Evaluating the Winchester 351 Self Loading Rifle

A Good SLR rifle

The Winchester rifle is a hallowed name in American gun history. It is a name associated with the Wild West, an era that has no parallel in the world. One of the weapons manufactured by the Winchester Company was the .351 Self Loading Rifle. This gun did not find much favor outside the United States. It is a rarity in India. My father in law was presented one 351 Winchester self Loading rifle by the Maharajah of Dewas, who in turn gifted it to me.

The Winchester Repeating Arms Company was earlier located in New haven, Connecticut. The company has closed down, but its name lives through Fabrique Nationale (FN) of Belgium and Browning Arms Company of Morgan, Utah who manufactures guns under license and use the Winchester name.

The Winchester arms company was set up by 2 American citizens Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson. Both these names are famous for their association with the Smith and Wesson revolver. The company went into liquidation in the eighties due to rising labor costs and a crippling strike and stopped production till its take over by Fabrique Nationale and Browning arms.

The Winchester .351 rifle is a Self Loading rifle and can be easily dismantled and carried in a leather case with a handle like a briefcase. This particular model ceased production in 1957. The Winchester is the first auto loading rifle that was suitable for hunting big game. I have used it to shoot panther in the jungles of Khandwa and also for hunting man eating tigers in the Sunderbans, District 24 Parganas in West Bengal. France and Russia used this weapon during World War I and II in small numbers and by all accounts they found it reliable.

The rifle is short and handy and easy to carry. It has a solid feel that inspires confidence. The 351 is slightly different from the modern auto loading rifles. To cock the rifle and put a round in the barrel there is a spring rod under the barrel that has to be pushed back to load and cock it. This is the only tedious thing about the rifle as the spring below the barrel requires some effort and time. Once loaded however the weapon handles excellently. There is very little recoil and over all an excellent weapon for self defense and big animal hunting. Magazines come in 5 and 10 bullet capacity.

The weapon dismantles into 3 parts and can be stored in the carry case. But the weapon is now obsolete and only kept by gun enthusiasts. The ammunition is hard to get and the spare parts for the rifle even more difficult to procure. In India they are non-existent. The Government of India has banned the import of ammunition and guns since 1982, thus it is difficult to use the gun in India.

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