Monday, January 02, 2017

Last gun of 2016

Just before New Year, I scored this little gem--a true blast from the past.
It's a .30-30 rifle. Old top-ejector. I got it cheap despite it being in fantastic "safe queen" condition because someone long ago cut it's stock down for that thick butt pad.
It's a Winchester Model 1894, post-1964 bust still in damned fine shape. I figured that a replacement walnut stock shouldn't be too expensive or hard to find. Turns out I may be half right...they're out there, but not as cheap as one would expect for a rifle that's been in production for as long as these have.
Note the lack of a cross-bolt or other safety catch. That's right--it's got the clean lines that a classic lever-gun should have and used to have before the lawyers got involved. It's safe enough with the external hammer and half-cock position if you're halfway cognizant about what you're doing. I won't have a lever-gun with an external safety, personally, and if you're one of those people who can't safely handle a lever-gun without a push-button safety or some other add-on "anti-idiot device", well then maybe gun ownership without adult supervision isn't your thing.

This rifle is not just your ordinary Winchester '94 though. I bought this one specifically for these markings
Yep--Made by Winchester for the Sears, Roebuck and company back when they sold firearms through their stores and mail-order catalogs. Marketed as the Sears Model 100, it was and is nonetheless a Winchester.

And if you think that doesn't happen today, note that the countless AR-15 rifles out there had their receivers come out of one of a small handful of plants that can actually forge them--most smaller AR-15
"manufacturers" just pay a bit extra to get their name and logo stamped onto that receiver when they buy it from the real manufacturer...just like Sears and JC Penney and Montgomery Ward all used to do back in the good old days.

But this isn't just any old Sears gun. Sears had various grades of firearms that they offered, from bargain-basement no-frills guns to their top-of-the-line models. And the best ones were marketed through an endorsement by this guy:
Ted Williams. Williams, for those too young to remember, was a serious baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, 1939-1960. He was good--so good that I think that he'd have beaten Babe Ruth out for career home runs except for tho incidents that interrupted his baseball career: World War Two and the Korean War.

Drafted first in 1942, he fought for a deferment and the American public and some of his sponsors got pretty hot about it. He finally went into the Naval Reserve in 1943. And instead of fighting for an easy slot, he signed up for training as a Naval Aviator and he was considered an exemplary pilot by those who few with him. After the war, he resumed his baseball career with the Red Sox and his playing took the nation by storm. Then in 1950, he broke his arm during an All-Star game and his 1950 and 1951 seasons pretty much sucked as he tried to rehab his arm. Then in 1952, just as he was getting back into the swing of things, the US Marines, short on pilots in Korea, tapped him on the shoulder and recalled him just six games into the season. Williams wasn't happy at all, but he was an American and a Marine so he put his ball career on hold again and went to Korea, again as a pilot who was respected by his professional flying peers.

But for his time away from baseball to fight twice, he might well have topped Babe Ruth's 714 home run record. As it was, Williams retired in 1960 with 521.
Williams went on to manage the Washington Senators from 1969-1972, and he also had this deal with Sears to endorse their premium-grade sporting goods, including rifles and shotguns. But he didn't just sell his name; the deal was that Williams got to inspect everything that was going to carry his name and if he thought it could be better or needed changing, it got changed. Ted Williams held Sears to a promise that no second-rate goods would roll out with his name on it and he was active in policing what they sold under his brand. If you saw his name on something, you knew you were getting quality.
Ted Williams is gone now, and Sears, Roebuck and company is now just Sears and they stopped selling guns a long time ago. But little bits of American nostalgia like this one are still out there, and when I saw this one, I remembered the days of shopping in the stores with my father and seeing these, and I had to have this one. Now it's here in the gun room, on the rack right below it's pre-'64 older brother Model 94. Yeah, there are minor but noticeable differences between the two, but I think that could be a blog post in itself so I'll leave it alone for now. I'm just glad to have them both and really glad that I loaded up some 800 rounds of .30-30 cartridges before I broke down the presses and moved here. It's a great round, and the '94 is a great rifle. Now bring on those little Louisiana deer that I've been hearing so much about!

10 comments:

  1. Looks like someone scope the rifle before hand. Note the four screws on the left side of the receiver (opposite the side of the loading gate.)

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    1. Far as I've been able to tell, the Sears guns all had those four holes and screws from the factory. Every Model 100 I've seen has them. Must have been something special that they asked Winchester for.

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  2. That's a nice-looking piece of history. My BIL still uses his for deer-hunting every year. He bought it in the late '70s.

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  3. You understand the half cock safety. Loaned mine to a man who had the hammer down with one in the chamber. He opened the pickup passenger door, the rifle fell out, hit butt first, and a round went through the brim of his hat and the pickup roof.

    That is not a firearm for an beginner.

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  4. Nice find! :-) The four holes are for a scope mount, sold separately. It was a Weaver 3B and I think a Weaver 4 power scope.

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  5. Nice. I have a `94 AE. It has the crossbolt safety, but the price was good enough to overlook that defect.

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  6. Nice find indeed.

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  7. That makes two of us. I have had mine for about 20 years. Would like to use it for hog hunting if I can develop the right load for it.

    Over the years, most people have looked at me kinda funny (maybe they do that anyway) when I tell them I have a Sears 'Model 94'. It's a bit lighter than the 336, but shares the same characteristic with my Marlins - none has a 'lawyer button' through the receiver.

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