{ Things You Should Know About Shooting an 1873 Winchester }


One of the most critical things to a lever action rifles operating efficiency is the over all length of the cartridge. Winchester rifles were designed to operate optimally with a cartridge length of 1.600”. Winchester’s repeating magazine is operated by a carrier block which captures a round from the magazine tube and elevates it to the firing chamber. However before the carrier can elevate the captured round upwards, it must also “shear” the next round in the magazine (slightly hanging out into the carrier) back up in the magazine tube to wait its turn. When a given cartridge is too short, part of the next cartridge in line will come back even further into the carrier and cause the action to lock up, run very rough, or barely operate. This is seldom an issue with calibers like the .45LC, .44-40, 38-40 etc., and can go un-noticed in rifles without action jobs. However, using .38 specials can sometimes pose problems. We do our best to make our rifles feed .38 special since it is the competitive caliber to shoot. However any 1873 must be fed a cartridge with a minimum length of 1.450”, any longer than this will only allow the rifle to operate smoother and more reliably with a full magazine. Many individuals will use .357 mag brass when reloading their .38 rounds. This allows them to achieve a longer length without seating the bullets out of the case. The other alternative if your .38’s do not fall with in the required length is to seat your bullets out of the case further. They do not need to be crimped in the crimp groove.

Another cartridge requirement for 1873 Winchesters is a flat point on the bullet’s nose. 1873’s cannot feed round noses. Without the flat point on the end of the cartridge (especially in the .38 special) the bullets will zig-zag themselves in the magazine tube. This usually prevents the magazine being fully loaded, and causes the rifle to jam. Lever action rifles of all types will also not feed wad cutters reliably. The rim on the edge of the bullet acts as a hang nail when the round is entering the chamber.

Most factory .38 cartridges as many have discovered are too short to work optimally in 1873’s, they are primarily designed for revolvers. Remember, these rifles were designed in the 1860's and there is a reason that they used the round nose flat point bullets.

To sum it all up:

  • Do not use round nose bullets or wad/semi-wad cutters.
  • Maintain a minimum cartridge length of 1.450” (the longer the better, we highly recommend a minimum overall cartridge length of 1.475” or greater.)

Common Warranty Issues and Prevention

1. Broken Bolt Tab

  • Small caliber bolts (.357/.38, .32-20 etc.) are notorious for breaking the lower tab off the bottom of the bolt. This causes unreliable extraction and feeding in an 1873 and 1866. There are many myths as to why these tabs break. The number one cause for this type of failure is when a shooter “short strokes” the rifle’s action. (this can be as little as 1/8") Failure to bring the lever all the way to bottom of the throw causes the bolt to close on a round that is not fully elevated.  This brings the lower tab out of the protection of its trough and exposes it to the rim of the case. The tab has two choices, bend or break. Either way it is not good.
  • Broken bolt tabs are not covered under any warranty by the Manufacturer or by Long Hunter's. However, there are a couple of ways to prevent this from happening. One is proper shooting technique when trying to run the rifle fast. The best one is to have your springs properly adjusted so as not to allow an accidental short stroke. Turning up the hammer spring tension just a little has a few benefits. It prevents the shooter from short stroking the action, improves lock time, increases strike strength etc. Just remember it is possible to make a firearm too soft. Spring tension is necessary to buffer the action and keep things from beating out during rough use. The faster you run your gun, the tighter your springs need to be. (Do not loosen the rifles lifter and lever spring screws) This will cause broken bolts as well. The rifle may run “smoother” however reliability will quickly become an issue and things will start breaking. We set the lifter and lever springs at an optimum tension. Think of your rifles springs as it's shocks. If you are going fast, you need them a little stiffer to keep up. The other possible cause is a bent lifter arm. If it's bent down and not pushing the carrier all the way up, it can cause the same problem as short stroking.
  • Long Hunter’s will re-weld & re-machine bolt tabs for $65.00 each. The re-welded bolt tabs are stronger and more durable than the factory tabs.

2. Light Primer Hits

  • Longhunter rifles are set from the factory to operate with Federal Primers which compose the majority of the ammunition used in Cowboy Action. However, many of our customers need the ability to shoot CCI, Winchester or some other brand of primers. Our Rifles hammer tension and strike strength are fully adjustable to meet a shooters needs. There are three screws located on the lower tang of the rifle near the butt stock. The forward two screws are your hammer tension adjustment. Always start by tightening the rear screw first (also slightly larger than the forward screw) by about half a turn. This will increase the rifles hammer tension. Usually it only takes half to a full turn to get you what you need. CCI primers may require more than this to be reliable due to their highly inconsistent strike strength. Over the course of the rifles lifetime the hammer spring may get a little weaker. Once the rear screw has been tightened all the way and more hammer tension is desired. Simply move up to the most forward screw and start tightening it. This will further increase your rifles striking power. Also for those who run there rifles really fast, if you will turn your hammer spring tension up this will increase the speed of you lock time, buffer the action, and keep you from out running the rifle. Remember, the faster you are, the faster the rifle needs to be. So give it more power and turn up the hammer spring.