We all grew up watching cowboys played by the likes of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, and Emilio Estevez carrying 1873 lever actions. Its big brother, the Winchester Model 1876, however, despite being the first large caliber repeating rifle, never quite got the same acclaim.
When the 1873 came out it was a paradigm shift. A repeating rifle that was as reliable and capable as it was practical. However, it was still a pistol caliber carbine. For real rifle work, you had to go to something like an 1869 Sharps, a Ballard Perfection rifle, or a Remington Rolling Block. That’s what buffalo hunters used. What these long range, big game guns had in common was that they were all single shot firearms. The Winchester Model 1876 changed that forever.
Whether shooting grizzlies, buffalo, or marauding Indians, having the ability to fire multiple shots in quick succession often meant the difference between life and death for the western frontiersman. It was embraced by those who needed the power and range the bigger cartridges provided including settlers, professional hunters, and soldiers. Probably also why it became a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt in his treks out west (and even Africa).
Cimarron contracted with Uberti to produce the replica Winchester Model 1876 and they couldn’t have picked a better company. Uberti makes beautiful and detailed replica guns. Their Model 1876 is a gorgeous rifle. The wood, bluing, fit of the wood to steel, and the action are all excellent. And it shoots as good as it looks.
In order to handle more powerful cartridges, Winchester took their successful Model 1873 and made it bigger. In fact, the 1876 utilizes the same toggle action as the 1873. However, in the Cimarron/Uberti guns, it’s much stronger than the original. Modern metallurgy definitely makes a difference.
The gun pictured and evaluated is Cimarron’s special Tom Horn edition. So who was Tom Horn, you might ask? Horn was a legend in his own time. At 6’ 2” and 200 lbs. he was an imposing figure. A cowboy, US Army scout in on the capture of Geronimo, a Pinkerton agent in the time of Butch Cassidy and the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, and a range detective (some might say hired gun) working for cattleman’s associations. In other words, he was a bigger than life, fiercely independent, and rugged individual fighting for what he thought was right.
Although there have been at least ten movies and TV programs over the years featuring the legendary Thomas Horn, Jr., the best known is probably the 1980 movie starring Steve McQueen. In this movie, Horn’s near constant companion is a Winchester Model 1876 in 45-60. (Back in the black powder days, cartridges were typically denoted by the caliber followed by the number of grains of black powder they contained. So 45-60 was a 45 caliber bullet, generally cast lead, over a charge of 60 grains of powder.)
The gun McQueen carried in the movie was an original Winchester Model 1876. It was, in reality, a 45-75 but was depicted in the movie as a 45-60 since that’s the caliber Horn used. In fact when Horn was arrested for the murder of Willie Nickell, a murder which he probably didn’t commit, he had 45-60 cartridges in his pocket. Unfortunately, Horn still swung from a rope for it in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The Winchester Model 1876 was introduced at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition celebrating the founding of the USA and was well received. It achieved a unique position in the market until being dethroned by the Winchester Model 1886. Still, it was produced until 1897 with a total production of 64,000 guns. The Cimarron Model 1876 is the very first version to be produced since then.
1876 Centennial “Tom Horn” Signature Rifle Specs
|Trigger||7 lb. 8 oz.|
Shooting the 1876
My first outing with the 1876 was a little disappointing. The action was stiff, the sight was off quite a bit to the left, and I got some light primer strikes. Keep in mind that the test and evaluation (T&E) guns we writers get to review make the rounds. I didn’t clean or lubricate it when I got it. I just went straight to the range. When I got home I cleaned it, sprayed some Rem Oil down the firing pin hole, and properly lubricated the other moving parts. Should’a done that to begin with.
My next trip to the range the action was slick as warm butter, the front sight was easily adjusted, and no more light primer strikes. It functioned flawlessly. Lesson learned. Clean it before you shoot.
I have to say that this is a fun gun to shoot. The weight of the gun mitigates the recoil from the 45-60 round firing a 305 grain lead round nose flat point (RNFP) bullet. With a muzzle velocity of 1137 fps you get muzzle energy of 876 foot pounds. That’s more than enough for deer, hogs, or black bear.
Firing offhand at 50 yards, like you would if you were hunting, my best group was 2.238”. Four of the five shots were at just over an inch and a half. You should know that I’m not the best with iron sights. The targets I brought with me that day were also black and it was even more difficult to see the blued, almost black sights on a black target. So you might say this was a worst case test. I truly believe that the gun is more accurate than this for someone with younger eyes. Still, that accuracy is good enough for shots out to 100 yards, even for me. You could likely use it successfully to 200. That’s probably the limit of its accuracy for humane kills due to the trajectory of the most un-aerodynamic blunt 305 grain bullet.
The trigger was a little heavier than what I prefer in a rifle, but I can’t blame the trigger for my shooting. Even though it broke at 7 pounds 8 ounces on my Lyman trigger gauge, there was no takeup, it broke crisply, and with almost no over travel. It is one sweet trigger.
Ammo is an issue since you’re not likely to find it at your local gun shop. The only ammo I was able to get for the evaluation was from Ventura Munitions. From what I’ve read in the forums, ammo is a little scarce although Cimarron is investigating ways to make it more available. If you roll your own, you shouldn’t have any problems. Otherwise, check with these three sources:
The Cimarron Centennial Tom Horn Signature Edition rifle doesn’t have a cross block safety or half cock safety, just like the original. The only compromise made for our litigious society is a lever safety. The lever has to be held against the stock to depress a button. Easy enough to do, especially once you’ve familiarized yourself with the gun.
Although not the best-known rifle from our frontier days, the 1876 is still a storied gun. Get into the history of the era and the rifle and you’ll learn a lot about the old west and some legendary characters who carried it. If you like to hunt with a firearm that was used extensively in the wild west, you owe it to yourself to consider the beautiful guns from Cimarron like the Tom Horn Signature Edition Model 1876.
Learn more about the Cimarron Firearms 1876 Centennial Tom Horn Rifle by clicking here.