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Question About Missing S/N
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April 27, 2024 - 8:41 pm
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I have ordered (GB) a Winchester 1892 that is being shipped to me.  I just realized that the pictures are not showing a serial number.  It’s possible they are very faint, but I think the number has been removed at some early point in its history.  I contacted the seller who said it indeed did not have a S/N, but that since it was manufactured prior to 1968, one is not required.  I believe this to be incorrect, in that it is my understanding that if any serial number has been defaced/removed it is in violation of AFT regulations (27 CFR § 478.34 | eRegulations (atf.gov)).  Can anyone here provide me with any clarity here?  Did any 1892s ever not have a S/N?  Are C&R guns not covered by this regulation?  Anything I should know of before refusing to take possession of this rifle?  Many thanks in advance!

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April 27, 2024 - 11:08 pm
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You are definitely in a gray area.  

All Winchester Model 1892s were originally serialized.  Because all Model 1892s were manufactured well before November 1968 (before serial numbers were legally mandated) the GCA of 1968 does not strictly prohibit owning, selling, or transferring a pre-1968 firearm that does not have a serial number on it.  That stated, if the seller did not disclose to you the lack of a serial number until after the auction was completed, you are well withing your rights to cancel the sale/transaction.  If the seller gives you are hard time, simply report the issue to Gunbroker, and provide appropriate feedback to the seller.

Bert

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April 28, 2024 - 12:17 am
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One thing that is also in a gray area. Is whether or not the serial number was purposefully defaced/removed VS removed due to wear.

I’ve heard this sort of thing going either way. They didn’t care that the serial was worn from wear. Or the owner was forced to have a unique serial number applied to the firearm. Personally I don’t know anyone that has specifically dealt with this issue.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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April 28, 2024 - 1:43 am
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65 years ago a private gun trader tried to sell me an 1873 Winchester without serial no. $55 if I can remember that far back. His theory was perhaps Sears & Roebuck sold them without serial nos. I question that but who (besides Bert) would know. Don

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April 28, 2024 - 3:56 am
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They did sell 73s with blank lower tangs and/or replacement blank lower tangs.

Maverick

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April 28, 2024 - 3:08 pm
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Thank you all for your replies.  I’m going to refuse acceptance of the rifle when it comes in – unless there is a discernable serial number on it.  It’s a shame there isn’t an exception for vintage weapons on this issue, as it leads to the destruction of valuable firearms.

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April 28, 2024 - 4:30 pm
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TomJohn said
Thank you all for your replies.  I’m going to refuse acceptance of the rifle when it comes in – unless there is a discernable serial number on it.  It’s a shame there isn’t an exception for vintage weapons on this issue, as it leads to the destruction of valuable firearms.

  

Tom,

The original serial number can be forensically retrieved if it is not visible.  It can also be remarked with a unique serial number to make it a legal firearm.

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April 28, 2024 - 8:42 pm
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My question to the OP is why did you buy an 1892 on GB of all places without doing your research which would include of course running the sn. What’s the GB link?

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April 28, 2024 - 9:37 pm
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Steven – I’ve asked myself the same question.  It was careless of me.  Usually I am careful about this sort of thing, but there were several auctions coming to a close at about the same time, and I got in a hurry.  Not an excuse…  I can’t post the link because the auction is closed.  The seller has been cooperative, and has said I can return the rifle.  I am going to look at it carefully, as the seller said it is possible he simply didn’t see it.  I’ll report back what I find out when it arrives (Tuesday).

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May 2, 2024 - 2:27 pm
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Update:  The rifle arrived and I, along with my FFL, looked at it cafefully (with a loop).  There was no serial number and there were file marks (old) where the serial number should have been.  My FFL is shipping it back, and I emailed the seller a thorough explanation.  I paid the return shipping because I felt responsible for not checking on the S/N issue prior to buying the rifle.  I’ll let you know how the seller responds.

All of my research on this issue, including correspondence with the Cody Museum, boils down to this conclusion:  Serial numbers were not required until 1968, and guns manufactured prior to that are not required to have serial numbers.  However, if a serial number that was on the gun prior to 1968 has been removed, worn off, or defaced/altered, it cannot be legally possessed, purchased, or sold, and it is a felony to do so.  There are ways to possibly retrieve the S/N (acid or x-rays), and petition to have the number re-applied (or a registered substitute number), but the process is time-consuming and expensive.  There were varying opinions on how seriously the ATF would take this issue on a 1892 lever-action, but most agreed it would be a risky chance to take.

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May 2, 2024 - 2:46 pm
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Good call. IMHO a serial number deliberately removed is a different matter from one that is missing for other reasons. You don’t need this headache.

 

 

Mike

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