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View Full Version : Winchester 1886: Real, Fake or What?


dbuffington
March 13, 2007, 09:51 AM
Hi Folks!

Please forgive the long message. However, I've stumbled across an interesting gun, and I'd appreciate your interpretation of the facts:

- It is a Winchester model 1886.

- The lower tang is very faintly marked with serial number 1xx7. According to multiple reference works, this serial number is from the year 1886, the first year of production.

- The upper tang is marked “- MODEL 1886-“. According to The Winchester Book (Madis), this is consistent with early production versions.

- Where the upper tang meets the receiver, the corner is squared, not rounded. According to The Winchester Book (Madis), this is consistent with serial numbers earlier than 7500.

- The receiver, lower tang and curved buttplate are case colored.

- The action works smoothly, but with considerable pressure required to push back the hammer. One of the locking bolts is scratched on several lines radiating from the lower screw head. The action functions properly. (However, as of this writing, it has not been test fired.)

- The barrel is blued.

- The barrel is faintly marked “45-90 WCF” caliber. According to multiple reference works, this caliber was offered in the first year of production.

- The barrel is marked:
- MANUFACTURED BY THE -
- WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN. CONN. U.S.A. -
According to The Winchester Book (Madis), this is consistent with early production versions.

- The barrel measures 25 1/4 inches from the end of the muzzle to the edge of the receiver.

- The barrel bore is clean and shiny with well-defined rifling. However, there is some very light texture on the bore surface.

- The front sight is a large blade sight. It is marked “Sheard” on one side and “Marble” (not “Marbles”) on the other.

- The rear sight is an elevator type adjustable for both windage and elevation. It is marked “Marble” also.

- The magazine extends to the end of the forearm, not to the end of the barrel. The magazine is equipped with a rounded end cap.

- The lever is equipped with a spring-loaded plunger. According to The Winchester Book (Madis), this is consistent with early production versions.

- The stock is a pistol-grip style with a triangular black insert. Both the stock and forearm are checkered. This is a light scratch in the forearm. Both the stock and forearm are made from heavily figured wood.

- The gun was purchased in its current condition in 1980 at a gun show in New York state. There is no way to verify this statement.

Now, for some subjective thoughts:

This is a stunningly beautiful gun. Even non-gun types tend to gasp when they see it. With the exception of the flaws mentioned above, the gun is in better-than-new condition, with vivid, deep case colors. The wood looks like it was lovingly given about 100 coats of fine wax. It’s not matte, not excessively glossy, but rich and warm, revealing every bit of the delicious figure.

Because of the faintness of some of the markings, I assume that the gun was refinished, and because the gun was reportedly purchased in New York, I contacted Turnbull Restoration to see if it was their work. Peter Koppmann at Turnbull checked their records back to 1989 and could not find any record of a Model 1886 with that serial number ever having been there.

Yes, I have requested a factory letter from the good folks at the Cody Firearms Museum. (Incidentally, I was sad to learn that Greg Ditzler, a researcher there, died last year.) However, it will be several weeks until the factory information arrives, and in the meantime, I have to wonder:

What the heck is this thing? Your thoughts are welcome.

Many thanks!
Dave

P.S. I'll post a photo as soon as possible.

dbuffington
March 13, 2007, 10:05 AM
A quickie digicam shot with built-in flash...

http://www.buffingtonassociates.com/1886_01.jpg

Mike Irwin
March 13, 2007, 11:11 AM
The Sheard Marble front sight is a vintage sight.

http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-MARBLE-SHEARD-NO-13-FRONT-SIGHT_W0QQitemZ190091515840QQcategoryZ71141QQcmdZViewItem

I've also found references to a 1900 patent application with associated documentation referencing the Sheard patent.

A google-search on Sheard front sight returns quite a few references, apparently they were popular at one time.

dbuffington
March 13, 2007, 11:49 AM
Yup, that's it. Thanks!

James K
March 13, 2007, 04:17 PM
Sheard was the type of sight, not the maker. It had a large "gold" (actually brass) bead, if I recall correctly. They were very popular in the 1920's and for many years afterward.

It sounds like the gun was restored at some point, based on your mention of shallow markings. The coloring (case hardening??) looks, IMHO, a bit too bright for those early Winchesters, but the wood is high quality and refinished or not, beautiful. The rest sounds fine.

The main concern I have is the statement that "one of the locking bolts is scratched on several lines radiating from the lower screw head." Scratches would be no problem, but they could be cracks, a more serious problem. Until that question is resolved, I would not recommend firing the gun. .45-90 brass is available from Star Line and I think several makers have loaded ammo.

Jim

dbuffington
March 13, 2007, 05:33 PM
The main concern I have is the statement that "one of the locking bolts is scratched on several lines radiating from the lower screw head." Scratches would be no problem, but they could be cracks, a more serious problem.

Understood. They are definitely scratches. I'm guessing someone buggered the screw head trying to remove it, and then, to try to clean up the slot in the screw head, ran some sort of blade across it. Hammer mechanic work, to be sure. :(

Many thanks!
Dave