This is an unusual pair of early production 1894 rifles with consecutive serial numbers 739 and 740. To date, we've never had a pair of consecutive serial numbers in any Winchester model, so to find a pair of antique 1894's is pretty exciting, especially with desirable 3-digit serial numbers. The closest we've come to having consecutive numbers before was also with the model 1894 and ironically, these were in EXACTLY the same 700 serial range: numbers 787, 791, and 793. All three were 1st Model carbines in 38-55, shipped from Winchester in Nov. 1894 to the same order. That may not seem like a big deal, but as of this writing they are still the earliest known carbines to be shipped from the factory in 1894. The carbine configuration would go on to be sold by the millions over the next 100 years.
Both of these rifles are equally special as they are not just early production or consecutive but among the very first 1894's to be produced in caliber 32-40 (I believe these may be in the top 30...which started with SN# 545) but also among the very first 32-40's to be built with takedown frames: the 12th and 13th to be exact. If that isn't enough, 32-40's were introduced with 2nd Model frames with internally mounted guide rail screws. No. 739 is a 26" round barrel. No. 740 has an octagon barrel. Both entered the warehouse at Winchester in early 1895 and shipped to different orders in March and June of that same year.
Condition-wise, even though they were shipped to different orders, these guns are remarkably similar and exhibit considerable amounts of their original blued finish...right around 60-65% overall. Each rifle is in pretty good shape given their age but are not without a few problems.
No. 739 (round barrel rifle) is in NRA Antique Fine Condition overall. Frame has 60% original blue. Barrel 50%, Magazine tube with 70%. Loading port has 60% bright vivid fire blue. The left side of the frame has two small holes added to the left side of the frame for a receiver sight...just like you see on newer Model 94's. Good traces of case colors around the protected areas of the lever. Good solid wood that's never been sanded or refinished. Nice wood-to-metal fit. The takedown works but has a little wobble against the frame and is in need of adjustment. It has all the early markings on the barrel, upper tang, and decorative hammer checkering. Good screws overall. Bore is dirty but looks very good with strong lands and grooves.
No. 740 (octagon barrel rifle) is in NRA Antique Good+ to Very Good condition but would improve to Fine with some TLC. The frame has 65-70% original blue that is mixing with a light patina. Barrel and magazine tube show 70% age-darkened original blue. Its markings are identical to 739 with the early address, hammer knurling, and tang markings. There are some large dings at the front of the frame...the takedown ring probably had them as well...but has been smoothed out a bit with a little cold-blue added. A rebuild of the original or a better ring would probably enhance the appearance of this rifle considerably. Good screws overall. Wood has never been sanded or redone with good wood-to-metal fit. However, there is a moderate crack that runs diagonally under the tang and down the under the come for about 2-3". There is also a fairly large chip of wood missing off the toe at the base of the buttplate. As unsightly as these areas look, a good wood repair person could mend these two areas with favorable results. Action works properly. Takedown functions properly with almost no play or wobble. Bore is frost but decent lands and grooves...Good overall.