DESCRIPTION OF Winchester Model 94 Sporter
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Winchester Model 94 Sporter -The Winchester® Model 94 Sporter Lever-Action Centerfire Rifle with Satin Walnut Stock is a stunning piece of history, ideal for a fun day at the range, as much as it is for hunting. Equipped with a beautiful satin walnut stock and forend with bordered cut checkering and an oil finish, this sporter rifle boasts a 24″ stainless steel, half-round/half-octagonal barrel. Following 19th Century tradition, the crescent-shaped butt features a blued metal butt-plate, while an adjustable buckhorn rear sight and a dovetailed front sight blade offer rapid target acquisition for precise shot placement. The full-length magazine tube offers maximum firepower, and a tang safety, coupled with the trigger disconnect, adds an extra measure of intuitive safety. The Winchester Model 94 Sporter Lever-Action Rifle is fast-handling and reliable hunting rifle, as well as a masterpiece of firearm art.
Grade-I satin walnut stock
Bordered cut checkering and brushed oil finish
Gloss blued half-round/half-octagon barrel
Full-length magazine tube
Metal crescent butt-plate
Buckhorn rear sight
Review: Winchester Model 94 Sporter
My first rifle was a Winchester Model 94. Millions of deer hunters can likely say the same thing. The Model 94 is the quintessential deer gun; more than 7 million of these iconic lever-actions (including the original Model 1894 version) have been produced by Winchester Repeating Arms Co., and a couple other manufacturers under the Winchester brand, during the rifle’s storied history.
The Model 94 is nearly synonymous with the .30-30 Winchester cartridge. It was the first rifle to be chambered for America’s first commercially successful smokeless powder centerfire round, which at the time of the marriage in early 1895 was called the .30 Winchester Center Fire. It’s widely accepted that the .30-30 Winchester, whether that refers to the gun or the cartridge, has accounted for more venison than any other rifle or round ever fired at a deer. That tally will continue this season, especially in the East and the upper Midwest, where the “Winchester .30-30” is still as common in deer camp as red plaid. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
Currently five versions of the Model 94 are manufactured by Miroku in Japan for Winchester Repeating Arms. The Model 94 Sporter is a long-barreled rifle that goes heavy on tradition and nostalgia. It’s available in not only .30-30, but also .25-35 Win., .32 Win. Spl. and .38-55 Win. The .38-55 was one of the original 1894 chamberings; the .25-35 was offered a year later along with the .30-30 and quickly faded into the shadow of its .30-caliber cousin.
Much like the 94s of yesteryear, the Sporter’s 24-inch barrel has a profile that starts as an octagon and then becomes round just ahead of the fore-end. A full-length tubular magazine that holds eight rounds parallels the half-round/half-octagonal barrel, and the fore-end terminates in a blued-steel cap. There’s more steel on the buttstock in the form of a crescent-shaped buttplate. It follows the style of early Model 94 rifles, when hunters were more concerned about making meat for the winter than feeling the bite of recoil. The shape does fit nicely in the shoulder pocket, but just make sure the steel is against the shoulder and not the collarbone before firing.
The walnut buttstock has a straight grip, bordered 22-line-per-inch checkering and a low, sloping comb that’s best suited for shooting with iron sights. And of course the 94 Sporter comes with a good set of irons. The base of the semi-buckhorn rear sight is drift-adjustable in its dovetail for windage, while a notched elevator slides forward or backward to adjust the sight blade’s elevation. The front sight from Marble Arms presents a brass bead that sits atop a tapered and serrated post.
Since the 94 Sporter ejects cartridges from the top of the receiver at an angle—a change Winchester made to the action in the early 1980s—it’s compatible with a riflescope. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a set of bases. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
The 94 Sporter has several other modern touches worth noting. The traditional half-cock safety has been replaced with a rebounding-hammer safety that prevents the hammer from moving forward and contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled and held to the rear. Instead of coming to half-cock when lowered under the thumb, the hammer now stops at the rebound position, which looks similar but ensures the hammer will not slip forward to hit the firing pin. In addition, the 94 Sporter has a manual hammer-block safety located on the tang. With the hammer cocked, the safety’s slider must be pushed forward in order to fire the rifle. The hammer is also drilled and tapped for a knurled extension, which makes manipulating it easier with a scope aboard.
Even though I took the Model 94 Sporter to a lever-gun class at Gunsite Academy, where I wanted to shoot well, and plan to hunt with it this fall, when I want to hang something from the meatpole, the traditionalist in me wouldn’t permit a scope on such a streamlined beauty. Instead, I mounted an adjustable rear aperture from Skinner Sights on the receiver and paired it with a solid brass post-style front sight. (I removed the semi-buckhorn rear sight and replaced it with a dovetail blank from Skinner that’s ingeniously threaded to hold the aperture insert; removing the insert makes the rear sight more like a ghost ring for fast shooting in close cover.)
With practice the setup is surprisingly effective beyond the typical distances at which most whitetails are taken in the East. During accuracy testing, most 100-yard groups were less than 3.5 inches. Although the rifle is capable of better accuracy—add a scope or someone more skilled at shooting with irons—it satisfies the old-school deer hunter in me. Between the course at Gunsite and accuracy testing, I put close to 400 rounds through the rifle and never had a hang-up. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
While the Model 94 Sporter is toward the top end of deer rifles in terms of price, many deer hunters will agree it’s toward the top in terms of looks and handling as well. It’s fast, reliable, accurate enough to put a buck on the ground and made with a quality that assures it will be passed among generations.
• Type: lever-action centerfire rifle
• Caliber: .25-35 Win. .30-30 Win. (tested), .32 Win. Spl., .38-55 Win.
• Barrel: 24″; half-round/half-octagonal contour; 6 grooves, 1:12″ RH twist
• Magazine: tubular; 8-rnd. capacity
• Trigger: single-stage; 5.8-lb. pull weight
• Safety: tang-mounted slide
• Sights: adjustable semi-buckhorn rear, Marble Arms post w/brass bead front; receiver drilled and tapped for optics
• Stock: straight-grip Grade 1 black walnut w/satin finish; LOP 13.5″
• Metal Finish: blued
• Overall Length: 42.5″
• Weight: 7.5 lbs.
Hunting with the Winchester Model 94 Short
It had been a cold, dark night. As dawn neared, he turned east and plodded along the periphery of the swamp, scent-checking his scrape line for the telltale odor of estrous. He stopped to freshen the largest one, dribbling urine over his hocks and onto the freshly pawed earth before moving directly toward an overgrown orchard a couple hundred yards uphill.
Three does were feeding on fallen apples there, but, one by one, each bolted from the buck’s amorous advances. This was his third autumn, and after the 10-pointer sniffed each of their trails, the buck knew that the does were not yet in estrous. He did not give chase but instead turned and worked his way along a hardwood ridge strewn with fallen acorns, stopping only long enough to vacuum up a few of the oblong morsels before continuing on in his seemingly never-ending search for a doe in heat. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
He eventually came to the edge of a steep and brush-strewn ravine that ran up and down the hillside. He was about to turn and trot up toward the peak when suddenly he stopped, flared his nostrils and breathed in through his open mouth. Estrous. He lowered his head and rushed across the ravine and then up the far side, where he quickly picked up the scent trail of a hot doe. Moving purposely now with his nose to the ground and his tail extended, the 10-pointer wasted little time catching up to the estrous female. She was moving toward a thick stand of white pine that grew wild near the top of the next ridge, where she planned on bedding down for the rest of the day. She heard the buck grunt and looked back at him over her shoulder. With ears erect, she watched as the buck carefully approached her with his nose to the ground. She urinated and moved away, allowing the buck take a few cautious steps in her direction. He sniffed her urine, then she turned and walked away with the buck in tow.
The old man was sitting on a log 100 yards distant, and he watched with keen interest as the pair of whitetails weaved their way through the thick brush. Believing they were going to go by him without offering him a shot, he crouched low and stalked in their direction, holding his Winchester 94 tightly in his right hand. At 50 yards the doe sensed something was amiss. Maybe she caught the old man in mid step, or maybe an errant breeze tipped her off to his presence. In any event, she suddenly bolted and with long strides streaked past the old man. The buck, confused as to what was happening, snorted and took off behind her. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
Instinctively, the old man brought his .30-30 to his shoulder and, peering through the buckhorn rear sight, lined up the front bead on the racked deer as it raced after the doe. Bang! The buck stumbled but regained his footing and continued on up the hill. The old man quickly levered in a second round and fired. Then a third round was triggered as the buck hightailed it through the brush. All was then quiet for a few seconds before a loud crashing echoed back down the hillside. The old man leaned against a nearby tree and listened intently for a minute or so, but the North Woods remained eerily quiet. Thirty minutes later he found the buck piled up with two .30-caliber entrance holes in his chest, an inch apart.
The iconic Winchester Model 94 lever-action, the rifle so often portrayed in Western movies, is undoubtedly the most famous firearm in American history. And with over 7,000,000 guns manufactured to date, it may even be the most famous in the world. John Browning first introduced it in August 1894, under patent number 524704, as a blackpowder lever-action rifle chambered for the .32-40 and .38-55 calibers. The steel in these early versions could not withstand the pressures of the recently introduced smokeless powders, but in August 1895, a new steel—nickel steel—was employed, and with that all hell broke loose. The Model 94 was soon chambered for the .30-30 and the .25-35 rounds, and later the .32 Special. It was the .30-30 version that gained the most attention, however. It propelled a 165-grain bullet at 1,970 fps with only 30 grains of the new powder, making it the first sporting round to be loaded with a smokeless propellant. The barrel was 26 inches long, and the rifle weighed in at about 8 pounds. A carbine was also offered with a 20-inch barrel and weighed a pound and a half less. The cost? It was $18 for either model in 1895.
The smokeless Model 94 was an instant hit because it offered less recoil and a flatter trajectory when compared to the cumbersome, big-caliber rifles, like the .45-70, available at the time, and because there was no smokescreen to contend with after the shot. The flatter trajectory also meant it was simply more accurate at longer ranges, out to 250 yards when placed in the hands of a competent shooter. Indeed, many sources still claim that more whitetail deer have been dropped with the Model 94 .30-30 than any other rifle/caliber combination in history, and I have no reason to doubt it. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
“Production of the Model 94 temporarily ceased in 2006 when the U.S. Repeating Arms factory in New Haven, Connecticut was closed. Production of Winchester Model 94s commenced again in 2010 with current models being manufactured by Miroku in Japan,” said a Winchester spokeperson. Moraku was a logical choice because it has been making quality Winchester lever actions for Browning since the mid-1990s.”
I chose to field-test the Winchester Model 94 Short rifle because, well, at 20 inches its barrel is 4 inches shorter than the Sporter’s, making it easier to swing in thick brush, and the Short rifle also weighs a measly 6.8 pounds unloaded, making it a joy to tote around all day long in the deer woods. Besides, the deeply blued, round barrel, coupled with a full-length magazine, straight-grip walnut stock, rifle-style forearm and black grip cap, looks good, too. You will have to visit an aftermarket gun shop, however, to install the fore and aft tackle to fit a sling if you desire one.
Old-time Winchester aficionados will quickly notice that the safety is now on the tang. “The crossbolt design was discontinued in 2003,” Thompson added. “Drilling holes into the receiver was just not aesthetically pleasing.” I like the tang version better than the crossbolt for utilitarian reasons. It is infinitely easier and quieter to engage and disengage in the deer woods. The sights on the Model 94 Short are traditional, with a semi-buckhorn rear and a Marble gold bead at the business end. I wanted to scope this gun, however, and fortunately I did not need to drill holes into the receiver to mount a quality set of optics with aftermarket rings and bases. The scope-friendly Model 94 Short is already drilled and tapped for a scope, and a hammer-spur extension is included in the box with each rifle. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
I wanted to fit the rifle with a quality scope for hunting deer at short to medium ranges in the thick stuff, so I chose the compact, low-profile Bushnell Elite 2-7x32mm Multi-X scope for the task—and I was not disappointed. The Elite 2-7x32mm features a 1-inch, one-piece, argon-purged tube that is 100-percent waterproof, fog-proof and shockproof. The fully multi-coated optics feature magnum-recoil-proof construction. The Elite also features 0.25-MOA, audible and resettable windage and elevation adjustments, making it very easy to sight in at the range. Indeed, Doug Turnbull restorations mounted and then bore-sighted the scope for me before I picked it up. Using Hornady’s 160-grain LeveRevolution FTX ammunition, I was immediately on paper at 50 yards. Soon I found myself shooting 1-inch groups out to 100 yards.
As the pre-rut winds down and the rut begins to peak, racked bucks rely less and less on scrapes and scrape lines to help them locate a doe near estrous. Instead, a buck seeks does where they feed and bed and along the trails they use to connect the two. In effect, rutting bucks begin to hunt the does, and that is what you should do if you want to increase your chances of affixing your tag on a buck caught up in the frenzy to breed.
One foolproof plan is to locate a suitable vantage point overlooking a known doe-feeding area, such as a cornfield in farm country or a flat, hardwood ridge laden with mast in the big woods. Then wait for first light to illuminate the area. Family groups of does, yearling females and fawns should still be milling around gobbling up mast. Do not disturb them, but keep a watchful eye on the edges of the ridge and any gentle slopes that lead up or down to the plateau. This is where a racked buck is likely to appear. Don’t get discouraged, however, and make an exit too soon. A buck looking for love can make an appearance any time here during legal shooting/hunting hours. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
A secondary food source does utilize on their way to a bedding area is also a good bet for an ambush. Sometimes it is a single apple tree or a cluster of oak trees with a fair amount of acorns littering the ground. If you can’t get to your primary ambush site before first light, this may produce for you just as well. Trails does use to reach their bedding area are another good location for an ambush. The problem is that some feeding areas have multiple exit trails. Which trail should you pay attention to? A buck may indeed follow a doe from a feeding area to her bedding area, and if you have set up on the right trail, your chances of shooting him can be quite good. However, bucks will also scent-check several exit trails at a time, as evidenced by a rub or scrape line that intersects those doe exit trails at right angles. Any place of intersection that harbors a scrape or a cluster of rubs is a good place to concentrate your efforts.
I prefer to still-hunt along the buck route by staying downwind. In hilly country, this usually means uphill from the buck’s trail in the morning and downhill from the buck’s trail in the evening. Why? You must take the morning and evening thermals into consideration if you have any hope of catching a buck flatfooted as he sneaks about looking for a doe to breed with.
Of course, a vantage point overlooking a known doe bedding area can also produce results, as it did for the old man in the opening scenario. Be there at first light, and plan on staying all day long, especially after a cold front has passed through the area. A buck can show up at any time now, and when he does, your rendition of a doe-in-heat vocalization can often lure him into easy shooting range. Winchester Model 94 Sporter
These strategies will get you a close shot at a rutting buck. You do not need a magnum-caliber gun fitted with a high-power scope to get the job done. A Winchester 94 coupled with a mid-range Bushnell variable is light in weight and, with its slim design, easy to carry through the woods and, more importantly, easy to maneuver in tight locations, the places big bucks like to hide. And is the venerable .30-30 up to the task? Come on. With Hornady’s LeveRevolution ammo it is more than enough, and with the gun/scope combination, it’s a proven deer slayer!