The Winchester Model 1894 (later known as the Model 94) is an American lever-action repeating rifle produced from 1894 to 2006 by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The third iteration of the improved Winchester rifle as designed by John Browning, the Model 1894 used the Model 1892's action in a slightly longer platform. The rifle was an instant success, with over a seven million produced over its over hundred-year lifespan, and is often regarded as the ultimate lever action rifle that Winchester had designed.
The Model 1894 was first designed in 1894 as a rifle with the Model 1892's action in a slightly longer package. The Model 1894 was also the first Winchester rifle to be developed specifically for use with smokeless powder.
The weapon began production in 1894 and was an instant success; the weapon combined a compact form factor with potent firepower making for a popular hunting rifle. The Model 1894 outsold all of its competitors and was far and away the most popular Winchester rifle, with over seven million produced by the end of production in 2006 with the closure of the New Haven plant; certain rifles were also gifted to a number of dignitaries, such as the one millionth rifle to Calvin Coolidge in 1927, the one-and-half millionth rifle to Harry Truman in 1948 and the two millionth to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Some 1,800 Model 1894s were also purchased by the United States government for use by the United States Signal Arms Corps during World War I and sold as military surplus after the war while some 5,000 were purchased by the Royal Navy for shipboard guard duties, with another 15,100 being purchased by the French Army for use by a variety of units.
The weapon was renamed the Model 94 in the early 20th century as per Winchester's practice of abbreviating names of most older designs during that time (i.e. Model 97).
The Winchester Model 1894's action is an adaptation of the Model 1892's action, which was in turn a modified version of the Henry rifle action used in the previous few Winchester rifles. Prior to this rifle, the Winchester rifle incorporated a toggle-link bolt which operated like a knee joint. The Model 1894, however, ditched said knee joint; this was replaced by two sliding steel wedges located on either side of the bolt that act as locking lugs. These lugs help to completely restrain the bolt from any sort of movement due to thrust exerted upon it on firing. Other than the use of the two wedges, the system remains largely the same, where a cartridge carrier picks up cartridges, places them into battery and then flings them out of the gun. A number of changes were made to the design over time which shall be described in detail in the next section.
Over its production run, three design changes were made to the design and construction of the Model 94. The first change came in 1964 after John Olin's resignation from The Olin Corporation which owned Winchester at the time; this change is regarded as the most major of all three of the changes. The change was enacted by the new owners of The Olin Corporation and involved production methods of the weapon; instead of having the receiver being machined out of steel, it would be made out of investment castings instead in an attempt to make the production of the weapon cheaper. This was seen as detrimental to the gun despite it apparently not affecting performance of the weapon as a whole, and eventually causing prices of what would be known as "pre-64" Model 94s to increase in value due to their perceived better quality.
The second change came in 1982 by the U.S. Repeating Arms Company, where the rifle's action was changed to allow the weapon to eject cartridges at an angle to allow it to mount scopes; the original weapon's inability to mount scopes or any sort of optic on the receiver was blamed for falling sales when compared to its competition such as the Marlin Model 336. Despite the optic mounting not exactly being a problem when the weapon was originally introduced (Winchester did drill holes into the side of the receiver to allow for mounting of optics), side-mounted scopes could cause Parallax errors, and that the ability to use receiver mounted scopes was practically expected by most gun buyers of the 1970s.
The final change in manufacturing came in 1992, after the U.S. Repeating Arms Company went out of business in 1989 and was subsequently acquired by FN Herstal, which set out to improve the design even further so that it could be marketed worldwide. This caused new CNC-manufactured parts and solid pins to be introduced back into the construction of the rifle and the addition of a cross bolt safety to replace the half-cock hammer notch so it could be marketed worldwide. Despite a noted increase in build quality, the presence of the safety drew strong criticism as it said it "detracted from the look of the rifle" and was referred to as a "lawyer's safety"; the safety was later moved to the rear tang in 2001 which largely appeased the complaints. The final batch of Model 94s produced by the New Haven plant before its closure in 2006 and the replicas produced by Miroku Corp. since 2010 feature these tang-mounted safeties.
Original Model 1894s were first advertised to be chambered in .32-40 Winchester to .38-55 Winchester as Winchester was then working on new nickel-steel barrels to handle the then-new smokeless powder cartridges; by 1895 they had done it and .25-35 Winchester was added to the caliber choices. Modern replicas of the Model 1894 generally use these same cartridges.
The Model 1894 has a wide variety of model types, from "tipper carbine" to trapper carbine and others such as rifle and carbine. A shotgun variant also known as the Model 9410 also exists which used .410 bore shotgun shells; this variant has been discontinued.
- Model 55
- Model 64
Derivative of the Model 94 introduced in 1933 as a replacement for the Model 55. Discontinued in 1957.
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