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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Barrel Length: 25 ¼”
Weight: 10 lbs
Stock: Grade 5/6 walnut with a hand-rubbed oil finish
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).