This is a very early Model 1894 Winchester First Model rifle. Serial number is "382"... a good strong low number and one of the earliest we've found. This rifle is chambered in the Model 1894's original Caliber of 38-55 with a 26" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate. Original sights include the standard semi-buckhorn rear sight and front sight with German silver blade. Being a first model, the frame has the exposed guide rail screws located in the 10 o'clock position above the loading port. Only 2000-3000 First Models were built before the Second model frame internally mounted guide rail screws began to dominate production by the 3-4000 serial range. We've seen 2nd Models in numbers as low as 739...and most of these earliest ones are 32-40's (first one was SN# 545).
In addition to being a scarce first Model with a 3 digit serial number, this rifle is in another couple of elite clubs of rarity amongst the roughly 8 million produced from 1894 to 2006! One of the longest production runs of a product in American History. For starters, this rifle has two matching assembly numbers. The very first of the first guns have assembly numbers on the upper tang and buttstock. These were only used on the first few hundred guns and probably just so the workmen could get the hang of assembling these new guns. My guess is the first 400-500 rifles had both numbers on tang and wood. For a short time after that, the assembly number is only found on the upper tangs before disappearing altogether. This is one of the very few to have one and even fewer have both on the tang and wood.
Secondly, this rifle is one of the first ones shipped from the factory. Winchester didn't start production of the 1894 until October 20, 1894...which left only a little more than 2 months in that initial year for production and even less time for shipments. This rifle is not only one of the first built (On Nov. 9, 1894) but one of the few to ship from the factory before the end of 1894 leaving on Dec. 4, 1894. There were only a few hundred 1894's that actually shipped out in that first year making these extremely rare....these weren't done numerically as there are guns with single digit serial numbers that didn't ship out until the following year in 1895. We contacted the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY and they sent us the following info extracted from the original Factory records on this rifle:
On your model 1894, serial number 382:
Date In: 11-9-1894
Date Shipped: 12-4-1894
Order Number: 3211
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Very Good Minus with the metal silver-worn retaining traces of original blue in only protected areas. Nice smooth metal with sharp edges, excellent markings throughout, and no signs of pitting or rust. Strong hints of original fire blue on the loading port and some signs of original case colors on the hammer. Only noteworthy blemish to metal are a few teeth marks from the end of the magazine tube where someone probably tried to unload the cartridges by removed the end cap. This rifle is 100% all original down to the smallest screw with the correct early 2 line barrel address that reads, "-MANUFACTURED BY THE- -WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO NEW HAVEN CONN. USA-. located on the top flat. Caliber marking is "38-55". No proofmarks on the barrel or frame which is proper for early production. Original early type hammer has the decorative Victorian still checkering with dipped border. Upper tang has the correct early type 3 line markings which include Model designation, "Winchester", and John Browning's original August 21, 1894 Patent date. Nice screws throughout. Very good wood with rare matching assembly numbers. (See photo). Wood a bit worn but very smooth and remarkably free of blemishes. Good wood to metal fit...nice and tight...just ever-so slightly below metal in places. Action works properly. Bore grades to VG+ with strong rifling and no rings or bulges. If you're looking for an early 1894 rifle that actually shipped in the first year, this one would make an excellent addition to any Winchester collection.