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Winchester Model 1887 and Winchester Model 1901
Considered the first truly successful repeating shotgun, the lever-action design was chosen at the behest of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, best known at the time as manufacturers of lever-action firearms such as the Winchester Rifle. Designer John Browning protested that a pump-action would be much more appropriate for a repeating shotgun, but Winchester was a lever-action company and felt that their new shotgun must also be a lever-action for reasons of brand recognition. To Winchester's credit, however, they later introduced Browning's pump-action shotgun design as the Model 1893 (which was itself later modified and produced as the Winchester Model 1897), after the introduction of smokeless powder in the closing years of the 19th Centry.

Shotgun shells at the time used black powder as a propellant, and so the M1887 shotgun was designed and chambered for black powder 12-gauge shotshells, with a 10-gauge chambering being offered soon afterwards. It was soon realised that the action on the M1887 was not strong enough to handle the smokeless powder shotshells that were being introduced in the late 1890s, and so a redesign was undertaken, resulting in the Winchester Model 1901, which was designed to chamber 10-gauge smokeless powder shotshells. No 12-gauge chambering was offered, as Winchester did not want the Model 1901 to compete with their hugely popular and successful 12-gauge Model 1897 pump-action shotgun.

Although a technically sound gun design, the market for lever-action shotguns waned considerably after the introduction of the Winchester 1897 and other contemporary pump-action shotguns; Model 1887 production totaled 64,855 units between 1887 and 1901, with 79,455 Model 1901 shotguns being manufactured before it was discontinued in 1920.