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Special order Winchester’s.
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May 8, 2021 - 8:27 pm
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steve004 said
This has turned into an interesting topic for me.  Perhaps some of this is semantics – but that will depend upon your perspective and how precise you choose your language to be.  Collectors and sellers have used the term, “special order” for a long time to describe a variety of difference aspects of a rifle.  Many have assumed, “special order” means anything ordered with a feature different from what is considered the standard model.  For example, if it’s 1916 and you order a Model 1894 carbine, they will ship you a carbine with a full magazine.  You can order it with half magazine, and if you do, they will charge you the same.  That’s because they don’t consider that an, “extra.”  Likewise, if you ordered your carbine with hard rubber buttplate – same thing – no extra charge as that is not an extra.  We all know that most (i.e. but not every member here) would consider a M1894 carbine with half magazine and shotgun butt a “special order carbine.”  In a way it is, as it had to be ordered in that configuration; yet, it has nothing changed that Winchester would consider an, “extra.”  Now if that same carbine ordered nickel plated, the buyer paid $4.00 additional for that extra.  

In the 1916 Winchester catalog, their preface statement to the list of, “Extras” states:  “All deviations from standard styles and sizes involve a large proportional outlay for hand labor, and, when ordered, will to subject to the following charges, which should be added to the list prices of a rifle.”  So, they did not perceive specifying a half magazine and hard rubber shotgun butt as a, “deviation” from a standard style.  

I’ve heard some say that an octagon barrel is a special order feature on a M1886 as the round barrel version is the, “standard model.” They point out, the buyer had to pay, “extra” for the octagon barrel.  I suppose you could claim the round barrel version was the, “base model.”  In my 1916 catalog the 26 inch round barrel version was $19.50 and the 26 inch octagon version was $21.00.  They are of course both, “standard” models, it’s happens that both are not the same price.  So, if it’s 1916 and you send a letter to Winchester asking that they ship you a Model 1886 rifle in .45-70 – and include a check for $19.50 – they will ship you a round barrel rifle.  If you send the same letter, but your check is for $21.00 – they will ship you an octagon barreled rifle.  You really didn’t, “special order” anything.  You didn’t even specify what you wanted, you just simply selected something from a price list in a catalog.

In reflecting on this topic and thinking through what I wrote above, I can very much see how the term, “special order” has been used to apply to a lot of rifle – that it really doesn’t.  I also know that’s not going to change.  

matted86.JPGImage Enlarger

Steve – I too was thinking of special order guns this morning when I read the post about the clean Model 86 which was advertised as having all the special order features and Bert responded by reminding us except or the “smokeless” it was a standard gun – the ledger could have just noted extra light and smokeless but it did not – it listed an array of features which provides the impression it was special. Most of us do not have the vast knowledge of these old Winchesters Bert has so on our own we don’t always know what was standard and what was not standard. Why did the Winchester employee who noted the gun features in the letter list some things and often omit others? I think the museum letter I posted illustrates a true special order gun. I have a copy of the ledger sheet for this 86 and in the ledger all 3 guns which went to the same order number are listed on the same page. Serial # 109588 lists every feature and they are the same as my gun, My gun, serial #109591 lists every feature but serial # 109592, the gun subsequent to mine, just has ditto marks in the ledger to note is was the same as mine. I have always wondered why someone would order 3 guns exactly the same – a dealer ordering for resale or a family wanting 3 guns alike – guess we will never know. Burt

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May 8, 2021 - 9:09 pm
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Hi, Bert,

 Just to add to your comments regarding special order. I previously sent info on my 1876 which was sent to warehouse on Sept 13, 1878 with a single set trigger which was removed and shipped on July 29, 1880. This info is in my letter. This rifle has a notch behind the trigger left after removal. Was this special order that sat for 2 years? I have to believe it was speculation on behalf of Winchester. Don

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May 8, 2021 - 9:11 pm
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Burt Humphrey said

matted86.JPGImage Enlarger

Steve – I too was thinking of special order guns this morning when I read the post about the clean Model 86 which was advertised as having all the special order features and Bert responded by reminding us except or the “smokeless” it was a standard gun – the ledger could have just noted extra light and smokeless but it did not – it listed an array of features which provides the impression it was special. Most of us do not have the vast knowledge of these old Winchesters Bert has so on our own we don’t always know what was standard and what was not standard. Why did the Winchester employee who noted the gun features in the letter list some things and often omit others? I think the museum letter I posted illustrates a true special order gun. I have a copy of the ledger sheet for this 86 and in the ledger all 3 guns which went to the same order number are listed on the same page. Serial # 109588 lists every feature and they are the same as my gun, My gun, serial #109591 lists every feature but serial # 109592, the gun subsequent to mine, just has ditto marks in the ledger to note is was the same as mine. I have always wondered why someone would order 3 guns exactly the same – a dealer ordering for resale or a family wanting 3 guns alike – guess we will never know. Burt  

Burt – I surely see several true, “special orders” in the letter on your rifle.  Indeed, very intriguing why someone would order three rifles exactly the same.  I’m sure he had a reason – and it would be wonderful to know what that was.  Three sons?  Who knows.

Your post also highlights one aspect of why people consider various features as special order – that is, because those features were recorded in the ledger – they think they were special order.  The reality, the ledger recorded varying amount of information about a rifle.  I don’t those employees who recorded the details of the rifle in the ledger, gave much thought to what might have been, “special order.”  They merely recorded (at least some) of what was apparent.  For example, the chambering.  If someone ordered an ’86 in .45-90, that’s what was recorded.  Again, as I mentioned earlier some features were considered standard, which is why they wouldn’t be mentioned.  “Full magazine” is example.  A rifle or carbine was assumed to have a full magazine, unless it didn’t.  This is why you don’t typically don’t see, “full magazine” used in the ledger.

Another recent point of interest was another thread where Bert talked about the surprising number of single-shot rifles that were made up in various combinations of features (with some of these rifles sitting in the warehouse for years).  This seems to point to the likelihood that because customers ordered rifles and carbines in a variety of configurations, they maintained an inventory ready to fill those orders.  An easy example is the model 1886.  The round barrel version was the less expensive version.  Yet I’m sure they kept plenty of octagon barreled models on hand ready for shipment.  In fact, we know the octagon barrel was more popular than the round barrel version.  

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I’m trying to recall what Winchesters the ledger routinely specified round or octagon barrel?  That is, what models was it assumed to be one or the other (i.e. other than later models like the M55, 64, etc.)?  And I’m just referring to rifles as obviously, all carbines were assumed to be round barrel.

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May 8, 2021 - 10:07 pm
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thanks bert, my 1876 45-60 has a 30″ barrel and i was told when i bought it the longer barrel was special order. no increase in the price tho. i have had it for was some time and do hunt and shoot it.

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May 8, 2021 - 11:25 pm
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steve004 said
 Perhaps some of this is semantics – but that will depend upon your perspective and how precise you choose your language to be.  Collectors and sellers have used the term, “special order” for a long time to describe a variety of difference aspects of a rifle.  Many have assumed, “special order” means anything ordered with a feature different from what is considered the standard model.

And I think they’re right to do so.  I can’t find “special order” used anywhere in the catalog, though perhaps it appears in other documents used within the order dept of the factory.  If a customer requested an “extra,” did the factory tag his request a “special order,” & maybe stamp the paperwork that way?  Bert applies the term as if it had a clearly defined meaning within the factory, & would be distinguished from a customer’s request for one of the uncommon options, such as a half-oct. brl. or SG butt.  I see no logical difference between the two kinds of non-standard orders, except that the “extra” order was extra cost; both required the customer to make a “special” request for a specially-assembled gun.

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May 9, 2021 - 2:17 am
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86Win said
Hi, Bert,

 Just to add to your comments regarding special order. I previously sent info on my 1876 which was sent to warehouse on Sept 13, 1878 with a single set trigger which was removed and shipped on July 29, 1880. This info is in my letter. This rifle has a notch behind the trigger left after removal. Was this special order that sat for 2 years? I have to believe it was speculation on behalf of Winchester. Don  

Don,

Because that rifle sat in the warehouse for nearly 2-years before being altered and shipped, it was a “made for stock” rifle.

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May 9, 2021 - 2:23 am
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steve004 said
I’m trying to recall what Winchesters the ledger routinely specified round or octagon barrel?  That is, what models was it assumed to be one or the other (i.e. other than later models like the M55, 64, etc.)?  And I’m just referring to rifles as obviously, all carbines were assumed to be round barrel.  

Steve,

Based on what I have observed, the barrel contour was routinely recorded in all of the different model ledger records for the rifle variations.

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eastbank said
thanks bert, my 1876 45-60 has a 30″ barrel and i was told when i bought it the longer barrel was special order. no increase in the price tho. i have had it for was some time and do hunt and shoot it.  

A longer (or shorter) than standard length barrel was a “special” order option, and it cost extra for the longer barrels.

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May 9, 2021 - 2:30 am
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Bert H. said

Steve,

Based on what I have observed, the barrel contour was routinely recorded in all of the different model ledger records for the rifle variations.  

I was looking through my Winchester factory letters this evening.  I noticed for example, all my .33’s had round barrel listed.  Interesting, as I thought that would be needless – they were all round barrels.  However, I suppose the employee recording the details in the ledgers routinely listed the barrel contour as a simple matter of course.

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May 9, 2021 - 2:51 am
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steve004 said

I was looking through my Winchester factory letters this evening.  I noticed for example, all my .33’s had round barrel listed.  Interesting, as I thought that would be needless – they were all round barrels.  However, I suppose the employee recording the details in the ledgers routinely listed the barrel contour as a simple matter of course.  

Steve – every single museum letter I have, regardless of configuration or number of special features, has a notation of “plain trigger” –except for 1 – the one that does not is a 1895 in 35 caliber with several special features including fancy checkered stock, screw eyes, shotgun butt and Lyman front/rear sights. The letter on the 95 does not mention the trigger – but, it is a “plain” trigger.

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