Sunday, October 11, 2009

The .351 Winchester Selfloading And Other Stories...........

Please don't ask me why I've been thinking about this obsolete carbine and load today, I just have. The .351 Winchester and the .401 Winchester were a couple of rounds put out in the early part of the 20th Century in the 07 and '10 Winchester Self Loading rifles.

The 351 might have well been the .357 Magnum of about 28 years later. It wasn't, of course, the .357 is rimmed, the .351 semirimmed, the .351 bullet is .006 inches skinnier than the .357. The ballistics are just about equal though, the .351 put a 180 grain bullet out at right around 1800 fps. The top loads in the .357 will do about the same from a rifle.

The semirimmed case of the .351 is just the thing for a self loading action's magazine, the rimmed case on the .357 is better for the lever actions.

The .351 had a nice run, from 1907 to 1957. The .401 was just a larger version, put in the 1910 Winchester, which was just the '07 on steroids. The .401 was a better hunting round, when those cartridges were new the velocity was limited and in that case, there is just no substitute for bullet weight. The .351 was a favorite of police forces, prison guards and, famously, the Border Patrol back when it was a gun fighting outfit.

When Frank Hamer and the rest of the posse helped Bonnie and Clyde assume room temperature the .351 helped poke some of the holes in the car and, perhaps, them. When the Feebs gunned down Dillinger they had the .351 as back up rifles. The tommy gun got all the publicity but on both sides of the law, the '07 Winchester was used far more.

The '07 Winchester was a short, handy shootin' iron, although fairly heavy. It had to be heavy because of it's straight blowback action. Most blowbacks are in cartridges like the .22 long rifle and the .32 acp handgun round. the more powerful the cartridge the heavier the breechblock needs to be. This is why my little .357 Mag Marlin lever action weighs six pounds and the '07 Winchester eight. They're both about thirty six inches long.

There is not much factory ammo made for the .351, nor for it's big brother the .401. There are loading dies, of course, and Buffalo Arms makes ammo, expensive enough stuff but it's there. I saw where someone is making a die to swage down .357 bullets to .351, this will work for both jacketed and cast. On cast bullets, though the lube grooves might be smushed down so much as to lose the ability to carry enough lube.

It's too bad no one will make a new model, gas operated to cut the weight of the carbine down. While it is true that, with enough practice, one can fire aimed shots with a lever action just as quickly as a semiauto, not many are willing to put in the practice.

There are many areas of the country where it's difficult for a person to own a handgun and, in spite of all the semiinformed lore, a shotgun is not always the best home defense arm. Shotguns have fairly high recoil, making a quick second or third shot difficult, especially for the smaller statured. Please note, the sound of a pump action shotgun being racked will not always make a bad guy run away, the bad guy just might peg a few shots at the noise. Please don't believe all the old wives tales.

A fast shooting carbine in the power range of the .351 or the .357 is plenty powerful enough for home defense, not to mention, just the sort of thing that could have kept that elderly woman from being half killed by that bunch of raccoons in Florida not long ago. Note: it's fine to want to shoo off wild critters from your porch. Just have a little something in your hands if they don't feel like shooing.

A lot of folks want to keep something along the lines of an AR-15 or an Ak clone or an SKS instead of a handgun. There are now some loads for the AR round, the .223 that are designed to not overpenetrate, they're very expensive but we can use regular ammo for practice. I would not take very many rounds of .223 going off inside the house before a lifetime of "what? I can't hear you" though. Which is better, of course than saying "you have to speak up because I'm dead" but, still.

If I were the president of Remington or Savage, Marlin or Colt or S&W I'd have my engineers design a carbine weighing about six pounds or so in a modernized form of the .351. I'd have them build it with a tube magazine so it would take the rimmed .38s and .357s, though and this would also get around the idiot politicians in places like California and Illinois. As long as the tube was able to take nine rounds, that's plenty for any gunfight a civilian would live through. My little .357 Marlin carbine takes nine .357 or ten .38s in the tube, I keep it loaded with seven around the house to not stress the magazine spring. It stays handy in case of rabid-y coyotes or tractor thieves.

If I lived in a city where handguns were a problem I'd load that carbine with the old FBI or Chicago Load in .38 Special. That soft lead hollowpoint bullet would clock a hundred or two hundred more feet per second out of the longer barrel or very close to what the .357 does out of a revolver.

Since nobody makes a good semi-auto .357 and the last .351 SL rolled out of the Winchester plant in 1957 I'll stick with the Marlin or the Brazilian or Italian clones of the 1892 Winchester. There is another added attraction to these, too. If you're ever unlucky enough to need to use it, the lever actions just scream cowboy and "good guy" to a jury.

Still, I'd love to have an '07 Winchester in .351. They were plumb cool.

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