A small selection of Model 1886 variants from Pedersoli, Winchester and Chiappa ... but none come in .33 Winchester

Rare Winchester 1886 lever-action in .33 Win

Q: In my family we have a Winchester Model 1886 chambered for the .33 Winchester cartridge. The action resembles the Model 1892, having lever-actuated vertical rising bolts, which gives the rifle great strength.

I’d like to shoot the rifle but have been told no ammunition has been made for years.

Can you give me any information about this rifle? What diameter are the bullets for it? Can I use .338-inch bullets? Could you suggest a bullet and load using a current powder?

Carl Lewis

A: The Winchester Model 1892 is just a smaller version of the 1886. The .33 Winchester cartridge was introduced in 1902 for the Model 1886 and discontinued along with that rifle in 1936. It was the first commercial cartridge to use .338” bullets and was the first smokeless cartridge for the Model 1886.

The cartridge was replaced by the .348 Winchester, developed for an updated version of the 1886 called the Model 71.

The .33 Win factory load used a 200gn flat-nose bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2200fps. Bullet diameter is a true .338” and you may be in luck because Woodleigh made a 200gn FN SN bullet especially for the .33 Win; they may do so again in the near future once they get their factory up and running properly again after the fire there.

Cases can be made by carefully and gradually sizing .45-70 brass, first in a full-length .348 Winchester die and then through a full-length .33 Winchester die. These dies may be special order items.

You can duplicate the factory load with 45gn of AR2206H behind a 200gn Woodleigh bullet.

That old Model 1886 lever action is a true classic, one which has been revived by Winchester, Chiappa and Pedersoli.

The 1886 in .33 Winchester saw widespread use by the legendary bear hunter Ben Lilly, who left home to kill a lion and only returned after 10 years.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.