This Model 1894 rifle is a bit worn and tired but 116 years ago, it was one of the first Model 1894's to leave the factory. If you look closely at the frame, you'll notice it's a rare 1st Model with the external guide rail screws located at the ten o'clock position next to the loading gate. There were only 2-3,000 of these First Models made...all in caliber 38-55 before Winchester moved the screws inside the frame to a more forward position. We call these 2nd Model frames and the first ones to be produced with this style appear to be rifles in 32-40 caliber...the first one in the 500 serial range. Eventually, all 38-55's are built on these later frames...and by number 5,000...first models have almost all disappeared from production. Some collectors liken these first models as the closest thing to John Browning's original design which he patented on August 21, 1894. Winchester went with this design at first as they were in a hurry. In fact, it took Winchester only about two months to tool up and start production which commenced in late October, 1894. During the physical year of 1894, several hundred model 1894's were built and shipped from the factory but most 1st Models didn't ship until the following year. This particular rifle is in the low 1,100 serial range and letters in the original Winchester ledgers, now housed at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, as the following:
Win. 1894, SN 1115
Date in: 1-8-1895
Date shipped: 8-9-1895
The rifle has all the correct earliest style markings which includes the 2-line barrel address located top dead center, no Winchester proofs, the caliber directly in front of the extractor just ahead of the receiver. What I'm getting at here, is simple: It still has its original barrel. The upper tang is also marked with the early style company, model, and Browning patent date. The hammer has the early Victorian style dipped border. One interesting thing we found on this rifle are matching assembly numbers on the frame and stock. It's not uncommon to find an assembly number on the upper tang of the frame but they're usually alone without a corresponding number on the stock. However, there were a few with stocks numbered to the gun...usually in the lower two and three digit ranges. My best guess is that this was probably done while the factory workers were getting the hang of producing those first few 1894's. This particular rifle is one of only a handful we've encountered with a numbered assembly number on both the frame and stock. See photos.
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Good. The gun is all original down to the screws with the exception of the rear sight elevation bar which is a newer but correct "of the period" replacement. Metal has worn to a silver/gray with traces of original blue in protected areas. Very good screws, strong markings, and nice sharp edges and early style hammer knurling. Original sights include the standard semi-buckhorn rear which has never been altered or trimmed down AND the standard front sight with German silver blade without the set screw (which is proper on the earliest Model 1894's). The original wood has been cleaned and sanded which is under-sized around the upper and lower tangs. Action is in good shape. Bore is dirty and dark with some light roughness but no major pits or distractions, decent rifling. I'd grade it Fair Plus that will probably clean up to Good. A very rare early variation of the Model 1894 that's seldom encountered on today's market.