Background info – Winchester Lever Actions
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|Model 1873||Model 1876||Model 1886||Model 1892||Model 1894||Model 1895|
Click photos to enlarge. Note differences in sideplates and loading gates to identify models at a glance.
Winchester 1873’s – Manufactured from 1873 to 1919, these were offered in .32, .38, and .44 calibers. There is sometimes confusion over the cartridge names — .44 Winchester Centerfire (abbreviated W.C.F.) is also called .44-40, indicating an approximately .44" diameter bullet loaded over 40 grains of black powder. Likewise, the .38 WCF is called .38-40, and the .32 WCF is .32-20. Colt soon began producing the Single Action Army in these calibers. Carrying a rifle and revolver which could fire interchangeable cartridges became popular in the American West, where ammunition resupply might be somewhat problematic. It was also made in limited numbers in .22 rimfire – quickly identifiable by the lack of a loading gate on the right sideplate.
Like the earlier Model 1873, the light and handy Model 1892 was chambered for what are thought of today as handgun power cartridges - 44 WCF, (44-40), 38 WCF (38-40), and 32 WCF (32-20), primarily. It’s relatively light weight and elegantly handy size make it popular with cowboy action shooters and others still today. It was used in many of the Western movies & TV shows, even though many of them were set in an era before the 92 had been introduced.
Winchester Model 1894’s
The Winchester 1894 was the first Winchester lever action designed with what are now considered intermediate power smokeless rifle cartridges in mind, (in the 30-30 class). With similar lines to the Model 1892, the frame of the 94 is slightly larger. To quickly tell whether you’re looking at a 92 or a 94, look at the loading gate in the side of the frame. The gate on the 92 is shorter and square on the front end. The Model 94 has probably been America’s favorite deer rifle of the 20th century.
Winchester Models 1876 & 1886
As with other models, the model name indicated the year of introduction. Unlike the lighter, smaller Mod. 1873 & 1892, the Models 1876 &1886 were chambered for larger more powerful rifle cartridges. The Mod. ‘76 has an irregular sideplate similar to the Mod. 1873, while the 1886 has the smooth contour of the Mod. 1892.
Winchester Models 1895
The early model Winchesters all featured tubular magazines, running underneath & parallel to the barrel. These worked well with flat pointed bullets, but as ammunition evolved, the system proved dangerous with more efficient pointed spitzer type bullets — since a cartridge lay in the magazine nose-to-base with the one in front of & behind it, there was a real possibility that the recoil of the rifle could drive the point of the bullet into the primer of the cartridge in front of it, causing the cartridge to detonate inside the magazine.
The Model 1895 overcame this limitation by using a box magazine, giving it it’s distinctive profile. It was eventually chambered for full power rifle cartridges in the .30-06 class offering much greater power than the .44-40 "pistol class" cartridges chambered in the 1873 & 1892, a flatter trajectory than the black-powder large caliber cartridges chambered in the 1876 & 1886, and significantly more power than the .30-30 class intermediate power rifle cartridges chambered in the 1894.
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