Winchester’s lever action shotguns were incredibly imposing weapons more than 125 years ago, and they are again today with strikingly authentic, high-quality reproductions from Chiappa. Aside from special versions like the sawed-off model (based on cut-down lever action models carried by a handful of frontier lawmen), there are three standard versions: one with a 22-inch barrel, another with a 24-inch barrel and the 28-inch-barreled Sporting model (shown). The reproductions are so well done that a description illustrating the handling of an original 1887 can still be used! The top-of-the-line Sporting model is so exact in details all it is missing is a Winchester logo on the receiver. The Chiappa uses the later (second version) forend design with two screws and later magazine retainer with a steel band, partially encircling the barrel, secured by a screw, with a second screw passing completely through the end of the magazine.
In designing a reproduction of the fabled Model 1887, Chiappa wanted to recreate the lever action shotgun in its exact form, and that meant following the John Browning design as closely as possible, right down to the original one-piece action lever and color-casehardened frame, hammer, lever and tangs. The only notable external differences between the Chiappa 1887 and an original 1887 are the Winchester name and the rise of the comb, which is 0.75 inches higher. (The change in height was to make the Chiappa easier to shoulder in competition and a bit more “user friendly” to one’s face. The most important difference, however, is the optional competition lifter, which can stage a shell while one is loaded in the chamber, thus increasing the overall capacity to 5+2.)
The Chiappa Model 1887 shoulders easily, and the higher comb provides a solid cheekrest. Mechanically, it handles just about anything you feed it. To test the shotgun, I used Ten-X’s 12 gauge, 1-ounce, No. 7½ shotshells. Firing from the shoulder at a silhouette 50 feet away, the average shot hit 85 percent of the upper torso. Aiming at the dead center of the target, my best shots hit 95 percent in the torso, with approximately 75 percent filling the central body mass from the X to the 8 rings.
With the Old West in mind, I concluded with 1.5-ounce 00 buckshot—the lawman’s great equalizer. This put five 00 pellets in the upper 9 and 8 rings, six pellets just below the shoulder blades in the arc of the 7 ring, and one in the neck. Needless to say, once warned by an 1887, few outlaws would have stood their ground against a Winchester lever action shotgun or the man wielding it. The same can also be said for the Chiappa 1887.
* Gauge: 12
* Barrel: 28 inches
* OA Length: 45 inches
* Weight: 9 pounds (empty)
* Stock: Walnut
* Sights: Brass bead front
* Finish: Blued, casehardened
* Capacity: 5+2
* MSRP: $1,289
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For more information, visit http://www.chiappafirearms.com.
This article originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.