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Model 54 with 2 features
September 8, 2021
8:21 pm
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Winchester, VA
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Hi Clarence-

First, I apologize for didactic, even pedantic, posts…  Part of my Nature, I suppose… Embarassed Sometimes I include too much stuff as a potential aid to casual readers who may not know as much as you (and hopefully I) do about some of these obscure topics.

As far as rework/work order numbers, how consistently they were applied, and what specifically they denote, I’m confident that the lever action folks know more about factory practices before WWII than I do. 

I (think I) know that (at least) some pre-war barrels on M70s are hand stamped underneath with a several digit number (unrelated to the S/N of the rifle) that appears to have been applied after the barrel was finished.  I’ve taken these to be a work order number that was applied to rifles returned for some sort of major R&R that required disassembly.  To my eye, the numbers I’ve seen a few times on M70s look very much like similar numbers on lever gun barrels that I’ve seen posted here on the WACA forum.  I also believe that sometime after WWII these codes more often had a letter prefix followed by numbers, while the earlier ones were all numbers.  

I have two M70s in my possession, one with each of the two styles of marking under the barrel, and I assume that this means they went back to the factory at some point.  But how consistently this practice was followed, or what type of work it’s presence denotes, I do not know.  I don’t think that there was a specific way of marking factory replaced barrels, as opposed to just marking the rifle with a work order number that presumably specified what work was to be performed.

Best,

Lou

WACA 9519; Studying Pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters

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September 9, 2021
12:50 am
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More pictures to inspect……. Notice, that there is a proofmark on receiver, just very light. Also, no caliber marking on bottom side of barrel and no rework numbers visible. I have requested that the owner look closely for any other markings on barrel such as a m/o proof or possibly some more numbers farther forward on bottom side of barrel.

Steve

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September 9, 2021
1:00 am
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No holes in the bridge. 
1939 barrel.

September 9, 2021
1:13 am
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Maybe I missed it, but do we know, based on the receiver serial number, what year the rifle was made?

September 9, 2021
1:59 am
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steve004 said
Maybe I missed it, but do we know, based on the receiver serial number, what year the rifle was made?  

Based on s/n and Madis, 1937.  Based on Reference Collection dates, more than likely 1936.

Steve

September 9, 2021
3:18 pm
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Winchester, VA
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Interesting!!!  A few observations/comparisons:

According to figures quoted in David Bichrest’s book, a total of 50,145 M54s were assembled 1925-1936, with the last remaining inventory sold by 1941.  So this rifle would have been assembled using one of the last couple thousand receivers made, PR date probably 1936, by which time M70s were being assembled ahead of their January 1, 1937 release date.  Perhaps the receiver was a leftover that had never been made into a gun before 1939.

In my experience, and claimed in Rule’s book, pre-war H&H barrels were rarely caliber stamped.  Later ones, seems to me, are often marked “300M”, but pre-war ones tend to be unmarked, as on 1938 this 300 MAGNUM standard barrel:

300M-under-barrel-1938.pngImage Enlarger

The ’39 barrel date with its separate “54” stamp is coincidentally (???) similar to Tedk’s 30 GOV’T’06 M70/54 mail order proof barrel that I posted a pic of yesterday.  His hand stamped “54” barrel is also a ’39 M70 part.  This is underneath Tedk’s barrel:

Mail-Order-Proof-3.jpegImage Enlarger

The subject rifle inletting does appear to me to accommodate the long 300 MAGNUM magazine box (second pic from left above).  For comparison, this is the inletting of two 1938 M70 standard rifles, one in 300 MAGNUM and one in 30 GOV’T’06:

Magnum-inletting-1938.pngImage EnlargerStd-inletting-1938.pngImage Enlarger

All in all, I’m inclined to think this M54 “bull gun” was assembled within the factory in 1939.  Since the M70 bull gun had been in production for 3 years before this 28″ EH 300 MAGNUM bull barrel was made/marked “54”, the rifle wasn’t a M70 prototype.  Either a M54 Sniper’s Match owner wanted his rifle converted to the new/hotter 300 MAGNUM, or someone within the factory (employee?) put it together from spare parts as Steve suggested earlier. 

Much of my speculation that it was factory work is based on the barrel being marked M54 and the presumption that the barrel was factory marked.  Would Winchester create a part for a gun that didn’t exist, i.e. M54 in H&H chambering, and send the part out to be installed on an action that couldn’t handle it?  I suppose, maybe, if it was being sent to some renowned gunsmith with factory connections (???).  But if the “Average Joe” gunsmith was going to do this conversion at home, wouldn’t he have needed to use a mail order M70 bull gun barrel that was marked M70? And why, in that case, change the model designation to “54” from “70”?  It wouldn’t make it shoot any better…  That the barrel is marked M54 makes me think that the factory would have wanted to oversee the action/stock modifications necessary to make the rifle functional.

Just my ignorant take…  And thanks to the OP and Steve for this interesting puzzle… Laugh

Lou

WACA 9519; Studying Pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters

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September 9, 2021
10:27 pm
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Hate to muddy the water, but the OP contacted me this morning and told me he was mistaken and that the loaded factory cartridges would not fit into the magazine. So apparently, the receiver and mag well have not been changed over to H&H specifications. The only way they will load is laying them on follower and working bolt. After all this, I am inclined to believe this rifle was put together after the fact and that most likely the smith who did the mods purchased a barrel from Winchester. He assures me there is no M/O proof on barrel, nor is there any additional numbers on bottom side of barrel that would indicate a repair order. 

    Lou’s assessment sure made sense up to this point, but I cannot imagine Winchester selling this rifle ne w/o the magazine changes, nor installing the barrel w/o the related changes. As I mentioned earlier, I would love to have this in my hands to dig into it and try to figure it all out.

Steve

September 9, 2021
10:36 pm
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That the barrel is marked Model 54 leaves me wondering.  I suppose if the barrel was ordered from Winchester for a M54, they simply marked it that way?  Could be that simple?  Also, isn’t it possible the rifle was sent to Winchester for rebarreling – and the customer specified rebarreling only with no changes to the action? The fact that cartridges won’t fit in the magazine does not surprise me.  As the rifle sits, it’s a target rifle.  And like many target rifles, it is fired in single-loading fashion.  Why would a target shooter pay to have the action reworked to make it a repeater?

It’s been an interesting mental exercise and I’ve enjoyed all of he opinions and comments.  

September 10, 2021
1:41 pm
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Winchester, VA
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Darn!!!  And I was so proud of my theory too!!! Cry

A straight barrel swap could have been done by anybody, but I’m still perplexed by the barrel being marked “54” and having neither a mail order proof nor a work order number under the barrel.  Hard to believe that Winchester would mark and send out a barrel that would not function on the model for which it was marked.  Equally hard to believe that an outside gunsmith would go to the trouble of changing the model stamp instead of just using a mail order M70 bull gun barrel (so-marked).

I guess, at the end of the day the question is indeed moot unless some documentary history of the rifle’s past ownership emerges.  Smile

Thanks,

Lou

WACA 9519; Studying Pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters

WACA-Signauture-3.jpg

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