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25-20 Winchester


The long and possibly confusing history of the 25-20 WCF begins with the, circa 1873, 32-20 WCF. In 1893, Marlin standardized a necked-down, 25-caliber, version as the 25-20 Marlin, offering it in its Model of 1889 and later its 1894. Then, in 1895, Winchester chambered it in its 1892 lever-action and christened it the 25-20 WCF (Winchester Center Fire). Because Winchester also made ammunition, its version of the name won out.

Originally loaded with blackpowder, pressure generated was about 20,000 psi to launch 86-grain bullets at about 1450 fps; which was more than was needed for taking small game without unnecessary damage and waste of meat. Subsequent smokeless 25-20 WCF loads with bullets of 60- and 86-grains used higher pressure and generated significantly more energy. However, the 25-20 remains a small-game, varmint-hunting, and predator-control round with no legitimate application for big-game hunting.



Despite this, during the Great Depression when folks were very hungry, my Dad’s oldest brother did manage to kill two spike elk with three shots using his 25-20 using grain factory 86-grain load but that required head shots and a considerable amount of marksmanship!

My friend, Ed Wosika, figured out a combination for the 25-20 using the Bear Creek Supply 90-grain bullet with Lil-Gun, the CCI-400 primer, and the Lee Factory Crimp Die to lock the bullet in place solidly. His load gives phenomenal velocity and accuracy from an 1894 Marlin modified to handle cartridges a bit longer than SAAMI specification maximum length so the bullet is driven against the rifling when the round is chambered.

As with all cartridges used in guns with a tubular magazine, a properly applied crimp can smooth and ease chambering and a crimp is critical to lock the case mouth into the cannelure and thereby prevent recoil and chambering forces from driving the bullet into the case. In some instances, a roll crimp might be the best option but the Lee Factory Crimp Die usually does a better job and the crimp it applies will not damage a cast bullet as chamber pressure drives that from the case.

Heritage of this case dates to 1873 with the introduction of the 32-20 WCF.

The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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