View Full Version : Lever Opens on Model 94 When Firing

June 27, 2010, 08:41 AM
I have a pre 64 Winchester Model 94 in 32 Special. I've noticed that the action/bolt is opening at times when firing. Specifically:

- action will open at times, regardless of whether or not I have my hand on the lever
- not load specific (i.e. happens with reloads and factory ammno)
- action will not open if I try to keep the lever closed with my hand wrapped around the lever and stock
- doesn't seem to happen right after cleaning, but does happen more as more shots are fired to the point where it opens on every shot
- beside firing, the bolt/action will open when the rifle is given a modest rap on the butt stock on the floor.

I found on post on Paco Kelly's Leverguns site that discusses a similar problem with a 356 winchester in a post 64 Model 94 (http://www.levergunscommunity.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9267&hilit=bolt+opening+pressure&start=0).

One theory was excessive case lube getting in the chamber, preventing the expanding case from "sticking" to the chamber and putting excessive pressure on the bolt face. Unlike the poster in the above forum, I don't shoot cast bullets and I wipe all my cases with a damp cloth and dry, so I don't think case lube is a problem. I didn't clean my chamber with alcohol (tried this in the past and all I got was rust), but I do clean with Hoppes #9 and wipe well with clean patches.

Another theory was headspace - I still have to check this, but I'm not seeing tell tale signs on the cases (i.e. bright ring above the rim).

Another theory was a loose bolt and/or a loose locking block. In my Model 94, both don't seem overly sloppy, although I'm not sure how high the locking block is supposed to come up. It is level with the receiver, but below the small "flat" on the back of the bolt - the locking block sits just below the flat at the rear of the bolt, on the beveled section. Not sure if this is normal.

Another suggestion was that the friction stud was not locking the lever. The locking stud does seem to have a fair bit of tension, but I'm not sure if it is getting into the recess in the receiver. I'll have a look at this tonight. Some have stated that the function of the friction stud is not to hold the gun in battery when firing.

Unlike the problems observed by C. Cash, the bolt and locking block do stay locked when I hold the lever shut.

Any ideas or similar experiences? :confused:


Peter M. Eick
June 27, 2010, 02:43 PM
Interesting. I have a '56 94 that I shoot a fair amount and I have never experienced what you are describing.

So if you hold the lever it does not happen but if you don't, it will open when fired right?

How do you hold in the safety interlatch that is right behind the trigger if you don't keep your hand on the lever?

June 27, 2010, 05:05 PM
Thanks Peter,

I always assumed that the safety plunger was to ensure that a lever action was closed properly, not that the user actually had to firmly hold the lever closed. I don't have to do this with my Marlin 336. The friction stud on my Marlin holds the lever closed (when I close the lever properly) and it stays closed while firing. I don't have to consciously hold onto the lever and stock.

June 28, 2010, 02:38 PM
The safety plunger is indeed intended to ensure the action is fully locked before firing (on a Winchester). If yours will fire without holding the lever up the safety is not working.(assuming it has one) I am confused about how the action is opening when your hand is "touching the lever". How far is it opening? Sounds like something in the linkage is out of spec or worn. I can't imagine shooting any lever gun without squeezing the lever tight but I guess it's an individual thing.

June 28, 2010, 03:19 PM
This is likely either a coefficient of friction issue or a part that for some reason is not fit properly. That it doesn't happen right after cleaning suggests it is lubricant contamination, except you said it also happens with commercial loads? About the only contaminant then is carbon and soot from the powder. Some powders have quite a lot of graphite on them, and that can blow around and lube things some.

A couple of things to try: clean the bolt lug recess and locking block with Bore cleaner. That will soak into the carbon and let you remove it. Use an old toothbrush to get the traces off. In fact, if you can disassemble the bolt and block and soak them overnight, that's best. Wipe it as bone dry as possible with a clean, dry rag, like they sell at Lowe's or Home Depot for painters. Wear those nitrile disposables for painting so you don't get any fingerprint contamination. A micro-thin layer of the stuff will be left behind so you don't get rust, but the very thin oils don't have a lot of film strength, so they don't interfere with high pressure friction like grease does. The objective is to get everything as close to dry as possible without rusting it.

If you want a more specific recommendation, you could probably use Ed's Red for the carbon, but my favorite bore cleaner these days is Boretech Eliminator. It must be used with a plastic or stainless or nickel plated jag as it attacks exposed brass so fast the patch is blue from the brass before its gets out the muzzle. Eliminator has almost no odor, is water-based, and has a rust inhibitor in it

It is odd to see more bolt thrust as your gun gets dirtier, unless the graphite explains it? I'm thinking of work up to about 32 grains (easy to remember) of H322 with a 170 grain flat nose bullet. Like Varget, H322 has that sort of yellowish coating that Thales uses. Definitely not graphite. The Hodgdon site says 30.0 grains to start and 32.3 grains maximum. QuickLOAD thinks it could go a grain and a half higher with its default case capacity, but I don't want to speculate, and would advise sticking within Hodgdon's limits until you know otherwise with respect to your particular gun.

June 28, 2010, 03:41 PM
Thanks Uncle Nick. I appreciate the information. I'll give it a try.

I hope that I'm explaining this well. When firing the bolt and locking block will not open if I'm pressing the lever closed. I have read that, in fact, that is how the gun is designed (I also saw this in an AGI armourer's video on the Winchester Model 94). The trigger stop prevents the gun from firing unless the shooter puts pressure on the lever. So maybe nothing is wrong, I'm just not using the gun right. Having never used a model 94 before (I'm used to my Marlins), I've never encountered this before. Again, just to be clear, unlike C. Cash's experience, the lever is not being forced open when I hold onto the lever when firing.

Having said that, I do have a different problem. The trigger stop appears to be too long (or the lever is bent). The stop hits the lever before the link detent is in its recess in the lower tang. When I do bring the link up and the detent seats, the trigger safety stud is pushed up and the gun can fire. Not safe. Looks like this may have been replaced and was never ground to fit this gun. Moreover, the stud is putting pressure on the lever, which is defeating some of the purpose of the link detent.

Anyways, just looking to the model 94 owners for their experience.

BTW, the two loads I tried were (both Federal cases reformed from 30-30, both CCI 200 primers):

170 gr. Hornady FN over 30.2 gr. of IMR 3031
170 gr. Speer RN over 32 gr. of IMR 3031

The speer impacted close to the factoy winchester loads and was more accurate than the Hornady load. I'm going to walk both loads up to a max of 34 and see what happens, but not before I get my bolt issue figured out.

James K
June 28, 2010, 07:19 PM
Well, maybe calling that safety stud by its right name will help clarify things. Winchester calls it the trigger stop, and its function is to block the trigger until the action is fully closed. It should do that, no matter when it contacts the lever. You shouldn't be able to pull the trigger unless you are gripping the lever firmly, unless someone has messed with the gun. In fact, there is a significant resistance from the trigger stop as the lever is fully closed.

How are you holding the lever when you fire the gun and the action opens? Are you holding it at all? How do you pull the trigger if the lever is not closed and you are not holding it? I don't know how you can get the rifle to fire with the lever other than all the way closed.


June 29, 2010, 09:36 AM
Hey Nick, have you come across the 165 grain Hornady FTX bullets for the 32 special? Apparently they're out now.

June 29, 2010, 02:57 PM
The whole thing sounds bizarre to me. Do you only have your trigger finger left on your right hand or are you putting us on?

June 29, 2010, 04:00 PM
The whole thing sounds bizarre to me. Do you only have your trigger finger left on your right hand or are you putting us on?

Nope, no bull. It wasn't easy and I wasn't aiming, but I wrapped my shooting hand around the trigger guard portion of the lever and pulled the trigger. This was to minimize interference with the lever in case it was recoil and my hand that was opening the lever.

That was, until I realized that Model 94's are designed to fire with pressure on the lever (which is now what I assume holds the bolt closed). I'm not used to this, as the Marlins 336's I have don't require pressure on the lever. You just have to make sure the action is closed. The post in the link I provided (leverguns.com) lead me to believe that the same thing had happened to C. Cash, so I duplicated his test.

Just looking for confirmation that the Winchester Model 94 is designed to fire with firm pressure on the lever against the stock and that IF it fired without such pressure, the bolt would surely open.


June 29, 2010, 05:13 PM
With the correct grip how would you ever know?

June 30, 2010, 12:02 AM
With the correct grip how would you ever know?

Yeah, I know. C. Cash describes the lever on his 94BB being forcibly opened, regardless of how hard he held onto it.

The other thing that kinda throws me is that beside firing, the bolt/action will open when the rifle is given a modest rap on the butt stock on the floor. My buddy's 80's Model 94 won't open even with a good rap on the butt stock.