It may not look like much to our modern "black rifle" eye, but the Winchester Model 1907 is a carbine with punch and a unique place in small arms history as a favorite of cops, robbers, soldiers and flyers.
The Winchester Model 1907 carbine is a simple direct blowback rifle. Without a gas system to channel expanding propellant gases back, the action was operated by the rearward force of the gas acting against the bolt. The Winchester 1907 had a special weighted delayed bolt that was perfectly balanced to counter act the rearward forces. Only when the .351 round left the muzzle did the bolt recoil and cycle out the spent case.
The .351 SL was a special round, designed to deal with the underpowered shortcomings of the Model 1905. With a lengthened case and boosted powder, the .351 was suddenly a bullet to be reckoned with. The muzzle velocity of the 180 grain .351 bullet, fired from a 20 inch barrel, was 1,850 feet per second. Compare that to a .357 Magnum which pushes a similar size and weight round from a modern 18 inch barrel at just over 1,800 fps.
The factory standard five-round magazine was removed via a button between the top of the magazine and the bottom of the receiver. A 10-round magazine was also available and one can find examples of custom made 20-round magazines, particularly those used by period American gangsters.
Operation was simple as a magazine was inserted and the action charge with an interesting rod that protruded from the beneath the barrel in front of the forearm. The rod was pushed back, round was stripped from the magazine and ready for semi-automatic fire.
Who used this light, unique rifle that exists someplace between pistol and rifle cartridges? Pretty much every gun wielding group of the first half of the 20th century.
The Winchester Model 1907 was marketed as an ideal police rifle, light and accurate with good stopping power period (photo at top.) Some of the police organizations that carried the carbine were in Los Angeles, Illinois, Missouri and Alabama. A period catalog shows the Police Rifle with a fitted bayonet and notes it is a "take down" rifle. You've seen it in many movies where a rifle is pulled out of a case and assembled. The Model 1907 could be broken down into a lower receiver/stock and an upper receiver/barrel for compact transport.
It was also a favorite of hunters as a deer rifle with punch and was ordered in small quantities by factory guards as the definitive security tool. The power of the Winchester Model 1907 also caught the attention of men like those who ran with the John Dillinger gang.
To the right can see a collection of weapons used by the infamous bank robbery group during their heyday. One of the select rifles was the Model 1907. One customized Model 1907's can be seen on the right, near the Tommy Gun drum magazine and handcuffs near its butt. The Model 1907 was fitted with an extended magazine and a muzzle break associated with select fire weapons. Also, if you notice near the front of the forearm is a small block. That block was a custom rail that allowed the attachment of the Thompson Machine gun pistol grip to the carbine.
Yes, the Model 1907 could be converted to fully automatic and that made it attractive to another group, soldiers and aviators of World War I.
France, Great Britain and Russia bought quantities of the Model 1907 for the war. This semi-automatic carbine may have not had the ballistic reach of the bolt action full power rifles of the time, but rapid fire and stopping power made it a smart addition to the armory. In France, 2,200 were special ordered in full auto for trench assault troops. Those rifles joined 2,800 more being used by French aviators.
Of the 13 major types of aircraft flown by France during the Great War, the Winchester Model 1907 was the primary armament for just under half of them. A shoulder fired carbine was used alongside Mauser and Colt pistols, and the potent "Belgian Rattlesnake."
Great Britain also armed aviators with 120 Winchester Model 1907s, outfitted with 10-round magazines and cloth brass catchers, while Russia bought 500 rifles for their troops. Also, in 1916, its believed the 1st Aero Squadron in New Mexico received a little over a dozen rifles, possibly for use in General 'Black Jack' Pershing's hunt for Pancho Villa.