.405 Winchester

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.405 Winchester Center Fire
Type Rifle
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Designer Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Variants .277 Elliott Express, .357 Elliott Express
Case type rimmed
Bullet diameter 0.4115 in (10.45 mm)
Neck diameter 0.436 in (11.1 mm)
Base diameter 0.461 in (11.7 mm)
Rim diameter 0.543 in (13.8 mm)
Case length 2.583 in (65.6 mm)
Overall length 3.175 in (80.6 mm)
Rifling twist 1 turn in 14"
Primer type large rifle
Maximum pressure 44000psi
Maximum CUP 40832 CUP
Ballistic performance
Bullet weight/type Velocity Energy
300 gr (19 g) 2,204 ft/s (672 m/s) 3,236 ft·lbf (4,387 J)
Source(s): The American Rifle[1]

The .405 Winchester (also known as the .405 WCF) is a centerfire rifle cartridge introduced in 1904 for the Winchester 1895 lever-action rifle.[2] It remains to this day the most powerful rimmed cartridge designed specifically for lever-action rifles; the only modern lever action cartridge that approaches its performance is the .450 Marlin, introduced in 2000. The .405 was highly regarded by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt during his safari in East Africa.[3]

Description and Ballistics[edit]

The original Winchester factory load consisted of a 300gr. soft point or metal patch (Full Metal Jacket) bullet at 2200 feet per second. When the Winchester M1895 was discontinued in 1936, the cartridge was considered obsolete.[3] Catalog listings of the cartridge ceased in 1955.[4] However, during the 100 year anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential administration in 2001, Winchester reintroduced the M1895 in .405 Winchester, and revived the cartridge.[5]

In addition to the Winchester Model 1895, the .405 Winchester was also available in the Winchester Model 1885 Single Shot Rifle, the Remington-Lee bolt-action rifle (from 1904 to 1906), and a number of British and European double rifles.[2] The cartridge was also available in the Ruger No.1 Tropical single-shot rifle.

Winchester’s advertising campaigns during the first decade of the twentieth century took full advantage of Theodore Roosevelt’s frequent praise of the .405 Winchester, as well as the Winchester 1895 which chambered it.[4] Roosevelt famously referred to this rifle as his “’medicine gun’ for lions.” This quote comes from Roosevelt’s account of a lion hunt in the seventh chapter of his book African Game Trails:

But as we stood, one of the porters behind called out “Simba”; and we caught a glimpse of a big lioness galloping down beside the trees, just beyond the donga…Tarlton took his big double-barrel and advised me to take mine, as the sun had just set and it was likely to be close work; but I shook my head, for the Winchester 405 is, at least for me personally, the “medicine gun” for lions.[3]

Although it is often said that Roosevelt called the .405 M1895 his “big medicine,” this phrase is never used in African Game Trails, and is possibly the erroneous combination of his “medicine gun” quote with his “big stick” speech of 1901.[3] Writer of historical fiction Wilbur Smith attributes the "medicine gun" term to the Roosevelts in his book Assagai.

Since its introduction, many hunters have used the .405 Winchester on African big game, to include Rhino and Buffalo; however it is generally considered best used against light skinned game, due to the bullet’s low sectional density. The velocity of the cartridge is also low by contemporary standards, which makes shooting at long range challenging due to the allowance the shooter must make for bullet drop.[2]


The .277 Elliott Express and .357 Elliott Express[citation needed] are two of a series of wildcats developed by O.H. Elliott & Company of South Haven, Michigan, based on the .405 Winchester cartridge.[6] This custom gunsmith manufactured his own rifle barrels.


  1. ^ Whelen, Townsend. The American Rifle. The Century Co.: 1918, p. 275.
  2. ^ a b c Cartridges Of The World, Frank Barnes, Krause Publications
  3. ^ a b c d Roosevelt, Theodore. "Trekking Through the Thirst to the Sotik." African Game Trails. New York: Charles Schribner's Sons, 1910. 166-67. Print.
  4. ^ a b Giles, Ray T., and Daniel L. Shuey. "405 W.C.F., 405 Winchester." One Hundred Years of Winchester Cartridge Boxes, 1856-1956. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2006. 223-26. Print.
  5. ^ Boddington, Craig. "Bully For The .405 - Roosevelt's "big medicine" enjoys a revival.". Guns&Ammo. http://www.gunsandammo.com/content/bully-for-the-405?page=1. Retrieved 25 August 2010
  6. ^ Jerry Lee (12 August 2013). Gun Digest 2014. Krause Publications. pp. 212–. ISBN 978-1-4402-3542-9. 

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