This is an early production Winchester 1894 Deluxe Sporting Rifle. The 1894 was offered with an amazing number of special order options ranging from short 22" round pencil-shaped lightweight barrels to extra length 36" octagons, takedown frames, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 length mag tubes, three grades of wood, half a dozen checkering patterns, multiple levels of engraving, shotgun buttplates made of three different material, sling swivels, sling eyes, double set triggers, not to mention numerous sighting options...and in four different calibers to choose from. Whewww!!!! The choices were endless.
That said, this rifle is relatively simple for a deluxe 1894 which one might describe as "traditional" as it's not unlike many of the Model 1873 Deluxes built in the 1880's. These include factory special order pistol grip stock and standard Type H checkering. The wood is 3x burl walnut...the BEST! Caliber is 38-55, which was the biggest chambering for the 1894 and remains the most collectible today. From there, it has desirable 26" octagon barrel, full magazine, crescent rifle buttplate, and standard sights. Best of all, it has a desirable antique serial number in the 46,000 range and was built and shipped in the fall of 1898. It's a good solid rifle that's all original. We checked and the assembly numbers on the lower tang, stock, and buttplate are all matching. Lower tang is stamped XXX denoting the stocks on this rifle were 3x deluxe burl walnut. We called The BBHC Museum in Cody, WY which housed the original Winchester records, for verification of these features with a records check and it letters perfectly. We received the following information:
Winchester Model 1894 Serial Number 46, 1866
Barrel Type: Octagon
Checkered stock, Pistol grip
Received in warehouse on October 3, 1898
Shipped from warehouse on October 04, 1898 Order number 79953
Markings: Being an antique 1894 that was produced at the end of the 19th century, there are a number of things we should cover in terms of original markings, etc. For starters, we will GUARANTEE that this is the barrel that left the factory on this rifle! In my travels, I keep seeing more and more Winchesters being passed off as having "original" barrels that are really 1920-30's era mail order replacements. So here are some things you guys should look for when purchasing an antique Model 1894 Winchester. Unless it went back to the factory for repairs in the 20th century, there should be NO Winchester proofmarks on the barrel or top of the frame. The caliber marking, in this case 38-55, will be marked at 12 o'clock on top of the barrel...not the side. Next, it has to have the early two-line barrel address which is located on the top flat of the octagon barrel ahead of the rear sight. Note that each line is usually bracketed by long dashes and there is no patent date. It will read:
---MANUFACTURED BY THE---
---WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN. CONN. U.S.A.---
Also note that the upper tang on this rifle has the earliest form of markings which give the model, mfr, and patent date. It reads:
The hammer is early too as it has a more decorative checkered border with a Victorian-style dip or "V" pattern which changes to a plainer rectangular pattern early in the 20th century. See photo. The standard Winchester sights include a semi-buckhorn rear with short elevator and standard front sight with German silver blade. These front sights received a small set screw to better hold position in the sight dovetail on the barrel around 1895. This one has the set screw which would be correct for 1898.
Condition: Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine with 85% original blue on barrel and magazine tube. Receiver shows 75% thinning blue on the left side with 25% on the right side. Loading port shows 40% original fire blue. Bolt and forend cap show 50% thinning original blue. Case colors on lever and buttplate. The hammer retains 50% thinning colors. There are some bright flashes of case colors in protected areas on the lever with extremely light colors on the profiles...but mostly silver overall. The buttplate closely resembles the lever, mostly silvered out with some very light shadows of original color if you look hard enough. Fine to Excellent screws throughout.
Burl Walnut Stocks: The burl walnut is in Very Good+ condition with good Winchester Type H checkering that has never been re-cut or freshened. Bottom of pistol grip has its original Winchester-marked hard-rubber cap. Both sides of the stock and forearm exhibit dense layers or growth rings with fantastic transverse rays of color crossing through. This is exactly what you want to see on a good piece of 3x grade walnut which was the highest grade offered by Winchester in the 1880's and 90's. As one collector sad it best..."nice burl is like watching a strong gust of wind blowing through waves on the ocean." Winchester was very careful in selecting the right kind of burl walnut for their rifles. It was a delicate balancing act in selection and cut. Winchester required their 3x stocks to exhibit strong burl on both sides which came from the trunk but the cut had to be high enough from the roots to reach straighter grained wood when it reached the wrist and pistol grip. Having straight grain in these areas was critical as strength and stability was required around the inletting for the tangs as well as the well for the hammer's mainspring. If you'll take a close look at the stock on this rifle, you'll see it gives strong testimony to the high standards the men working in the Winchester custom shop demanded in their burl walnut used on deluxe rifles. As for finish, unless an oil finish was requested, Winchester would give their burl more depth by applying a highly polished varnish. The results gave the wood an almost three-dimensional effect. After 115+ years though, much of that original finish has been worn off on this particular rifle. There is only 15-20% original piano varnish remaining on the forend and stock. However, the areas without varnish are still as smooth as glass and retain luster simple because the walnut is so dense and has very tight grain. See photos. There were a couple of blemishes on the wood that we need to note. When we found this rifle, there was a 1" rectangular shaped chip in the burl where the wood is at its thinnest along the top edge...quite common on Winchester rifles w/ octagon barrels. This was located at the front right of the forend directly behind the forend cap. We had this small chip repaired with real burl walnut (no filler) that closely matched the original grain. As a result, the mended chip is practically invisible. If you look very closely, see if you can find it in the photo of rt. forend/cap. Second, there is a pair of small screw holes (about 1" apart) on the bottom of the stock that once held an ID plate or museum tag of some sort. We will let the buyer decide what he or she prefers on this...some may want it left alone, perhaps install their own ID plate, or if not desired, we will be happy to have them plugged with walnut and properly mended.
All in all, this is a fantastic Winchester Deluxe Rifle in a great caliber and configuration that has broad appeal among most Winchester collectors. It letters, has much of its original finish with a great early antique serial number. 1894 DLX's have really been going up with many being priced north of $10K...right about right where 1873 deluxes were 10-15 years ago. This is a good opportunity for a Winchester collector to obtain a nice 1894 Deluxe before the prices get out of reach.