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 oldguns.net, 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.