Winchester Model 1892 rifle
Courtesy Virgil Caldwell
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By Virgil Caldwell

For most of my life I have owned a number of reliable, effective and useful handguns. I have obtained the best I could afford and they have served me well. I have also always kept on hand a good rifle for emergency use. This is quite different from a hunting rifle although some of the pieces were useful for hunting.

I kept a Winchester Model 94 .30-30 on the front line for many years. The shorter barrel versions are best for all-around carry and the longer barrel classic version is best for hunting. I also have used the SKS rifle and the AR-15.

A type of rifle I’ve owned and used for some time, though, is the lever action rifle chambered in a pistol caliber. I used a Marlin .44 Magnum for boar hunting and have owned several Winchester clones for recreational use. But like a lot of gun owners, I wanted a real Winchester and I am glad I finally found one.

While those clones are OK and may be improved with some careful gunsmithing, the Winchester originals offer excellent performance and more than a little pride of ownership.

Sure, a good centerfire bolt action rifle with a scope is generally a better hunting firearm. But I wanted a compact, fast handling rifle to do most anything I needed including riding behind the seat of the Silverado.

I was lucky to find a pre owned – perhaps even unfired – Winchester Model 1892 Short Rifle in .45 Colt.

The Winchester 1892 is a joy to carry and shoot. With its pistol caliber chambering and short throw lever action, cycling is better and quicker than with the Winchester ’94 .30-30. The locking lugs are plenty strong and the rifles often exhibits fine intrinsic and practical accuracy.

The Winchester Model 1892 features a 20-inch glossy blued barrel with an oiled black walnut stock and forend. The straight grip and crescent-shaped buttplate make for quick mounting and fast shooting.

Since I already own a Colt Single Action Army in .45 Colt — a near perfect match for this lever gun — it wasn’t any problem to test the rifle with a variety of loads.

Here is a firearms instructor with a 92 clone (not the review gun) also in .45 Colt. Note spent case in the air (in front of his shoulder) and he’s already back on target. These are fast guns to fire and use. Remember to press forward, not down, when working the lever.

I had on hand plenty of hard cast SWC handloads using the Hornady 250 grain XTP bullet, and a number of factory loads from Remington, SIG SAUER, and Fiocchi.

My handloads proved reliable and clean burning. Stand out loads for accuracy were the Remington 230 grain JHP and the SIG SAUER V Crown hollow point.

SIG Sauer Elite V Crown loads produced excellent results.

The Hornady 225 grain LeveRevolution load is a hard hitter worth your time and testing. At 25 yards the rifle’s iron sights were easily regulated. With the ten-round magazine capacity, the Winchester 1892 has much potential for both personal defense and short range hunting.

It was awfully easy to punch the bullseye at 25 yards. I was pretty happy. The loads don’t gain a whole lot of velocity in a rifle barrel in the manner that .357 Magnum does, but the gain is still useful.

The primary advantage of the 1892 is the potential for accurate shot placement well past handgun ranges. But then I moved to fifty yards.

At that range my best efforts resulted in vertical stringing and lateral dispersion, even from a solid bench rest firing position. Then two bullets from my handloads went into the same hole at fifty yards. The next three opened the group to six inches. That’s twice what I expected. My only conclusion: my eyes are no longer any good!

I can read without glasses but buckhorn sights and over-sixty eyes aren’t the best combination. I hung my head and sulked back to the truck. I hadn’t shot the carbine much better than my pistol at that range.

Next on the agenda, I ordered a set of XS peep sights. Now we were talking. They aren’t traditional but I’m a shooter not a collector. The peep or aperture sight better leads the eye to center on the front sight.

The express type front sight offers greater clarity for aging eyes and greater speed for just about anyone. There’s simply little comparison between the original buckhorn and bead sights and the XS replacement sights, at least out to the 100 yards or so distance that’s the mission profile of this rifle.

The Barnes all copper X bullet is a fine choice for hunting chores in the .45 Colt.

After a bit of familiarization with the XS sights I re-tested the rifle as far as 100 yards.

With careful application of the trigger the SIG SAUERf V Crown load turned in several 2 to 2.5 inch groups at 50 yards.

I am very happy with that. There are lots of heavy loads that are very useful in the carbine that you would not wish to fire in a revolver. The Winchester 1892 handles them easily and even a relatively modest load, say 300 grains at 1,000 fps, offers real power for game shooting inside of 100 yards.

The Winchester 1892 .45 Colt makes the grade for my all of my uses.

Velocity testing, .45 Colt loads, Winchester 1892

Colt 4.5″ Barrel 1892 20″ Barrel
Remington 230gr JHP 930 fps 1132 fps
SIG SAUER 230gr JHP 760 fps 1050 fps


Specifications: Winchester Model 1892 Short Rifle

Caliber: .45 Colt (also available in .44 Rem Mag and .357 Mag)
Action: Short Throw Lever Action
Weight: 6.0 lbs
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Sights: Buckhorn rear
Length of pull: 12.75 inches
Magazine capacity: 10 rounds
Finish: Blued steel
Stocks: Dark Walnut
MSRP: $1070 (about $925 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style, Fit and Finish: * * * *
The blue finish is excellent. The walnut stock and forend are well fitted, but rather ordinary in appearance…if a cut above the modern average.

Reliability: * * * * *
No issues, with about six hundred cartridges fed, fired, and ejected.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
On the lever gun scale this is the top of the list. It’s fast to shoulder, quick on target and easy to shoot.

Accuracy: * * * *
She gets four stars. It’s not bad at all and great for hunting at the distances you’ll use a lever gun.  A .357 Magnum lever action rifle may be more accurate, but I wanted one in .45 Colt.

Overall: * * * *
There are more powerful and more accurate rifles, but the classic Winchester Model 1892 is fast and extremely effective in the 100-yard-or-so range at which I use a lever action carbine.


All photos by the author.




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  1. I love my Henry Big Boy in 45 Colt, 16″ barrel 🙂 I agree with the buckhorn sights. Even in my 40’s I would prefer peep sights but haven’t gotten around to changing them over yet. I use it occasionally with silhouette shooting though haven’t hunted with it yet.

  2. I also second the Sig v-crown ammo, generally my choice for this caliber unless plinking or have found a better deal. Got two boxes of Herter’s select HP-FMJ at Cabela’s this past weekend for $30 a box of 50,

  3. Quality lever actions (Winchester, Henry, Marlin) are always a good choice. I myself have a classic Win Model 94 in good ‘ol .30-30 that’s been in our family for decades and shoots like a dream, and it’s next on my list for a complete refurbishing. The author’s .45 Colt looks nice. My OCD kinda kicked in, though, when I noticed the fingerprints on the barrel in the closeups.

  4. Does it feed properly with hard cast Keiths or LBTs or LFNs?

    And who the hell BUYS ammunition instead of reloading (unless they have a money orchard)?

    • I can’t speak for others but I buy ammo because of my current living/work situation and don’t have an appropriate place to start reloading. I also don’t shoot enough to justify the investment at this time in my life. Perhaps one day, but I stock up on ammo when I have extra money and shoot what I can afford. That’s just me though and I’ve had to tell the old guys at the silhouette range to pound sand occasionally since their mindset is often reload-only.

      • I started reloading because of the cost of .45 Colt. A single stage press mounted on a small workbench bought at Harbor Freight, a set of carbide dies, and I was off and running. I’ve reloaded lead round nose flat point (both black powder and smokeless), 200 gr Hornady Zombie JHPs, 250 grain soft tip HPs, and 230 grain JHPs. I can use all but the heavies in my pistol as well in my Winchester 1892.

        I have the Japanese version of the Winchester. The issue I have with it is the rebounding hammer. It wouldn’t be so bad buy it turns what was a decent trigger in the original into a total bear, and heavily weights the lever. The rebounding hammer redesign massively increased the weight of the hammer spring, and that is the root of the problem. Eliminating the rebounding action is easy, but trying to retune the hammer spring has been a difficult proposition since no aftermarket springs are available, although plenty can be had for the original design (and clones).

        I haven’t taken it out in a while–had my cataract in my shooting eye removed today, so in a few days I should be able to see what I am trying to hit.

        • Well, THANK GOD that the new issues lever guns all have a tang safety (NOT). How the Italians have managed to keep making their clones without a safety button is a mystery to me, maybe the mob has better lawyers.

        • If you have some money to spend, contact Turnbull Restorations or Tyler Gun Works here in Texas and either can color case the frame as well as fix the hammer and safety. Worth every penny, but it’s more than a few pennies.

        • What I like about the Henry lever guns is that they have a transfer bar in the hammer, so unless you have your finger on the trigger it ain’t gonna fire if the hammer falls. IMHO, much better than the crossbolt/tang safeties.

          • I’d have to agree with you on that, i like Henrys design. Even if i loath a cross bolt, i’d prefer it over what rossi puts on their rifles. Right there on top of the reciever, so your staring at it every time you aim. I grinded mine down and called it good

        • “If you have some money to spend, contact Turnbull Restorations or Tyler Gun Works here in Texas and either can color case the frame as well as fix the hammer and safety. Worth every penny, but it’s more than a few pennies.”

          John, good pal of mine received his Turnbull Marlin 1895. I have to tell you, I’d have sent it back. The rod put through the crossbolt safety was done after the case coloring and the safety “hole” wasn’t round so there was quite a bit of space on one side of it. Then, the finish on the stock got into the checkering, which should’ve been an easy clean up, and it looked like there was a rag or something laying on the wet varnish. The gun wasn’t all that expensive as compared to what he wanted done to his existing .444 model, but IMO, it wasn’t close to the kind of work he’s (DT) known for. Turnbull’s work is generally amazing, and he’s about the only person out there that can actually ad value to an old piece by restoration, but this Marlin was a lemon, IMO.

    • People who buy ammunition don’t usually shoot stuff like .45 Colt. They shoot “cheap and common ammo” calibers like .22lr, 9mm, .223, 7.62×39, and maybe .308, or 12 gauge.

      I only reload for .38sp, and mainly shoot .22, plus some .223, 9mm, 7.62×39, and a little 7.62x54r, 12 gauge, .380, .357, and .270.

    • With the price of ammo these days, buying new is the way to go for many calibers. At $8-9 a box for 9mm, I get quality ammo and once fired brass for reloading later. Besides, not everyone reloads every Caliber they shoot.
      I realize you may be shocked by the revelation that a great many people buy loaded ammunition, perhaps even more so in today’s market. There’s actually a lot of stores out there that have whole sections of ammo readily available for purchase, with enough variety to meet the needs of even the most frugal buyer (yourself excepted, of course). And most of us don’t have money orchards.

      Please, nobody tell @RGP about the Internet – I fear his delicate constitution may not be able to process the scale of ammo business transacted there.

    • Dear reloader, we are happy you enjoy reloading. Many of us do not have to reload. We can afford to buy all the commercially loaded ammo we want and need.

      We are happy to sell you our empty brass though. Consider our contribution to your hobby.

      • reloading is very relaxing a benefit beyond purchasing. I like to create my own loads.
        cost saving is good however not my focus. A 45 cost wise is not too prohibitive.
        My primary shooter is a 45-70 of which I have two. a little more to shoot one of those. So nice to create my own loads through research and trial and error.

        • The point is that reloading allows you to use better ammo from a standpoint of accuracy, utility, and amount. The average .45 Colt factory load is going to cost between $1 and $1.50. You have limited choices as to bullet weight, velocity, and bullet profile. Its either low pressure stuff safe for vintage arms, or heavy loads for Rugers, etc. Accuracy may or may not even be a factor. Handloading allows you to match bullet diameter to the gun for best performance (.45 Colt guns are all over the place in terms of bore diameter and cylinder throat diameter). I load 1873 performance level ammo, using period type bullets that fit the gun properly. I can cover 6 rds at 25 yds with a playing card shooting double action from my Ruger Redhawk. Or I can use a 265 gr. WFN load at 1100 fps for hunting that I can hit an orange clay with at 75 yds. Those loads cost me $.30 and $.40 cents each respectively. That is with no leading of any kind at either end. Nobody makes factory ammo that even comes close. So, just because you afford to buy factory ammo doesn’t mean your getting the best value for your dollar. Not by a damn sight.

      • reloading is very relaxing a benefit beyond purchasing. I like to create my own loads.
        cost saving is good however not my focus. A 45 cost wise is not too prohibitive.
        My primary shooter is a 45-70 of which I have two. a little more to shoot one of those. So nice to create my own loads through research and trial and error.

  5. I just bought a new .357 revolver. I’ve always liked lever guns. Maybe time to look into a .357 lever gun. Maybe.

    • A little pricey and not the most traditional, but a while back I bought a takedown Taylor’s Chiappa Alaskan in .357 magnum. This is an 1894 Winchester clone. Hard Chrome finished it breaks down into stock/receiver and barrel sections. The 16 inch barrel has a Skinner aperture sight on a picatinny rail so a scout scope or red dot can be mounted. I found a red dot and scout scope that are interchangeable with the flip of one or two levers. The stock is wood coated with a very high quality black rubbery finish that doesn’t turn to muck and the barrel mount is still solid after maybe ten years. The 16 inch barrel maximizes the muzzle velocity of the .357 Magnum. This is a great brush gun by Chiappa, better known for their reproductions of Western arms.

  6. to RGP

    Good question.

    You cannot crimp the case into the crimp groove but rather just over it and over the driving band- then you have good reliability with SWC loads.

    Thanks for reading.

  7. Nice review. I like the 45 Long Colt in a carbine.

    Bought my 94 Trapper from Don’s guns in Indianapolis in the 90s. I wanted a 357 but they were scarce, and I was offered the 45 for 299. 100 bucks less than the 357 was going for.

    Has my favorite iron sights….flat post in front..semi buckhorn with the little diamond in back. I can still cut under 2.5 inches at 50 yards with 57 year old eyes. Jas a hammer forged barrel that is sweet.

    Winchester Silvertips run a little over 1000 fps and most accurate. Corbon 200 gr JHC runs a little over 1300 and group well at 100 yards.

    I just wish Winchester would bring back the Trapper 92 ( all calibers) and offer checkering on the stocks. And sling studs.


  8. I have a bastardized Rossi Ranch hand in .357mag. “Bastardized” in the sense that shortly after acquiring it, I realized in that configuration it was little more than a range toy, and as much as I wanted it to work in the bush, it would not.

    Being in Canada, mounting a full stock is just a matter of finding one, and doing the swap. No tax stamp or anything similar needed, so one was ordered and I mounted it. I was instantly rewarded with the funniest looking little carbine you’ve ever seen, that quickly became my “go-to” working gun for the bush. I worked up several different loads for the gun; a cowboy load in .38spl for kids and new shooters. Almost no recoil quite accurate out to 75 yds. A 148gr .357mag load for range shooting and small game, and a 180gr. hardcast load, quite warmly loaded. it’s extremely accurate at 100yds, and the Much maligned and under-rated .357mag load from a carbine barks with lots of authority. After a couple years of hunting whitetail successfully, I unexpectedly had a bear encounter over a fresh kill I could not see. in Spite of trying to avoid a bad outcome, the matter was forced on me and I responded with my 180gr load, and it claimed it’s first bear as well.
    I love this little carbine. It’s funny to look at, with that short, short little barrel, but it works really well. Skinner peep sights completed the package. Even my 65 year old eyes can squeeze out 4 inch groups at 100yds; perfect for my needs with this gun. after many thousands of rounds, it’s slick, smooth and fast running. even with the very short barrel and light weight, it stays on target effortlessly. Loaded, it’s around 5 pounds, and still short enough that it rides at an angle in a short scabbard mounted to my daypack, there when I need it. I can reach over my shoulder and get it in the game quickly, levering in a round while it settles into my shoulder.
    When I hear the inevitable Rossi-dissing, I learned long ago to just smile and say nothing. I’m doing my part to ensure that if the day comes I need another Rossi .357mag (and with their new updated model, I think that day may have come), there should be some around that the Rossi haters have overlooked, so I won’t need to spend a year looking for one

    • Your Rossi sounds like a ton of fun. It’s funny how both the USA and Canada have a lot of nonsense gun laws, yet strangely allow some things you might think they would prohibit. Off topic, but are tube fed rifles still limited to five rounds? If not, that would be a strong factor in their favor.

    • I’ve got two Rossi lever .45’s (one is SS with a 16 in bbl) and another in .357/38 Spl. They are all really good shooters and quite reliable. Haven had any of them choke yet. Money well spent.

      • I have a winchester 92. The HMS Bear load 325 gr. flat nose hard cast is 1.682″ long and is too long to feed through the action. Just wondering if the Rossi will handle them.

  9. I’d love to get a Rossi 357 lever-gun. No hate here. It’s just that I have a lot of other guns(and calibers) on my want list. Oh and Cabelas is running a sale this week on ammo & lots of other stuff. TEOTWAWKI er 2A sale…

  10. i did a 256 mag in a mod.92, the original 25-20 was way under-powered and hard to find ammo for so i got a finish reamer for .256 mag, the ruger hawk eye single shot pistol was like shooting a 155 from your hand, a ball of fire that looked like a rocket-launch and a concussion that would split rocks. that same cartridge in a mod.92 was sweet, fairly quiet,no ball of fire ,and very accurate. the best ever .. the 45 is the same way, darn good shooter and not near as jumpy as the them both…

  11. I like my two Henry lever guns, a .44 and a .308. I do not mind the tube loading one bit.
    Winchester made a damn fine lever gun at one time, are newer guns in the same league?

    • Dunno. Both my Winchesters are from the 1950s and built solid. I won’t touch a Win or Remington built within the past 30 years.

    • I think all the Winchester lever guns are made by Miroku once the reinstated the 94 to their lineup.

      I dont think the new ones have hammer forged barrels, but well made in general

      • See my comments above. The fit and finish and workmanship are good, the plain walnut is not terribly impressive on my 24″ 1892 made during the US Arms period, and which is the same rifle made today, as far as I can tell. It is accurate within the constraints of the shooting I have done to date (25 yards). There are upgraded versions with much fancier wood. The basic Browning design is still as solid as it was once upon a time, but the trigger sucks because of the rebounding hammer (which eliminated the half cock position). There is a safety, which is generally unobtrusive and simple in design, but as it is mounted on top of the wrist it eliminates the classic Marbles tang sight or similar siting systems. But you can still do a peep sight by replacing the rear buckhorn sight.

        • I surely would like one without the rebounding hammer.

          I missed out getting a Trapper 92 years back.

          Maybe they will cycle around to offer another run.

          I occasionally see the Big Loop 92 with a 20 inch bbl online bit prefer the handiness of the Trapper.

          The Rossis are rougher and need some love bit hold more rounds in the 16 inch length.

          I would buy a 94 Trapper in 30-30, 357 or 44 if I found one I could afford……bit the 92 action is slicker.

          Browning was a genius.

      • The Japanese made are very well done. Better than the Winchester or at least as good as New Havens best. Very beautifully finished.

    • i wish i had known more before getting my wrangler. for a short cartridge like .44mag, the 94ae action is unneccesarily long stroking. here the ’92 would be better.
      also, the later versions had a faster twist rate to stabilize plugs heavier than 240gr.

  12. But, but, but…it’s made of wood and steel! Not aluminum and plastic! And it doesn’t hold 30 rounds! And the design is, well, old! You can’t defend yourself with that. Besides, it shoots a really big bullet. Everyone knows anything heavier than 62 grains can’t kill anything larger than a squirrel. Seriously. I love a lever action. Owned both Winchesters and Marlins. Prefer Marlins. Solid top. XS Sights are the way to go. Stole a mint 18″ Marlin Texan for $475 about a year ago. I forget how many offers I’ve turned down since then.

    • There is a place in my heart for firearms of all sorts. Polymer and aluminum, as well as wood and steel, detachable and tube magazine fed, lever, pump, and bolt action, as well as semi-auto, revolver and autoloader.

      Dogs and cats, burgers and pizza, tacos, kimchee, and sushi. Brunette’s, and blondes

      Don’t limit wonderful things

  13. It’s unfortunate that reviewers too frequently attribute large groups to “aging eyes” rather than inaccurate firearms or poor technique. Unless you have cataracts, strabismus, macular degeneration, loose retinas or too many beers before shooting, aging eyes can easily be fixed with corrective lenses. Stop shooting, see an optometrist, get prescription glasses and leave the alibis in the range bag.

    • al , call my optometrist. my trifocals really SUCK AZZ on open sights . you must be young, or you would understand. this .

      • Nope. I need bifocals, but I wear single vision (distance) shooting glasses when going after targets. Give them a try; you might be pleasantly surprised with the results. If it works for my nearly 74 year old eyes it just might work for yours too.

    • Oh, the surety of ignorance!

      Which do you want your corrective lenses to see sharply while you maintain a solid cheek-stock-weld, the front sight, the rear sight, or the target? You only get to pick one.

      Kids these days…

      • Sorry JWT, but you’re wrong about that. If you were 16 years old and had perfect vision only one of the three would be in perfect focus at any one time. Just the nature of the human eyeball (and probably the reason why scopes are so popular with you youngsters).

        • Oops…meant you were right about that. So the the point, with long guns anyway (and those of us dinosaurs who love iron sights) is to focus on what you’re trying to hit—the target. Single vision lenses corrected for distance make this possible; bifocals or trifocals just make a mess of it. Dedicated shooting glasses (like Decot Hy-Wyd, for example) are a must for the “aging eyes” of shooters of all ages and will extend your shooting life will into your seventh or eighth decade. Life doesn’t get better than that!

  14. I’m a big fan of lever guns, always have been. I’ve owned several different guns in .44 Mag and .45 Colt. But I end up getting rid them for one big reason. The twist used in all but a few of the current lever gun models in either of those calibers is either 1:30 or 1:38. Those are fine for vintage black powder loads with 200 gr. bullets, but won’t cut it for modern smokeless loads, especially over 265 gr. My 4″ Redhawk gives better velocity and better accuracy than most of the lever guns that are readily available. Why lug around a rifle when the pistol does a better job? Years ago, I had a Model 94 .44 Mag. I spent more time tightening screws on that thing than I did shooting it. I hope this latest iteration of a classic holds up better.

    • Unfortunately, you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is doubly true for Marlin. It’s such a shame that you have to look to Bighorn or some of the other more expensive specialty manufacturers to produce a levergun that will accurately shoot the heavy bullets.

      As an aside, if you haven’t read Hamilton Bowen’s book “Custom Revolvers” DON’T! You’ll likely be spending $2K or more on your Redhawk to turn it into a beefed up big bore version of the 1917 S&W.

      That book is going to cost my kids their college fund.

    • Exactly, i had the hardest time trying to taylor a load for my marlin/s&w pair i had back in the day. It’s one of the reasons i sold it and switched to .357, never understood why manufacturers put such a slow twist in those rifles.

    • After I suggested it to Henry USA several times, they took my advice, and for 2020, now all their .44 Magnum lever rifles have the proper twist rate of 1:20 instead of 1:38.

      You’re welcome!!!!

      • Ahh, so it was you kind sir! Honestly can’t wait to get my hands on the new x model, older Henry’s are nice and I’d hate to tear up the stock. Something about synthetic makes me not care so much, hell i’ll knock tree branches out of my way with it.

    • I have a Henry Big Boy Steel carbine in .44 mag/spl. It has a 1:20 twist, which might be of interest to you. However, I can’t get out to try it until our (Michigan) winter departs.

  15. my marlin 336 is my main whitetail and bear gun, the 308’s and 30/06’s sit in the closet during hunting season. I think the smoothest lever guns I have shot are broken in replicas of the ’73. they may limit the power of the handloaded a little more than the 92’s and 94’s put the ballistics of standard 45 and 357 out of the rifle are still very effective.

  16. I lucked into an older Interarms Rossi 16″ Trapper in .357. Sweetest little rifle and perfect for city dwellers like us. It has the traditional quarter-cock safety. Very fun, very accurate and my wife loves it.

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