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Model 52 Sporter
February 9, 2019
3:23 am
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Virginia
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I am asking for advice from the .22 rim fire gurus.  There is a Model 52, serial # 40881, listed as an "Unmarked A Sporter" coming up for auction.  The listing says it is all original with 24" blued barrel, hooded front sight, select checkered wood, capped pistol grip, black forearm tip, checkered steel butt plate, Lyman rear receiver peep sight, super grade swivels, non-tapped.

I am aware of the cautionary note regarding fakes in The Red Book but don't possess a copy of Houze's "The Winchester Model 52" for reference and homework prior to the sale.  Would someone be willing to provide some guidance on what to look for to determine unaltered originality?

I'll try to get photos when available.  Thanks for any information anyone is willing to provide.

Mac

February 9, 2019
4:28 pm
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Seems to me, would be difficult to acquire parts needed to fake a Sporter; though the ingenuity of the fraudsters should never be underestimated.

First marked As were produced June '36, & this ser. no. puts this gun's mfg. in March '36, so it seems "right" from that aspect.

February 10, 2019
4:07 am
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Most of the "fake" sporters you see are custom built sporters from modified target rifles. These are rifles with custom stocks, similar in appearance to the factory sporting stock. They will usually have the original 28" target barrel shortened to 24", and turned to a similar profile to the original sporting barrel. Sometimes the original rollstamping is left on barrel and balance is turned to an approximate sporter profile. An aftermarket ramp is then added to top it off. These guns are dead giveaways since in the case of an A or pre A, they will always have "flat top" receivers which have the large dovetail cut on rear bridge for the Winchester 82A target sight. The original sporting rifles were round tops with holes in LH side of receiver for a Lyman 48F micrometer receiver sight. There were a very few pre A target rifles special ordered with a full round top receiver, but these were fitted at factory with a Lyman 48T receiver sight mounted on RH side of receiver. These are very scarce, but it would also be easy to spot on a sporting rifle with RH side located holes. 

Then there are the full custom sporting rifles built by true artisans. They can range from basic rifles to works of art. 

The bigger concern when looking for an original 52 Sporting rifle is modifications. The 2 biggest concerns I always have when I inspect one is extra holes and filled extra holes. Since the pre C model rifles were not drilled/tapped for scopes, many were subsequently done on a custom basis. Seem's like the person selling one of these is always certain that it was a special order from factory. I'm sure there are a very few that were, however I have never been convinced that any I have seen over the years were factory special ordered. This is a case where the gun is guilty until proven innocent, with some type of factory paperwork showing it was special ordered this way. I have yet to see any such provenance. Barrels were drilled/tapped quite often for target scope blocks also. There will usually be 2 holes in barrel for a block and 2 on receiver for rear block. Ground bolt handles are often seen. These usually have a scallop on top side of handle ground for scope clearance. All of these items are easy to spot. The tough mod's that normally get buyers are the holes that have been filled. Depending on skill level of the person filling them, they can range from easy to near impossible to find. That's were buying through an auction house get's dicey. You really need to be able to look it over very closely with ample light and magnification. This goes for the bolt handles as well. They are very easily welded, reground, blued and unless you are familiar with what you are looking at, they can get by you. Also look for holes from the mounting of various sidemounts to side of receiver. One last thing to watch for is dovetails cut in barrel for a rear sight. Sporting 52's never were sold with a barrel mounted rear sight. 

 The last thing to look for is the refinishing of rifle. Distinguishing a refinish is sometimes very tough with the skill levels which keep increasing. 

Original pre A and A sporting rifles should have a full length gold bead front sight on a forged integral ramp. Late 52C sporters had a sweated on front sight ramp and apparently some of these barrels made it out of the factory as parts sales. I have seen these late barrels put on "faked" sporters which should have the forged front sight ramp. Rear sight should be a Lyman 48F. Lyman 57's were offered on the B Sporters as a lower cost option, however I have never seen them advertised as available for a A or pre A. 

There are other items as well, but my best advice is to look at lots of rifles, approach them all with a jaundiced eye, and learn what a good one is supposed to look like.

Steve

February 10, 2019
10:09 pm
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Virginia
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Clarence and Steve,

Gents thanks so much for your responses.  You've given me enough info to hopefully keep me out of trouble.  I pulled several photos of the Model 52 in question from the auction site.  I won't have opportunity to lay eyes and hands on it until the auction preview early March.  Please let me know if you see anything that jumps out to say altered or proceed with caution.

Mac

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February 10, 2019
10:45 pm
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Mac, Based on what I can see, the buttplate fit does not look correct at the toe of the stock. Blow the picture up and it appears the toe of buttplate is much shorter than the wood. Also, I am relatively certain buttplate has been refinished. It does not look to have any wear what so ever. Wood look's like it has had some finish added as well. The other thing that jumps out at me is the proof on receiver. It is pretty flat with no proud metal around stamped edges. This would lead me to look very closely for signs of a refinished receiver which would make me look even closer as to why. Possibly filled holes? Look her over close when you get to see it in person. Take a light and magnifier to examine receiver and barrel for filled holes. Also, makes sure wear in bolt raceway matches balance of rifle, i.e., it should show wear where bolt would have been cycled over the years. These early rifles can also show pitting in bore from the old rimfire ammunition sometimes used in them. 

     I just reread my earlier post and noticed an error. I stated that the front sight should have a full length gold bead, which is incorrect. These early sporters had a gold bead , but it did not run the full length of blade like the Redfield sight used on later Sporters. This one should have a small brass bead attached to blade. See attached picture for correct sight. Rear sight look's fine, and appears to be correct vintage for rifle. You will also want to remove staff from rear sight and inspect for extra holes underneath it. 
Steve
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February 10, 2019
11:29 pm
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Steve,

Got it, thanks.  This is precisely the kind of expertise I hoped to tap.  I'll do as you suggest and proceed with caution paying close attention to the buttplate fit and signs of receiver refinishing.  My understanding of your guidance on "proud" stamped receiver proofmark is that, if correct, I should be able to see/feel raised displaced metal edges from the proof stamp, correct?  I've got my Larry light and jewelry magnifier packed, ready to go.

Mac

February 10, 2019
11:53 pm
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That is correct. Compare it with the barrel proof.

Steve

March 3, 2019
10:56 pm
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This is a close-out on the subject M52 Sporter that was sold at auction today.  All-in-all the gun was very nice.  I looked closely at the points Steve mentioned:  the butt plate fit correctly with appropriate wear, the receiver and barrel had no D&T and I am reasonably sure the receiver had not been refinished, the front sight had the long full length gold bead (as opposed to small brass bead attached to the blade).  The only question I had was with the stock and forearm cap both of which may have been refinished or at least touched up, not certain.

Anyway, the rifle went for more than I was willing to commit to on this day at $4.4k although well in line with Red Book pricing if in fact the wood has not been refinished.

Again thank you for your guidance as it helped me make a more informed decision.

Mac

March 4, 2019
3:16 am
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It seems to me the "A" Sporters are a bit harder to find then the later ones. They didn't make to many "A" M52's of either type. Another point, is to see if all the numbers in the Lyman match. The magazine looked terrible in this rifle. I have a minty M52-A target rifle, and the magazine is minty as well.

I learned about the light thing years ago. I was advised to use a Mag Light as it was very bright. You put that light on a receiver with filled holes and they really stand out.

Buying the high grade Sporters is a gamble at best anymore, for someone who does not know about them. I trust SEEWINS judgement over anyone else. Big Larry

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