Product Description of Uberti 1885 High Wall

UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL- Forged steel octagonal barrel, length 30″.

Forged steel colour case hardened frame. Walnut stock and forend, chequered pistol grip and forend.

The production of the Single Shot started in September 1885 using the Browning patent and terminated towards the end of 1920. It became one of the best known guns and was regarded by many as being the best Single Shot ever to be made. Without doubt it is stronger than the Sharps better designed very accurate and reliable in every way. Few guns have been made in so many different calibers high walls even served in the development of the 7.62 Nato round. The gun was produced during a period in which target shooting was a really popular sport they were used in International Competitions at 1,000 yards.

Manufactured in Italy by Uberti.

Uberti is a well known manufacturer of high quality replicas of 19th century American percussion revolvers, carbines and rifles. These replicas are used by historical re-enactors and target shooters. Thanks to their exceptional quality, Uberti replicas are also sought after by collectors and historical firearms enthusiasts. Uberti 1885 High Wall

Uberti 1885 High Wall: A Top-Selling Single Shot
The Uberti 1885 High Wall gives modern enthusiasts a chance to own an exceptionally faithful reproduction of one of Winchester’s most timeless designs—one first introduced to the public by the legendary firearm firm in 1885 and designed by John Browning himself.

It’s a must-read for enthusiasts, but the Readers Digest version of the story is Uberti understands that “classics never go out of style.” Add modern metallurgy and engineering and it makes for a undeniably attractive combination.

Those facts haven’t gone without notice. Last year the Uberti 1885 High-Wall finished third in the single-shot rifle category of the firearm sales ranking published annually by GunBroker.com. In 2018 it took a distant 9th, but it claimed third place from 2015 to 2017. There’s no denying the timeless looks have a lot to do with the popularity, but there’s more. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

The most popular chambering on the website was .45-70 Gov’t although models are also available in .45-90 and .45-120—all the classic buffalo-hunting cartridges. Four versions are available: Carbine Straight Stock; Sporting Rifle Straight Stock; Special Sporting Rifle; and Big Game Rifle.

All feature a falling block action, a breakdown cleaning rod that stores under the buttstock and loading lever that opens or locks the action. Wood stocks provide timeless warmth, complemented nicely by the octagonal barrels (30 or 32 inch) with windage-driftable front sights on all sporting models. The carbine has a round, 28-inch barrel.

The Big Game Rifle version starts with Grade A walnut stock, and blue frame, lever and 22-inch round barrel. It also comes with a checkered pistol grip and rubber buttpad. Its MSRP is $1,229.

The Carbine version runs $1,069, and Sporting Rifle models are $1,149 and $1,199. A fresh-from-the-factory Special Sporting Rifle has an MSRP of $1,349.

Old School Cool: Uberti’s Model 1885 High Wall
The legendary partnership between John Moses Browning and Winchester Repeating Arms Co. didn’t spring from the genius of America’s greatest gun designer or from the foresight of Winchester’s Vice President and General Manager Thomas G. Bennett. Rather it was patent infringement that put John Moses on the firm’s radar screen. The Browning Bros. store in Morgan, Utah, sold guns (including a “Breech-Loading Fire-Arm” patented on Oct. 7, 1879, by one J.M. Browning), ammunition, and amongst other sundry sporting goods, a line of loading tools. Winchester sales representative Charles Benton purchased one of the Browning Bros. reloading tools and sent it back east. Indeed, it did infringe on patents owned by Winchester, but Benton also had a look at an extremely strong falling-block single-shot design dubbed, simply enough, the Browning Single-Shot. Knowing Winchester was looking for a single-shot that could accept the .45-70 Gov’t cartridge, Benton purchased one (at most 600 were made) in .38 cal. and immediately sent it back to New Haven, Conn., in June 1883. Bennett knew a good thing when he saw it and, according to Herb Houze in “Winchester Repeating Arms Co.: Its History and Development From 1865 To 1981,” put William Mason on the job of defeating Browning’s patent. It couldn’t be done, so Bennett hopped a train to Utah and negotiated the rights to the patent for $8,000, as well as the rights for future Browning designs, including a lever-action that became the Model 1886. Thus started the long and profitable collaboration between Winchester and Browning. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

The Winchester Single Shot, after being modified and adapted for factory production, was first offered in late 1885, and eventually in more than 80 chamberings ranging from .22 CB Cap to .577 Eley. It was made in both the original High Wall and Low Wall configurations, and both of those had “thick” and “thin” side versions. The “thick” side followed the lines of the original 1879 Browning design, but in its 1886 catalog Winchester introduced the “thin” side, in which the sides of the receiver were milled flat but the receiver was left raised where the fore-end and buttstock met. This allowed stock interchangeability between thick- and thin-side High Walls. The Low Walls were similar, but had a portion of the receiver sides removed, exposing part of the breechblock, and were generally reserved for lower-powered pistol and carbine cartridges.

The rifles, later known as Model 1885s, were cataloged from 1885 until 1920, and 139,725 were manufactured. Made in numerous variations, the High Wall was used in early NRA long-range matches at Creedmoor and popular pre-World War I Schuetzen matches as well. After a 35-year run, Winchester concluded the single-shot was neither desirable nor profitable. But more than 75 years after it was discontinued, an Italian gunmaker saw potential in the “obsolete” design, as he had time and time again with classic American firearms. That man was Aldo Uberti.

The A. Uberti Story
After attending the Zanardelli gunsmithing school for three years, Aldo Uberti, known as “Renato” to his family, started as a full-time employee with Beretta at the age of 14. Uberti learned drafting and worked in the venerable maker’s tool room designing and fabricating production equipment. After the Nazis took control of northern Italy in 1943, Uberti was arrested and sent to a German concentration camp. Rumor has it he refused to give up others at Beretta—including family members—who supported the partisans rather than the Nazis. After being freed, he returned to work at Beretta and married into the Beretta family. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

Uberti left his comfortable job to go into business with Vittorio Gregorelli in the late 1950s. The reasons were twofold: an 1851 Colt Navy revolver and Val Forgett. Forgett, who owned Service Armament Corp. and dealt principally in surplus arms, was trying to make a quick buck or two on the upcoming American Civil War centennial, and he had tried working with firms in France and Belgium to build 2,000 “Yank” and “Reb” Colt 1851 Navy replicas. But it was with Gregorelli and his young partner Uberti that, almost by accident, the three men created the replica gun market. The utilitarian design and frontier aura of the 1851 fascinated the young and talented Italian machinist.

The three first met in 1957, the year Forgett formed Navy Arms, and it took a little while to get the guns rolling off the line. Forgett sweated selling the first 100, but they were gone in a week, followed by more and more orders. In 1959 Uberti bought out his partner, founding A. Uberti S.r.l.

Forgett and Uberti soon found there was an almost insatiable appetite for replica guns. “We found out that people wanted to shoot the guns,” Uberti recalled years later. The next gun was a replica of the solid-frame 1858 Remington, followed by more black-powder Colts. Eventually Patersons, Dragoons, Wells Fargos and virtually every other variation from the Hartford plant were made—along with quite a few it didn’t. Next came the lever-actions, starting with the Model 1866 Winchester in 1966, the 1873 and then the Model 1860 Henry. At the urging of one of the Single Action Shooting Society’s founders, Boyd Davis, Uberti expanded into cartridge revolvers, in particular replicas of the Colt Single Action Army, again in dozens of variations—from Bisleys to Buntlines—as well as 1875 and 1890 Remingtons. In 1995, Uberti made its first replica of the Smith & Wesson Schofield (in .45 Colt or .44-40 Win. no less), and currently there is an extensive line of cartridge conversion guns built on the 1851 Navy, the 1860 Army and the 1858 Remington. Other new models include Model 1871-1872 Open Tops and even replicas of engraved Smith & Wesson No. 3s and Russian revolvers. In addition to the lever guns and revolvers, Uberti recreated big single-shots from the frontier West, including Remington Rolling Blocks and, in 1998, the Model 1885 High Wall, which we’ll get to shortly.

By 1982, Uberti had produced more 1851 Navy and 1860 Army revolvers than Colt, and more 1858 Remingtons than Remington. You can likely add the Paterson, Walker, Henry and Model 1866 to the list. Odds are I missed some, but you get the point. Uberti guns have been imported by many companies through the years, and its parts have been used by others. Aldo Uberti died in 1998, and A. Uberti S.r.l was sold to Beretta Holdings in 1999. From 1999 to 2002, Uberti USA in Lakeville, Conn., run by Aldo’s daughter, Maria, imported Uberti guns into the United States under its own name. Val Forgett died in 2002, and in 2003 importation passed to Stoeger (which was itself acquired by Beretta in 2000) in Accokeek, Md. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

The same team that imports Benelli and Stoeger guns, which is separate from Beretta USA, handles importation of Benelli, Stoeger and Uberti. Under Stoeger, the Uberti line has continued to grow, and it now includes replicas of Lightning rifles, the Model 1876 Centennial and the 1883 Burgess. A. Uberti guns imported by Stoeger have a five-year warranty, and repair work is performed by factory-trained gunsmiths using factory parts. The company’s slogan, “Uberti History Repeats Itself” was, back in 1957, a radical concept. Who knew that more than a half-century later, entire disciplines of the shooting sports, including Cowboy Action Shooting and North-South Skirmish Ass’n competition, may not have been as popular—or even possible—if it weren’t for a humble Italian machinist with a passion for making guns of a bygone era.

The Uberti 1885 High Wall
Browning has offered replicas of the Model 1885 High and Low Walls off and on through the years (starting with the B-78 in 1973), and some smaller makers in the United States have and still offer 1885s, but there was room for a more affordable, old-school replica. Aldo Uberti worked on the design, and the first Uberti-made 1885 was imported in 1998. This High Wall is a “thin” side, and its receiver, hammer, lever and block are case-colored with rich grays and browns, with hints of blue.

Like the original, the Uberti 1885 is a falling-block, under-lever rifle with a centrally mounted external hammer. The firing pin is mounted in the block in-line with the center of the chamber, and it is retracted when the action is opened. The block is 0.94-inches wide, 0.73-inches thick and 2.44-inches high at its tallest point. The hammer, lever and block are linked via a pin that passes through a relived section in the block’s underside, although dual lugs engage the vertical recesses in the frame for the entire height of the action.

Externally, it is an extremely faithful replica of the 1885, but Uberti chose to use the later coil spring design with a double-U-shaped, piano-wire spring or mousetrap spring, anchored around the hammer pin to power the hammer. Another coil spring in the front of the action provides tension to keep the action closed and actually assists in closing it. From 1885 to 1910, 1885s used a flat spring, and the coil spring design first appeared in a take-down version in 1910. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

The sear is suspended by a pin in the top of the action behind the hammer. Linking the trigger and the sear is the “knock off.” When the trigger is depressed, the knock off—which is tensioned by its own flat spring anchored to the top of the lower tang—pivots to release the sear. There is no separate manual safely, only a half-cock notch.

Pulling downward on the lever, which is pinned to the breechblock, lowers the hammer and block to allow access to the chamber. Unlike the early original guns, which automatically cocked the hammer, the hammer is returned to the half-cock position when the lever is closed, and the hammer must be manually cocked before firing. In order for the hammer to travel fully forward, the trigger must be pulled, as an intercept notch prevents it from contacting the rear of the breechblock-mounted firing pin. There is no ejector, only an extractor at the 9 o’clock position.

The line now includes three models—all come with blued steel barrels and case-colored frames and levers. The Carbine comes with a 28-inch round barrel and a satin walnut straight stock and a shotgun-style steel buttplate. A straight, uncheckered stock and an octagonal barrel, offered in 30 or 32 inches, distinguish the Sporting from the Special Sporting, which has a checkered semi-pistol grip stock and a blued steel crescent buttplate. In the front is a dovetailed blade and in the rear is a buckhorn drift adjustable for windage in its dovetail with a ladder for elevation. A vernier-style rear target sight is offered, as is a hooded front with various inserts. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

For sighting, I decided to go “old school” and mounted a replica William Malcolm 18-inch-long, 3/ 4-inch-diameter 6X scope in Malcolm externally adjustable rings. The barrel was drilled and tapped to accept two dovetail bases (see the full story “Old School Glass”).

The stock on my sample .45-70 Gov’t Special Sporting was of straight-grained European walnut finished with a reddish hue with straight, albeit thin grain. The schnabel fore-end with double-diamond checkering in a bordered point pattern is retained by a single screw. The buttstock is mounted to the action via a bolt that passes through the top tang, the stock and into the bottom tang. Another screw passes through the lower tang directly into the stock.

The 30-inch barrel of my Special Sporting was octagonal and measured 1.06 inches across the flats just forward of the receiver and tapered to 0.89 inches at the muzzle. There are six grooves of cut rifling in a 1:18-inch right-hand twist. Obviously, this tube accounts for a lot of the rifle’s weight—10 pounds, 10 ounces with the Malcolm scope in place. Without the optic, the gun weighed 9 pounds, 9 ounces. This is indeed heavy, but put it up to your shoulder and the gun points like a dream. Recoil with standard pressure loads was negligible, so long as I pulled the blued steel crescent butt fully into my shoulder. The addition of the scope required getting my head up, but not so much as to pull it all the way off the stock. I fired the rifle for accuracy with three different factory loads at 100 yards and practiced shooting from various field positions and from shooting sticks. As may be seen in the accompanying table, with Federal’s 300-grain Fusion load in particular, the gun performed extremely well.

Why all the practice? Last year I was invited along to participate in a series of television shows for “Benelli On Assignment” in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and the Kalahari, and the old school 1885 with the Malcolm scope was my primary rifle. We hunted with Rann Safaris in the storied Okavango Delta, in particular near the Kiri Camp, once the stomping grounds of the legendary Harry Selby for more than a half century. It was bittersweet, as that concession is now a photography-only area closed to hunting. The game we took was, at least for now, the last for an area rich in safari tradition and history. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

Going Cowboy … In Africa?
In the Okavango, some areas are thick as one might expect, and it is there that the impala of the area thrive. We tried a few stalks without much success through the terrain, which is wooded yet open in some patches. Then we tried another stalk with a pile of dead limbs between us and a fine impala ram. The wind was with us, and there was enough underbrush and downed trees to cover our approach. Professional hunter Jeff Rann, an old Botswana hand who’s operated out of the Okavango for the past 25 years, set the sticks as I rested the buffalo gun (okay, bison numbers were abysmal by 1885) with its Malcolm scope atop it on the sticks, cocked the hammer and settled in with a 300-grain Fusion bonded hollow-point in the chamber. Designed for white-tailed deer, the factory ballistics for the Fusion have it moving out at 1850 fps from the muzzle, delivering 2,820 ft.-lbs. of energy. I settled the crosshair on its shoulder, let out half a breath and squeezed. The rifle bucked on the sticks and I was rewarded with a resounding thump as the impala darted to my right. We found it about 20 yards away with a perfect hole just behind its shoulder, and an even larger one out the off side as the bullet showed excellent expansion, having passed through the vitals of the antelope.

From the waters and grasses of the Okavango Delta, we moved south to hunt gemsbok. After quite a lot of jostling to my scope mount, I switched to the factory sights. Using the 1885 with open sights provided a challenge in Botswana’s Kalahari. Just in case you think your hunt needs more adversity, I highly recommend using an iron-sighted .45-70 Gov’t with 40-something eyes and asking someone to follow you about with a large high-definition camera on a tripod. No matter how good your camera man is, and mine, Randy Wemberg, was excellent, it’s still just that much more scent, movement and noise. After a few blown stalks, professional hunter Murray Hibbs told me, “Mark, we need a plan. We need to get close.”

Literally moments later, we spotted a mature male gemsbok, feeding, and we had the drop on it. We used the wind and the cover of the thick brush to circle around the bull. We came within 80 to 90 yards, but there was too much brush in the way. The oryx was moving slowly, head down, feeding as we moved parallel and closer to him. We set up on the shooting sticks three times before both hunter and cameraman had the shot they wanted. Capturing a hunt on film is different, as not only do you have to be ready, but the cameraman has to be on the animal—the right animal—and ready as well.

We had closed to within 60 yards, were set, and that’s when the bull turned about and started moving back toward us. I could see its entire body and had the front sight planted firmly on the shoulder. All I could see inside the buckhorn was gemsbok hide. He was just slightly below us and there was the dry grass of the Kalahari covering his heart. I eased the front sight up a little to clear it, and began the trigger squeeze. The bullet impacted exactly where I was aiming, and passed completely though. It never took another step.

If there is a cooler “old-school” configuration of replica rifle and scope, I’m not sure what it would be. Merely walking down the hall of the offices with the Uberti on my shoulder created quite a stir. Hunting with it in Botswana linked me with the unlikely posse of Thomas G. Bennett, John Moses Browning, NRA’s founders at Creedmoor, Harry Selby, Robert Ruark and Aldo Uberti. That’s a lot to ask of one rifle, but the 1885 High Wall passed with flying colors, case-colors that is. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

Big bore, single shot rifles were the favoured choice among professional hunters in the latter part of nineteenth century America. Companies like Sharps, with their superb Model 1874, and Remington with the rolling block action, happily supplied buffalo hunters and others with tools capable of doing the job.

Winchester, mindful that they were not competing in this market, decided that they should step up and join the game. With their reputation built on manufacturing lever action rifles, it was natural that they should continue the trend and the result was the introduction of the Centennial Rifle. The rifle was unveiled at the 1876 Philadelphia Exhibition to celebrate 100 years since the American War of Independence and was to become known as the Model 1876. Nothing more than an enlarged Model 1873, the rifle had its limitations but nevertheless stayed in production for some 21-years.

Long before the demise of the 1876, Winchester had found their own answer to their competitors’ single shot rifles with the help of a man who became one of the legends among firearms inventors. John Moses Browning and his brothers manufactured and sold firearms from a shop in Ogden, Utah, a business that had been started by their father. It seems that the first meeting between Winchester and Browning was to settle a claim that Browning was infringing a patent owned by Winchester. The matter was settled amicably and it was likely that this meeting brought to the attention of Winchester the single shot rifle that Browning was making under his own patent of 1879. It is uncertain how many of their single shot rifles the Browning brothers had produced to this time, but as they were using hand-powered machinery, it would appear that numbers were limited. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

Double up
The result was that Winchester purchased the rights to this patent and in doing so began a successful collaboration between the two parties, which would last almost two decades. During this time, Winchester accepted every patent design that Browning turned out, the majority of which were never used, but it kept them out of the hands of competitors.

Back at the Winchester factory, some alterations were made to the Browning design before the rifle was introduced to the public as the Model 1885, the company’s first rifle to use a mechanism other than a lever action.

There are two basic variations, named the High Wall and the Low Wall and the difference between the two is obvious when viewing the profiles of both models. In the latter, a greater portion of the hammer and part of the breech block is visible, while the former allows only the hammer tip to be seen. This model had the largest variety of calibres ever offered on a Winchester rifle; the 1891 catalogue showing a choice of thirty, varying from .22 short rimfire up to .50-110 Express, with a few 20-gauge shotguns thrown into the mix. There was also a great diversity in weight and length of barrels, stocks, sights etc., making the 1885 a popular choice for modern day specialist collectors. Price of a standard rifle at this time was $15.00. Production was ended in 1920, when some 140,000 units had left the factory. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

Continuing the tradition
A glance at the Uberti catalogue will show that today’s shooters are well-served when it comes to choosing a replica of the Winchester 1885 model. Both the High and Low Wall versions are available in an impressive array of calibres, from .22LR to .45-120 centre fire. The smaller calibres are generally found in the Low Wall, although a couple, .44-40 and .45 Colt, are available in the High Wall version. Likewise, the heavy stuff is kept for the High Walls. There is a limited choice of barrel lengths with variations of stocks, sights etc. available.

The version we have here is a Special Sporting High Wall with a semi-pistol grip, non-standard trigger guard/operating lever and double set triggers. Let me get that trigger guard out of the way first. I encountered this design a couple of years ago on another version of this rifle and it is the most uncomfortable I have ever used. It is longer than normal to accommodate the two triggers and their adjusting screw, but I found the gap between the long rear spur and the stock is too narrow to get my fingers in and too wide to make for a decent grip. Elimination of that spur would have made the rifle just as easy to use and more comfortable to hold.

That is purely a personal view and your mileage may differ. The set riggers on the other hand are a joy to use. I’m not sure what the weight of the set trigger is but it was fine out of the box, so, I left it that way. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

The woodwork, with its standard Uberti red/brown high gloss finish, is nicely chequered at the wrist and forearm and all wood to metal edges are a good fit. Should you desire a little bling and your wallet will stand the strain, the current catalogue offers the option of deluxe wood with an oiled finish as well as engraving, an ‘antique patina’ or charcoal blue for this model.

The 30-inch tapered octagonal barrel has nice edges and is a deep black, along with the buttplate, sights and small metal parts. The receiver, hammer and trigger guard/ loading lever have dark case colours. The buttplate has a sliding cover over a hollowed section of the butt containing a 5-piece brass cleaning rod, which, in the absence of any information in the catalogue to the contrary, I assume to be an optional extra. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

The sights on this rifle are to be found on other offerings from Uberti and consist of a semi-buckhorn at the rear, which is adjustable for elevation and windage, and a blade front with windage adjustment only. The top tang is tapped for one of the many optional long-range setups which are available from Uberti and others.

Simple but efficient
The .38-55 cartridge was originally developed by Ballard as a target number and was introduced in 1884. A good deer cartridge, it was available in rifles from Marlin, Winchester, Colt, Stevens and Remington as well as Ballard. Winchester launched their popular .30-30 cartridge in 1894 based on this case. Production of commercial rifles ceased in 1940, when Winchester shelved this cartridge from their line-up, but more recently it has been re-introduced for the Model 94. Thankfully, the Italian reproduction firearms industry makes this old timer available again in some of their offerings. Brass is on offer from Starline and commercial lead bullets, while scarce, can be sourced. I chose to purchase a Lee bullet mould (#379-250- RF) and make my own. Those familiar with the Lee codes will know that this is a .379-inch round nose flat point bullet weighing a nominal 250-grains, and backed by a moderate load of 6.9-grains of Trail Boss powder, it proved satisfactory at one hundred yards.

As with many single shot rifles, the mechanism of the Model 1885 is relatively short but strong, as proved by its ability to handle those big game cartridges. Said by some to be stronger than the Sharps action, it shares a similar design feature in the twin locking lugs on its falling block. This twin lug arrangement was adapted to Winchester 1886 and 1892 lever action rifles. The comparatively moderate power of the .38-55 cartridge was never going to test the strength of the action and with the gun weighing in at a shade under 10-pounds, most of which is in the barrel, recoil was not going to be a problem either. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

Half cock
Although not necessary, I have gotten into the habit of putting the hammer on to half-cock before opening these single shot rifles. Whilst that long spur is a hindrance in shooting, it makes for an easy operation when lowering the lever, an action which exposes the breech and activates the cartridge extractor.

This is an extractor rather than an ejector and brings the empty case far enough out for you to remove it with your fingers. Pointing the barrel skywards will cause the case to fall out but this is a practice which more than likely will be frowned upon by Range Officers!

With all that weight up front, you are not going to be doing much off-hand shooting; so, a rest of some kind is most useful. The rifle was pleasant to shoot, and it does not take long to get into a rhythm with the operating procedure. On the day of the test, a stiff breeze across the range prevented any real accuracy tests, but the standard sights would definitely be improved by replacing them with a tang rear and uprated front, both of which are readily available and would take little fitting. UBERTI 1885 HIGH WALL

When the lever is lowered, the breech block and hammer drop far enough to allow you to push a cleaning rod down the barrel from the rear. There was a minimal amount of fouling in the breech area, which was easily removed with a brush and a little solvent.

The Uberti Model 1885 is a well-made piece of kit at a reasonable price in today’s market and should not be overlooked if you are searching for a single shot rifle. To my mind, it has much cleaner lines that the other guns in this sector and has a range of calibres to suit everyone. My choice would be to get one with the standard trigger guard. Now, where did I put that hacksaw?


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