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Evaluating the Winchester 351 Self Loading Rifle


The author is an air warrior, global traveler, writer, and hobbyist


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(SLR) by the Maharajah of Dewas, who in turn gifted it to me. The company started producing rifles in 1860 and 1873 market one of its best models. This rifle had the adage added to it as "the gun that won the west." The rifle saw action during the American- Indian wars from the 1860s, right up to the 1953 uprising in East Germany.

The .351 SLR was produced as a replacement for the Model 1905 and the .35 SL. The .351 SL proved popular with police and security forces and was used by France in both world wars. The gun found its way to India where Maharajas made it a prestige point to own this SLR rifle. The rifle uses a soft point bullet which is great for hunting deer and other similar games. It can also be used against tigers and Panthers but generally would be ineffective against bigger animals like the elephant. It is advisable not to go after a rogue elephant with this rifle. Even if one is tracking and hunting maneaters it is adjustable to get to close range to the beast for the weapon to be effective and also make use of its SLR capability and fire 4 to 5 bullets at one go.

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 uses the Winchester name.


The Winchester

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's 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 autoloading rifle that was suitable for hunting big games like tigers and panthers. I have used it to shoot panthers 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 autoloading 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 are very little recoil and overall an excellent weapon for self-defense and big animal hunting. Magazines come in 5 and 10 bullet capacity.

.351SLR was a popular rifle with law enforcement agencies in the United States. This was especially during the 1930s when gang warfare erupted all over the midlands in America. The United States police and the FBI in particular were armed with these weapons after the 1933 Kansas City massacre.

It was used by Patrol Inspectors of the US Border Patrol during the late 1920s to the 1930s.


Last word

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. Despite this,

the weapon still carries a punch. 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 or service the gun in India.

All said and done the weapon is the delight of a connoisseur and is a weapon that deserves to be owned. It is a collector's weapon and commands a premium in the market.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 12, 2021:

Thank you Tom, glad your uncle has a DBBL, I have an Indian Ord DBBL. I always liked James Stewart.

tom on April 12, 2021:

winchester 73 movie,famous western movie,winchester ancient period capital of england,,hence the name fn fal makes slr 7.62 mm,my uncle owns a dbbl.due to crime rate arms act strict,air gun business dull in kerala,few winchester owners in kerala,another excellent gun brtish greener,1950 movie winchester movie james stewart,few movies named afterweapons like mosquito squadron

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 11, 2021:

David, Thank you for reading and commenting. Indeed this is a versatile weapon

Lt CDR David Issac on April 11, 2021:

Wonderful article, enjoyed reading it. I would love to own this weapon but it's not available and the price quoted is prohibitive.

Janine on January 07, 2015:

I was struck by the hoestny of your posting

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