Winchester’s Model 94 Short Rifle Part I

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11/07/2021 – I was up late last night, trying to turn specs and collected data into an article about the Winchester Model 94 and the 30-30 Winchester cartridge. Around midnight, after deleting old friend analogies and appearances of the words “John Browning”, “nostalgic”, “venerable” and “historical consequence” I set aside writing and invented a fondue derivative snack.

The CruCheesy

1/2 cup of Ricos Gourmet Nacho Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1/2 cup of Hannaford  Large Cheese and Garlic Croutons
1 splash of Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce
1/4 cup chopped bacon

Put the cheese in a small bowl, add croutons then stir to combine. Microwave, covered to prevent the cheese from hitting the fan, for approx 1 minute. Stir some more, add hot sauce and bacon to suit taste or lack of the same. The CruCheesey is very efficient food. It bypasses the throat and stomach and goes directly to the arteries as pure carbohydrate generated plaque.

Winchester’s Model 1894… Compulsory historical overview

On January 19, 1894, John M. Browning, through attorney Earl Seymour, applied for a patent on the design of the J. M. Browning Magazine Gun. There was no other model nomenclature.

Browning’s intention was not, as often suggested, to design a rifle for use with smokeless powder cartridges, but rather to simplify and improve upon existing lever action designs for the end results of: reduced weight and size, ease of disassembly, increased feed reliability, and capacity to handle longer cartridges than any other lever action rifle of similar size. In Browning’s patent application words –

Nowhere in the descriptive text is the issue of strength, the use of a smokeless powder cartridges or special barrel material, nickel steel, indicated.

The patent was granted and assigned to Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven, CT by Browning on August 21, 1894 1). After the patent was purchased by Winchester in August of 1894, and after initial production, barrel material was then changed from mild steel to a nickel steel to accommodate smokeless powder cartridges 2).

The first Winchester Model 1894 firearms were produced in October 1894 and announced one month later. With smokeless powder design cartridges not yet ready for production, the first Model 1894 rifles were chambered for the 32-40 WCF and 38-55 WCF black powder cartridges, rifles with mild steel barrels. The 25-35 WCF and 30 WCF were added to the catalog in August of 1895 and nickel steel barrels became standard 3).

The .30-30 WCF was introduced as the .30 WCF, just as were the .32 WCF, .33 WCF and .35 WCF. The charge designations were dropped during the change over from black powder to smokeless. In reviewing early ammo box labels, the name appears this way on Winchester ammunition boxes produced at least through 1914.

Other manufacturers wanting to chamber firearms for the new round, but without promoting Winchester, referred to the round as the 30-30 Smokeless. Winchester returned the favor by marking their ammo boxes, “.30 Winchester Smokeless Model 1894” underscored with “For Winchester, Marlin and Savage Rifles” 4).

The Winchester Model 1894 has been a huge success. The company finessed the model’s design to maintain market momentum by capitalizing on trends and by configuring for unique applications.

Throughout its 5,500,000+ unit run, the Model 1894 has been offered in many barrel lengths, chambers, and grades of finish. There were improvements that remain today, like the 1983 change to angle eject. The 1979 375 Winchester XTR Big Bore and 1983 chambers for the 307 Winchester and 356 Winchester cartridges are examples of trends served, before passing into Winchester history.

The current Winchester Model 94

The angle eject version of the Model 94 has stepped receiver side; cut lower on the starboard side than port side. The AE’s extractor is located at 11 o’clock, the spring loaded ejector at approximately 5 o’clock, both on the face of the breech bolt. Chambering a round compresses the ejector, which remains compressed under the rim of the cartridge until the case mouth clears the chamber wall on extraction and  the compressed ejector is released to toss the case out at an angle that would clear even low mounted scopes.

Prior to the angle eject system, Model 94 owners were required to wear a hard hat to fend off ejected empties and mount scopes high or offset.

Below, an easy to operate tang safety replaced earlier hammer half cock and crossbolt type safeties. A rebounding hammer rests at a position where it is not cocked and not resting against the rifle’s firing pin; accidental discharge insurance in the event of a jarred or dropped firearm.

The combination of rails on the breech bolt that ride in reliefs cut into the inside of the receiver and vertical locking bolt makes for a stout, compact action. The vertical locking bolt trunnions are rounded to ease and smooth lever operation. The hole that is visible in the side of the hammer accommodates a hammer spur offset extension that helps when cocking the hammer with a scope installed.

Closed breech, the Model 94’s receiver is clean in appearance. The gap between hammer and firing pin with the hammer in the down, or rebound position, is a bit easier to see.

Below, often referred to as a vertical locking bolt, it is more accurately termed “near vertical” as the lug does have a slight rearward tilt, which is required to make the assembly work. Not the same as the more fragile Winchester Model 1873 toggle link action, the Model 94 also incorporates a toggle link which allows cycling a relatively long cartridge in a relatively short action by opening and closing the breech bolt in two stages and shifting the location of the fulcrum.

The first half of the Model 94’s opening lever stroke has the finger lever link screw positioned at the bottom of the camming slot; the lever has maximum mechanical advantage, opens the breech bolt approximately 1/4 of its travel and drives the link fully downward. At that point the link can not move further, so the finger lever link screw rises to the top of the lever’s camming slot, which reduces the lever’s mechanical advantage, but increases the ratio of breach bolt to lever travel; the second half of the closing lever stroke moves the breech bolt the remaining 3/4 of the way open. Which makes sense, as higher mechanical advantage would be in place for initial cartridge extraction. The safety catch assures that the breech bolt is fully in battery before the trigger can be pulled.

Closed up, the Model 94 bottom is as clean as a solid bottom Model 92. This one’s stock work is closely fit and generally shaped to the adjacent metal pieces. Yes, it is a little dirty from use.

I have to laugh when I hear some folks deem this type of metallic sight as “unusable”, just before suggesting that the the sights be changed immediately. I suspect there might be a lot of old cowboys, every day hunters, presidents and dignitaries, celebrities and professional sharpshooters who might take exception to that assessment. Properly adjusted to ammunition, the rear sight elevator in the correct position and the sight drifted as required, they are actually quite fast and quite precise in use. Quite.

Above and below, the Winchester Model 1894 is made with quality many manufacturers cannot attain. From the fit of the forend cap, to the pins on the magazine band to the standoff between the barrel and magazine tube; no scratches from process handling, or misguided screw drivers or less than ideal material handling equipment. A new rifle is received in perfect new condition.

The case of the 250 yard 30-30 WCF

The 30-30 Winchester was the first American small bore smokeless powder sport cartridge. Introduced by Winchester for use in its Winchester Model 1894. The original loading was 160 grain bullet with 30 grains of smokeless powder. Muzzle velocity was 1.970 fps.

I know this to be true, because Cartridges of the World tells me so, and numerous other sources confirm. Gratuitously pictured L-R: Federal Fusion, Winchester Super X, Hornady LeverEvolution.

Discussions of the 30-30 Winchester’s power are steeped in conflict, irony and, sometimes, acrimony. And yes, I do know what irony means. Acrimony? I am pretty sure. Wait a second…. Yes, I am positive.

Worshipers of the AR give credence to the .300 Blackout by saying it is almost as powerful as the 30-30 Winchester. The same for worshipers of the AK, who give credence to the 7.62×39 Russian who say IT is almost as powerful as the 30-30 Winchester. Why not just buy the real thing and the extra power?

Mention the 30-30 Winchester powered Model 94 as a deer rifle at an AR – AK Star Trek, Marvel Comics, and Video Game Convention and they will scoff, laugh and sometimes giggle. People who have not hunted with the 30-30 Winchester often, dismiss the cartridge as under powered for deer.

I believe that if you cannot see the potential in the lever action / 30-30 Winchester combination beyond 100 yards, your feet stink, you don’t love Jesus and you probably voted for Brandon. Let’s look a little closer, as there may yet be hope for you.

Ammunition Bullet
Type
Bullet
Grains
Listed
FPS
Actual
FPS
Federal Fusion  Flat Point 150 2390 2442
Winchester Super X Power Point 150 2390 2387
Hornady LeverEvolution FTX 160 2400 2338

The table above reflects the muzzle velocity for the three factory rounds pictured previously, both factory rating with a SAAMI 24″ test barrel and the chronograph readings from the 20″ barrel. It is not uncommon for moderate capacity cartridges to not follow proportional or even negative velocity changes when shot from a shorter than standard barrel. More important, what does the 30-30 Winchester look like down range?

Best Zero 30-30 Winchester – LeverEvolution
Near-Zero – Yards 21 Mid Range – Yards 110
Far-Zero – Yards 193 Max Ordinate  “ +3.0
Point Blank – Yards 205
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2338 2214 2093 1977 1865 1756 1652
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1942 1741 1556 1388 1235 1096 969
Momentum – lbs-sec 53 51 48 45 43 40 38
Path – in. -1.50 1.62 2.96 2.31 -0.56 -5.93 -14.12
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.07 0.14 0.21 0.29 0.37 0.46

 

The 30-30 Winchester, in combination with a Model 94, is clearly not limited to being a 100 yard deer rifle. Exterior ballistics show it to be a deer slayer out to 250 yards with 205 yards point blank range on a 3″ maximum ordinate. If there is a 100 yard range limit for deer size game for the 30-30 WCF, it resides with the shooter, not the rifle. Unlike high power .30 caliber cartridges, the 30-30 Winchester will also perform close in with good bullet expansion and no jacket shedding or fragmentation.

My personal experience with the 30-30 WCF is typical. Full expansion of jacketed bullets on deer and game of similar weight. Full expansion of monolith copper alloy bullets intended for the 30-30 Winchester 5). Cast bullets tend to hole punch and pass through game, but when the shooter does his part and hits vitals, the effect on game is certain.

Part I wrap up

Winchester Model 94

Manufactured

B.C. Miroku of Japan

Model Version

Short Rifle

Available Chambers 30-30 WCF
Magazine Capacity 7
Butt & Fore Stock Grade 1 Walnut Satin Finished
Hardware Blued Steel Brush Polished
Barrel Length

20″

Twist Rate

1:12″

Weight

6 lbs 12 oz

Overall Length 38″
Length of Pull 13.5″
Drop at Comb 1 1/4“
Drop at heel 1 3/4″
Sights Marble Semi Buckhorn & Bead
Scope Mounting

Drilled & Tapped

Measured Trigger Pull

5 lbs. 5 oz.

Safety Sliding Tang & Rebounding Hammer
MSRP

$1,309.99

The Winchester Model 94 is a compact, lightweight and fast handling rifle. The 30-30 Winchester is the quintessential deer hunter’s cartridge. Quite a combination. Part II will address handloads and live fire, the latter to include both handloads and factory ammo.

1) U.S. Patent and Trademark office – Patent US000524702
2). The History of Browning Firearms – Miller
3) The History of Winchester Firearms 1866 – 1992 – Henshaw
4) Standard Catalog of Winchester – Editor – David D. Kowalski
5) See the movie “ The Monolith Monsters (1957)

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