Classic rifles display the timelessness of a good design
The pair of Winchester model 1894 rifles sitting in the Friedman’s showroom, one built in 1918, the other a new out of the box version from 1994, is a perfect example of how an inspired design can defy the ages. Though 76 years and some five million manufactured units separate the two, the guns are virtually identical.
“They just kept on producing them and producing them and producing them,” says Friedman’s firearms expert Chris Leopard. “According to the Blue Book of Gun Values, the model 1894 Winchester is the World’s most popular rifle, and like the Colt 1911 (featured in last week’s issue), it has been copied by other manufacturers, mainly the Marlin 30-30.”
Leopard says you could lay the Marlin next to either of the two Winchesters and they would look almost identical. So identical, in fact, that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference without looking at the manufacturer.
“That was a very popular gun in the 1970s for a first rifle to hunt deer with,” Leopard says. “To a lot of people I talk to in my generation, that was what they used to deer hunt with. That was just the gun of choice.”
Leopard himself killed his first deer with a 30-30 Marlin.
The reputation of the model 1894 lies in large part with 30-30 Winchester cartridge, a very popular deer cartridge that’s still used today.
A lever action rifle, the cartridges were loaded individually from the side of the receiver, where they entered the tube magazine. When you worked the lever, it pulled one from the tube and loaded one in the chamber.
Not all model 1894s use 30-30 Winchester cartridges, however. Though certainly the most popular version, Winchester made versions that would shoot five different cartridges, including shorter pistol cartridges, which would have filled the tube with more rounds of ammunition, making it perfect for those straight shooting western heroes.
Even after nearly 80 years, the only real change to the gun is the addition of another safety to the newer rifle. Otherwise, the only difference is the saddle ring seen on the older version.
The saddle ring was developed for cavalry soldiers, who wore a wide leather belt over their shoulder and across their body called a carbine sling. A spring-loaded snap link would then attach to the rifle at the saddle ring.
“If they didn’t need the rifle, they could stick it in the scabbard, which was usually on the side of the saddle,” Leopard says. “But if they were in a combat situation, they could let it hang to the side and access it quickly if they needed to.”
Though Leopard only graded the older gun at 60 to 70 percent and the newer gun, which had been owned by a collector and was never shot, was basically mint condition, the older gun’s age and historical value make it worth nearly twice what the newer model is.
“Though you can buy the exact same gun brand new off the shelf, there’s a real market for older guns,” Leopard says. “That’s what drives the prices up.”
Leopard appraised the older gun at $1,400, while the 1994 version, now 18 years old, he appraised at about $700.You Might Also Like: