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Pre-war Model 71s (in 33 WCF, 45-70 Govt and...450 Alaskan)
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January 7, 2024 - 3:15 pm
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The early Model 71s were unique as to fit and finish. Winchester also offered during the first couple of years-

the M-71 in 33 WCF and the rarer 45-70 GOVT cartridges. There is a FL member who has a few of these.

The rarity is unquestioned, if all  the markings/stampings add up.

 

I prefer Harold Johnson’s 450 Alaskan. It was first offered in the early 1950s out of Cooper Landing, AK. through Johnson’s

Kenai Rifle  Shop. These rifles were utilitarian and were made to keep their owners alive and safe throughout the north woods

bear country in Canada and Alaska. A close cousin was the 450 Fuller. Both calibers propelled a 350 or 400 gr flat pointed bullet

at close to 2000 FPS velocity. A few smokeless era 1886 rifles were also re-chambered or re-barreled to 450 Alaskan. I own both of 

these caliber rifles in 1930s pre-war Model 71s. A close brush with a grizzly, Kodiak brown bear, or predatory black bear will give you all the answer you

could want as to the reasons for the chambering. Then there is the 50 Alaskan, but that is another story. I might even prefer an 1886 in 50 Express, as they

were popular in Alaska for a time.

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January 7, 2024 - 4:08 pm
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I’ve followed the .450 Alaskan (from a distance) since I was a very young man.  The power of it appealed to me.  Even though I would never consider firing one now, I remain intrigued.

The .450 Fuller – how is it different from the .450 Alaskan?

I think it’s unfortunate that Winchester didn’t make the .45-70 a regular chambering in their Model 71.  At the time they viewed the .45-70 as antiquated.  It’s interesting how the .45-70 would not die and has seen a continued resurgence for the past half century plus.  Marlin brought out their modern M1895 in .45-70 over 50 years ago.  The Ruger single-shot, the Browning M78, and even in very recent years, the modern .45-70 manufactured by Henry.

Had Winchester made the Model 71 in .45-70 as a regular chambering, by my reckoning, the .450 Alaskan et al would have never had a niche to fill.  The .45-70 can be loaded up hotter than the Model 71 action would be able to handle (just look in the loading manuals at the loads for the Ruger No. 1 only).

If it were up to me, Winchester would have chambered the M71 in .33 WCF, .348. .45-70 and .50 Express.  Interestingly, there would have been less alterations needed to make the .50 Express cartridge feed through the M71 action than what was required to make it feed through the M1886 action.  

I don’t pretend to believe that any of the chamberings I suggested other than the .348 would have been good sellers – back then – but think how desirable collectors would find them today (mainly because few would have been sold)!  Had I been on the Winchester management team back then, I’m sure it would have been an uphill battle to push my suggestions through.  However, I might well have been able to get the support of those fellow management members who pushed the .300 Savage and .35 Remington through for the Model 70 Wink

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January 7, 2024 - 5:22 pm
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The management team that came up with the near-exclusive chambering choice of the 348 made a very interesting call, I like the round but as a collector I’ll never understand their reasoning. As an improved 1886 the possibilities are very interesting. I suppose they probably wouldn’t understand what we as collectors place a premium even though some were collectors. 

 

Mike

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January 7, 2024 - 6:11 pm
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TXGunNut said
The management team that came up with the near-exclusive chambering choice of the 348 made a very interesting call, I like the round but as a collector I’ll never understand their reasoning. As an improved 1886 the possibilities are very interesting. I suppose they probably wouldn’t understand what we as collectors place a premium even though some were collectors. 

 

Mike

  

I share your enthusiasm for the 

348 WCF.  I have only the one Model 71. It’s a deluxe rifle made in 1949, I think, and I was years before I could afford one with condition. However, before that I had Browning’s reproduction and so acquired the dies and loading experience. For a brief while Nix stocked a shelf full of Winchester. 348 brass and for once I had the good sense to load up, at the same time thinking I was a spendthrift. 

Remember the Buckhorn in downtown Dallas? I went in there in the late Sixties once, without much in my pocket and less in my checkbook. Drove me crazy because they had a good dozen Model 21s propped up in Barrels on the floor, none of less than 85% guns.  But also, a .high condition 450 Alaskan from Kenai Rifles that I contemplated various felonies to acquire.  This one had a short bull barrel and it weighed considerably more than a fairy’s wing. I did note the barrel band secured around the forearm, which I guessed said something about the recoil. But still…..

- Bill 

 

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"I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both, and I believe they both get paid in the end, but the fools first." -- David Balfour, narrator and protagonist of the novel, Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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January 7, 2024 - 6:14 pm
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Zebulon said

TXGunNut said

The management team that came up with the near-exclusive chambering choice of the 348 made a very interesting call, I like the round but as a collector I’ll never understand their reasoning. As an improved 1886 the possibilities are very interesting. I suppose they probably wouldn’t understand what we as collectors place a premium even though some were collectors. 

 

Mike

  

I share your enthusiasm for the 

348 WCF.  I have only the one Model 71. It’s a deluxe rifle made in 1949, I think, and I was years before I could afford one with condition. However, before that I had Browning’s reproduction and so acquired the dies and loading experience. For a brief while Nix stocked a shelf full of Winchester. 348 brass and for once I had the good sense to load up, at the same time thinking I was a spendthrift. 

Remember the Buckhorn in downtown Dallas? I went in there in the late Sixties once, without much in my pocket and less in my checkbook. Drove me crazy because they had a good dozen Model 21s propped up in Barrels on the floor, none of less than 85% guns.  But also, a .high condition 450 Alaskan from Kenai Rifles that I contemplated various felonies to acquire.  This one had a short bull barrel and it weighed considerably more than a fairy’s wing. I did note the barrel band secured around the forearm, which I guessed said something about the recoil. But still…..

  

Bill,

What is the s/n on your Model 71 Special ?

Bert

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January 7, 2024 - 7:00 pm
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Good morning, Bert.  29,218.

- Bill 

 

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January 7, 2024 - 7:59 pm
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Zebulon said
Good morning, Bert.  29,218.

  

OK, that is a new s/n for the survey.  You are correct that it is a 1949 production rifle (based on the information I have), but if you want to confirm the actual date of manufacture, contact Pauline Muerrle.

Based on the serial number, it should have the Type 2 barrel address marking, and either a Lyman No. 56W receiver sight or a 22-K barrel mounted rear sight… which one does it actually have?  The grip cap should be the black (composite) style with the Winchester logo.

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January 7, 2024 - 8:41 pm
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Bert H. said

Zebulon said

Good morning, Bert.  29,218.

  

OK, that is a new s/n for the survey.  You are correct that it is a 1949 production rifle (based on the information I have), but if you want to confirm the actual date of manufacture, contact Pauline Muerrle.

Based on the serial number, it should have the Type 2 barrel address marking, and either a Lyman No. 56W receiver sight or a 22-K barrel mounted rear sight… which one does it actually have?  The grip cap should be the black (composite) style with the Winchester logo.

Bert

  

Bert,  composite logo grip cap, I’ll have to check the barrel address. Sights were not original when I acquired the piece:  Redfield Sourdough, rear slot blank, Williams 5D on receiver.  No hood. I’m of the opinion the original equipment was stripped off at some point, because the barrel surface over which a 22-K elevator would have been installed shows no micro traces. Could be wrong, no way I know to tell for sure.

Sourdough is my preferred front sight, so had no desire to change.

I’m a big fan of the Redfield 70 and would have preferred one coded for the 71, preferably with hunter knobs. Couldn’t find one, much less a Lyman 56W, and was lucky to find an NIB Redfield 80 for it with target knobs, at a highway robbery price. I’d been contemplating swapping the hunter knobs off a newish Redfield 80 coded for a Remington 740/760 but it looks like the 80 series knobs are installed on tiny pins instead of screws so I’ve postponed that sub-project. 

I’ll let you know about the barrel address. Perhaps I should photograph the slot blank and let us see if that provides clues to original sight equipment. 

I was able score a 3278 hood for relatively little at the time. Good luck. today.

Anything else? It’s a short tang 71. No extra holes. 

- Bill 

 

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"I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both, and I believe they both get paid in the end, but the fools first." -- David Balfour, narrator and protagonist of the novel, Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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January 7, 2024 - 8:53 pm
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Bill,

With no rub wear on the top of the barrel, it more than likely had a Lyman No. 56W (though I have to wonder why it was stripped off for a Williams).

I have seen factory original Redfield sights on at least (100) Model 71 rifles, especially the early production (pre WW II) rifles.

Redfield-714.jpgImage EnlargerRedfield-21692.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Bert

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January 8, 2024 - 5:45 am
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Bert H. said
Bill,

With no rub wear on the top of the barrel, it more than likely had a Lyman No. 56W (though I have to wonder why it was stripped off for a Williams).

I have seen factory original Redfield sights on at least (100) Model 71 rifles, especially the early production (pre WW II) rifles.

Redfield-714.jpgImage EnlargerRedfield-21692.jpgImage Enlarger

 

Bert

  

Bert,  This rifle came from Collector Firearms down in Houston, and — without pointing fingers – Williams 5D receiver sights coded for the M71 are not hard to find and, even in 2002 a clean Lyman 56W was a significant enhancement worth, ah setting aside. If I recall, close on to $300 on eBay. Easy to remove and replace.  I don’t think the 5D was original to the rifle, which was also advertised as a long tang version. Two hundred fifty miles later, I discovered it was a short tang and negotiated a minimal discount. (I do not have a poker face when representing myself, particularly in this hobby.) 

The Redfield 70 you illustrate in the second photo is a receiver sight I really like, particularly with hunter knobs. I have a 70EH I’ve used on various M94s and M64s and have taken deer with it.  The bridge is just too short to center the eyepiece on an 1886/71 receiver.  My 80FT is almost identical to a 70FT, although built a little more cheaply, and my only complaint are those “T” knobs sticking way up in the middle of the air.  I confess I find the Redfields a lot easier to use than the Lyman 56 that came on my M64. And it’s easier for me to read the indices. 

One other point about my 71. It does retain its proper checkered steel buttplate with widow’s peak.  As you know, the gun is not a real meat grinder to shoot but there are sure a lot of them out there cut for recoil pads ranging from a Silver’s to an Winchester to a No-Shoc and who knows what else.  Well, Roosevelt specified a Silver’s for his .405, didn’t he?   

Best

- Bill 

 

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"I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both, and I believe they both get paid in the end, but the fools first." -- David Balfour, narrator and protagonist of the novel, Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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