by Joe W Gorman
Chances are if you watch a Western movie starring John Wayne, you will see an 18 '92 Winchester carbine somewhere in the movie. Funny thing is, many of the Westerns he made were set before 18 '92. This inconsistency apparently did not harm his career in the least. His preference for the '92 Winchester over period-correct weapons is easy to understand.
The svelte Winchester '92 boasts perfect balance and graceful lines. It points quite naturally and, given quality ammunition, it is amazingly accurate given that it is chambered in pistol cartridges. The '92 Winchester quickly caught on in the marketplace when released and after a few decades of being out of production, it's once again being made (by Miroku of Japan and stamped by Winchester) and still wins the hearts of riflemen. Mirokus are incredibly well-made and beautiful rifles. Every Miroku rifle I have ever touched has been also an accurate rifle.
Winchester sent along a '92 Winchester Large Loop Carbine in .44 magnum and a '92 Short Rifle in .357 Magnum. Both 20-inch barreled rifles are fitted with lovely walnut furniture and fit and finish are perfectly executed. The '92 Large Loop Carbine can be swung up to cycle the action, like John Wayne so famously did in the movie Stagecoach. I haven't done that much with an empty rifle. Really.
Anyway, the Large Loop Carbine, was accurate enough with me behind the trigger using the factory rear sights provided I kept my shots to 50 yards or less. The Large Loop Carbine came with a great trigger that broke just over 4 pounds and relative to my Marlin (Remlin) 1894 it is a target rifle. I could keep 5-shots in a 2-inch group at 50-yards shooting from a standing position. I felt a bit hampered by the short sight radius and thought a Marble Arms tang sight would help me maintain accuracy at 100-yards or more.
Fortunately, Marble Arms makes a tang sight for Miroku rifles with a tang safety (the ' '92 short rifle was drilled at the factory for this sight by the factory but the '92 Large Loop Carbine was not) that in many cases is a user installable upgrade. This machined steel rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, with each positive click equaling approximately 4/10" movement at 100-yards (varies with sight radius). It comes complete with three different apertures.
I also used a less tall gold bead front sight to help raise the POI with 240 grain ammunition at 100 yards. Once dialed in, I had excellent luck with 240 grain Winchester Dual Bond, 225 grain Hornady Leverevolution and 200 grain XTP Hornady Custom ammunition. I could keep five shots of any of these rounds in a 3-inch circle 100-yards downrange from a bench.
I chose to sight in for the 200 grain XTP as it shot super flat to 150 yards and it provided plenty of energy for white tail deer beyond 150 yards, which is perfect for the deer hunting I do. The Winchester Dual Bond might be a great choice for deep woods camping in Grizzly country or longer-range shots on deer. Similarly, the Hornady Leverevolution ammunition has a proven track record of success on deer but I chose the flattest shooting of the three as they were essentially tied in the accuracy department. Also, the POI with the 200 grain Hornady XTP ammunition was higher than the other two which meant I could keep the tang sight as compact as possible.
With the three apertures included with the Marble tang sight, you can choose a different aperture for whatever task you have in mind. The smallest aperture is the most precise but also allows the least amount of light through. I typically get shots at deer after sunset which means it's not a good choice for Iowa deer hunting. (We can shoot up to 1 hour after legal sunset in Iowa. I can maintain a 3-inch group at 100-yards with the largest aperture and if I get in really dark woods I can always remove the aperture and use the tang as a ghost ring.
Moving on to testing the .357 Magnum '92 Short Rifle, I began shooting with some excellent Remington 125 grain JHP .38 special. I found this ammunition to be accurate, quiet and almost zero recoil when fired through the '92 Short Rifle. I chronographed the Remington 125 gr JHP at 1375 at the muzzle of the '92. This is just shy of full power .357 Magnum fired from a full-sized service revolver without the noise and flash of the handgun. With 10-shots in the tube of a '92 Winchester, this would be a highly effective home defense and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night weapon.
Of course, this rifle is much more than a short-range weapon. I chose to mount a red dot on this rifle as this will be tapped for low light duty, including hunting, when I may not be able to otherwise get a good sight picture or for home-defense, when I may need to dump rounds really quickly and accurately and in low light.
Turnbull Restoration makes a dovetail mount for the Burris Fast Fire that fits round barreled rifles that I thought would be perfect for this rifle. I removed the rear sight from the '92 Short Rifle and installed the Turnbull Restoration Fast Fire Mount, making sure to mount it so the mounting platform was level relative to the rifle. Once installed, I could secure the Burris Fast Fire III. This set up provided the capability for me to keep shots of .357 Magnum ammo in tight groups at 100 yards.
Of all the .357 Magnum ammunition I used, the Hornady 140 grain Leverrevolution, Hornady 135gr Critical Duty and PMC 158 gr JSP ammo could keep 5-shot groups in 2.5" groups at 100-yards from a bench. I was amazed by this level of accuracy from this short rifle and once again, it is due in no small part to its crisp, light trigger. I ended up zeroing the rifle for the 140gr Leverevolution ammunition ahead of deer season. At the muzzle of the '92 Short Rifle, I chronographed the 140gr Leverevolution at 1870 fps. That makes more than a 1000 ft. pounds of energy and 675 ft. pounds of energy at 100 yards. The Iowa DNR does not allow cartridges which generate less than 500 ft. pounds of energy at the muzzle to be used in pistols or rifles for deer hunting).
During the weeks of testing various ammunition, I managed to bang the Fast Fire into several things. I didn't intend to do this, but stuff happens. I can report that my red dot maintained its zero.
This '92 Short Rifle is easily carried during back woods hikes during deer gun season and with the Turnbull Restoration Mount keeping the Burris Fast Fire securely mounted, I can be ready for a quick shot regardless of ambient light conditions. Light, fast, ultra quick to the point. To be sure, either of these fine rifles can defend the homestead, harvest venison, and provide hours of fun with target shooting or plinking.
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Nota bene: Hornaday LEVERevolution ammo designed for lever action rifles and revolvers, features Flex Tip technology of the FTX and MonoFlex bullets. Safe to use in tubular magazines, these bullets exhibit higher ballistic coefficients and deliver dramatically flatter trajectory for increased down range performance.