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Uberti USA Model 1886 Review The 1886 Lite Hunter from Uberti couples fast handling with serious firepower. By Joseph von Benedikt

Uberti USA Model 1886 Review

Offering just the right assortment of features, the slick Model 1886 from Uberti provides big-bore lever-gun enthusiasts a new opportunity to own and use an Italian replica of Winchester’s historic hunting rifle.

If you’re not familiar with this gun, Winchester’s lever-action model of 1886 was the first successful rifle to bridge the gap between firepower and authority, effectively pairing high magazine capacity and fast function with authoritative cartridges adequate for potentially dangerous big game. Previously, the great lever guns were limited, for the most part, to revolver-size cartridges, and big-bore cartridges were limited to single-shot rifles. While the 1886 had significantly more recoil than a revolver-caliber lever gun and somewhat less accuracy than a fine single-shot rifle, it did offer unprecedented effectiveness on elk and moose—and even just deer and pronghorns.

As for negotiating dinner plans with a savage, tooth-and-claw-equipped critter with uncivilized intentions, it had no equal. For the first time, North American hunters of big bears had a capable charge-stopping tool.


The shotgun-style stock does an admirable job of taming recoil in such a light rifle when paired with a hard-kicking cartridge like the .45-70.

It was also the earliest lever-action design to effectively make the transition to the smokeless-powder era, courtesy of its strong twin vertical locking blocks. All that was required to withstand the greater pressures of smokeless propellant was a shift to a slightly different steel for the barrel.

Original Model ’86 rifles were chambered in cartridges ranging from .33 W.C.F. to the massive .50-110 Express, but the only round that lives on today is the .45-70 Gov’t. It’s a fantastic all-around rimmed big-bore cartridge, proven for well over a century on all North American big game.

Designed by John Browning, the ’86 features a slightly heavy but sleek action with lovely contours. It’s fed by a tubular magazine affixed below the barrel. A massive, exposed bolt runs fore and aft in the top of the action, and its stout ejector launches empty cartridge cases straight up—so it’s never been a good candidate for a traditional riflescope.

Loading is accomplished via a generous gate in the right side of the action, through which cartridges are thumbed into the magazine. To function the rifle, briskly sweep the lever loop down and forward, then return it to its closed position. This allows a cartridge to slide rearward onto the lifter, and the lifter then pops up like a ramp and presents the cartridge.

The bolt face catches the cartridge rim and pushes it forward into the chamber. Twin locking blocks cam up vertically into their slots, securing the breech.

Although there were a few standardized versions of the 1886, a wide variety of configurations were available by custom order from Winchester. One of the most popular custom combinations paired a shotgun-style buttstock—which transfers recoil much less violently than the more common crescent-type buttplate—with a tapered round barrel and a half-magazine.


The latter resulted in a significantly lighter hunting tool than the standard rifle, and that’s the approach Uberti took with its 1886 Hunter Lite, which features a tapered, round 22-inch barrel and half-magazine, as well as a shotgun-like pistol grip stock. This stock is also found on the Hunter Lite’s bigger brother, a traditional-style 1886 with a 25.5-inch octagon barrel and full-length magazine.

The Hunter Lite version I borrowed for evaluation is nicely blued with a just-past-satin polish on the barrel and hardware. A color case-hardened finish complements the action, and while the vividness and distribution of the color isn’t quite what original Winchester firearms sported, it’s quite attractive.

Two small threaded holes at the left rear side of the action provide a place to mount a receiver-style aperture sight if desired, and the tang is drilled and tapped for a traditional wrist-mounted tang sight. Two extended-length screws for mounting such a sight are included with the rifle.

Being a quite-accurate reproduction, no safety is present on the tang, nor is there a cross-bolt hammer block safety on the rifle.

The barrel is drilled and tapped for a forward-mounted scope base as well. Uberti product manager Tom Leoni said the distance between the holes is 21.8mm, making it compatible with several commercially available bases.

The rear sight is a traditional buckhorn type dovetailed into the barrel, and the front sight features a nice, crisp brass bead on a ramp, which is fixed to the barrel via two screws. Each side of the ramp is grooved for a sight hood, but none came with this test rifle.

A nicely finished and fit steel cap graces the fore-end tip and features a sling stud machined integral to the cap. The forward end of the magazine tube protrudes about an inch. Leaning toward handiness rather than capacity, the mag tube limits capacity to three rounds of ammo plus one in the chamber.


As for the fore-end itself, it’s fairly well profiled, although it has a slight belly that doesn’t follow the leading lines of either the action or the fore-end tip. It’s made of good, dense walnut, with pores well filled and a nice natural-wood satin finish.

The first beef I found with the rifle is where the fore-end joins the bottom front of the action. The wood-to-metal fit at that particular point is poor, with the metal proud of the wood. Everywhere else the wood is only slightly proud of the metal, which—if they can’t make the two flush—is how it should be.

A simple panel of laser-cut checkering is found on each side of the pistol grip, adding a bit of texture for shooting with wet or sweaty hands. An interesting, attractive reverse-radius contour is cut into the bottom of the pistol grip, and the sling stud is a proper two-screw steel affair inlaid into the toe of the stock rather than just a screwed-in stud.

Like the fore-end, the toe of the stock has a slight belly, but aside from that, the buttstock has attractive lines. It’s also fitted with a good rubber recoil pad, which takes the bite out of the .45-70’s substantial recoil.

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