Book Review: Winchester Model 07 Self-Loading .351 Caliber

Winchester 1907 by Leonard SpeckinThe full title of this recently-published monograph by Leonard Speckin is actually Winchester Model 07 Self-Loading .351 Caliber: Its Past and Its Future with Modern Brass, Bullets and Powders. There is very little modern published information on the Winchester Self-Loaders (the 1905 in .35 cal, the 1907 in .351 cal, and the 1910 in .401 cal), and Mr. Speckin’s work is the only one I know of that is actually currently in print. It is not a collector’s reference book by any means – it is a guide for the shooter and owner…and it does an excellent job filling that role.

Speckin begins with a look at the design intent of the Winchester Self-Loader, which is perhaps one of the most important elements of the gun if one wishes to understand them. A gun cannot be appreciated properly without understanding how well it meets its design intent, and this is a large part of why so few people know much about the 1907 today. It is generally seen as being hopelessly underpowered today, and that view has been around for many decades. In fact, as Speckin explains, the whole series of Winchester Self-Loaders were designed as smokeless semiautomatic analogs for the saddle carbine role. The .351 WSL cartridge is a up-powered stand-in for the .44-40 or .45 Colt, throwing a 180 grain bullet (softpoint or FMJ) at 1900 fps. The 1907 is designed with a short barrel, and completely flat sides to allow easy scabbard carry (that’s why the bolt is operated by a plunger under the barrel; to keep the sides of the gun smooth and unencumbered). It has some weight to it, but that weight is well distributed, and the gun balances well and swings easily. This was not a semiauto replacement for a .30-06 Springfield, it was the gun that filled the space between the Winchester 1892 lever action and the M1 Carbine.

The misconceptions and near total disdain on the part of profession gun writers for the Winchester 1907 are the subject of the next section of Speckin’s book. He references an extensive library of vintage hunting and shooting books and magazines to see what the historical view of the gun has been (and the results are not flattering). Why did all those writers overlook or unfairly disregard the 1907? Well, you’ll have to read the book to see.

Overall, this history accounts for about the first third of the book (which is just over 100 pages). The middle third covers the subject of reloading, and the final third is about disassembly.

Reloading is probably the most important section for the 1907 owner who wants to be able to shoot his or her rifle. The .351 WSL cartridge was never used in any other production designs, and has not been manufactured in significant quantity now for 40 years or more. Today, the options are to load your own or find and shoot vintage ammo from the 1940s or 50s. The reloading prospect is a bit trickier than other designs because the 1907 is a pure blowback action, thus making safe and reliable operation highly dependent on power burn rate and pressure. Too weak a loading and the gun won’t cycle – too hot and it will fail to extract or potentially blow out a case and damage the gun and shooter. Speckin has done the research and experimentation to find the loads that best duplicate the original factory ammunition using currently-available components, and standing on his shoulders will save quite a lot of time and frustration.

The final section, on disassembly and reassembly, is something that will not be of much use until it becomes downright essential. Detail stripping the 1907 is not generally necessary, but removal of the bolt and bolt spring is necessary for some tasks like replacing a firing pin – and not a task for the faint of heart. When the guns were in production, Winchester alluded to special factory tool required to make this level of reassembly practical, but those tools were never widely available to the public – and neither were their designs. So Speckin went through the process of determining what the tool must have been, and fabricated a set to make the reassembly task less of a nightmare. He includes pictures and dimensioned drawings of these tools, as well as an illustrated step-by-step guide to the detail stripping and reassembly process which will be invaluable to the owner who finds the task necessary.

Mr. Speckin’s work is currently in print through a small independent print shop, which means three things:

  1. It is available to anyone who wants it
  2. It won’t be forever, and once it is out of print it will probably never come back
  3. It is priced a bit higher than you would expect of a similar-sized book from a large publisher, because of the economics of scale.

Price for the monograph is $30 post-paid in the US, and $37 postpaid to Canada ($45 to Australia and $50 to Germany). It is available by mail order only – to get a copy write to:

Leonard Speckin
1884 Birchwood
Okemos, MI 48864

You can also reach the author by email at lspeckin@4n6.com or by phone at (517) 881-9028.