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Tips on Buying an old Winchester
October 15, 2012
8:22 am
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As as result of several topic discussions in the past, and due to the urging of several of the regulars here on the forum, I am posting this primer to aid current and future collectors. It is not the complete answer to all questions that may arise, but it should help to answer most questions.

In regards to some of the common things to look for when evaluating an old Winchester;

(1) For the "Rifles", inspect the muzzle face. If it is blued... the barrel has been reblued. The muzzle face should be perfectly flat, with a slight to moderate chamfer at the bore entrance, and most importantly, in the white.

(2) Inspect the bore. You would not believe how many of them that I have seen that have a rough, pitted, dark, or otherwise poor bore, but the rest of the gun looks like it is nearly new. On an original, high condition gun, the bore should also look like it is nearly new. This is the toughest challenge for a doctored up gun to pass.

(3) Inspect both sides of the sight dovetail slots for dings & dents. This will show you signs that the sights have been changed, or if they were removed to reblue the barrel. I have seen all too many barrels that have drift punch dings on them, but have 100% bluing over the top of the dings. I then check the rest of the barrel exterior for dings, gouges (from a vice, pipe wrench, etc.). For an octagon barrel, check the condition of the corners on all the flats. Typical wear cause rounding to occur and a corresponding loss of bluing. If the corners are not sharp, but have bluing on them... reblued!

(4) Inspect all of the factory barrel markings, and do it with both your eyes and finger tip. Verify that the markings are the correct style and location for the serial number range. For the Model 1894, you would not believe how many of them that I have looked at that have a "MODEL 94" marked barrel, and the person trying to sell it is swearing on a stack of bibles that it is "all original". Another common mistake made by a number of the people who falsely build (fake) and sell bogus Winchesters, is stamping Proof marks on a gun that should not have them.

(5) Measure the barrel length carefully if it appears to be a non-standard length. Verify the front sight dovetail cut is properly located on the barrel (.75" from the muzzle face to the forward most edge of the bottom of the dovetail slot). For rifles with a full length magazine tube, the retaining ring should be approximately 3.5" from the muzzle face to the retaining pin.

(6) For the early production blued guns (models 1892 and 1894 especially), look for the forging striation patterns on the receiver frame.

(7) For the stocks, inspect for a tight fit, and that the wood is proud of the receiver frame, upper and lower tangs, the butt plate, and the forend nose cap. If the stocks are checkered, look for over runs on the borders, and finish in the checkering. Inspect the finish type (oil or varnish), and look for any gouges, scratches, cracks, etc., that have finish in them. Inspect for evidence of any repaired cracks or splits, especially on the guns with high grade wood.

There are a substantial number of other things to look for depending on the specific Model, variation, and configuration of the gun in question. It would take writing a book to cover them all.

In final summary, to avoid being taken to the cleaners, there are several things that need to be considered;

(1) Who are you buying the gun from? There are a good number of trusted dealers, and then there are those that not. Unfortunately (in my personal experience), the latter group out numbers the first group.

(2) If the gun has a "story" or "excuse" attached to it concerning its current condition or configuration... Warning flag!!

(3) If something does not look or feel right about the gun... it most likely isn't. Trust your instincts ❗

(4) Find an unbiased collector or expert on the subject matter, and ask for advice.

Bert

WACA 6571L, Historian & Board of Director Member
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January 4, 2013
5:17 pm
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Something I recently saw was an early BP-Semi Smokeless era 1890 Short with a "perfect" bore. Hmmm. Not likely. Luckily one photo showed the flat muzzle with an obvious liner. He wasn't aware that it had been relined...

January 10, 2013
4:45 am
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A very reputable dealer, Steve Barnett- has at this writing a pre-64 SG M70 in .220 Swift- looks great and seemingly priced right- However, the photo of the Floorplate raises a question to my mind- the Super Grade stamp- the letter A in Grade is way longer in OAL and especially the legs- and also all the lettering stamped is also gold washed or filled- is this right for a factory issue SG M70? Also, in Rule's book, I believe I rear that ALL SG M70's has the letter S stamped on the underside of the barrel just ahead of the receiver- you would, of course, have to remove the stock to see that-Thanks

"Here's lookin' at you, kid!"

July 9, 2013
8:23 pm
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Don't forget, verify the gun is right as Bert explained above, I cannot stress that enough. THEN always buy the highest condition you can afford. Second rate rifles will always be second. High condition will always be in high demand. If you are bored with it a few years later, or you want to move from a 73 to an 86, you will sell high condition the easiest, fastest, and for the best money.

The only real exception to buying condition, is when a gun is so rare, you may not get a chance at another one for 10 years or something like that. Example would be serial number 17 winchester 73 that sold for over 100K. It was just a medium patina gun that would have been worth $2500 in a high serial number, but WOW it is number 17. Chances for guns like that are very rare.

Look at 73 trappers, scarce guns and most of them are brown blah condition, right? But everyone wants one and they bring big premiums.

Look at 85 low-wall carbines. Probably only 50 of them still floating around in the world, and it is believed only 2-3 of them have any condition. The rest (including mine) are all brown blah guns. But look at the high prices.

Nothing good will come cheap. If you are always looking for the deal, you will never have a great collection, just an average one. Rare is rare and if you want to build an exceptional collection, sooner or later you will have to "pony up" for either condition, or rarity. God help you if the bug bites you to buy a super rare rifle in minty condition!!! Collecting antique guns is a disease!!!

February 26, 2014
5:36 am
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I would really appreciate input from the group as to the names of reputable dealers, as well as individuals/organizations that can provide authentication services. Thx!

March 24, 2016
10:57 am
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I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area.  Can you tell me if there are any "expert" evaluators of Winchester Rifles in this locality?  Just looking to learn how to authenticate condition of any rifle I may be interested in purchasing.... Thank you.

April 3, 2016
6:52 pm
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I have a 1886 38-56 wcf is there anyone in the nj area who can help me grade this gun ?

April 4, 2016
2:18 am
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Paul,

If post good clear photos of the gun someone here can grade the gun.

Bob

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April 4, 2016
12:48 pm
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Paul Walzer said

I have a 1886 38-56 wcf is there anyone in the nj area who can help me grade this gun ?

 

Hey Paul,

I live only minutes from NJ,

If you live in Central or Northern NJ, we could get together, one evening.

There is a Gun Show in Mt Bethel PA, this Sunday, maybe you could take it there?

"I Would Have Rather Lived Through The Industrial Revaluation"

"Instead of The Space Age"

From

 The Twilight Zone

 

October 7, 2016
9:38 pm
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Does the concept "Kings" mean anything in regard to Winchester rifles?. I found an entry in an old inventory that I am trying to decipher for a friend who has an estate to administer. That part of the inventory included examples of 1873,1892,1894 rifles.

October 8, 2016
2:30 am
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Kingston, WA
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The term "Kings" applies to the patent that Winchester owned for the side loading gate first used on the Model 1866 lever-action. The patent was used several different models.

Bert

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November 3, 2016
2:15 pm
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FROM THE "TIPS" POST:

(5) Measure the barrel length carefully if it appears to be a non-standard length. Verify the front sight dovetail cut is properly located on the barrel (.75" from the muzzle face to the forward most edge of the bottom of the dovetail slot). For rifles with a full length magazine tube, the retaining ring should be approximately 3.5" from the muzzle face to the retaining pin.

 

Is this true for all models?

 

Thanks

November 3, 2016
5:42 pm
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Kingston, WA
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Yes, it is for all of the lever-action "Rifles". Carbines & Muskets are different.

Bert

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November 3, 2016
8:20 pm
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Interesting!

 

Thanks!

November 19, 2017
5:43 pm
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ohlode said
Something I recently saw was an early BP-Semi Smokeless era 1890 Short with a "perfect" bore. Hmmm. Not likely. Luckily one photo showed the flat muzzle with an obvious liner. He wasn't aware that it had been relined...  

Quite a few barrel relining specialists advertise "invisible reline" jobs done by stopping the barrel drill a few thousands short of the muzzle.  Even when this is done, however, the edge of the liner can usually be spotted from the breech end.  No doubt some technique has been developed to conceal the breech end as well, so a mint bore in a gun less than mint probably ought to be viewed with suspicion. That said, IF a gun has a bad bore, I'd rather buy it already relined, if it looks like the workmanship is first rate. 

November 19, 2017
5:48 pm
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Edwin Puglisi said
A very reputable dealer, Steve Barnett- has at this writing a pre-64 SG M70 in .220 Swift- looks great and seemingly priced right- However, the photo of the Floorplate raises a question to my mind- the Super Grade stamp- the letter A in Grade is way longer in OAL and especially the legs- and also all the lettering stamped is also gold washed or filled- is this right for a factory issue SG M70? Also, in Rule's book, I believe I rear that ALL SG M70's has the letter S stamped on the underside of the barrel just ahead of the receiver- you would, of course, have to remove the stock to see that-Thanks  

SG floorplates have been faked going back many years; once ran across a dealer at a show with a stack of them.  The "S" mark could be faked more easily than the floorplate.  

Gold-wash on a pre-64?  Surely not.

April 2, 2018
11:05 pm
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I made a few mistakes on the very first Winchester that I bought for my collection. It was a Model 1892 SRC that I knew had been re-blued and the wood-refinished. It was a beautiful job. When I got it home, I found that it had a replaced barrel from a "92" that was about 15 years newer than the receiver and, the magazine tube had been shorted. Just dumb, rookie mistakes. I paid $800.00 for the rifle and knowing that It was not what I thought it was, I just made a shooter out of it. Its a wonderful shooter and chambered in my favorite cartridge, 32WCF. We live, we learn. Smile

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April 3, 2018
2:16 am
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My first 1892 is very much like yours except that it's a rifle and has not been refinished. Bore turned out to be too rough to shoot and the exterior a bit too rough for much collector interest so I decided to make a shooter out of it; I love the little 32WCF cartridge. This rifle has one of the slickest actions I've ever worked on an 1892. The guy who was doing the reline told me the barrel had been cut off; it was only 23". I'd had it in a rack next to another 1892 rifle and never noticed it. Embarassed

I keep a bore light, tape measure and a Red Book in my pickup these days.

I wouldn't have caught the newer barrel on your carbine. I think you did OK for a shooter.

 

Mike

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