This is a good example of one of the earliest known 1894 Winchesters. We were told this was actually found at a garage sale in California in 2004. Needless to say, it's got a great Western look to it...used but not abused! Out of over 7 million produced, this one has a low 3-digit serial number in the 200 range. Over the years, we've had some great low numbered 94's...and I believe we've only had a single gun with a lower number than this one.
Since this is a rare 1st model, it has the external guide rail screws showing from both sides of the receiver...only about 2000 early 94's were made this way and were probably direct copies of John Browning's original patent prototype. Like all other known 1st models, its in caliber 38-55....to my knowledge, nobody has ever found a 32-40 with a 1st model frame...thus far, they've all been second models with internal guide rail screws. Another very rare feature on this gun are matching assembly numbers. Only a few of the earliest 1st models had numbers stamped on the upper tang and inside the stock....just like the Henry Rifle, Model 1866, and 1873. These assembly numbers appear to have been used only during the first few weeks or months of production and were quickly phased out. Remember, these numbers weren't used to benefit us collectors, they were used to help the workmen at Winchester assemble these guns...this being a new model, they started out the way they did earlier models and discarded the system as soon as they worked the bugs out of production. It makes sense they wouldn't need these for long, as the 1894 shared the same style wood and frame tangs as the Model 1892 which at the time of the 94's introduction was nearing the end of its 3rd year of manufacture. Nearly all the first models I've found have no assembly numbers... with a few that received the numbers on the tang but not the wood in the higher 3-digit ranges. This being a very low 3-digit number, it is one of the only ones I have found with both assembly numbers on the tang and the wood.
This rifle is a standard sporting rifle configuration with 26" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate. All correct earliest style markings with 2 line barrel address, 3 line upper tang markings with John Browning's August 21, 1894 Patent date, and hammer with early widow's peak bordered knurling. Original sights includes standard front with German silver blade and Semi-buckhorn rear which has had its ears trimmed down to give the hunter a wider visible sighting plane along with a slightly later 1901 type Winchester elevator. This was pretty common on early Winchesters and the 1901 elevators were quite popular too with the improvement of a small oval thumbpiece for easier adjustment. Aside from the rear sight mods, this rifle is all original.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Good+ Condition. Metal has turned to mostly a smooth light brown patina with sharp edges, excellent markings, and no pitting. The frame has 20% light original bluing mostly on the left side and in protected areas. Loading port still has a fair bit of bright fire blue. 75% light original blue on breech bolt. Small traces of original case colors on the top of the lever and hammer. Barrel and magazine tube have 25% blue in protected areas. Very good wood overall that has excellent wood to metal fit that isn't undersized. There is a light surface check in grain of the stock along the upper left comb which has darkened slightly...probably from oil...this isn't a crack or anything structural...just looks mostly like a darker streak at the top of the comb. When we received this rifle from California, there was one small chip missing at the corner of the upper tang...we see this a lot on 92's and 94's. This is a very thin section of wood where the stock is inletted to accept the flare of the tang/receiver juncture. The wood here is sometimes nick-named "dog ears" and are notorious for popping out of the corners in small triangle-shaped chips as the wood naturally dried over the past 100+ years. This is especially true on guns that shipped out West and this one is no exception. Long story short, this old dog got a new little ear! We had this "dog ear" professionally mended and you would probably never know if I weren't telling you here....all in all its about half the size of a toothpick and serves little purpose other than improving the aesthetic look of the rifle. Aside from that, the stock and forend look beautiful and of course, it has the super rare assembly number stamped in the area inletted for the upper tang. Nice action and bore is Good+ condition with good rifling.
A very rare example of an 1894 1st Model and one of the earliest known! It's also a fresh find that's never been in a collection!