Cimarron 1887 Lever-Action Shotgun: A Winchester Classic Reborn

by Vern Evans

While visiting the Cimarron Firearms booth at SHOT Show, I noticed on the retail products display table what looked like a refinished original Winchester Model 1887 lever-action shotgun cut down to a 20-inch barrel riot gun length. Company founder Mike Harvey owns a reputation for exhibiting interesting, original Old West guns from his collection at SHOT. I wondered if this Model 1887 somehow mistakenly ended up in the wrong display area. A tag on the trigger guard listing wholesale and retail pricing suggested it was a modern reproduction. As I began to examine it, one of the booth representatives came over to tell me its story.

Cimarron 1887 Lever-Action Shotgun

“We’re finally getting a real quality 1887s out of the Chinese,” she said. To me, the gun in my hands bore little resemblance to the roughly made and finished Winchesters I’d seen imported over the last decade or so. Cimarron invested years of work in developing the capabilities of their Chinese manufacturer, and that perseverance has obviously paid off in better built and more historically correct looking replicas that subsequent testing proved to be ready to go right out the box. The retail price, less than half of the top-end, Italian-made Chiappa Firearms Model 1887 replicas, really surprised me.

Properly configured as a Model 1887 on the outside with that gun’s distinctive solid finger level, the Cimarron 1887 grabbed my immediate attention. Most of the earlier Chinese import so-called Model 1887 shotguns had the hinged finger lever found on the later 10-gauge Model 1901 Winchester. Truthfully, all of the modern reproductions I’ve examined incorporate the internal upgrades of the Model 1901. That’s a smart decision because the Model 1901 was a redesign of the Model 1887 to handle smokeless powder ammunition. The double extractors you see on the bolt face of modern reproductions is a Model 1901 improvement.

Classic, Vintage Appeal

Another great detail of Cimarron’s new gun that caught my eye was what appeared to be a reproduction of the big, thumb sized, Winchester Repeating Arms logo on the side of the receiver.  I’ll discuss that more later.

The final factor in the new gun’s authentic vintage appearance was the accurately contoured stocks made from walnut with a tight and straight grain, and a low-sheen oil finish. This stock looks like what you’d find on standard grade American sporting arms, before World War Two. The walnut used on these guns is grown in America and shipped to China. It seems crazy to me to think that the stocks have made two trips across the Pacific Ocean, but it illustrates the effort Cimarron invested into getting this gun right. The wood to metal fit was excellent and the buttstock had a correctly styled checkered buttplate for this model Winchester made of cast steel.

The barrel is 20 inches long with a .0.13-inch round brass bead front sight and a muzzle inside diameter measuring 0.729 inches, which equates to cylinder bore for a 12 gauge. The barrel is marked with the legally required manufacturer, importer and caliber info with a decent looking, if not historically correct, laser-engraved, serifed, all capital font. This is a necessary evil, but I wish they’d done it in the minimum height letters and shallow enough that there was some hope of draw filing it off. 

Old School Markings

Cimarron has always had a flair for creating historically inspired markings on their reproductions and this shows up on their 1887 with model and patent marking on the lower tang, That’s were they belong on the Model 1887. They also located the serial number in the historically correct spot on the lower front of the receiver. The marking that really appealed to me was a new Cimarron Firearms logo on the left side of the frame consisting of a the letters “F A” within a larger letter “C” beneath a larger stylized “W.” Fans of the 1887 will immediately recognize it as inspired by and closely modeled after the unique Winchester Repeating Arms Company logo used on original guns. All the markings are laser engraved rather than roll stamped like the originals, but overall they are nicely executed.

Like most lever actions, you need to work the 1887’s lever with vigor through its full arc to get consistent, reliable function, and the 1887 has a pretty long arc. In fact, it’s so long that it can be challenging to get the lever fully forward with enough force to pop up the cartridge lifter at the end of the stroke when cycling the lever with the gun shouldered. Working the action slow is sure to cause failures to feed (lifter not rising) and failures to eject (extractors drop clear of the cartridge rim before it’s fully withdrawn from the chamber).

However, if you need to recover what your’re ejecting, as in the case of an unfired round or a vintage style all-brass casing, slow extraction is the way to go because it deposits the casing directly on top of the open action ready to pick up with your fingers.  

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Specification: Cimarron Firearms 1887 Lever Action Shotgun 

  • Caliber: 12-gauge, 2.75-inch shells only
  • Operation: lever-action rolling block
  • Barrel: 20-inch cylinder bore
  • Overall Length:  37.25 inches 
  • Weight Empty: 7.84 pounds empty
  • Capacity: 4-5 in magazine tube depending on length, + 1 in carrier, + 1 in chamber.
  • Safety: half-cock notch on hammer
  • Trigger: single-stage, 4-pound average pull weight
  • Stock: American walnut 
  • MSRP: $747

Performance: Cimarron Firearms 1887 Lever Action Shotgun 

Load Average Velocity Average Pattern
Winchester Super X, 9 pellet, buffered lead shot 1,246 17.4
Federal Premium Person Defense, 9 pellet, copper plated 1,092 7.0
Sellier & Bellot 9 pellet, 00 lead shot 1,221 12.5

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