My neighbor found I like old lever actions and asked me if I would look at a collection of parts he couldn't reassemble--and old deer rifle, he said. This must be and old '94, I figured and asked him to bring it over. He showed up with a barreled action and a cardboard box with parts. I looked closer and it was a Winchester mod 1886, round barrel rifle in 40-65.
There were a few parts missing or broken, and the bore looked like a sewer pipe. The receiver was deeply scratched as if someone had used no 60 sandpaper to remove rust. The blueing was gone and only a few areas showed faint case color . I told my friend I could reassemble the rifle, but he would have to buy some parts and I wouldn't shoot it with the barrel in such bad shape. He offered to sell it and I soon was proud owner of the incomplete collection of makings for an antique rifle.
All of the markings were in suprisingly good shape and the only deep scratches were on the sides of the receiver. I was afraid they were too deep to polish out, but I needed a gunsmith to tell me how to handle the problem. My first thought was to rebarrel in 45-70 if the gunsmith said the receiver was salvageable. I shipped the parts to Dennis Olson in Montana. He told me he could file and polish out the deep scratches, reline the barrel in 40-65, replace the missing parts, then reblue and case harden like the original. He did not recommend relining in 45-70 because the barrel might not be big enough in diameter to handle heavy loads after being drilled out for a 45-70 liner.
I decided to reline in 40-65, but then I had to decide the specs of the bore and chamber and the barrel twist rate. The original mod '86 had a bore of about .406" and a twist of i/24" to use a 265gr bullet. This actually was a different cartridge from the 40-65 used in modern single shot rifles such as those used in bpcr silhouette guns. My Shiloh Sharps has a 1/14 twist, .408 bore and shoots very accurately with a .409" 415gr bullet.
I wanted to be able to use heavier bullets--at least 350 gr. Mr. Olson could not tell me how much longer than 265 gr a bullet could be and function through the action of my mod .86. I doubted that heavier bullets would shoot well with a slow twist. I decided to use a 1/18 twist, .408 dia. barrel and hope longer bullets would fit thru the action. I have had fairly good results with a twist faster than the theoretic ideal (but very bad results with too slow twists), so I estimated that 1/18 would be a good compromise. I sent Mr. Olson a couple of cases fired in my Sharps and asked for a chamber as close as possibly to it. I figured that the mod .86 was chambered for longer cases than the 40-65 so probably longer bullets would fit through the action.
I learned years ago that no gunsmith ever got a project done in less than twice the time he promised the customer, so it didn't surprise me that this took a while. The wait was well worth it. I don't know what a mod .86 looked like new, but my old junker looked brand new to me. The deep scratches on the side of the receiver were completely gone. All of the lettering and numbers were sharp, with no edges polished off, and the color case was beautiful. The gunsmith found a new magazine tube and a few other parts. I cannot see evidence of the relining. I was able to refinish the stock so the rifle now is the best looking lever gun I own.
I was pleasently surprised when I found the action takes rounds loaded with up to 400gr. flat point bullets so long as they are seated to the crimp grove. I can even shoot money bullets loaded for the sharps if I load them single shot.
I have not had time to work up accurate loads but I have found that the 1/18" twist stabilizes bullets 265grs up to 400grs out to 100yds with bp level loads. A duplex load of 4.5gr 5744, 55gr of FFg and a 350 gr fp bullet shoots 2 to 2-1/2 groups when I shoot well.