The rifle I have was made in 1907. It is in fine condition for a hunting rifle of some age. It has what some of the old timers refer to as Gun Crank which is a term used to denote a firearm that is well used but also well cared for. In other words it has seen a respectable amount of time in the hunting fields. This Winchester rifle model is the .351 WSL also known as the Winchester Self Loader. And even though many sportsmen believe its time has come and gone nothing could be further from the truth.
At short to moderate range the .351 is a handy hunting rifle. Streamlined and well balanced it is a phenomenal performer in the deep woods. Comparable to the .357 maximum cartridge the .351 is a remarkably effective hunting round when used properly. No it is not a long range death ray but in close it is a real game thumper. Within 100 yards the .351 will cleanly harvest any deer in existence. I would not hesitate to use it on black bear either.
But the problem with black bear is that it takes a lot of practice and a tremendous amount of focus to get a good shot and if it is .351, then you have to be extremely adept to become qualified to use it because many have tried and failed leaving them with no choice than to wait for best archery release.
Original loads used a 180 grain round nosed soft point traveling around 1900 feet per second. I have some of the original rounds as loaded by Remington Arms. On deer it penetrates deeply from most angles and opens up well. I have never had one core separate from its jacket unless a large bone was struck. I have also used some modern loads purchased from Old West Scrounger. These rounds are made from new .357 maximum brass and are topped with a 158 grain flat nose soft point. The lighter projectiles from Old West Scrounger open up a bit faster than the older 180 grain bullets but dispatch deer just as quick and cleanly.
My rifle has the original iron sights which i find effective in the field for quick target acquisition. The magazine holds five rounds and I have never had a round malfunction or the rifle jam. It goes bang every time i pull the trigger. The fit and finish are fantastic. The metal to wood fitting shows that craftsmanship used to mean a lot back in the old days. There are many parts to this firearm that I know were handcrafted and hand fitted.
The .351 WSL took a lot of knocks in its day. Most of these criticisms were/are uncalled for. This model lives up to every task it was designed for. It is a very dependable and highly durable hunting rifle. The caliber is just as effective if not more effective than the .44 magnum. In fact it would be interesting to have a side by side comparison test between the two cartridges. I believe the .351 would come out on top of every test.
Widely used by law enforcement personnel of its era a WSL was used to stop quite a few badmen in fact one was in the final shoot out of Bonnie and Clyde. The French military also used it during World War One. Another place the WSL showed up was in the hands of prison guards in places like Alcatraz Island. It is also the basis for the famous .30 caliber carbine of World War Two fame.
The Winchester Self Loader has quite a colored and successful past. It is a shame that it is considered obsolete. This oldie but goo-die can still easily and effectively bring home the venison today as it did many years ago. And there are plenty of WSL’s out there in good condition. They are not too expensive and would provide lots of hunting and shooting pleasure to many sportsmen. It is a grand feeling to be out afield with such a historic firearm in ones hands.