Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Forgotten Winchester Model 1907

Winchester has created dozens of legendary rifles. The significance of these weapons in the settling of the 19th West is a well documented part of history. Winchester’s contribution to history in the 20th century is well documented with the M1917 rifle, M1 Rifle, and six million Model 1894 sporting rifles. Much lesser known and largely ignored is the Winchester 1907 semi automatic carbine. The 1907 is a small, handy gun that was developed from the earlier model Winchester Model 1905. The 1905 was unfortunately, chambered for two very under powered cartridges, the 32 and 35 Winchester Self Loading. These two cartridges proved to be insufficient for deer sized game, even at close ranges. They look more like pistol cartridges with their straight walls and semi rim design.
Winchester wisely decided to increase the power of the 35 Win SL cartridge by lengthening the case and increasing the powder charge. The new cartridge was christened the 351 Winchester Self Loading and the rifle was designated the Model 1907. The rifle is a “Weighted Blowback” action that was necessary for the high pressure 351 Win cartridge. A 180 grain 35 caliber bullet at 1800 fps was impressive ballistics for the little autoloader.
The 1907 was a good rifle for deer sized game in thick woods and brush; it was reasonably popular in these environments. For longer ranges and larger game, the model 1907 was not well suited. It was well suited as a defense rifle. It’s short length, optional 10 and 15 round magazines, and excellent reliability quickly established it as the” gun to have” for protection. The Model 1907 was even used in World War I; early in 1915 the British and French used the Model 1907 to arm aircraft. After machineguns became standard on airplanes, at least some Model 1907s made it to the trenches. Less well known is the Imperial Russian use of the Model 1907 and it big brother the Winchester Model 1910. Both rifles were also used to a small extent in the Second World War. In the U.S. Army, a few Model 1907s were issued to arm aircraft used in the pursuit of Poncho Villa in Mexico during 1916. In the 1920s and the 1930s the law enforcement community embraced the Model 1907, although overshadowed by the Thompson submachine gun; the Winchester had a following of its own on both sides of the law.
Texas gunsmith Hyman S. Lehman modified the Model 1907 into what we would now call a “Close Quarters Battle” (CQB) weapon in the early 1930s. Unfortunately his customers were the Dillinger gang, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson among others. The Model 1907 has some proto assault rifle features, namely an intermediate power cartridge, detachable magazine, and semi automatic (sometimes converted to full automatic) operation. In addition the rifle is easily separated into upper and lower receiver groups, like a modern AR-15 rifle.
The Model 1907 was well ahead of its time but the value of its utility and advanced features were appreciated by only a few. During World War I, it was certainly a more sensible path to hand held semi automatic firepower than the ill fated Pedersen Device which was developed for the Model 1903 Springfield rifle. One can only wonder if the wide scale use of the Model 1907 in World War I would have saved some Doughboys’ lives.
It remained in production for law enforcement / civilian use until 1958. By the mid 1960s the 1907 was eclipsed by newer rifle and cartridge designs. As a result of changing tastes and other options, the Model 1907 quickly faded away. Even its proprietary .351 Winchester SL cartridge was hard to find by the 1970s. If one is willing to do the research, there comes a realization that the Model 1907 is a rifle of legends.

23 comments:

  1. Probably the most historically significant weapon that most people in 2012 never heard of, gun guys included. The period of the Great Depression saw a time of high adventure undreamed of today, an age of the highest per capita gunfighters-legendary killers with badges, and desperadoes for whom the action was the juice. Ahead of its time perhaps, those who lived and died by the gun had no doubt discovered the effectiveness of a moderately powered, autoloading carbine. Gabe Suarez says all weapons are specialized weapons. Whether that is the case or not, it is certain that people who were particularly good at, and/or liked shooting people, liked the. 351

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  2. I shot my first deer the first day I was legal to hunt in Wisconsin with this gun in 1964. I now have that gun when my father gave it to me last month and it sits next to the mount(remount) of my 8 pointer that I shot that day. What a great reunion.

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  3. 1907/17 (2500 or so made) French contract was Select Fire (Full Auto) for almost all intents and purposes it was an Assault Rifle 1 world war before the Mp44

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  4. I just decided to look this rifle up because of the show thats comming on called "The Son" and I couldnt figure out what the little box fed rifle was that the star of the show had slung over his shoulder, looks like the 1907 is it.

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    Replies
    1. Great Eye! The 1907 with the 10 round magazine figures prominently in "The Son"

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  5. Picked up a 1907 winchester. Serial # is 61. Does this add value to the gun?

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    1. I believe so, a Winchester collector should desire such a low number. Unfortunately, the Model 1907s are undervalued in the collector market, so the premium on a low number is difficult to assess.

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  6. I wonder if "The Son" will shine a light on this forgotten gem of a rifle and make values go up? Right now serial 61 isn't any more valuable than any other serial number.

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    1. I think you are correct, the series will cause increased awareness of the Model 1907. i think there will be a modest increase in prices, however, the long pole in the tent is ammunition and hand loading component price and availability. I am glad I purchased a Lebman Model from Bull Creek Arms earlier this year.

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  7. Looking for magazine clip ,winchester model 1905 35 cal..

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  8. I have a model 1907 serial #1672 with 157 rounds of original ammo. She's a beauty

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  9. found one at local gun shop 750 cad 2mags 60rd ammo gun bit rough i figure 350 fair price comments welcome

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  10. I have the 1907 that I shot my first deer with in 1974. It is an excellent brush gun, which is great for the hills of Wisconsin. I brought down many a deer with it. I'm blessed to have two 15 round and one 7 round mags and four full boxes of cartridges. It is certainly a fun gun to shoot.

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  11. Michigan out of doors 2020 july 9th has a great review from a man who bought one when he was 16 years old.

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  12. This rifle is mentioned in the Dillinger movie Public Enemy when Agent Purvis told his Chicago staff that he would get them better weapons. I think they use this weapon in a few scenes also.

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  13. My dad was given a 351 with 10 shot clip from a Texas Ranger back in the 50's. He was told a like 1907 model was also used by law officers in the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde.

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  14. If you wish to build your guns, then you need to research a lot. Gunsmiths take a lot of time and effort to make the most defining weapons. Especially when you look at the AR-15, it is an extremely customizable rifle. The Barrel is undoubtedly the vital component as it determines the accuracy. Other accessories include the sights, scopes, and rails. You can change each one of these, check out the top guns to build to get an idea.

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  15. i have a 351 i'm looking for the spring in the return mechanism for the slide for the blow back if you have one please call me at 865/361/6482

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