera (the rifle, not me!) – was to head to my local range for some serious up-close-and-personal smelling of gunpowder residue.

The Turnbull staff sent three types of ammunition for my review, all of course featuring .475 diameter bullets: ‘reduced’ handloaded cartridges and ‘full-load’ factory cartridges from Grizzly Cartridge Co., both topped with 400-grain Triple Shock X (TSX) bullets from Barnes. They also sent ‘full-load’ handloaded cartridges topped with 420-grain cast-lead bullets from Montana Bullet Works.

Turnbull winchester model 1886

Mike Arnold for TTAG

As with all of my firearm analyses, I used a doppler technology-based chronograph to measure the velocities and energy levels of the various cartridge types. These data provide the basis for conclusions concerning possible hunting applications for the different cartridges.

As might be expected, when I asked Doug Turnbull about hunting applications, he voiced the opinion that the Model 1886 chambered for those big .475 Turnbull rounds was great for every big game species. Lest the reader think Doug was blowing smoke up their metaphorical skirts, he has taken approximately 70 animals with his own Model 1886 in that caliber.

Among these are members of smaller species such as whitetail deer, feral hogs, pronghorn antelope and mountain sheep. Doug’s .475 has also accounted for members of large and/or dangerous species including elk, moose, black bear, brown bear and even Cape Buffalo.

Other hunters have carried the .475 Turnbull going after the largest of the land mammals, the African elephant. Regardless of these facts, I’m a research scientist by training and I have what some have called an obsession for running analyses to test hypotheses, even well-supported ones like Doug’s.

Turnbull winchester model 1886

Mike Arnold for TTAG

Because I use open sights very infrequently, I began my range work by firing at distances of 50 yards. I was most interested in determining how accurately I could shoot the Winchester Model 1886 under field conditions.

That led to my decision to fire all of my shots from a field rest (Mountain Stick model from 4StableSticks) rather than from a bench. The photograph below shows the results of some of my earliest shots.

Turnbull winchester model 1886

Mike Arnold for TTAG

I sent this photograph of the Turnbull lever gun flanked by two targets – the results of four shots each using the ‘reduced’ loads and the 420-grain lead-bullet loads – to the folks at Turnbull with the caption ‘Not just a pretty face.’

In short, such accuracy by a shooter who had never fired a lever-action rifle in his life from a field rest rather than a bench, is amazing. ‘Not just a pretty face’ is definitely not hyperbole.

I then turned to targets placed at 100 yards, again obtaining excellent groups for someone not used to iron sights; group sizes for each of the cartridge types were approximately 3 MOA. This level of accuracy should hold me in good stead this Fall when I take the Model 1886 into the whitetail woods.

Though Doug and others have used the Model 1886 in .475 Turnbull to kill large, nasty animals capable of stomping a person into goo or using them as a snack, it could be argued that this success has little to do with the capabilities of the rifle and caliber, and more to do with the talent of these ‘professional’ shooters.

In fact, at the time of my interview with Doug, the last animal he had taken with his ’86 was a whitetail doe at 120 yards, running at full speed, and shot through the heart. He wanted to make certain that, if I repeated this anecdote, I pointed out that he did not hit the deer with the first shot, but rather the third, and that he had his staff with him at the time.

My thought was, ‘By the third shot she would have been flying!’ So Doug and the likes of Craig Boddington will shoot much better with their .475 Turnbull rifles than the average hunter, including yours truly. However, this begs the questions concerning not just the accuracy of the rifle in my amateur hands (answer: very accurate), but also the energy produced by the various loads.

No amount of energy can make up for poor shot placement, but if shot opportunity comes from a less-than-ideal angle, the bullet must have sufficient energy to reach the vitals.

The so-called reduced loads were, indeed, relatively mild in the recoil department, with a muzzle velocity and energy of 1710 ± 24 fps and 2598 ft-lbs, respectively. Likewise, the bullets dropped approximately 8.5 inches between the 50 and 100 yard marks.

Even with the smaller amount of powder and thus lower muzzle velocity of the 400-grain TSX bullets, at 100 yards energy is still predicted to be approximately 2000 ft-lbs. This is the oft-quoted minimum impact energy necessary for elk. However, though they may retain sufficient energy, their arcing trajectory makes these rounds less attractive for use in the field. Instead, they are excellent practice rounds to introduce a newbie like me to the .475 Turnbull.

Turnbull winchester model 1886

Mike Arnold for TTAG

The other two cartridge types are a very different product compared to the reduced load. The cast-lead, 420-grain bullets exited the muzzle at a velocity of 1888 ± 29 fps, producing a muzzle energy of 3323 ft-lbs. The 400-grain TSX factory ammunition from Grizzly Cartridge Co. provided the highest velocities and energies with a mean of 1978 ± 23 fps and 3474 ft-lbs, respectively.

Both of these cartridges carry sufficient energy to handle tough, non-dangerous game to well over 200 yards. Likewise, they have a much flatter trajectory than their reduced-load brethren, making major hold adjustments unnecessary.

Turnbull winchester model 1886

Mike Arnold for TTAG

One piece of evidence supporting the conclusion that the TSX load, in particular, is sufficient for large, tough animals that aren’t standing at bayonet distances comes again from Doug Turnbull. Though he has taken most game animals with his Model 1886 at distances between 150-180 yards, he has harvested elk at 300 yards.

But, the capabilities of the TSX load isn’t limited to non-dangerous game. It’s also a wonderful choice for North America’s largest bears, for Africa’s Cape Buffalo and elephant and Australia’s Water Buffalo and Banteng.

Once again, I don’t base this conclusion merely on the data from my analyses. The data are compelling, but also supported by the outcomes of many dangerous-game hunts by Doug and his clients.

One aspect of the full-loads that I have not yet touched upon is recoil and thus what I like to call ‘shootability’. I always include this assessment in my reviews for the simple fact that I have owned firearms that, to put it mildly, hurt with every trigger break.

The recoil from the reduced loads, while definitely less than that of the ‘full’ cartridges is noticeable. That makes the full-loads…more noticeable. However, the 10-pound weight and design of the Turnbull rifle, along with its substantial recoil pad, resulted in a very reasonable amount of felt recoil.

It must be remembered that I didn’t lock the rifle into a lead sled, or some other device in order to ameliorate the recoil. Instead, I used field rests that gave stability, but no reduction in kick.

I did use a shoulder pad, but unlike a .458 Lott I reviewed, there was absolutely no need to include a full roll of paper towels underneath the gel pad. My inference is that, though I noticed the recoil of the .475 Turnbull at the range, I doubt very much that I would do so while hunting.

Conclusions

I think it will come as no surprise that I really, really enjoyed the range time with Turnbull’s  Model 1886. The ‘beauty’ of this lovely rifle is easy to illustrate using the accompanying photographs. The ‘beast’ is easy to infer from the data I gathered as well as from the successful use of this model and caliber on hunts for large, tough and [sometimes] dangerous critters.

As mentioned above, Doug et al. have been generous enough to give me permission to take this rifle on a whitetail hunt, and I’m eagerly looking forward to spending time carrying this wonderful firearm in the Georgia woods this Fall. However, I can’t help but think that this piece of artistry would be even more at home on a Western hunt for pronghorn, mule deer, elk or grizzly.

Specifications: Turnbull Restoration Model 1886 

Caliber: .475 Turnbull (also available in .45-70 or .45-90)
Action Type: Lever
Capacity: 8 rounds
Length: 45”
Barrel Length: 25 ¼”
Weight: 10 lbs
Stock: Grade 5/6 walnut with a hand-rubbed oil finish
Sights: Buckhorn
M.S.R.P.: $6450 for the .475 rifle supplied for this review (standard is $4700)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
There is no comparison with any other firearms I’ve reviewed. ‘Beautiful’ doesn’t really do this gun justice. When I opened the box containing this made-to-order rifle in my local gun shop, the owner and patrons let out an audible gasp. You will, too.

Fit and Finish: * * * * *
Excellent. Bone charcoal case hardening coloration on receiver, lever, hammer and forend cap, with era-apposite rust bluing on the octagon barrel and magazine tube.

Accuracy * * * * *
Outstanding, even with the author’s eyes.

Ergonomics * * * * *
The rifle’s 10 lb weight is needed with this heavy caliber. Yes, that weight will be noticeable at the end of the day when hiking in the mountains, but it will also make shots much easier because of its balance.

Reliability * * * * *
The rifle never gave me a problem with any of the ammunition types.

Overall * * * * *
This is a truly amazing firearm, both on the range and in the field. I suspect many will want to simply hang it on their wall to show their friends. But that would indeed be a shame. This gorgeous Winchester Model 1886 begs to be carried, sweated on, and dinged-up on hunting trips.

 

This review could not have been accomplished without the generosity of the following people: Mike Nelson (Marketing Services Manager), Paul Downs (Shipping Lead) and Doug Turnbull (El Jefe) from Turnbull Restoration; Frances Arnold (wife and photographer); Tracy Ledbetter (owner of Gun Racks for Less ; Lilian Camalet (owner of 4StableSticks; Hugh and Linda Murray (willing providers of their Tack Room for a photo shoot).

comments

  1. avatar Scott C. says:

    Being a sucker for a nice lever action, you had me drooling…… right until I saw the price tag….. sad face.

    1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

      Ditto!

      45-90 would be nice.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I love all types of firearms. But nothing looks better than a well done lever gun. IMHO.

        1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          Agreed! The Turnbull ’86 is an exceptionally fine looking lever action (shortly after I win the Mega / Power Lottery it will be one of the first items I spoil myself with…until then, window shopping only)

    2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      I recently attended a skeet tournament. Brought my vintage Winchester Model 12 and had lots of fun. The two finalists who vied for first place each had custom over-unders that one of the tournament officials confirmed were north of $20K each. Good grief.

      I’m looking forward to restoring and customizing my pre-1964 Model 94 next year. Not quite yet sure if I’ll do the case hardening or the “yellow boy” brass.

    3. avatar GS650G says:

      I expected it to be expensive as well but not that much. But if you want a specialty firearm that’s handmade and produced in very limited quantities you have to pay.
      If I had that much in disposable income I would buy it.

  2. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    Sorry but there is a reason that professional guides see the .375 H&H as the minimum for dangerous game in Africa. Add 1000 pounds and then you have a dangerous game rifle. Hell a 300Win Mag produces as much power as the 475 Turnbull with way better ballistics.
    The rifle is an incredible piece of work. But to use this rifle on dangerous game is irresponsible/unethical.

    1. avatar Texican says:

      Typically, countries in Africa actually have laws requiring .375 and above calibers for dangerous game. And these were created when people were using old tech bullets. If you think that .475 Turnbull is weak sauce for that type of hunting I would direct you to Garrett Cartridges and Vince Lupo who took all of the big six game animals in Africa with a Marlin 45-70 using slow moving, low energy hard cast bullets. Velocity doesn’t matter as much as some think. Bullet material and construction are maybe more important. What counts is how much damage the bullet does to the animal to kill it quickly. Six feet of penetration will kill just about anything. Even better are copper and brass bullets like Lehigh Defense Xtreme Penetrator or Xtreme Defense . Harder than hard cast lead and create a larger wound cavity than just about anything else in their respective cartridges. What’s cool about using a Marlin is you only have to lug a 7 lb rifle around.

    2. avatar Anymouse says:

      At typical dangerous game range, ballistics aren’t important. It’s dangerous because it’s close.

    3. avatar jwtaylor says:

      The .475 Turnbull is completely appropriate for dangerous game at reasonable distances. The cartridge delivers energy equal to that of most .375HH commercial cartridges, and exceeds many of the traditional loadings of that caliber. It does this with a heavy, blunt bullet completely capable of extreme penetration on any game.
      If you are hunting it on this earth, you are not undergunned with the author’s rifle.

  3. avatar Ogre says:

    An original Winchester 1886 restored in .475 Turnbull is a great rifle – if one can pay that price. I cannot, so I settled for an Italian (Pedersoli) ’86 carbine in .45-70 from Taylors & Co. for considerably less. That should be sufficient for whatever I need it for.

    1. avatar Ogre says:

      I didn’t notice it for my initial post (above), but this rifle is part of Turnbull’s “Reproduction” line, not a restored original. My bad.

      If Turnbull wanted to add a nifty firearm to its reproduction line, how about a 4th Model Merwin & Hulbert single-action revolver with a spare barrel option? I’d gladly plunk down some serious bucks for one of those. Nickel plated, please, in .45 Colt.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        I’ve had a couple of M&H revolvers come through my shop from here in Wyoming.

        What I saw was that they’re fairly basic revolvers, finished to a utilitarian grade compared to a Colt of the same era. Their screwheads are rather proud of the metal, and the fitting is very basic.

        I understand that they command a price because they are rare today, but in reviewing the records of M&H and how many they made (which was quite a few), I have to conclude that they weren’t thought of as prized possessions due to their utilitarian workmanship – and so many didn’t survive, making them rare (and valuable) today.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          M&H revolvers were actually made by Hopkins and Allen. They were just not at the same level as Colt, S&W or Remington. They mostly made ‘bulldog’ type revolvers for the catalogs, like Sears, to sell.

          M&H had functional revolvers. But they didn’t have the finish quality of the better companies.

  4. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

    The gun looks fantastic but that angry looking guy looks like he is in his yard aiming at his most hated neighbor;-)

    1. avatar Michael Arnold says:

      But, but, I really wasn’t angry officer…

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      Or taking aim at those pesky dinosaurs that won’t leave.

  5. avatar Ing says:

    Drool… I’d sell my firstborn son for one of these.

    Anybody interested in a young man who takes after Fezzik (you know: super large, kindhearted, and unemployed in Greenland)?

  6. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Beautiful rifle. Just beautiful.

  7. avatar Bitter says:

    I was expecting to see JWT’s name under the title for this beautiful rifle.
    I have a soft spot for lever guns and this one is amazing, thanks for the review.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “I was expecting to see JWT’s name under the title…”
      I wish it was!

      Muttermutterstupidpolymerpistolreviewsmuttermutter

  8. avatar Bill says:

    For $6500….

    TTAG should show the price first and save me the effort of wasting time reading.
    I am sure there are tons of you guys out there who can buy one a week or more and it not be a big deal…. whatever.

    1. avatar RocketScientist says:

      Waaaah. Nobody cares about your pity party. Some people have more stuff than you. In the big picture, a LOT more people have a LOT less than you. Accept that and move on with your life. Green is an ugly color on pretty much everyone.

      1. avatar Hank says:

        Not when your rolling around in a bed full of cash and naked women!

  9. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    I have a Ruger Old Army that I had Jimmy Spurs tune and then off to Turnbull to finish,over all drop dead gorgeous and whats more it shoots like a house a fire.

  10. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The finish on the receiver is color case hardening. Doug Turnbull is one of the very best practitioner of color casing of firearms parts, and there are others who are able to perform this service as well.

    As for the price: that’s about what I would expect for a custom chambering job, with color cased receiver and stock details, with checkering, an oil-finished wood stock, the sights, etc. If you want attention paid to the details, it costs money.

    Look at the prices on the Sharps rifle reproductions – they start at about $2400 and go up, up, up from there. Look at a completely refinished Parker, Fox or Lefever shotgun, or what a new Luger would cost to make.

    People should be angry at the Federal Reserve, not the gun makers. The Fed is who made your money worthless.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      People are used to chinese made goods with corners cut not handmade guns by Americans on a limited basis. This isn’t a department store gun, it’s an heirloom quality piece for the appreciative discriminating owner.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Indeed.

        In the firearms market, people have been peddled swill and twaddle for the last 40+ years by such companies as Remington, Glock, et al.

  11. avatar what would spock say says:

    “In fact, at the time of my interview with Doug, the last animal he had taken with his ’86 was a whitetail doe at 120 yards, running at full speed, and shot through the heart. ”

    He is obviously a much better shot than me, but full speed bounding whitetail at 120yds? who even thinks of making a shot like that with any degree of success expectation for a clean kill? and dammit I promised myself I would be one of these high-horse tools but yikes that seems like real hail mary kinda shot.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I certainly can’t be the man to judge. I’ve done that many times with deer and pigs. You start shooting, surprised the first shot missed and you just keep following the animal. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it don’t.

  12. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    Color case hardening is very eye appealing but few people realize it soon fades away and disappears altogether. The big problem then is that each time you heat the receiver that hot that it does indeed warp. Many times another case color application is not worth the risk to damaging the receiver beyond repair. But the problem is if you try and blue it the resulting finish is a maroon or purple color which again devalues the gun. This is why I do not buy case colored guns. I once had a Savage Fox double barrel that was case color hardened at the factory and when the sun hit the gun while hunting after a few years it just faded completely away. Sad .

    1. avatar Al Bondigas says:

      It’s highly possible the “case hardening” on the Savage Fox shotgun was not really case hardening, but a chemically induced imitation thereof.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Savage Fox guns were attempts to make a Fox at a reduced price.

      Color casing certainly can fade, It is best lacquered with a thin coat to protect the colors from finger oils.

      The color casing of that shotgun could be restored by Turnbull for a reasonable fee.

      As for warping: That can happen, and does happen, for practitioners who don’t use fixtures to hold the parts while in the carbon pack and going into the water bath.

  13. avatar adverse6 says:

    How about I buy something just as good cheaper?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      What would that be?

    2. avatar Doc says:

      Take up knitting!!!

  14. avatar Bill Holcombe says:

    .475 is completely legal in Africa. It exceeds all the minimal specs put out by the African countries. Heck, it is what Doug designed the caliber for.

    Doug does restore original 1886s and will rechamber them to a 475 if you wish. The action is fine, but they have to replace the barrel. Quite a few 33 wcfs have gotten this treatment I believe.

    As for long range shots at running dear….Read some Jack O’Connor, Elmer Keith, etc. Long range shots at running targets used to be common hunting shots in open country.

    I am curious how the recoil from this compares to a .375 H&H. Recently got a Model 71 in .348 and had read about how it had horrible recoil…..the thing has less recoil than a 30-06…

    1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

      A buddy recently had shoulder surgery. He has a pre-64 Winchester M70 chambered in .375 H&H…he is spending a lot of his recovery time reloading. He had two old boxes of factory .375 that he wanted shot up so that he could reload the brass. Two of us “volunteered” to help him out. The boxes were marked at $22.50 and $24.99 each (300 gr and 275 gr)…yeah, they’re pretty old. Off to the range figuring that a box each was fair. We had heard all the horror stories regarding the .375 H&H’s recoil. The reality was that the recoil was only a bit more than my M1 Garand…more of a sustained “shove” than a sharp snap…that said, after the first 18 rounds for each of us, the last two in each box were fired for effect rather than accuracy.

      All things being equal, it was a fun afternoon…shooting a new (to me) rifle with someone else’s ammo.

    2. avatar Mike Arnold says:

      Hi, Bill. I have not fired a .375 of any persuasion. I owned a .340 Weatherby Mag and put approximately 600 cartridges (reloads at factory velocities) through the rifle – all fired from the bench. I have also recently reviewed a 30 Nosler and a .458 Lott. Obviously, the .475 does NOT kick nearly as much as the .458 Lott, but what does?! My experience with these various cartridges is that the .475 Turnbull’s recoil, with the Full loads, felt between a ‘fast’ 30 and the .340 Weatherby. Probably edging a bit toward the fast .30 end of the spectrum. Obviously, the weight of Doug’s rifle, the classic straight stock, and the excellent recoil pad aided in reducing felt recoil. Hope that helps! Mike Arnold

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