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Turnbull Winchester 1886 Buffalo Rifle Deluxe – Review by ARAM VON BENEDIKT

The muffled beat of our horse’s hooves on frozen sand sounded steadily into the crisp desert air; air still frosty with dawn’s coming. Buffalo tracks lay on the ground before us, fresh in leftover snow where the afternoon sun doesn’t reach its fingers. We were hunting the buffalo, following their trail in a once-in-a-lifetime effort to put bison meat in the freezer and a buffalo robe on the floor.
My buddy Dan had drawn a cow bison tag for Utah’s legendary Henry Mountains. It was mid-December, we’d found buff after three days of hunting, and our lust to close with the herd was palpable on the air. We followed the tracks, Dan riding loose in the saddle with his buffalo rifle in hand.

Two American icons: a Bison and a Winchester 1886 rifle.


Dan opted to hunt his buffalo with a lever-action Winchester 1886 chambered in 45-70; one of the most influential repeating rifles in early American history. It was the first lever-action repeater strong enough to be chambered for the big bore “buffalo” cartridges of the day. Designed by John Moses Browning and produced by Winchester from 1886 to 1935, the rifles were originally chambered in .45-70 Springfield and .45-90 WCF, among others.
Black Powder was the standard propellant of the day, but the ’86 action was so strong that it made the transition to smokeless powder with ease, being chambered for the smokeless powder .33 WCF cartridge just after the turn of the century. The largest round it was originally chambered in was, to my knowledge, the massive .50-110 Winchester. Rifles were produced in a variety of configurations and with barrel lengths ranging from twenty to twenty-eight inches.

My good friend Spencer Wyatt of Texas with his heirloom Winchester 1886, passed down from many great grandfathers ago. The rifle is in good shape and still shoots true, and Spencer still hunts with it.

Today, original Winchester ’86 rifles are hard to find and very expensive, especially if they are in even reasonably good condition. If you’re fortunate enough to find an original, the old rifle may be aged or worn to the point that it’s not functional, but taking it to a regular gunsmith for renovation will significantly decrease its value. But if you’re anything like me you love shooting and using vintage firearms, and owning one that is non-functional is, well, just not much fun. Enter Doug Turnbull.

Most serious aficionados of lever-action rifles and vintage restoration are familiar with the synonymous-with-quality Turnbull name.

Doug grew up and worked in the Creek Side Gun Shop; the largest firearm shop in upstate New York at the time. In 1983 Turnbull started a firearms restoration business, focusing on matching and restoring original finishes on vintage firearms – particularly color-casehardening.
Today he is known as one of the finest restoration artists in North America, and perhaps the only one who can actually make your vintage lever-gun more valuable. Typically, when a vintage firearm is refinished it looses much of its value. Not so when worked on by Turnbull Restoration.

As you can see on Dan’s buffalo rifle, the bone charcoal color casehardening done at Turnbull Restoration is spectacular.

For those of us not fortunate enough to own a vintage Winchester rifle, Turnbull also offers contemporary lever-action rifles that have been “Turnbull Finished”. Essentially, they take recent production rifles, polish the metal to match the work of the late 1800s, and then refinish everything with Turnbull’s legendary bone charcoal color casehardening, bluing, and vintage-type wood finish. Dan’s buffalo gun was one of these. It sports simple but nicely grained walnut, a 26-inch blued barrel, shotgun butt plate, and spectacular color casehardening over most of the metalwork.

Three .45-70 loads of modern design. From left: 325-grain Black Hills HoneyBadger, 325-grain Hornady FTX, and 250-grain Hornady Monoflex.

Dan ordered his rifle chambered in .45-70 Springfield, mainly because a wide variety of ammunition is readily available in that caliber.
Buffalo hunting on the Henry Mountains is notoriously tough, so we opted to forego traditional ammunition in favor of a load that would offer a bit more velocity and reach when used with the rifle’s simple iron barrel sights. I ordered some of Hornady’s excellent LEVERevolution ammo in 250-grain MonoFlex and 325-grain FTX iterations, and also some Black Hills ammo stoked with their 325-grain solid copper fluted-point HoneyBadger projectiles.
I didn’t keep records of accuracy averages and velocities during testing, so you’ll have to take my word for it; each of these loads shot consistently and grouped well.

Dan’s Turnbull buffalo rifle sports a nicely-finished iron bead front sight with an ivory-colored insert.

All three loads grouped high though, in fact, the 250-grain MonoFlex load (the fastest of the three) grouped almost eleven inches high at 100 yards. I didn’t want to remove the front sight and replace it with a taller one (who wants to mess with a Turnbull rifle!) to bring the point of impact down. Black Hills’ 325-grain HoneyBadger ammo impacted about four inches high at 100 yards, which would work perfectly.
The solid copper bullet should maintain all of its weight upon impact, which combined with the design’s chisel-like frontal “X”, should enable the bullet to drive deep. The flutes create a surprisingly devastating temporary wound cavity when shot into ballistic gelatin, and should be equally devastating on game. I was on pins and needles to see how the projectile would perform on a bison.

The Winchester’s rear barrel sight is graceful and strong, and adjustable for elevation via a sliding step ramp.

I hung a bison vital-sized steel target against a little mesa, and Dan exercised the Winchester at 50-yard intervals. The traditional rear sight sports an adjustable ramp, and Dan was able to use it to make consistently good groups out to 350 yards. The rifle bellows with authority and kicks with enthusiasm when loaded with high-performance loads, but the shotgun-style buttplate rendered recoil tolerable, if not entirely comfortable.

Eight rounds of .45-70 is a lot of muscle. Back in the late 1880s, these rifles possessed the greatest firepower available in a handheld firearm.

Capacity on the Turnbull Winchester 1886 is eight plus one. The action is very strong and fast but must be worked with authority. In the hands of a good lever-gun man, the rifle is capable of sending a massive amount of lead downrange in very short order. The trigger in Dan’s rifle is quite fair by lever-action standards, breaking at an average of 5 pounds 2.5 ounces. The overall weight of the rifle comes in right at 9 pounds 5.5 ounces.

Lever Action rifles are not known for having awesome triggers. This one is above average, breaking at just over 5 pounds.


The Turnbull Winchester 1886 rifle we tested is a spectacular firearm. The color casehardening, in particular, is extraordinary. We had zero malfunctions, the rifle shot well, and carried nicely in the hand and in a saddle scabbard. Accuracy was good.

Daniel, with his Turnbull Winchester 1886 and his hard-earned, once-in-a-lifetime Henry Mountain bison.

We stepped off our horses and tied them when the bison tracks grew hot. Following carefully, Dan spotted a horn flashing in the sun amongst a hilltop copse of Junipers. A circuitous stalk put us within range, but the buffalo were still out of sight in the thick desert timber. Then the breeze stroked us across the back of our necks, and the herd erupted in a wave of pounding hooves.
When they paused 175 yards distant Dan placed a HoneyBadger bullet through a big cow. She had started to move just as his trigger broke, and she departed in the shadow of the herd’s dust. Following, we jumped the cow and Daniel finished her. The Black Hills bullets performed admirably, each one passing completely through the bison.

Headed out of the backcountry with buffalo meat, skin, and skull loaded on the packhorses.

We processed the buffalo, loaded the meat onto our horses, and slid the long Turnbull rifle into its saddle scabbard. Swinging into our saddles, we pointed our horses toward the trailhead, eight miles distant. It had been a great hunt, with a great rifle, for one of America’s most iconic animals.

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John Cornyn Introduces National Concealed Carry Reciprocity in Senate (its not going to happen, but it is a great sign that the fight has just begun)

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced national reciprocity legislation for concealed carry in the Senate on Thursday.

The NRA-backed bill would treat concealed carry licenses like driver’s licenses, ensuring permit holders could drive state-to-state and have their concealed permit recognized as valid.


BREAKING NEWS: NRA-Backed National Concealed Carry Reciprocity introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. @JohnCornyn (R-TX).

Cornyn released a statement coinciding with the introduction of the legislation, saying, “This bill focuses on two of our country’s most fundamental constitutional protections — the Second Amendment’s right of citizens to keep and bear arms and the Tenth Amendment’s right of states to make laws best-suited for their residents. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this important legislation for law-abiding gun owners nationwide.”

Breitbart News noted Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) introduced national reciprocity legislation in the House on January 4, 2021.

Hudson’s legislation, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (HR38), treats concealed carry licenses like driver’s licenses as well, recognizing the license from one state as valid in the other 49.

Hudson released a statement upon introducing HR38:

Our Second Amendment rights do not disappear when we cross state lines, and H.R. 38 guarantees that. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2021 is a common sense solution to provide law-abiding citizens the right to conceal carry and travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state codes or onerous civil suits.

“I am especially proud to have such widespread and bipartisan support for this measure and will work with my colleagues to get this legislation over the finish line,” he concluded.
AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at Sign up to get Down Range at

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What will probably happen to the US Army if it hasn't already started

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More Than A Dozen States Are Trying To Nullify Federal Gun Control

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From (Another Great Gun Blog worthy of your interest! Grumpy)

Built on a 1903 chassis this is an comprehensive build. The 1903 has to be sourced and test fired to ensure the rifle is capable of the required accuracy. Upper hand guard and block are replicas and the customer has to source the scope, although replica scopes are now available through Leatherwood Hi-Lux optics. This particular rifle has an original US Marine Corp contract Unertl Scope.

The rifle is built exceeding the standards as required by the US Marine Corp Armourers but keeping in line with the build at the time. If the customers wishes he can add modern accuracy improving techniques such as bedding and aftermarket trigger units in they wish. The rifle is set up on a bed, clocked and the blocks precisely aligned with the bore.

The rifle was assembled, test fired and achieved a 1.5” group at 100yrds with factory ammunition. No attempt has been made to fake this rifle in any way. It was built as a conversion and to match and exceed the capabilities of the original rifle.

Detailed notes can be found about this build as part of my “Armourers notes” on the home page.

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I am going to check mine asap

Allies Dear Grumpy Advice on Teaching in Today's Classroom Good News for a change! Hard Nosed Folks Both Good & Bad Soldiering Well I thought it was neat!

Something for the History Teachers out there – Mad Jack Churchill: A Life Too Unbelievable For Fiction


I really miss Mr. Heston, a good man and a Great Actor!

All About Guns Allies California Stand & Deliver This great Nation & Its People

The Handguns of James W. Hoag By David Tong

Hoag Longslide Hi-power pistol
A Hoag modified Browning Hi-Power with 5″, 6″ and 7″ slide/barrel assemblies.

As an example of a fine human being in all respects, and my first employer over thirty years ago, this article is dedicated to Jim Hoag.
James Hoag is a pistolsmith. While he is now more of a general gunsmith, his abiding passion was to create highly and tastefully modified service pistols.
Before he was involved with firearms, Jim Hoag was an aircraft armorer in the U.S. Navy. He served aboard the carrier USS Bonhomme Richard with the Navy’s first squadron of Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft.
After his stint serving Uncle Sam, Jim became a tool and die maker, before deciding to become a gunsmith specializing in handguns. In the late 1950s, he became acquainted with a certain Mr. Jeff Cooper, a retired WWII lieutenant colonel of some notoriety and the foremost proponent of the Model 1911 pistol and its .45 ACP cartridge.
Jim participated in the genesis of the “Modern Technique,” the use of the two-handed Weaver Stance, named after Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver. Weaver could famously place center hits on a silhouette target at 100 yards with his six inch Smith & Wesson K-38 revolver.
Col. Cooper started a shooting club in Big Bear, California, called the Bear Valley Gunslingers. At first this was a group of guys interested in fast draw and point shooting, but Cooper developed other ideas. He believed, correctly as it turned out, that shooting a pistol most accurately required a two-hand hold for both steadiness and recoil control.
Not long after this, Cooper started writing a long-lasting column for Guns & Ammo magazine, called “Cooper on Handguns.” He was a historian, an opinionated raconteur and, the few times I met him, a consummate gentleman.
Outgrowing the developing Big Bear City, Cooper then moved his range operations to Wes Thompson’s Juniper Tree Range, outside of Saugus and near the current Highway 14. It was there the techniques he developed found many adherents and the Southwest Pistol League was born.
This group was dedicated to the use of the pistol in rapid fire, on multiple targets, including movement and reloads. If one mastered these things, Cooper reasoned, he or she could be reasonably assured of prevailing in a personal defense situation.
Jim Hoag and Col. Cooper, among other notables including Ray Chapman, Thell Reed and Ron Lerch, saw the international interest in such training and together formed the beginnings of the I.P.S.C., the International Practical Shooting Confederation. While this organization has rather lost its way, attracting gamers and becoming a “race gun” league, it remains to this day one of the largest groups of people dedicated to understanding the service pistol in rapid fire.
Jeff Cooper moved his training facility to Paulden, Arizona and named it “Gunsite Raven.” Cooper passed away in 2010 and, while some of his techniques are no longer popular, his tutelage moved defensive handgun training away from one-handed target stances on static bullseyes to the type of “practical” shooting done today by hundreds of thousands of shooters around the world.
While they have not seen each other for years, Mrs. Janelle Cooper remembers Jim Hoag fondly. Jim spent time at their home for dinner on many occasions.
Jim worked for a time at now defunct King’s Gun Works of Glendale, California, before striking out on his own in 1972. His shop at 8523 Canoga Ave., Suite C, Canoga Park, CA remains at this location to this day (2016).
He became, primarily, a student of the 1911 pistol, understanding its mechanical advantages and correcting its issues. At first building pistols for his own use in competition, he later decided there was enough demand for him to go into business building them for other competitors and his business flourished.
He was featured in the Guns & Ammo cover story several times, showing his “long slide” 1911 pistols (6″, 8″, and 11″ barrels). In addition, Jim’s standard and long slide Browning Hi-Power pistols (standard-length, 6″ and 7″ barrels) have been featured.
Jim will also build custom, bull-barreled Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Mag. revolvers into superb target revolvers. These receive a Douglas barrel, hooded front sight and action work.
During the short period of my tenure there, Jim was building 1911s for Mickey Fowler, Mike Dalton and Ron Lerch. These men were three of the founding members of the Southwest Pistol League.
Mickey Fowler was the IPSC international champion for several years in the 1980s. He was a very good shot. On one occasion he came into the shop to show us a target with a hand held, 50 yard, 5-shot group from his 6″ Hoag Master Grade pistol measuring just 3/4″.
Jim still builds his 1911 pistols for all budgets and levels of experience. The base model is the “Police Special,” and it is a good starting point. The barrel is fitted to the slide and a new barrel bushing is fitted. Link lugs are fitted to the slide stop pin, high-visibility fixed sights are fitted, the front sight is made of precision ground tool steel and silver-soldered into a Woodruff key cut. The barrel is lightly throated and the extractor tension and hook are adjusted for reliability. Finally, the trigger pull is reduced to a crisp 4.5 pounds.
The second model is the “Class B.” All of the features of the Police Model are included, along with extra niceties. These include a low mounted Smith & Wesson adjustable sight and hand checkering of the frame and mainspring housing at either twenty or thirty lines per inch. Twenty lines is better for a secure hold, but thirty is less abrasive if you have tender hands. The length of the trigger blade is optional and an over-travel stop is fitted.
The third model is the “Class A” pistol. This is a further refined Class B gun. Formerly, a Bo-Mar low mounted adjustable sight was fitted. An equivalent sight is now used, as the Bo-Mar company is no longer in business. The top of the slide is given fine serrations to help reduce reflections. A one-piece steel recoil spring guide rod of Jim’s manufacture is fitted, while additional internal polishing is done to all operating surfaces to ensure smoothness and reliability. A wide grip safety of Jim’s conservative design is installed to help prevent hammer bite with the spurred hammers preferred by many. An extended, single-sided thumb safety of Jim’s design is fitted.
The fourth model is the “Master Grade.” This is the top model and no expense or time is spared. The price is on application. The slide is fitted to the frame for a free-running, yet tight and slop-free fit. This actually makes the pistol more reliable, so long as it is not used in a military context, as the slide, cartridge pickup and barrel location relative to the frame are all in closer and consistent proximity.
A match grade Kart stainless steel barrel is provided. These barrels have additional metal on them that require careful fitting to ensure precise alignment of the barrel within the locking lug recesses and standing breech, the bushing and link lugs and the position of the primer relative to the firing pin. These pistols are tight as delivered and several hundred rounds should be fired to adequately determine their reliability. This said, most of them run just fine right from the shop.
Additional features of the Master Grade include 50 line per inch hand checkering of the rear of the slide, extractor, ejector and magazine latch thumb piece. The buyer has the option of a standard (rounded) trigger guard checkered at 30 lpi, or a similarly checkered squared trigger guard. While most folks do not use the square guard anymore, it is a viable option for those who do. An ambidextrous safety lever is fitted per customer selection.
Finally, additional work is performed to make the pistol look better and work smoother. A stock Colt pistol usually comes with its machined curve lines around the trigger guard and forward dust cover area looking pretty wobbly. Using Dykem solution, scribe lines and very well-practiced eyes and hands, Jim uses files and increasingly fine grades of sandpaper to make these lines dead horizontal and smooth.
Your choice of trigger blade length and width is also fitted. The trigger pull weight is approximately 3.5 pounds and absolutely clean. All functioning machine cuts, including the trigger stirrup and magazine chute, are hand polished to perfection.
Master Grade pistols can be (expensively) modified into “Longslide” versions, with 6″ or 8″ barrels and slides. Jim has made two 11″ Longslide 1911s and these featured barrel locking lugs personally hand cut by Mr. Hoag.
These pistols have a slide shortened to the standard barrel bushing retaining lug slot. Then, a section of 4140 steel is precision bored and reamed to match and welded onto the slide.
The Longslides are annealed to make them easier to machine. A “shaper” is used to cut the basic contour of the slide and then both horizontal and vertical mills are used to bring the steel surfaces down to a few thousands proud of the original slide.
Then, the REAL work begins! A process of draw filing, using fine “mill bastard” files, reduces the Longslide to the original slide dimensions, resulting in a perfect blend to the original part. I have done one of these 8″ slides myself and I can say, without doubt, that I spent well over thirty hours time getting those lines dead straight and flats level.
The Master Grade is also subject to meticulous hand polishing of the flats of both slide and frame. Increasingly fine aluminum oxide paper backed with a 12″ file is used, down to worn-out 600 grit wet with polishing oil. A buffing wheel is nowhere to be found in this process, which takes the better part of a full day to complete on just the two parts.
All parts are then hot blued in house, to maintain complete control of the finishing process. A thorough function and safety check are performed after reassembly and Master Grade guns are test fired to ensure function and accuracy.
The Browning Hi-Power is Jim’s other favorite semi-automatic pistol, as it shares the same single-action trigger pull, manual of arms, all steel construction and fine balance. These days he mostly builds Police Special practical carry pistols or full-house Master Grade Hi-Powers.
One difference between a top drawer Hoag Hi-Power and that of others is Jim manufactures his own screw-removable barrel bushing, to ensure tight tolerance and accuracy of the fitted barrel. He also builds a special order long-slide Hi-Power now and then, although this is rare these days.
My personal experience with Jim’s work includes a Class A 1911, Master Grade Colt Delta Elite 10mm Auto and an almost full-house Browning Hi-Power. I have also shot a 6″ long-slide and that thing tracked silhouette targets during rapid fire like it was radar guided.
Mr. Hoag is now in his eighties. He is probably the last of the “old masters,” the only one who remains a one man shop and the only one I know of who has a Jeff Cooper connection. Those ranks once included the late Armand Swenson and Frank Pachmayr, both from Southern California.
I plan to have Jim Hoag build me one more bespoke 1911 before he retires. If you love this pistol as much as I do, so should you.
March 28, 2017 – It is with great sadness that I must let the readers know that Jim has retired after 44 years at his Canoga Park shop. The business is closed, his machines have all been sold and none of his family members were interested in keeping it going. I last visited him in March 2016 and he seemed about as enthusiastic as ever, but after having a stroke three years ago, plus the increasing amount of regulation and scrutiny in the city of Los Angeles and the state of California, he decided it was time to hang it up.
I hope that those of you who were fortunate enough to have Jim build a pistol for you will not immediately relegate it to a safe, but get out and shoot it. That is what he built them for: competition, personal protection and general target shooting. They are all fine instruments that deserve to see the light of day.


 I was lucky enough to have met the Old Boy once. He seemed to be to me at least to be a good man. I am just sorry that I did not have the time & money to have him work on some of my guns. Grumpy

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Men With Green Faces (1969)