While the little 25-20 Winchester isn’t exactly the most popular cartridge these days, it may very well have set a record for longevity.
This minuscule number has been steadily produced in the form of factory ammo since 1893 when it was first introduced. At some point, just about every major firearms manufacturer has chambered a gun for the 25-20, and to this day just about every major bullet company makes a bullet specifically designed for it.
No, the 25-20 isn’t anywhere near the top ten most popular cartridges, but it does hang in there, and for some very utilitarian reasons.
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To begin with, the 25-20 is very nearly the perfect small game cartridge. Firing a roughly 60gr bullet in the neighborhood of 2000 fps, this little gem is extremely easy on meat.
When it comes to rabbits, squirrels or similar critters it’s important to maximize what actually ends up in the pot. While the 25-20 never tears anything up too badly, it also has the capability, in the hands of a careful marksman, to take slightly larger prey.
With the 25-20, you could manage game such as the occasional coyote or bobcat without damaging pelts, which made it a long-time favorite with trappers. A cartridge that can kill cleanly and leave the target largely undamaged is a rare combination and has contributed to the 25-20’s endurance over the years.
The 25-20’s second big role has always been as a varmint cartridge. It might not seem like it by modern standards, but a bullet traveling around 2000 fps really is amply fast for most varmint hunting needs.
Of course, the 25-20 was kind of a speed demon when it first came out, but what has really kept it hanging in there into the modern era is the fact that it’s quiet.
As the 25-20 got older, the world got to be more crowded. At a certain point many subdivision dwellers came to appreciate a rifle/cartridge combination that could rid the neighborhood of gophers without annoying the guy across the fence.
A 25-20 with a 24 inch barrel isn’t much louder than a firecracker, but puts down troublesome rodents as well as any big boomer.
Today, most of the 25-20 chambered rifles you are liable to run across aren’t exactly cheap. While a number of single-shot, bolt-action and even pump-action guns were chambered for the round, the most common 25-20s in circulation are 1892 Winchesters.
These guns can be had in relatively rough shape for about $700 if you’re lucky. They’re a bit on the expensive side, but pleasantly addictive after the initial investment.
The last really modern chambering of the 25-20 was in Marlin’s fine little Model 62. These guns don’t have as much collector’s value as the Winchesters but are such fine shooters that most folks want just as much money to part with them.
If you’re in the mood for a very quiet blast from the past, the 25-20 might just be the thing you’re looking for.
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