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Monday, February 22, 2010

Finally- A Pre-64, Model 94 Winchester

 You know those pics you’ve been seeing of my wife, shooting my Rossi 92? I knew I had kissed that rifle goodbye, when I saw how well she handled it. Aside from the obvious benefits of getting your wife out shooting with you, sharing your shootin’ irons with them opens the door for getting others! The subject of this article was my Valentine’s Day gift, and nothing could have been better. I’ve been wanting a Pre-64 Model 94 in 30-30 for a long time.

This old Winchester Model 94, and a few others, showed up on the Summit Gun Broker site a couple of weeks ago. I contacted Mark and soon had a deal working for the 1959 model, shown at top.

Mark is always great to deal with & it didn’t take long to get my Winchester cut from the herd. His prices are great too- I got this pre-64 for less than post-64, idiot-button equipped  94's are selling for. A previous owner had attempted Injun-Art on the stock; I should probably thank him, considering the money he saved me.

The metal is near-perfect with only mild finish wear and a few character marks. The receiver drilled & tapped for the Lyman 66A receiver sight.

At a crisp 3 1/4 pounds, the trigger is a breath of fresh air from a time when lawyers didn't run gun companies.

The weather broke so I got this 94 out for a quick test drive. All I had for ammo was a conglomeration of old 150 grain reloads, from back when I was trying various powders to find 'the' 30-30 load- various charges of W748, IMR3031, BLC2 and H4895. It would do to insure that the gun worked OK.

The old girl handled them all just fine. Empties are ejected smartly over the right shoulder and fired casings show no signs of undue pressure or oddball chamber dimensions. All I had to do to get the gun on paper at 115 yards, was knock the back sight a tad to the left. Three shot groups at that distance could be covered with an empty 30-30 case, meaning just under two inches. Considering the menagerie of ammo, battered OEM sights and rickety folding table I was shooting over-without a bag-I am downright pleased.

With the rain beginning in earnest, it seemed like a good time to clean the gun up some. Since I had nothing to lose with this stock, I pulled the wood & went to work with fine sandpaper and steel wool. Once the grunge and old varnish were gone, I started rubbing in Kiwi brown boot wax. I know that sounds ridiculous but I have used it to good effect on several old, open-grain gunstocks. I also used fine steel wool to knock the beginnings of rust off the barrel & magazine tube. A little cold blue and a coat of Hoppe’s Gun Oil finished the clean-up. In addition to being dinged, the original bead was a little tall and required the third notch on the rear sight's elevator to attain zero. I replaced it with a 0.015 shorter Marble’s bead, which I had on hand.

Once upon a time, Winchester flat knew how to build a lever action. I am fortunate to have found an example of their better efforts. I've been looking for a solid, bargain-priced pre-64 for some time, to build into my 'ideal 94' Winchester. At some point I’ll replace the stock & forend, perhaps with the Carbine variants. Carbine ‘ladder’ sights’ and a narrow, barrel-mounted post would complete the transition of this Winchester into my ‘made to order’ 94. 

The 30-30 is a grand old cartridge, too. I flattened a big forkhorn at 238 long paces with a 94 some years ago, using the basic Winchester 150 grain load. Even at that range, you could hear the “whack” as it knocked a nickel-sized chunk of shoulder bone out the offside exit. 

The 30-30 took its maiden voyage with the 1894 Winchester and that perfect pairing has definitely stood the test of time.