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The Winchester Model 59....

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Dave McCracken, Aug 22, 2004.

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  1. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    About the time the DeSoto went out of production, Winchester came out with a Model 50 autoloader. A blowback or recoil operated action of innovative design, the 50 made little headway against the tide of A-5s and Remington 11s, 11-48s and 1100s, and disappeared from the scene to be replaced by the legendary X-1. The design included a floating chamber conceived by Marsh Williams, the moonshiner and designer of the M1 carbine.

    Before all that, the folks at Winchester brought out a superb upland shotgun based on the 50 and yclept the Model 59. It had a few brand new ideas and features. That proved to be both blessing and curse.

    First and foremost, it had fiber wrapped around a steel barrel liner and epoxied to produce a strong, straight barrel of much less weight than the usual barrels. One sees this method on rifle barrels now,but still not on shotguns. A shame...

    Second, some of those barrels were threaded for tubes that contained various degrees of choke. While the first choke tube patent in the US was granted before the Civil War, no widely available shotgun was offered with tubes until the 59. Now, few new shotguns are offered without them.

    The result of the barrel and the lightweight design was a very light shotgun, on the order of 6 lbs and sometimes less. Many were snapped up by grouse hunters in New England, whose hunting grounds mostly occur on a slant. Grouse hunters need good legs and light shotguns, the 59 solved half of it.

    Among others, Frank Woolner got his hands on one and fell in love. After some modification, his weighed even less than usual and killed grouse very well. Since Frank was a widely read writer, the 59 got some good ink and attention. We can still run across some bright eyed oldsters with 59s they used since JFK was president and happy they are with them.

    Of course, there's a downside.....

    That light barrel means the thing's muzzle light, with the COG further back than we're used to on repeaters. I shot one a friend had yesterday, and noted it felt more like a SxS does than one of our weight forward repeaters. I went 4X4 on wobble birds, so the lack of inertia is not unsurmountable.

    And a COG that far back means a quick gun, and that it was. It swung like Zorro's rapier.

    But with little builtin inertia, one has to work harder to keep the swing swinging.

    The light weight overall means these are best shot with lighter loads. Dropping some duck loads in this and popping them off may leave one with a new flinch and a nosebleed. This doubtless contributed to the lack of sales for the 59.
    Shotgunners back then loved raw power as much as they do now. And we're a conservative lot, slow to change.

    With the cornucopia of new light loads we can access, there's no need to punish ourselves with Testosterone Specials.An oz load now is more efficient than the 1 1/8 oz of 1960. These will dovetail in beautifully with the 59.

    The concept of the 59 may deserve reconsideration. A light upland auto would be welcome to all us aging Boomers who find the hills steeper than in days of yore. amd the fast swing of the light,wrapped barrel could make up for our aging, slower reflexes.

    Meanwhile, if one turns up for sale, snatch it up.....
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2007
  2. TrapperReady

    TrapperReady Member

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    I've handled a couple examples and really like the idea. I consider it one of the more innovative things to have been tried.

    Two things put me off, though. The first was the butt-heavy feel, especially compared to most of my other shotguns. It's no secret that I shoot a pretty wide array of guns, but most of them balance more or less the same. The Model 59 would be an anomaly for me. Not insurmountable, but a consideration nonetheless.

    My other concern was for spare parts and service. While they seem to have a pretty good rep, they'd certainly be tougher to find parts for than an 870 Express or even a vintage Model 12 or A5.

    If I didn't already have the "lightweight upland gun" niche already filled within my collection, the Model 59 might be a serious contender... especially if I was intent on only using a single gauge for everything. (Hah! Like that would happen! )

    BTW, I wonder what would happen if you did some serious "lightening" of the butt-stock on a Model 59? Could you remove enough material to keep it shootable, but restore the balance of a "normal" repeater?
     
  3. sm

    sm member

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    :)

    About that reduction in weight he he... I had the honor of shooting one. IIRC the fella did indeed use Frank Woolner's "idea".

    The elder club member has since passed on. He had a about 3 of these 59's. He had a number of "classic" shotguns. He had two at the range one day and we shot some skeet together.

    Oh BTW this gentleman was 82, sometimes his eyes wouldn't cooperate, don't bet against him - he would beat you like a drum. :p He shot in blistering humid heat , and freezing rain/ sleet and snow. " I didn't retire to sit on my butt or do honey-do's ". :D

    He needed a break , we had helped a new young lady shooter. So they took off for the clubhouse. I was going to shoot 5 stand. "Meet me at the car Steve....you gonna shoot some out of cages....shoot this one".

    Folks - if this gun weighed more than 5 3/4 pounds - I'd be surprised .I think it was supposed to be right at 6 #....never weighed it, just felt 'right'. " Had this one kinda tweaked a bit" He said. " Got a load she likes ...you'll like 'em too".

    Balanced like a O/U or SxS , tad bit ahead of hands. The loading - 11/16 oz of hard # 8 . Peters paper hulls of course.

    Dang Margo...this sucker gets on 'em quick! The other 4 folks were probably too busy watching this gun, my grin, or hearing my "hell yeah's" - those folks musta have had a bad round. I did a 42/50 ...I had a ball.

    The elderly gentleman quit "giving shooting advice' [ looked like flirting to me - both of 'em all googley eyed and goofy] - he was grinning ear to ear, about his gun and my shooting.

    "Just put the gun in the car Steve"

    NO Sir
    "Steve...." ( him just a grinning)
    That Detective Spl in your pocket like always - huh?
    "Yep".
    I'll go put your gun in your car now...Thank you Sir".
    Grinning like a idiot , tapping his front pocket where that Det Spl always stayed. :D

    We always cut up like that...

    The recoil with 11/16 oz , cycled the gun, great patterns, and one could shoot without getting hurt. The stock was a great for me.

    This old boy really liked the 11/16 oz loadings. They even cycled the SX1's we run them in.

    Dave knows where that loading came from. ;)
     
  4. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Thanks for the responses.

    TR, doing a 59 like the 1100 Special Field with a straight grip stock and then hollowing out the wood would move the balance point forward some. Make it even lighter to boot. I do think it would be hard to move back and forth betwen a 59 and a normal weighted and balanced shotgun without practice. Still might be worth it.

    sm, sounds like a very practical gennulman....
     
  5. Onmilo

    Onmilo Member

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    I know there were some nasty accidents with model 50s and to some extent with model 59s that prompted them to be called widowmakers.
    Folks would get into the habit of leaning over the muzzle of the gun while using the knurled barrel to chamber a shell and this led to some deaths and disfigurments.
    The model 59 added a cocking knob on the bolt but people still chambered the guns using the barrel with the same disasterous results.
    The guns were not noted as being very durable either and should you choose to shoot one today and break something, the gun will be all but kaputsky because the cost to repair it will far outweigh any value that it may hold.
    At one time you could send one of these blasters in to Winchester and they would exchange it even up for a 28" plain barrel Model 12.
     
  6. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Onmilo, that sounds more like Winchester's Model 11 or 1911 self loader, which did have a knurled barrel and a sordid rep.

    59s are not good candidates for dedicated clay guns, shot thousands of times a year. Hunting shotguns are oft shot less than 100 rounds a year, even one less well built than the 59 can hold up to that.

    Numrich, among others, carries parts.
     
  7. anapex

    anapex Member

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    Well since I'm probably the one who started all this talk about the 59 I figure I might as well post some pictures of mine :D .

    M59longright.jpg

    M59longleft.jpg

    M59shortright.jpg

    M59shortleft.jpg

    M59modbarrel.jpg

    M59modbarrel2.jpg


    The two close ups of the barrel are my pitiful attempt to show the inner steel wrapped by the fiberglass. Unfortunately the focus on my camera isn't that great close up so those are the best ya get from me on it :p .

    And yeah I just realized I should have made them smaller.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2004
  8. sm

    sm member

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    :D

    Thanks for posting the pics! If that 59 could only talk...

    I was going to ask earlier - forgot. How is the trigger on that thing? Sweet I bet.

    I admit , I'm an old hard head when it comes to Blue&Wood SGs. I have soft spot for the older designs. Darn things have soul , character , held up and worked. I like the new designs based on the proven of old. 59s > SX1 > Sx2. Beretta 302> 303> ...

    I'm waiting to see how the new stuff holds up. I don't expect Boyds to ever have any stocks for Nova's ( oops) .

    Gonna be rush on for these wood and blue guns with proven actions some day- too bad I ain't rich - I'd be stocking up .

    Since you have the camera - we need a pic of GWAG new shotgun - Please:)

    She was grinning so big in the pic above - the glare from the grin didn't allow a good view of her gun . :D
     
  9. Spinner

    Spinner Member

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    Anapex, that receiver looks very familiar.

    Its very easy to see the pedigree which spawned my Winchester 1400.

    BTW, nice looking gun.

    Spinner
     
  10. Onmilo

    Onmilo Member

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    Dave, my bad, I was indeed thinking of the 1911 when I made my post.
    So few of these older semi automatic shotguns seem to have survived the ravages of time and the pictures that were posted allow me to see the mistake.
     
  11. anapex

    anapex Member

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    sm: The trigger is quite nice imho and throw that in with the rest of the gun makes for a fantastic package. Shot 50 rounds of AA 1 1/8oz "lite" target loads loads through it the other day without any bruising. Recoil didn't seem any worse then some of the other 12 gauges I've shot. I'm glad I risked the wrath of GWAG buy bringing it home. Heck I'll risk it again by saying it's a better gun then her Beretta :D . I'm gonna definitely keep my eye open for more of these babies, my boys need shotguns after all!
     
  12. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    the model 50 was introduced by Winchester in 54 it lasted till 61, less than 197,000 were made in both a steel and aluminum frames in 12 & 20 gages.

    the model 59 came out in 60 and lasted till 65, less than 83,000 were made with the aluminum frame in 12 gauge only.

    Both used a short recoil system different from other non-gas autos as the barrel is fixed to frame and doesn't recoil, the floating chamber in side the barrel moves back with the inertia block giving a very mild recoil compared to brownings famous double shuffle.
     
  13. sm

    sm member

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    anapex ,
    I figured the trigger was sweet. :)
    You keep Badmouthing the wifeys gun - she is gonna shoot all your ammo and make you sleep on the couch. :D

    Post a pic of her Beretta.

    huntman -

    Thanks for history and descriptions. I don't the folks were ready for something "this" ahead of its time. I was trying to recall what was Win newer offering after the 59.

    When did the Rem 11- 48 come out? Did this offer competion to the 59?
     
  14. TrapperReady

    TrapperReady Member

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    !!!!Thread drift alert!!!!

    Since you bring up the 11-48... what's your opinion of them?

    There's a .410 in good condition available locally. The price seems high... mid $500s IIRC, but that's still less than half of a Model 42.
     
  15. sm

    sm member

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    I like them , great shooters. Sure do get folks heads a scratching about that "loose" bbl . :D

    I really really like the model 42. I know they are hard to find and pricey- but dang it, they are that good.

    Recall the day when the 1300 came in 4 gauges? Granted - not a Model 12 or 42. Have to say tho, the 1300 in 28 ga and .410 were nice. You NEVER see these for sale - where'd they go? Guess folks hoarded them. That would be another inquiry for a .410.

    I had some reference books on shotguns, they are all gone, missing...somehow. I need to replace so I can have a reference on dates and such. Probably the 'Net has this - jsut not searched real hard .

    Anyone tried one of the new 870 Express in the little critters? I have seen one thread on the 28 ga version - none on the little critter.

    I have a hankering for a single shot Steven's with the lever in a little critter. I'm going backwards on stuff for sure.
     
  16. gyp_c2

    gyp_c2 Member

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    hello...

    It's a way cool gun!

    Perfect for a dove blaster! I think the Remington model 58 was out around then. Also very nice but not nearly as unusual design as the Win.

    I had a really nice 20ga model 58 that had some upland bird engraving and grip cap. It was a perfect dove shooter as well. Also a gas adjustment at the magazine tube cap for heavy or light loads.

    I think the 1100 was the next one after the 58 wasn't it?

    I always wanted to play with that Win 59, but could never find one when I had the $$$...

    Lucky guys there, better enjoy them!

    g2
     
  17. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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    OK, someone with their firearms library close by, help me out here. The web has failed on this one.

    My feeble drain bamaged brain keeps insisting that it was David Marshall 'Carbine' Williams who had a big chunk of the design of the Model 59 to his credit, notably the recoil mechanism. I know he worked directly for Winchester for a time, and I know his 'floating chamber' design was responsible for things like the Colt Ace .22 conversion unit for the 1911A1.

    All my books (including my copy of the 1 of 1000 Sandlapper Store- published biography of Williams) are packed up elsewhere, I have NO references at all save the web, and there are about 5000 mentions of that @#$%^%$ movie but NONE I could find that offer decent useful information about the man's designs/patents.

    So, did he or didn't he? Damaged brains want to know.....

    lpl/nc (just down the road from Willams' old stomping grounds)
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2004
  18. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    A couple things about Anapex's 59...

    The trigger's good, much better than those on new shotguns today.WEG, less than 5 lbs. Clean and on the good side of crisp.

    It has a plate not a pad. Kick with my pet 7/8 oz load was miniscule.

    Onmilo, there's a fair amount of these still out there. They just do not hit the market often. People keep them.

    Huntsman, thanks for the dates and production numbers.

    TR, the 11-48 is a good one also. Sole minus, they tend to crack forend wood. Painting a thin layer of epoxy inside cures this. A 410 11-48 would make a nice skeet gun, and many did.

    Lee, I believe the old 'shiner helped on this. Can't cite a source, though.
     
  19. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    Lee acording to The American Shotgun (david butler lyman-1973) mr williams did patent the floating chamber that the md50/59 was based on. It goes on to say the design team headed by williams was made up of winchester toolmakers and designers,it seems williams worked like J garrand & J browning preferring to work with metal rather than on paper.Williams machined the parts of the md 50 until they "looked right" then carfully fit them together, he kept testing and modifying the mechanism until satisfied with performace.It was then the responceabily of the rest of the team to diassemble parts make drawings an try to come up with a way to mass produce the gun.

    the remmington 11-48 was a complete overhaul of md11 it was done so It could share common parts with the new pump the 870, the 11-48 came out in 49 and used the same long recoil system of the browning.It lasted till 62 when it was replaced by the md58 remmingtons first gas operated gun.
     
  20. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    The cost of shotguns in 1957 as per my Gun Digest:
    Field grades
    model 50 -$127.95
    remington 11-48 -$117.10
    browning A5 -$121.50
    browing doubleauto -$123.00
    jc higgins 60 -$94.95
    savage md755 -$105.50

    The cost of shotguns in 1963 as per my Gun Digest:
    Field grades
    model 59 -$149.95
    remington 11-48 -$129.95
    browning A5 -$134.50
    browing doubleauto -$149.00
    jc higgins 66 -$104.95
    savage md750 -$137.50

    as you can see the winchsters were a few bucks more but not priced out of sight of the others.
    Oh and a pump gun back then would have cost;
    md12 -$99.95
    870 -$81.95
     
  21. sm

    sm member

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    huntsman,

    Thank you again for sharing. It is great to have another valuable resource here.
     
  22. Larry Ashcraft

    Larry Ashcraft Moderator Staff Member

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    Since we're doin' thread drift...

    I've got a 11-48 I bought in 1971. Had a part break several years ago and the gunsmith fixed it but said I would have to retire it next time because the parts weren't available. Now I've heard a couple of times that some of the parts are interchangeable with the 870.

    Also, I believe the 11-48 was developed in 1948, hence the name.

    Also, mine kicks like a mule. I had the smith fit it to me and that made it a little better, but my Citori is much more pleasant to shoot.
     
  23. muaddib

    muaddib Member

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    hate to drag up an old thread like this but info on the Winchester 59 is hard to find.

    my stepfather showed me his old shotgun today and i had to figure out what it was.

    from the look and engraving of it i can tell it is a model 59.

    does anybody have dissembly instructions for this fine piece of equipment?

    its been in a closet for close to 20 years and needs a good cleaning.

    any parts to keep an eye on for wear or damage?

    again, sorry for dragging this one up again and thank you for any information you can give.
     
  24. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Welcome aboard, muaddib. Harley Nolden probably can help more than I. Most of what I know is already on this thread.
     
  25. Tom Held

    Tom Held Member

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    59-14 ga

    Dave,

    Winchester made a few 59's in 14 gauge but could not get public acceptance. I think in the late 50's. Cabelas had a couple for sale a few months ago. I never saw one.

    Tom
     
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