In 1894, John Moses Browning designed a slick little rifle for the new-fangled smokeless powder cartridges.

Called the Winchester 1894, it came to be produced in several different calibres, one of which was the 7,62 X 51R, better known around here as the .30WCF or just plain .30-30.

At the time, there was no guarantee that the 1894 would not follow the same fate as many other firearms of that period and just fade into a footnote in history — but the gods of fire and steel did truly love John Browning, and that slick little lever-action rifle — and its most famous chambering — became a commercial success.

The .30-30 — and the rifle that fired it — quickly became one of the most popular hunting combos not only in North America, but also in Europe, Australia and South America — hence the European designation of 7,62 X 51Rimmed. It can be argued that the .30-30 chambered Winchester 94 is the most successful deer rifle ever made.

From 1894 until production halted in 2006, something in the neighborhood of seven million Winchester 94 rifles were made, in a spectacular variety of models.

I have a fondness for lever-action rifles, so when my friend Peter announced that he had a Winchester 94 with a 26-inch octagonal barrel for sale — I raided the Play-Pretty Fund.

According to, the serial number places it as having been made in 1967 (the same year that I was born) and I wish it could talk. It has been used these last 40 years, albeit well-cared for, and as I run my hand along the innumerable scuffs and dings of honourable service I wonder about the story behind each one.

The buttstock has been replaced, although long enough ago that it has accumulated it’s own share of scars, and I wonder what happened that would require a stock replacement.

Was this rifle a gift? Has it been passed on to a loved one? How many miles has it been carried, and where? Did it stay in the South, or has it seen other States, other countries?

I have other rifles, of stainless steel and black polymer, CNC creations with every conceivable technological advantage from cryogenic barrel treatment to cutting edge optics to titanium thingummies.

Truth be told … Winchester buckhorn sights aren’t the best in the world. Walnut and forged carbon steel isn’t as light weight as some of my other rifles. And that 26-inch barrel is maybe a touch long for the cedar breaks and the mesquite thickets where I hunt.

I wipe a silicon rod-and-reel cloth along the magazine tube where the blueing has been rubbed away by several hundred trips in and out of a rifle scabbard — and I really don’t care.

This fall, I’m going to load it with some 150-grain “thutty-thutty” rounds and we’re going to go write some more adventures into its history.


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30 thoughts on “Play-Pretty”

  1. Lawdog:
    I have been close to buying about a dozen Winchester 94s.
    The closest was probably one Christmas when I picked up a used one with a receiver-mounted peep on it. That 94 carbine came up just right and the sights were locked right where I was looking.
    My lever rifle needs are being filled by a Savage 99 and a Marlin 1894FG in .41 Magnum at the moment.
    Every now and then I think I should have gone ahead and bought that ’94 anyway.

    You might try putting a peep sight on yours sometime.

  2. I reckon my 94 heirloom has dispatched at least a ton of Georgia wild pig while in my possession these last 25 years. Can’t imagine using anything else.

  3. I have had Three Model 94s two in 30/30 one a Trapper with 16in Barrel liked it but it Barked very loudly second a bog standard 20in carbine that i hated and got rid of as quickly as i could the other is a 38/55 Legendary Frontiersman Rifle which i love next to my 1892 in 38/40 which is my all time Favorite Winchester also got a 44/40 model 92 and a 45Lc model 92
    made by win/browning/moroku in Japan.

  4. sigh… I envy you LD, I’m still looking for another ’94. Beautiful rifle, and yes, if ONLY they could talk… Enjoy it!

  5. I love this rifle. I think it is beautiful. Congrats on raiding the play purty fund for it!! (I had one. Sadly it was stolen..Bah)

  6. ps-yes I know it is “play pretty” However, many of the older txans called and spelled it “play Purty”

  7. Nice looking rifle there LD.
    My son gave me one in MY vintage(1951) a couple years ago, & it has taken the place of my previous woods gun (a ’94 in .44mag).
    Older one is MUCH nicer…

  8. LawDog,
    That was a lovely sentiment. Makes me look at the firearms my great-granddaddy and grandaddy left my father and I with an entirely different eye. I have often handled Great-Grandaddy’s service pistol and wondered what it would say, as it is the pistol he shot and killed the suspect with that killed him in a gunfight. You can see the story on, Cleveland Co SO NC E.W.Sanders. Quite a story for the 30’s. I wonder what yours would say. It’s a gorgeous piece.

  9. The europeans liked 7.62X51R for target shooting as well as hunting. You may not know it from the results you’ll see in a lever gun, but it’s been used to good effect in Schuetzen.

  10. I honestly felt a little un-American until I had a Model 1894 Winchester .30-30 in my closet. Now I need an 1897 shotgun.

    I like the way a heavy octagonal barreled lever gun hangs while shooting offhand. They’re a drag to carry, but they do great things once you get there.

    I have to say, I sure do like the work that can be done with receiver peeps, though, even better. I’m about to drive my 1972 vintage M94 down to have it tapped for AE receiver peeps. (and a trigger job).

  11. Bought one of these when teaching in the SERE school in Maine in ’62. Onstensibly to hunt deer. Still got it and has probably only 50 60 rounds through it. Just bought a a brand new Henry .22 LR octogon barrel lever for use with the grandkids! The 13 year old gdaughter loves it and already calls it “her gun”!

  12. I’m not sorry to say you will be assimilated into the world of lever action rifles. They can take over your life and make you whole. I’ve found the 26″ tubes don’t handle that bad in the thick stuff. I doubt you’ll have trouble with that. Mount a Lyman or Williams peep sight on it and enjoy. If you get a wild hair, stop on over to and the boys there will help you feed the need ;-).

  13. Nice little lay-pretty you have there. I particularly like the ingraving on it. Mine doesn’t have that little touch, but it IS a 1926 vintage saddle carbine (20-inch barrel) with Marble sights that had belonged to my Dad. (Since it was given to him when he was 4, my Grandad opted for the shorter barrel length). After my Dad passed away, I made SURE that I got that one, along with his old side-by-side double-barrel shotgun and his S&W Victory Model service pistol from WWII. Haven’t had long guns out to shoot yet, because I didn’t want to de-value them, but that’s a situation I plan to change this summer.

  14. My Dad has a model 94 calibered in 32WINSPL that was my Great Grandfathers. It is my favorite rifle to shoot. I too wish it could talk, oh the stories it would tell.



  15. I got to rent a Winchester 94 in .45LC once, and for sheer “fun with a gun” I’m not sure it can be beat. I’d dearly like to get hold of one in .30-30, but being a tightwad a Marlin 336 is more likely in my future.

  16. I grew up with the same rifle though a pre WWII model that was my grandpa’s, and then my dad’s. Unfortunately, my dad was living in Somerset when the Brit’s invoked their gun grab and one of his ts wasn’t crossed,so they they made off with it and the rest of our centerfire rifles. I just hope it’s in some corrupt bobbies closet, not slag in some furnace. Could be, as the inspector in question let dad keep his Nambu when he heard he took off a dead jap. (anese soldier)
    That 94’ll shoot!

  17. I’m still annoyed that my father got rid of the mod 94 in 30-30 that I used for deer hunting. Was a low 6 digit serial #. Only problem I had was unloading could be difficult. More than once I ended up with a round inside the lever action area. Required dismantling the lever assembly to remove it. I don’t recall why it would do that.

  18. ‘Dog – – congratulations on getting that pretty trenta-treinta. I’ve always admired that particular version.

    Ah, Will — I’m sorry that old fusil has gone away. I’m sure it won’t be any comfort for you to know that the problem with the cartridge stop may be simply and inexpensively fixed.

    I had a simlar problem with a Model 1892 which had been rechambered to .45 ACP.

    Here’s hoping you can find another, similar, .30-30, just for auld lang syne. Even if you’re not an active hunter, the ’94 has such classic lines that it is a really nice wall hanger, in whatever condition.


  19. A beautiful thing. I sold mine, since .30-30 doesn’t work for cowboy shooting and I haven’t gone after deer in a decade or so.

  20. I saw your eyes light up and heard the excitement in your voice and knew you’d be taking that rifle home. Glad you got it.

  21. jpg,
    my father seemed to lack the sentimental/family/historical collecting gene. He didn’t keep my left-handed, bolt action, mag fed, 12 ga shotgun either. I was able to find his deer rifle, a slide action Remington 760? Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to ship it home following the funeral service. It’s sitting at my sisters. Looks like it will collect dust until my next cross country visit, as there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get it here. I can ship it to myself, but seems not possible to have family ship it to me.
    Hmmm, wonder if I can send a shipping tag/mailer to her?

  22. I have a ’94, .32 Winchester Special with factory fitted Redfield Sights that is a sweet shooting rifle with what subjectively fells like more smackdown punch than the 30-30, though I’ve never seen the ballistic data on the two. Gun was allegedly once owned by Harry S. Truman (provence lost) and was manufactured in ~1947. If you’re interested in a nice ’94, feel free to contact me. (

  23. will,

    Perhaps it could be shipped through a third party at a small local gun shop in your sister’s town?

  24. I have a model 94 in 32 win.spcl. my dad bought it new in 1946. When I started using it in 1970 when I was 15 it only had 6 shots gone out of 2 boxes , & dad had 6 whitetail racks to show for it!Since then I have more than made up for that!!Lost track of how manney deer I’ve shot with it. Retired it to the gun cabinet 5 years ago and got a 336 marlin 30-30 and slowly am falling in love with it. One thing I’ve learned about a ’94’ – if you miss,, I’ts your own fault!

  25. A horse probably rolled on that 94 while it was in a saddle scabbard.My dad got a 94 as boot when he bought his Ranch in Long Gulch ca in 1948,and I still have it,the saddle ring is long gone,the blue is worn and the stock dinged here and there but the bore is perfect and it is as tight as the day it was made in 1908.

  26. My grandfather had a number of long guns, including a ’94, but Mom gave them away when he died in 1954. [Three kids around the house.] To make up for that, I now have a ’94 in .44 and a Rossi ’92 in .38/.357 for cowboy silhouette, and two Henry’s in .22, one in .22 mag. Haven’t hunted here in Colorado, but friends where we have property in Ohio want me to go out after ‘chucks and feral pigs. OldeForce

  27. Nice rifle, nice way of telling baout it. I hope the action on that thing as as smooth as glass, and that it gives you years of pleasurable shooting.

  28. Will,

    If you directly inheirited the gun in question, it can be shipped directly to you across state lines. Being a long arm, it can even be mailed via USPS (while handguns can only be mailed FFL to FFL). (Based on federal laws — y’all also have to deal with whatever state laws might apply in each state. See USC Title 18 §922(a)5(A) and 27 CFR §478.30(a).)

    If it was given to you by whoever technically inheirited it, it’ll have to be shipped through an FFL.

    The difference is the “transfer”. If it “transferred” directly to you upon the death of your father, you already own it without having to cross state lines. So, you can go fetch your property, or have someone else send it to you — no FFL needed. See USC Title 18 §922(a)3(A) and 27 CFR §478.29.

    If it “transferred” to someone else (such as being inheirited by your mother or eldest sister under the laws peratining to your father’s estate), you can’t get it directly (not even if you drive up and get it), unless you follow the rules for acquiring a firearm outside of your state of legal residence. Which means doing it as an FFL transfer.

    Of course, if the gun is C&R eligible (and if you don’t know the manufacture date to see if it is automatically a C&R based on the 50 year limit, Remington can help you trace the serial number) and you have the $30/3 years C&R FFL, they can send it directly to you, even if it wasn’t directly inheirited by you.

    The Remington info is available at

    However, since the first serial number series ran 1000 – 541,000 from 1951 (even though the official introduction date was 1952, they started manufacturing the guns in 1951) through 1967, it would have to have a pretty low number to be a C&R based on age.

    Rick R.

  29. That is a Pretty Rifle..!! Look like a really great product. This Saddle Rifle Scabbard is back sling and with adjustable leather saddle strapping . This is unique, protects it, allows you to carry it security and all with style.

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