Winchester Model 1894 semi-deluxe rifle that is fully equipped with all the bells and whistles. It has an incredible array of special-order features, including a couple we've never seen before. Serial number is in the Antique Pre-1898 range. Best of all, it's chambered in the desirable 38-55 caliber. While I'm more of a collector and not a hunter, it doesn't take much of an expert to realize how beautifully this rifle was constructed in terms of options, versatility, weight, balance, compactness, and caliber. One can only imagine what something like this would cost in today's dollars. As mass-production set in by the early 20th century, companies like Winchester could no longer afford to build guns like this, and by the 1920's they had done away with special order features. However, they did understand the basic concepts behind guns like this, and that there was still a market for them. Perhaps the more modern Model '64 or '71 Winchesters with their pistol grip stocks and short magazines would be more economical and mass-produced versions of what some of WRACO's more savvy customers were special-ordering back in the 1890's.
Here is a good example of what an experienced hunter wanted on his hunting rifle that wasn't too pretty to take into the forest during deer season. For starters it has (1) a pistol-gripped stock with straight-grained walnut; (2) a Hard Rubber Shotgun Buttplate; (3) checkered pistol grip and forearm; (4) takedown frame; (5) Double Set Triggers; (6) Half Octagon/Half Round 26" barrel; (7) 1/2 Magazine; (8) sling swivels ordered with sling; (9) Sporting Front Sight specifically ordered with a "German Silver knife blade" (a very, very rare option or perhaps even a one-time custom option); (10) flat top sporting rear sight (another very rare option for an early 1894 rifle). A call to the Winchester Archives at the BBHC confirmed this rifle's configuration for nine of the ten options mentioned here...the lone exception being the double set triggers which are not listed. The takedown feature suggests the original owner may have liked to travel...perhaps by train to go on hunts. If you've ever read old copies of "Forest and Stream" or "Rod and Gun" from the late 19th century, you've seen advertisements by various railroads promoting transport services to hunting grounds throughout the United States. Given its lighter weight with plain wood, the 1/2 oct barrel and 1/2 mag, this rifle feels somewhat light compared to a full deluxe. With the shorter mag and non-burl walnut, it weighs just 7-1/2 lbs. A standard no-frills 1894 sporting rifle usually weighs about 8 lbs. The sling eyes and detachable leather sling would have made it quite practical for carrying it over long distances. With its flat rear sight and sharp German Silver blade front, it would have given the shooter a more open field of vision, making it quicker to aim. The double set triggers gave the shooter the option for standard trigger weight or the hair trigger which was adjustable to the owner's preference. Even the 38-55 caliber offered versatility. For a black powder cartridge, the 38-55 was as good as they came and it was the first caliber offered in the Model 1894. It was highly accurate, powerful and unlike new smokeless rounds which were all the rage back at the turn of the 20th century, old-timers knew that the 38-55 was easier to reload, and rounds could be tailored for a variety of different needs. Furnished with the gun is the original canvas carrying case which has seen its share of miles and years and is now showing its age. The dealer we got this from casually mentioned it came in this bag but was so rough, he left it at home and was going to toss it in the trash. We felt strongly it should be kept with the rifle and he was kind enough to send it. As you will note from the pictures, everything breaks down and goes right into the old case (see photos). You can almost see the guy stepping off the train with it in the Catskill Mountains or Adirondacks to go deer hunting! Even the leather sling unhooks and fits nicely into the front pocket.
This rifle came to us recently from a dealer who was a friend of a man who had inherited it from his father. It's our understanding that the family was from the eastern shores of Maryland and the gun was passed down through several generations. While we don't have any specific history, you can tell this Winchester was ordered by someone who was not only familiar with Winchesters, but an experienced hunter as well. The original owner seems to have had very specific wants and needs particularly with the sighting arrangement.
Condition-wise, using NRA Antique Gun grading standards, this one fits well within the guidelines for FINE condition. It's still in untouched condition right from the original owners, having never been redone, freshened up, or endured non-factory alterations as so many fine old Winchesters have over the years. The barrel and magazine tube have 90% original blue. 80% on fore-end cap. The frame shows 20-25% thinning original blue with the balance worn to a pleasing "coined" silver showing little to no patina. Bolt shows 80% original blue. Hammer has 50% original case colors while the lever has faded mostly to silver, but still shows 60% very light colors. Very good screws throughout. Correct early style markings including the 2 line Winchester barrel address and correct 3 line on upper tang..."WINCHESTER / -MODEL 1894- / PAT. AUG. 21. 1894." The wood is in fine condition with good checkering that's never been enhanced or re-cut. The stock still has 75-80% original varnish with a nice soft glow that's still light orange-red in color. The pistol grip and fore-end areas have lost most of their original varnish from nothing more than good-old-fashioned carry wear from hunting. The wood has no chips, cracks, or repairs. The checkered hard rubber checkered buttplate and pistol grip cap are in fine shape with no chips or repairs. Wood/metal and hard rubber/metal fit are perfect. Mechanically, the takedown still works nicely with the barrel locking up tightly to the frame showing no signs of having ever been adjusted. The double set triggers still work perfectly as well. Bore is Excellent...bright and shiny with strong rifling throughout. Just a fantastic Winchester 1894 rifle with a great combination of features that offered great versatility. One-Of-A-Kind!