Winchester Brings Back the .25-35!


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

April 26th, 2005




Amongst all of the pageantry, celebration, and promotion of the latest short magnums, which have become the darlings of the gun industry during the past few years, Winchester has quietly and without fanfare reintroduced the good old .25-35 into their lever action rifle line. The .25-35 was first introduced back in 1895 in Winchester’s model 1894 rifle. Considered a pretty hot cartridge back then, it has slowly faded to obscurity, with no American made rifles being produced in this chambering for well over fifty years, until now. The .25-35 earned a respected reputation on game over 100 years ago, but has since been overshadowed by excellent twenty-five caliber cartridges such as the .257 Roberts, .250-3000 Savage, and the .25-06 Remington. With the recent introduction of the .25 Winchester Super Short Magnum (WSSM), I was both surprised and ecstatic when I heard of the reintroduction of the .25-35 into the Model 94.  Winchester Ammunition has kept the .25-35 ammo in production, along with RWS in Europe, where the cartridge is known as the 6.5x52Rmm, over the past few decades. I hear that the .25-35 is still pretty popular in Canada and Alaska , where locals use it for everything from seal to moose quite successfully. However, here in the original forty-eight states, the cartridge has all but died a slow lingering death, which is a sad thing for such a dandy of a cartridge.

While the only factory load available for the .25-35 recently has been the 117 grain Winchester Super-X Soft Point at 2230 feet-per-second (fps). That is a very good loading for the old cartridge, but hand loading the .25 WCF offers much more versatility for a variety of game. A bit more on that later.

Upon hearing of the reintroduction of the .25-35 in the Model 94, I immediately began to pester Paul Thompson of Browning/Winchester for a sample rifle for review. Winchester chambers the .25-35 in their Trails End Hunter variation of the Model 94, in both octagon and round barreled versions. The one received for testing was the latter. The Trails End rifles are built with features reminiscent of the older Winchester carbines and short rifles, with different forend wood and sights than the regular Model 94 carbines.  The twenty inch round barrel tapers to a slender .605 inch diameter at the muzzle, and the forend is attached with the traditional barrel band. The overall length measures thirty-eight and one-eighth inches, with a thirteen and three-eighths length of pull. The trigger pull measured four pounds and eleven ounces, and had a crisp release after the customary Model 94 slack was taken up. The Trails End Hunter, like all new Model 94 Winchesters, has a top tang sliding safety that blocks the hammer from contacting the firing pin when in its rearward position. While I prefer the traditional Model 94 action without a thumb safety, this is a great improvement over the crossbolt safety that Winchester used on the 94 for many years. I was thankful to see that ugly abomination go away. The new sliding tang safety is also much easier to use than was the crossbolt, especially for a left-hander like myself. The Trails End Hunter wears a satin finished straight-grained American walnut stock, and the bluing of the steel parts is nicely done, without being overly polished, resulting in a subdued finish that does not shine like a mirror in the sunlight. It is a good finish for a hunting rifle, and the Model 94 Winchester has been one of the world’s most popular hunting rifles for well over a century.

Many hunters today, however, write off the lever action rifles as being inferior to a bolt action for hunting. This is a mistake. While many leverguns do not turn in the excellent mechanical accuracy of today’s best bolt actions, their practical accuracy is very good for hunting, with many leverguns turning in bench rested groups that rival the better bolt guns. The endearing traits that have kept the Model 94 popular for over 110 years still make it an excellent choice for a hunting rifle. The Model 94 carbine is the definition of handiness. It balances perfectly, and comes quickly to the shoulder, like a good bird gun. It is one of John Browning’s best designs, and it thrives today not out of nostalgia, but due to its enduring versatility and practicality. In other words; the Model 94 works, and works well.

Bringing back the .25-35 in the Model 94 is one of Winchester’s best ideas in years, but one which I find surprising. The trend towards ever higher pressures and velocities over the past fifty years makes a cartridge such as the .25-35 seem almost anemic in comparison.  Many wrongly confuse the .25-35 with the .25-20, and while they share a common bore diameter, they are very different in power and application. The .25-35 Winchester is an excellent cartridge for medium game like whitetail deer and antelope, and also serves very well as a varmint and predator cartridge with the right bullet. While the Winchester factory load is a dandy for deer-sized game, the versatility of the .25-35 can only be realized by hand loading.

Handload data for the .25-35 is available, but scarce. Even in my latest edition of the standard reference "Pet Loads", which is a great source of valuable information for the handloader, Ken Waters has not reviewed the .25-35. While his data listed for the .25 Remington can be used for the .25-35, it still is slim on information needed to realize the potential of the .25-35. Hodgdon, Hornady, and Accurate Arms all have  load data in their manuals, but for more information, I turned to my good friend Frank "Paco" Kelly for the best information that I could find on the subject. Paco has out a book on CD-ROM that has priceless information on the .25-35 Winchester, along with reams of data and info on many other cartridges. He sells this CD for just under 20 bucks, shipped. It is worth several times that price, and saved me a great deal of legwork on just this project alone. I think that a Gunblast review on his book on CD is in order. Look for it soon. In the meantime, I will list a link to buy the CD at the bottom of this article. It is the best $20 that I have ever spent for hand loading information.

I had read that cases could be formed easily from .30-30 brass, but in my dies, that was not the situation. Case failure was high, no matter how well-lubricated the case. Therefore, I used factory .25-35 brass for all loads tested, giving up on the case-forming.

Working up handloads for the .25-35, I found that one of the best powders for improved performance in this cartridge is AA2460 from Accurate Arms. I found no data at all for this powder, even from the Accurate Arms data manual. However, it turned in a stellar performance for velocity and shot to shot consistency in the test rifle. I also found IMR’s new Trail Boss powder to be extremely uniform for low-velocity cast bullet loads for use on small game, and for wild turkey. The Mount Baldy cast 100 grain flat point bullet wears a gas check, and can be pushed to well over 2400 feet per second without leading for deer, but is an excellent choice for low velocity loads punching pencil-sized holes through a turkey without ruining very much meat. I would much rather have a clean hole through a turkey breast than several number four lead shot imbedded in the meat. The table below lists a few of the loads tested in the Trails End Hunter. However, I have pressure tested none of these loads. They proved safe in my rifle, giving no signs of excessive pressure, but may not be safe in your firearm. I am not recommending that you try these loads in your rifle, just reporting that which worked well for me. Now, after covering my butt as best as I could, the velocities listed below are in feet-per-second, and powder charge weights are listed in grains.  Primers were Federal 210M bench rest. All chronograph data was recorded using a PACT chronograph, with weather conditions of low humidity and an air temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Case Bullet Powder Charge Velocity
Remington Hornady 117-grain RN IMR 3031 26.5 2274
Winchester Mt. Baldy 110-grain FPGC IMR 3031 27 2393
Winchester Remington 86-grain RN AA2460 29.4 2776
Winchester Sierra 75-grain HP AA2460 30.1 2906
Winchester Hornady 117-grain RN AA2460 27.5 2471
Winchester Mt. Baldy 110-grain FPGC Titegroup 5.5 1383
Winchester Mt. Baldy 100-grain FPGC IMR Trail Boss 5.5 1153
Winchester 117-grain soft point Factory Load NA 2135

Exceptionally uniform velocities were received with the load using 27.5 grains of AA2460 powder and Hornady 117 Round Nose bullets. The extreme spread on this load was only 12.8 fps, with an average deviation (AD) of only 5.1! On the low end of the velocity scale, the load using 5.5 grains of Trail Boss powder with the Mt. Baldy 100 grain Flat Point Gas Check bullet had an extreme spread of only 18.8 fps and an AD of only 6! This is amazing load consistency in a rifle cartridge. On the other hand, I found that IMR 3031 did not work well with the Mt. Baldy bullet, having excessive velocity variation. 3031 also failed to meet my velocity expectations with the 117 and 86 grain bullets, showing excessive pressure signs before delivering expected velocities. I intend to work more with the AA2460 powder, as the results so far have been very pleasing, turning in high, consistent velocities with normal pressure signs.  I also want to point out that the load using the 75 grain Sierra bullet should not be loaded end to end into a tubular magazine. With this load, I place one in the chamber and one in the magazine tube, for a total of two shots.

While I really like the open sights on the Trails End Hunter, for accuracy testing and for hunting, I prefer a good scope, such as the compact four power shown in the photo.  The .25-35 is not a short-range cartridge as many claim it to be, and can benefit from a good scope sight. With the bullet matched to the game, the .25-35 kills just as well as any of the hotter .25 caliber rounds, it just does not have as flat of a trajectory. For instance, with a 117 grain bullet and sighted in at 200 yards, the slower round nose .25-35 bullet drops 4.8 inches at 300 yards as opposed to a spitzer 117 grain bullet from a .25-06 which drops only 2.78 inches at 300 yards. That is only a two inch difference, yet the .25-06 is highly regarded as a flat-shooting deer cartridge, and some misinformed shooters regard the .25-35 as only suitable for small vermin at close range. Makes no sense to me. Those who have actually used the .25-35 on game know that its performance on medium game is as good as the shooter, and a good scope takes advantage of its ability much better than iron sights, at least for my eyes.  I also find a scope handy for long shots at small targets, such as crows and other vermin.

I used Millet bases and rings on the Model 94, and as I have found in the past, the rear base screws need to be shortened by one thread to keep from binding the bolt on the rifle. I have had to do this every time that I have mounted a scope on an Angle Eject 94 using Millet bases.

The Winchester Trails End Hunter displayed very good accuracy. I tried several different loads, and all performed well. The factory 117 grain round nose did exceptionally well, as can be seen in the photo.

I am very glad that Winchester decided to chamber the .25-35 again, and it has nothing to do with nostalgia. We have plenty of cartridges for that. The .25-35 offers good accuracy, very mild recoil, and plenty of power. The bullets that are suitable for the .25-35 are made to perform well at its moderate velocities. The 117 grain Hornady and Winchester bullets will expand on game, but not come apart as they might if driven to magnum speeds. The Winchester carbine uses a one-in-eight twist to stabilize the long bullets, and the long bullets at moderate speeds ensure good penetration. They have plenty of killing power, yet you won’t have half of the meat bloodshot as often happens when shooting deer with magnum cartridges. I also like the eighty-six grain Remington bullet, and plan to work with it further, on both deer and vermin. It should be perfection on coyotes. The Mt. Baldy 100 grain cast bullet works well at low or high velocity, depending upon the intended game.

With the reintroduction of the great old .25-35 in the Model 94, Winchester has provided yet another excellent hunting rifle to a new generation of hunters. It is a rifle that will do for just about anything that I hunt, and do the job well. If I were heading to Africa for buffalo or to Kodiak Island for bear, I would bring a bigger rifle, but for pure versatility on animals from crow to whitetail, the .25-35 will do just fine. Thanks, Winchester.

For more information on Winchester’s line of quality firearms, go to:

For a look at the entire line of Winchester ammunition, go to:

To order the excellent cast bullets from Mt. Baldy, go to:

For information on the Hornady and Sierra bullets, check out their websites at: and

To order Paco Kelly’s excellent book on CD, "Lever and Hand Guns", click here:

Jeff Quinn


To find a Winchester Firearms dealer in your area, click here:


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Author with Winchester's new Trails End Hunter rifle, chambered in .25-35.



Difference in front sights and forend wood between the standard Model 94 (top) and Trails End Hunter (bottom).



Rear sight of the Trails End Hunter offers a very nice sight picture for those who prefer iron sights to a scope sight.



Top tang safety featured on the new Model 94 line is a great improvement over the old crossbolt style.



It's been a long time since we've seen this marking on a new Winchester barrel.









Left to right: .38-55, .25-35 and .30-30 all use the same basic case.



Bullets for the .25-35 include (left to right): 75-grain Sierra hollow point, 86-grain Remington soft point, 100-grain Mt. Baldy flat point gas check, 117-grain Hornady soft point.



Winchester offers some excellent factory loads for the .25-35, but the full potential of this great cartridge is realized by handloading.



Groups produced by the test rifle with a variety of loads prove the excellence of both the .25-35 cartridge and the Winchester Trails End Hunter rifle.