Appraising a Winchester Model 1894


Editor’s Note: The following is an appraisal from Classic Gear columnist, appraiser, and consultant Ken Doherty. It has been edited for length. To read more about the evolution of the Winchester Model 94, see page 18 of the May 2022 issue of OOD, or click here.

Hello Ken.

I have a Winchester 32-40. From what I can gather it’s a Model 1894, manufactured between August-September 1896. It has a pop-up rear sight, original cleaning rod, and original case. I also have two boxes, minus one shell, of 163-grain shells. Are you able to confirm the dates and what type of value this gun and accessories may have? I appreciate any info you can provide.

Bill KnightWhitby


Thanks for your inquiry and follow-up photographs, Bill. I also appreciate your visit so that I could physically examine this treasure.

It’s great to see that you followed my advice and applied for a formal letter from the Cody Firearms Museum. It confirms that your Model 1894 had serial number 107850 applied on Feb. 15, 1891.

Protecting your gun’s value

Please refer to my story “Condition critical,” on pg. 40 of the June 2021 issue, for advice on cleaning and storage. Since your 1894 is of collector value, treat the entire gun, including both metal and wood, with a fine coat of Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax to protect it from fingerprints and rust. (Available online through Carr McLean.)

Declaration

I am a member in good standing with the Canadian Personal Property Appraiser’s Group. To avoid a conflict of interest, please be advised that I do not have a present or future interest in acquiring this firearm. As we discussed, I am providing a valuation both as fair market value and for insurance purposes.

Model 1894 early variants

Winchester offered John Browning’s best and most popular lever action, the Model 1894 (later 94) in five different versions early on with a range of additional factory options including:

Sporting Rifle: 26-inch round, octagonal, or half barrel; solid frame or take down; full, 2/3, or ½ magazine; plain walnut; straight/pistol grip stock; crescent butt plate; plain capped forearm

Fancy Sporting Rifle: 26-inch round, octagonal or half barrel; solid frame or take down; full, 2/3, or ½ magazine; fancy walnut checkered straight/pistol grip stock; crescent butt plate; checkered fancy capped forearm

Extra Lightweight Rifle: 22 or 26-inch barrel, round; ½ mag; plain walnut straight grip stock; shotgun butt plate; plain capped forearm

Carbine: (aka Saddle Ring Carbine) 20-inch round barrel; plain walnut straight grip stock; carbine style butt plate; plain uncapped forearm with one barrel band; solid frame only; if prior to 1925, had saddle ring on left side of receiver; (premium for saddle ring)

Trapper’s Carbine: 18, 16, 15, or 14-inch round barrels; buttstock, forearm, and saddle rings the same as carbines

Other considerations

Guns with serial numbers less than 111,453 are considered first models. Those less than 14,580, known as first runs and produced in 1894, are worth twice as much. There is also a premium for take down models.

Caliber is also an important factor in determining collectability and value. The Model 1894 was first introduced in two black powder calibers: .38-50 and .32-40. Both were quickly eclipsed by the introduction of the .30 Winchester Center Fire (WCF) smokeless powder later known as the .30-30, which became synonymous with the Model 94, and the .32 Special, introduced in 1899. A wide range of other calibers were added over the years.

Since the .32-40 was the least popular of the early cartridges, fewer were made. This makes it rare and desirable among collectors. There were only 12,186 rifles and carbines chambered in the .32-40 and only 2,758 as take down rifles.

Barrel type and length of magazine also affect value. Up until serial number 300,000, octagonal barrels were more popular than round. Winchester offered octagonal barrels from the first day of production, Oct. 20, 1894 until December 1937. Half round/half octagonal were the most expensive and are now the rarest. In terms of magazines, they were available as full length, coming within 1/8-1/16 inch from end of barrel; 3/4, which are rare; 2/3 which are popular and aesthetically pleasing; and 1/2 also known as “button magazines,” which terminate at the end of the forearm.

While typical butt plate configurations (crescent or shotgun style) are outlined above, they could be swapped out and treated as a special order. As could both front, rear, and tang sights.

Winchester 1894

Your rifle is a classic first model sporting rifle with a 26-inch octagonal barrel, full magazine, solid frame, straight plain walnut stock, and forearm, with a crescent butt plate, and plain capped forearm; It is not considered an antique because it was manufactured after 1898.

Your front sight is a Marble 5S dovetail. Your rear sight is a typical carbine rear sight no. 44A, often used with black powder cartridges. The tang sight is a Lyman no.1 folding peep sight. It was configured for both the .32-40 or the .38-55 and could also be mounted on the Winchester 1892. The knurled sleeve can be turned to raise or lower the peep to the appropriate elevation as per the elevation markings on the inner cylinder. There is no record of “special-order” options referenced in the letter, so all three sights were likely installed “after market.”

Ammunition and accessories

You have two almost full boxes of early .32-40 soft point ammunition, made by Canadian Industries Limited, Dominion Ammunition Division. The original yellow and blue boxes are in good shape. You also have an early wire cleaning rod with worn brass brush and a worn but serviceable period canvass gun case with leather accents and straps.

Condition

Your .32-40 is in quite good condition given its age. It certainly shows signs of use but not abuse. The bore is clean and shiny.

The bluing on the barrel and magazine is in quite good shape at 90% and is worn away only at the muzzle, along the edges of the octagonal barrel, and just behind the rear sight, where it would have been held to carry. There are some slight dings along the barrel.

The receiver shows more signs of handling. The top and bottom have only 20% bluing; the edges are rounded and worn. The sides are in better shape with about 90% bluing. There are several faint scratches on the left side and 8-10 long faint horizontal scratches running the full width of the receiver on the right side. The lever is worn but still has some bluing visible. The forearm cap shows wear and faint bluing. The original crescent shaped butt plate is worn to “white” metal. Stamped lettering on the barrel, receiver, and tang is crisp and sharp. The screw heads are all in good shape.

The walnut stock and forearm are also in good shape. There is a good fit to the metal. There are some dings and scratches and some light oil staining of the forearm at the receiver and of the tang at the receiver. Overall, the finish is in good shape. There is no evidence of cracks or repairs.

Condition rating

In terms of condition rating, under the NRA Condition Standards, I would evaluate it as Good bordering on Very Good. Good means that it is in safe working condition; with minor wear on working surfaces; no broken parts; and no corrosion or pitting that will interfere with proper functioning. Very Good is defined as: in perfect working condition; no appreciable wear on working surfaces; no corrosion or pitting; and only minor surface dents or scratches. Overall Condition: Good to Very Good; 7-8 /10

Valuation comparators

While I have located several recent Canadian comparators, I consider the following as the best fit with your rifle:

Winchester Model 1894, .32-40 sporting rifle, full magazine, takedown, dated 1900-1903; good exterior condition but corroded bore; asking price of $2,495 at JoeSalter.ca, Sept. 28, 2021.

The premium value for this model has been reduced by the corroded bore. Plus, you have a formal letter of authentication from the Cody Museum. I am, therefore, comfortable with the appraised value listed below.

I also looked at the larger and more active American market, where comparable rifles are going for $3,119 ($2,495 US). Unfortunately, American collectors have limited access to the Canadian market currently because of the pandemic restrictions.

Valuation

Based on the above, I appraise the fair market value of this Winchester, first model 1894 .32-40 sporting rifle, with octagonal barrel and full magazine, in Good to Very Good condition, complete with a letter of authentication from the Cody Firearms Museum , to be $2,500 as of Jan.18, 2022.

I appraise the value the two boxes of .32-40 ammunition at $200 and the wire and brass cleaning rod and canvas/leather period gun case at $100 for a total combined package fair market value of $2,800.

For insurance purposes, I would appraise the combined package value at an additional 30% or $3,640 to account for the replacement costs associated with research, buyer’s premiums at auction, and GST.

Ken DohertyPeterborough


Ken Doherty is a retired teacher, curator, writer, and a long-time resident of Peterborough. He enjoys collecting, target shooting, and hunting with vintage firearms. Contact Ken at mail@oodmag.com.

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