When your firearm doesn’t identify as a firearm…
Federally speaking, firearms manufactured before 1899 are only regarded as antiques. Legally, they occupy the same regulations as muzzleloading black powder firearms, meaning that they can be bought and sold without a 4473. Just because a gun is old, however, doesn’t mean that ammo is impossible to find. I recently acquired an 1896 vintage Winchester 1894 and needed ammo for it. My general rule is “no safe queens”, and that includes an antique such as this. In my search for .25-35 Winchester (WCF) ammo, I found that one of the easily available loads still being produced is in Hornady’s LEVERevolution line.
Though close in weight to Winchester’s original 117gr flat point load, the 110gr FTX bullet flies farther, flatter, and faster thanks to modern powers and a much better BC aided by its pointier profile, made safe for tube mag use by the polymer tip of the FTX bullet. I have previously used the LEVERevolution FTX bullet to great effect, harvesting many a delicious wild boar using loads in .44 Magnum as well as .45-70. It is an excellent round for harvesting game and is rather conducive to accuracy as well.
Specs, per Hornady:
- 110gr FTX (Flex Tip) Bullet
- G1 BC: .340
- Sectional Density: .238
- 2425fps, 1436 ft/lbs @ Muzzle
- 2181fps, 1181 ft/lbs @ 100y
.25-35 Win Range results
Having already inspected and confirmed that my antique firearm was in firing condition, I took the 1894 to the range along with some Hornady .25-35 Winchester ammo. In between long strings of precision long range shooting, I took pleasant breaks shooting the antique with open sights. Every single round of LEVERevolution ammo loaded smoothly past the superannuated loading gate and into the ancient magazine tube.
Most modern .25-35 Win barrels have a 1:10 twist rate, but the old guns have 1:8. However, 1:8’s work just fine with bullets close in sectional density to the original load, so accuracy was rather good and the ammo was very consistent in performance. In fact, I found the point of aim/point of impact with this ammunition to be dead-on at 50 yards with my 1894. When firing slowly braced off of sandbags at 50 yards, 5 shot groups were right around an inch. I fired about 120 rounds total of this ammunition, and not a single round failed to feed, fire, or eject. I know that is not a great quantity of ammo, but for a gun and related hammer springs that are nearly a century and a quarter old, it’s a good performance all around.
Taking the ammunition out to longer ranges (and enabling me to use the cool ladder sight on the old rifle) yielded good results. POI was nearly the same at 100y and dropped 2.6 MOA at 200y. At 300y, the drop was about 6.5 MOA. These results true with the data on Hornady’s 4DOF ballistic calculator app. According to the app, a 5mph crosswind will produce a 1.73MOA shift on the round at 300y as well.
Overall, the .25-35 Win Hornady LEVERevolution would be a fine (and easy to find) round for deer and antelope when using these old lever guns. If the current ammo shortage has you hesitant to burn off your stocks of modern munitions, dust off (great) grandpa’s old lever gun and get some .25-35 LEVERevolution, it’s a great way to spend time at the range or get some meat.
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