July 21, 2010
I originally posted this in the Winchester section at RimFireCentral - including pictures. Some of you guys who dabble in rimfires may find it of interest.
There have been several threads over the past few years concerning non-serialized Winchester rimfires with numbers stamped into the bottom of their pistol grips. The origin of those numbers has been a bit of a mystery. Here now is the answer.
Phase 1: It started out innocently enough; the auction description included one item of interest to me – a Model 69A equipped with a “LYMAN REAR PEEP” sight. To me, that immediately brings to mind a “69A Match”. The chambering description was of no help; all it said was “22”. The listing also mentioned a factory box, described as being in rough shape.
The pictures ramped the interest level up a notch or two: sharkfin sightings tend to do that. When I espied a blank in the rear barrel dovetail slot the tune in my head changed from “Match” to “Junior Target”. I sent an email asking for clarification on the chambering, if the receiver was grooved and if there was any labeling on the end of the box, etc.
Phase 2: The days passed with no response to my email. After about a week I yielded to the urge and phoned the gun shop/auctioneer. The salesman confirmed the chambering as “S, L or LR”, that it had a Lyman 57EW rear sight and the receiver was indeed grooved. However when asked about any labels on the box his reply was not encouraging – he said that the box was pretty far gone and did not have a label on the end. However, he remarked that it did have a label from Abercrombie and Fitch and a number (3164) stamped into the bottom of the pistol grip.
Phase 3: Trade a few emails with the archivist at Griffin and Howe and WAIT a lot.
Finally, the reply:
“Very Interesting. I have found an A&F page from 1963 with Winchester model 69 rifles which includes a number 3164 for a model 6903. I am sending you a cropped version of the page showing the listing for that rifle.
It is the next to the last entry visible. The information reads, left to right, the date received, the serial number, gauge, and barrel length, the model, date sold, the name of the buyer, the initial indicating the salesman, the receipt number and the Selling Price.”
Could this rifle be the missing link that confirms grip stamps were used by Abercrombie and Fitch?????
Phase 4: I dug up some few more grip stamp numbers (six Model 69/69As and a Model 67), sent them to G&H and, you guessed it, WAITED (less than patiently), WAITED some more and then received this in return:
"Your patience is about to be rewarded. I had a couple of hours today to go through the books and I found all of the model 69's plus the model 67."
Bingo – we have the missing link.
Phase 5: not my favorite part – WAIT for the auction; research, strategize and plan. Contact the seller and get some more pictures, etc.– FINALLY; put in my final bid.
Phase 6: watch the auction online and sweat it out as the price climbs. Finally, it stops; short of my maximum bid. It’s mine.
Phase 7: WAIT again – this time for my new prize to put in an appearance at my FFL.
Bingo; it’s in my hands…
I also discovered that the purchaser’s name & phone # were written on the inside box.
The rifle? The auction description for overall condition and mechanics was “excellent”. I’m not sure I would have been quite that generous; more like “very good to excellent” but then again, how many of us are as spry and chipper as we were 53 years ago? All of the mint dripped off of it long ago leaving lots of incidental evidence of handling. There are very few square inches not having several minor characters - nothing major, but quite a few.
It has the correct 57EW sight with the square-bottomed slide and a US-made Winchester magazine. The sling swivels are not Winchester, but I like them; they seem very high quality and rotate very nicely as well as swivel. The insert for the Lyman peep is missing. The metal has a few scratches and freckles here and there. The black leather sling seems very well made and is still soft and supple even though it suffers from quite a few cracks.
A little TLC has been applied in the way of a rubdown with a Big45 pad and oil for the metal and Sno-Seal for the sling. I haven’t done anything for the wood finish yet.
We’ve been told many times to “buy the rifle, not the story”. In this case, the story is part of the package. We can only guess as to all that has happened with ol’ 3164 between March of 1963 when it was bought brand spankin’ new in New York City by one Mr Wertheimer and being auctioned off in California in 2016 as part of the estate of one Mr Docker - a noted collector of Marlins.
We now know that many of the non-serialized Winchester rimfires floating around that have a number stamped into the pistol grip got that number due to the rifle being sold by famed sporting goods retailer Abercrombie and Fitch. Using that number Griffin and Howe can provide information pertinent to the original sale of your rifle and perhaps even the individual to whom it was sold.
Check out G&H's website for the services they offer.
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July 21, 2010
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