Gun test: Winchester 45, 45RS and 4.5 Special
PUBLISHED: 13:32 13 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:32 13 February 2019
The editor kick-starts 2019 by targeting pure shooting pleasure
Way back in the 1980s, dear little Cyndi Lauper warbled ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’. That still-popular ditty was cheering up the interior of my car as I headed to the office for another productive day, eventually becoming my earworm of the day. I was still offering a fine rendition of it as I left work and loaded various airguns into the boot, en route to my club at Bisley. Now, I’m possibly the least-convincing girl on the planet, but I definitely want to have fun, and by the time I’d reached the range and unloaded this month’s test samples, I was determined to have myself a happy time. Alongside some Bisley regulars and a shiny new airgunner, I did just that, and the session sparked a bit of a New Year resolution for me to have more fun throughout this year and many more. Here’s how it all unfolded.
The fun guns
My airgun box of delights contained two Model 45, .177 break-barrel, spring-piston rifles, one being the higher spec’ 45RS, plus a Model 4.5 Special CO2 revolver, all carrying the famous name of Winchester and made under exclusive licence by the Daisy/Gamo/BSA Group. Also in the box was a large stash of 12-gramme CO2 capsules for the revolver and a BSA Optics, 3-9 x 40 Essential scope and mounts, which I fitted immediately to the 45RS, before standing back to consider my next move.
The Model 45RS
Before any meaningful movement was made, I found myself already admiring the sporting lines of the Model 45RS, with its slimline silencer, raised sight mounting block, laser-cut chequering, and extremely well designed, ambidextrous, stained beech stock. I even said out loud, ‘that stock design wouldn’t be out of place on any traditional sporter.’ I really mean that, too.
Look at the finger grooves in the top edge of the 45RS’s fore end, and its tasteful laser work at the grip; it’s a genuinely stylish piece of furniture, especially for a rifle that retails for £269. Dare I say it, but the lines of the Model 45RS prompt impressions of the Air Arms Pro Sport, and for me that’s a huge compliment. This positive overview is boosted by the RS version’s status as a scope-only rifle, and specifically by the rifle’s lack of the fore end cut-out to accommodate the adjustable rearsight when its break-barrel action is cocked.
At this stage I had yet to put a pellet through any of the Winchesters, but I was already enjoying the anticipation. That fact alone had installed the half-smile that still occupies my old face whenever I’m setting up for my first session with a new airgun, and it’s always the best foundation upon which to build an enjoyable day’s shooting.
The Model 45
The main action features of the £229 Model 45 are identical to those of the 45RS, save a couple of omissions and additions. In place of the RS model’s slimline silencer and chunky, scope mounting rail, the 45 comes fitted with an excellent set of fully-adjustable, fibre-optic enhanced open sights, the potential of which I’m determined to explore in the follow-up test next month. When I was even younger than my persistent earworm provider, Ms Lauper, I used to hunt, and even go lamping, with open sights, and quite successfully, too. I even made my own version of a glow-in-the-dark sighting system, by cutting out a replacement foresight blade from a plastic ‘ghost’ given away in boxes of Sugar Puffs breakfast cereal – I kid you not – and a quick blast with my, equally home-made, lamp would charge up that foresight and give me and my BSA Airsporter an easily-located aiming reference at night. Pushing the hi-tech envelope still further, I then stuck a lump of a putty-like compound called ‘Glow Globs’ to the back of the Airsporter’s rearsight, and that worked, too, although the rifle’s recoil would frequently dislodge it, especially in cold conditions. Anyway, we had to make our own major airgun advances back then, and I hope you’re impressed with our ingenuity. Back to somewhere near the point, I keep meaning to see how well I can do with open sights and next month I’ll be giving it what’s left of my all.
Both Model 45 Winchesters are fitted with manual, resettable safety catches and automatic anti-beartrap systems, which means you won’t be able to de-cock these rifles. Also common is the sturdy, articulated cocking linkage, and the abbreviated slot in the underside of the stock required to accommodate it. I always prefer this jointed arrangement, because it keeps the stock at maximum strength and it just looks better.
A steel, rifled barrel, threaded ½-inch UNF and capped to accept a silencer, is another standard feature, as is the adjustable, two-stage trigger unit. Now, this trigger isn’t a ‘match-sensitive’ device, or anything like it, but in its standard, thoughtfully adjusted form, it can be set to deliver safe, perfectly predictable, let-offs that have so far allowed me to group pellets at a fraction over an inch diameter at 30 yards. If I owned a Winchester Model 45, or the .22 calibre Model 55, I would commission a clever chap to work on its trigger to tune it to full potential. If I can get permission, I’ll be doing just this to one of the test rifles, because, as you’ll see, they’re certainly worth the investment.
The final shared feature of these rifles, is that they’re manufactured at BSA’s production facility in Spain. I’m due a tour of that plant and the last time I was there, I was genuinely impressed at the torture-testing regimen employed, where rifles are cocked, loaded and dry-fired throughout more than 10,000 cycles, to test their resilience to ‘robust’ handling. It made me wince to watch it, but if anything’s going to turn up basic faults, it’s a few thousand shots of a springer with no pellet in it. Don’t try that at home, folks.
The Model 4.5 Special
Another of my vows for 2019, is to get more into pistol shooting. The trip to SIG Sauer headquarters last year, and the expert pistol-shooting instruction I was given there, has ignited a flame I didn’t even know was burning. I’ll never be an expert pistol-shooter, but if this review proves anything, it’s that being an expert isn’t what airgunning is about, unless you really want it to be. There’s an unlimited amount of enjoyment out there, and this £139, Model 4.5 Special can be the ideal instrument to help you get your share.
The Model 4.5 is an all-metal, 8-shot, .177 calibre revolver, powered by a standard 12-gramme CO2 capsule housed in its grip. It’s manufactured in the Far East, under the full control of its parent company, and the format is pretty standard, with a swing-out cylinder, adjustable ‘combat’ sights, manual safety, a rifled barrel and the choice of single- or double-action shooting. For the non-pistoleers, ‘single-action’ is where the pistol’s hammer is cocked manually before shooting, which allows for a more ‘deliberate’ style and greater precision. ‘Double-action’ is where pulling the trigger cocks the action and fires the shot, allowing a faster rate of fire, and from what I saw when newcomer Max was behind the Special, it also produces maximum grins. I reproduced Max’s grin at the end of that first session, when I ‘had’ to shoot my way through the remaining CO2 before removing the capsule and putting away the chunky little Winchester pistol. Seriously, if you don’t grin when you’re blatting away at a tin can on a string as fast as your trigger finger can go, you need to have a stern word with yourself.
Running the 4.5 Special
I watched revered club elder, Roy, instructing young Max on how to handle, shoot and reload the Special, and it’s obvious that everything is straightforward and user-friendly. From the installation of the CO2 capsule, to dropping in pellets to the removable 8-port magazine, there’s nothing here to confuse or confound the beginner. It was a fairly nippy day on the range, and in terms of output CO2 doesn’t respond well to low temperatures, but the test pistol still clocked around 60 usable shots per capsule. All in all, the Winchester 4.5 Special provides an impressive amount of pleasure for the money, and in expert hands, it can definitely deliver a satisfying degree of performance.
The range performance of the Model 45s
Over the chrono’, the .177 Model 45RS registered 11.2 ft.lbs. and its 40-quid cheaper counterpart clocked a slightly more ‘lively’ 11.4. At 44.5 inches long, with pull-lengths of 14.5 inches, both rifles are full-sized sporters, but genuine lightweights, with the RS tipping the scales at an unscoped 6.1lbs, and the 45 just nudging 5.7. Such a lack of heft aligned to full, legal limit output is physics-bound to result in fast, ‘energetic’ recoil, and it does, although I must stress that this is entirely manageable with sound basic technique.
I may be a tad ham-fisted with a pistol, but I can shoot a springer to its full capability – he declared, modestly – and the real statement here is that these Winchester rifles perform way beyond their price tags. Within 20 shots, and after a little dieseling, I’d already decided that these rifles would be worth tuning. Yes, the shooting fun factor is all there right from the moment the rifles clear their boxes, but when it’s time for that fun to become ‘serious’, these airguns won’t let you down. They’ll ask questions of your technique, and you’ll fail the accuracy exam if you even attempt to strangle these 45s, but soft, consistent handling will see you connect with targets at ranges that will surely impress you.
Final facts, figures … and fun
Away from the club range and left to my own devices during a fishing trip, I settled on my comfy chair, rested the 45 RS on a comfy pillow above a convenient tree stump, and went into full ‘relax and extract the max’ mode. With the BSA Optics scope set permanently on its maximum 9 x, I delivered a series of JSB, H & N and RWS pellets, until the JSBs shaded the accuracy tests and stamped those 1-inch diameter groups at 30 yards. The stump-rest set-up I was using was part of a cleared alley of trees and I think it channelled what breeze there was at the time, so I’ll be back to Bisley for the follow-up and I’m absolutely buzzing to see what I can do without wind interference.
For the record, the last chrono’ checks on the Model 45s revealed a slight rise in muzzle energy to 11.3 and 11.6 respectively, and a virtually identical average consistency read-out of 12 fps over a string of 30 shots. We’re almost 1000 pellets into testing these rifles and their pistol stablemate, and they’ve brought satisfied grins and nods of approval to shooters of all levels. If getting more enjoyment from my shooting is my aim in 2019, it looks like I’ve made the perfect start with this trio of Winchesters.
Models: 45 and 45RS
Manufacturer: Winchester – made under licence by DAISY/GAMO/BSA Group
Country of origin: Spain
Price: £229 for the model 45, and £269 for the 45RS
Type: Break-barrel, spring-piston sporter
Calibre: .22, .177
Loading: Single-shot, manual, direct to breech
Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable
Stock type: Ambidextrous, laser-chequered varnished beech
Weight: Mod 45 5.7lbs (2.4kg); model 45RS 6.1lbs (2.7kg)
Length: 44 inches (1,117mm)
Barrel: 18 inches (457mm)
Pull-length: 14.5 inches (368mm)
Variation over 30 shots: 12 fps for .177s on test
Average energy: 11.5 ft.lbs.
RRP: £229 for the model 45 and £269 for the 45RS
Model: 4.5 Special
Manufacturer: Winchester – made under licence by DAISY/GAMO/BSA Group
Country of origin: Far East
Type: C02-powered, 8-shot revolver, all-metal construction, stainless steel/chrome finish
Action: Single-or double-action
Loading: Via removable, 8-shot rotary magazine
Grip type: Ambidextroud, synthetic with finger grooves. Left-side grip plate is removable to allow installation of CO2 capsule
Weight: 2.3lbs (1.05kg)
Length: 9 inches (240mm)
Barrel: 5 inches (128mm)
Average energy: 1.8 ft.lbs.
Average shots per capsule: 60