A Most Versatile .30-30 Levergun.
A few short weeks after the ending of WWII in the Pacific, my friends and I entered 1st grade. We would spend the next several years using most of the free time we had, and some not supposed to be free, drawing aerial dogfights over and over and over again. By today’s standards we would be under constant suspension. Our drawings were certainly crude as we re-fought the war on our level every day.
If a prognosticator of the time had looked into his crystal ball and predicted Americans would someday be driving millions of Japanese cars he would’ve been considered Looney Tunes, and if he went a little further predicting Winchester would stop making rifles and close their plant, it would be time to call the men in the white coats. As he was carried off to a safer place he might be saying something to the effect Winchester leverguns would be made in Japan in the future and by then we would know he was headed for a padded cell.
All of this proves, once again, truth is nearly always stranger than fiction. It seems the majority of the cars I see on the road are either from Japan or made here in this country with Japanese technology and all Winchester-style leverguns offered today either come from Italy in the form of the 1860 Henry, 1866, 1873, and 1876 toggle-link actions, 1886 and 1892 Models from both Italy and Japan. Most assuredly the 1894 Winchester which was made in millions upon millions of versions here in America now comes from Miroku in Japan. The most interesting thing is the currently produced “Winchesters” from both countries are of excellent quality, perhaps even better than the originals.
I have at least one of every replica Winchester from the 1860 Henry to the 1892 saddle gun and also the 1895 Winchester. The 1860, 1866, and 1873 in replica form are, of course, now made for smokeless powder cartridges and are also definitely stronger than their original counterparts. This is also true of the replica 1876 which was Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite ranch rifle when he was in the Dakotas and the replica 1886 which in .45-70 is a better rifle than my original. Winchester 92s were originally offered in .44-40, .38-40, and .32-20 with a few scattered versions found in .25-20 and .218 Bee. Today we not only have the original WCF chamberings available in the replica 1892 we also have a choice of .45 Colt, .44 Magnum, and .357 Magnum. In this case Progress has certainly been on our side.
Now the 1894 Winchester, which for so many decades and generations of hunters was America’s favorite deer rifle and saddle gun, is not only available as a regular .30-30 levergun we also have access, again thanks to Miroku, to the first Takedown 1894 offered, if memory serves me correctly, in my lifetime. The great advantage, perhaps the only advantage, of a Takedown 1894 is the fact it can be made much smaller in length by separating the barrel/forearm from the action/buttstock making it not only much easier to transport but also concealing the fact it is a rifle which can come in quite handy in some situations. Once taken down it packs easily into a backpack, bedroll, behind the seat of a pickup, strapped to an ATV, even transported in a bushplane.
Except for the small lever under the magazine tube at the front end this Model 1894 would appear to be a typical 20-inch barreled classic .30-30. To access the takedown feature this unobtrusive little lever is rotated 90 degrees until it is perpendicular to the magazine tube and then acts as a handle of sorts to unscrew the tube. Once this is accomplished to the prescribed length the barrel can then be twisted off the action and the rifle is now in two parts. Reassembly is just as simple.
The Miroku Winchester 1894 is finished exceptionally well in a deep blue/black mated up with nicely grained walnut buttstock and forearm both of which are well fitted to the metal parts, the action and barrel of this .30-30. Sights are excellent classic style with a Marble gold bead front sight matched up with a Buckhorn rear sight. The rear sight is adjustable for elevation by moving the typical stepped ladder found on levergun sights and windage is accomplished by tapping the rear sight with a brass rod.
Loading is accomplished in the typical lever action way through a loading gate on the right side and cartridges are fed from the tube into the chamber by the operation of the lever which gives the levergun its name. The hammer is the rebounding type with a wide checkered spur for easy cocking and also drilled through the side for the attachment of a hammer extension cocking lever should one desire such an atrocity. Millions of leverguns were made without any type of safety except the less than adequate so-called safety notch on the hammer, however those days are long gone and this current 1894 has a sliding tang safety which I consider an excellent addition to the time tried Model 1894.
As with many modern lever action rifles produced today, the 1894 Takedown is equipped with a trigger stop. This little mechanism can be seen protruding from the tang about one-inch behind the trigger. Before the rifle will fire it is necessary for the top of the lever to depress the trigger stop assuring that the breech is fully closed before a cartridge will fire. I had planned to fire four factory cartridges plus a handload with cast bullets for testing this .30-30, however I found all were not compatible with the trigger stop; actually the problem was bullet fit to chamber.
Both Federal and Winchester 150-grain cartridges slide easily into the chamber and allow the trigger stop to be depressed without any extra effort; the 170-grain Remington Core-Lokt requires a slight pressure in closing the lever while the Buffalo Bore 190 grainers necessitates considerable pressure to close the breech meaning bullets are a very tight fit in the chamber. My handloads using Oregon Trail 170-grain FNGC bullets would not chamber at all. Measuring of the bullet diameter in the front of the mouth of the case of each cartridge revealed just what was happening. Federal’s 150-grain FNSP measured 0.3055 inch with Winchester’s 150-grain Power Point going 0.3045 inch. They both chambered smoothly.
The Remington 170 Core-Lokt measured 0.3055 inch while the Buffalo Bore using the heavier 190-grain FP jacketed bullets came in at a chamber resistant 0.3075 inch and the Oregon Trail 170GC was too large for this rifle at 0.3095 inch. What this simply means if anything larger than 150-grain bullets are to be used it would be a good idea to have the chamber mouth opened slightly to match up with the bullet choice. The Buffalo Bore Heavy .30-30 which is certainly desirable for use on black bear and large deer would require the proper modification to allow for easy chambering.
I can recall presidents Harry Truman (1945-1952) and Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1960) both being presented with Winchester .30-30s while in office. The figure which sticks in my mind was Truman received No. 1,500,000 and Ike got No. 2,000,000. Over the ensuing decades many more millions were produced as the 94 became first sporting rifle to reach 7,000,000 units. Even though the bolt-action rifle had been discovered by troops in WWI and then used to build many sporting rifles thereafter along with the rise of the Remington and Winchester bolt-action rifles, the levergun, and especially the Winchester 1894 remained extremely popular. Its flat-sided physique fits so easily in hand or saddle scabbard, and at reasonable distances it has always provided game gathering without the use of a scope. It was not the Rifleman’s Rifle but was certainly a choice among hundreds of thousands of deer hunters. Thanks to Miroku, it still survives.
I just received word of a new Winchester, which will be coming in April. This will be a first, namely a Miroku-produced Short Rifle Model 1873 and it will be chambered in .357 Magnum. I am definitely looking forward to this little levergun and especially in such an excellent cartridge. It was 28 degrees F when I test-fired the .30-30 Takedown; hopefully spring weather will arrive with the .357 Magnum Model 1873. Stay tuned.
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