Have you ever seen a Winchester Model 1892 Carbine in 25-20 with a pre-1898 antique serial number? For three decades, my answer to that question would have been "NO, Never!" Caliber 25-20 was a brand new cartridge introduced in the Model 1872 Winchester in the year 1895. It was essentially a necked-down 32-20. Those first few years must have been slow-going for this little varmint caliber in a repeater as it appears very few were made during the 19th century. That said, while I've seen a handful of 1892 sporting rifles with antique serial numbers, this is the only example of an antique 1892 carbine in 25-20 that I've encountered in thirty years of Winchester collecting. Carbines were basically utility guns that were short, lightweight, and made to be carried on horseback. Most of the ones I've seen from this era in the Model 1892 carbine configuration have been chambered in 44-40 or 38-40. Occasionally, I will see one in 32-20 which was introduced back in 1882 in the Model 1873 and fairly well-established by the 1890's but 25-20 was the new kid on the block. For those of us who live in the world of pre-1898 antiques, this caliber is nearly impossible to find before the dawn of the 20th century.
The serial number is in the 102,000 range and it was manufactured just prior to Jan. 1, 1899 cutoff a.k.a. as pre-1898. It has the early style two-line Winchester barrel address on the top as well as the 25-20 over WCF marking on top behind the rear sight. No Winchester proofs on the barrel or frame which is correct. The Winchester proofs weren't used until after the turn of the 20th century. Upper tang has the early three-line marking consisting of m'fr, Model, and Browning patent date. Original stocks are walnut which are correct for 19th century production, not gumwood. Original rear sight has the early style 200 to 900 yard graduations. This rifle will letter with the Cody Museum just as it is. As a member of the BBHC, I called it in and confirmed its configuration over the phone.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Very Good+. The frame has turned to a smooth brown patina with traces of original blue in protected areas. Original saddle with a nice ring shadow on the frame. The barrel has 80% original blue. The front of the barrel looks like it was cleaned up a bit and has had some cold blue added around the muzzle area and front sight. That's the only negative thing I can find to say about this little carbine. See photos. The tube retains 70% original blue. The walnut stocks are in Very Good+ Condition with nice wood to metal fit and have never been cleaned or refinished. No cracks, chips, or repairs. The action is still tight. Bore is surprisingly nice for a small-bore rifle built during the black powder era. It's in Fine+ Condition with strong lands and grooves that are still bright with no pitting. A very respectable example of an Antique Model 1892 carbine in a rare caliber!