Taylor's & Co. 1886 Ridge Runner 45-70 Takedown Lever Action Carbine

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

September 1st, 2015


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Take-down for transportation and storage is quick and easy.







It was almost two years ago that I reviewed here the Taylor's & Co. 45 Colt takedown lever-action carbine that is based upon the legendary 1892 Winchester design. That trim little carbine was chambered for the 45 Colt cartridge. Now, we have a larger version of that dandy little jewel that is based upon the 1886 Winchester design, chambered for the 45-70 Government cartridge, dubbed the Ridge Runner.

The Ridge Runner carbine is true to the Winchester design, but with some modern additions to make it more user-friendly in the field. The eighteen and one-half inch half-octagon/round barrel wears an excellent Skinner rear aperture sight that is adjustable for both windage and elevation correction. The Skinner has several different aperture sizes available which screw into the sight, but I prefer the sight with no additional aperture screwed in, leaving a large "ghost ring" type rear sight. The front sight is a modern fiber-optic, adjustable for windage correction in its dovetail. The Skinner rear sight is mounted in the Weaver-type scope base, set for a forward-mounted, or "Scout" type scope with intermediate eye relief, to clear the top-ejecting 1886 action.

The stock on the Ridge Runner is a black synthetic rubber coating over wood. The muzzle wears an effective muzzle brake, and a thread cap is supplied for those who prefer to remove the brake. The muzzle is threaded 5/8x24 threads per inch. The Ridge Runner has an overall length of thirty-seven and one-quarter inches without the brake; two inches longer with brake attached, and weighs in on my scale at eight pounds, fourteen ounces, unloaded. The magazine capacity is four cartridges, for a loaded capacity of five. The magazine loads through the port on the right side of the receiver.

The Ridge Runner, like the 45 Colt carbine reviewed earlier, has a handy take-down feature, allowing the carbine to be halved for transport. Taylor's offers in their accessory line an excellent carry case to store and protect the weapon while transporting. The padded cordura case is sturdy and well-built. The lever loop on the Ridge Runner is larger than on a standard 1886, to accommodate a gloved hand, but not so large as to be obtrusive. The sample Ridge Runner shown here has an excellent trigger pull: very crisp and releasing with three and three-quarters pounds of resistance, as measured on my Lyman digital gauge.

The steel receiver, barrel, lever, sights, and brake wear a matte blued finish that matches well with the black finish of the stock.  The butt stock wears a synthetic rubber butt pad to attenuate the stiff recoil of the heaviest 45-70 loads, and to stabilize the rifle on the shooter's shoulder. Ammunition for the 45-70 has advanced greatly over its 142-year history, particularly over the past two decades. Buffalo Bore, Double Tap, Cor-Bon, Garrett, and others make ammunition for the 45-70 that approaches 458 Magnum power in equal-length barrels. A heavy 45-70 load could be considered to be about nine-tenths of a 458, and properly loaded, the 45-70 will cleanly take any animal on earth. A handy 45-70 carbine such as this Ridge Runner excels as a rifle to carry when in the domain of large bears, and 45-70 leverguns have proven very effective against Cape Buffalo in Africa.

I fired the Ridge Runner with a variety of 45-70 ammunition to test for velocity and accuracy. Accuracy testing was done at a distance of fifty yards, as that is pretty much the limit of my eyes shooting paper with mechanical sights. Velocity testing was done with the chronograph set at twelve feet from the muzzle. Velocity testing was done at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of eighty-four degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of fifty-five percent. JSP is a jacketed softpoint bullet. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. HC is a hard-cast lead bullet. Tipped is a jacked bullet with a polymer tip inserted into the hollow nose. Barnes X is a homogenous copper hollowpoint bullet. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps).

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Remington JHP 300 1539
Remington JSP 405 1133
Garrett HC 420 1278
Buffalo Bore JSP 300 2308
Buffalo Bore JSP 405 1929
Hornady Tipped 325 1702
Handload Barnes X 300 1520

The Ridge Runner shot very well, with good accuracy. Accuracy varied between just over half an inch for three shots, to just under two inches at fifty yards, again limited by my vision. I just do not see mechanical sights as well as I once did. However, for the purpose for which this carbine is designed, I would feel very comfortable taking it afield for either hunting or defense against large animals, without adding a scope sight; but with the Weaver rail, adding a scope is always an easy option.

The Garrett cartridge listed above is safe for use even in weaker actions like the Springfield trapdoor, but Garret also loads the same bullet to higher power levels, for use in rifles such as this Ridge Runner. I had none of the higher-powered Garrett cartridges available for testing at this time. Ashley Emerson is a friend of mine, and he has been running Garrett Cartridge for almost three years now, adding additional cartridges and also other 45-70 loads to the Garrett line, continuing with the same commitment to quality that established the Garrett reputation for premium ammunition many years ago. My favorite bullet for use on whitetail, hogs, and such is the Barnes 300 grain X bullet. This bullet expends quickly, and always penetrates deeply. It is a homogenous copper bullet with a large hollowpoint, and is very effective. I load it over 38 grains of H322 powder for a reliable load with mild recoil. Hogs and deer do not require the bone-smashing power of the 45-70 Magnum or Plus P type loads. A very good factory load that is inexpensive and reliable for deer and hogs is the Remington 300 grain jacketed hollowpoint. It does the job with minimal recoil and blast, and can be found at any decent gun shop or online at ammo sellers.

Reliability was excellent with every load tested except for one: the Buffalo Bore 405 grain load did not fire a few times with the first blow of the hammer, and required a second try to fire the cartridges. This happened about fifty percent of the time with that load. That load has proven one hundred percent reliable in other rifles, and this just reinforces the advice to always prove a type of ammo in your own gun before relying upon it. Every other brand and type of cartridge, including the 300 grain Buffalo Bore load, fired one hundred percent of the time. Cycling and feeding from the magazine, every other cartridge fed, fired and ejected as expected.

The take-down feature works very well, and is easily accomplished in a few seconds, without tools. The mag tube threads out easily, and the rifle can then be twisted into its two halves. Separated, the rifle measures 21.25 inches in length with the brake attached, and about two inches less without the brake. Another advantage of the take-down feature is in the event of a cartridge jammed under the lifter, which does occur at times. I have never had this to happen on an 1886 action, but have experienced that frustrating jam on a 357 Winchester 94 and on a 357 Marlin 1894, and being able to quickly remove the mag tube would have been a welcome feature.

The muzzle brake does a very good job of softening the felt recoil of the heaviest loads. Even the stout Buffalo Bore loads inflict no pain at all. Cycling the action is easy and smooth, as the 1886 is known to be a smooth-running design, and Chiappa executed the design well for Taylor's & Co.

The Taylor's & Co. Ridge Runner is a dandy take-down 1886 lever-action carbine. It is rugged and reliable, and does not hurt the shooter's shoulder, even with the heaviest loads. The suggested retail price of the Ridge Runner as of the date of this review is $1481.00 US ($1534.00 US in matte chrome finish), which isn't cheap, but compared to having an 1886 converted to this configuration by a custom gunsmith, the Taylor's is a real bargain. It is a lot of rifle for the money; suitable for taking any game on Earth, and effective protection from things with teeth and claws. Besides all that, it is a fun rifle to shoot!

Check out the Ridge Runner and other firearms and accessories online at www.taylorsfirearms.com.

To order quality 45-70 ammunition online, go to www.midsouthshooterssupply.com, www.luckygunner.com, www.doubletapammo.com, www.buffalobore.com, and www.garrettcartridges.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Muzzle brake can be removed and replaced with thread protector.