Rifles > Lever-Action

The Winchester Model 94 Rides Again

The 1894 is back to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Oliver Winchester’s birth.


Just as there are extraordinary individuals who have, in the words of Hamlet, “shuffled off this mortal coil” to become enshrined in immortality, certain guns have transcended their physical trappings of wood and steel to become legendary in the annals of firearm history. Such a gun is the Winchester Model 1894, John Moses Browning’s ingenious culmination of the lever-action rifle combined with a tubular magazine.

While the Winchester ’73 may have been ‘the gun that won the West,” the Model 94 was the gun that galloped past the closing days of the frontier and maintained Winchester’s lever-action lead throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. That historic ride lasted for 112 years, thus making the Model 94 one of the longest continuously produced rifles in the world. But it was abruptly reined-up short on Jan. 16, 2006, with the announcement that the Winchester factory in New Haven, Conn., would be closing within three months. With more than 7 million guns produced, the Winchester 94 was to be no more.

Winchester lever-actions are some of the most collectable and fastest-appreciating firearms. Consequently, 24 hours after the news media broke the story of the factory’s closing, there wasn’t a Model 94 left in Winchester’s warehouse; dealers had snatched them all up almost as rapidly as consumers were buying them.

For many of us, knowing that the Winchester 94 was no longer in production was like losing an old friend. My first hunting rifle was a used .30-30 Win. flat-band 94 purchased as a teenager in 1960 at Pinney & Robinson’s Sporting Goods in Phoenix. Later that year, I took my first deer with it, and it accompanied me on many a desert and mountain jaunt. Even when not hunting, it felt good just having it along. The carbine came with a saddle scabbard stamped “Marfa, Texas.” Although I have acquired numerous Winchester 94s since, I still have that carbine and scabbard.

Not surprisingly, the factory’s closing increased demand for the Model 94, but it was too good a gun to go away forever. However, there needed to be a reason to bring it back. Now, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Oliver Winchester’s birth in 1810, Winchester Repeating Arms has resurrected the Model 94 for a limited run of 500 Model 1894 Custom Grade and 500 Model 1894 High Grade rifles, each with embellishments reminiscent of options once offered by the factory.

Expertly made in Japan by Miroku—the same company that crafted the re-issues of the Winchester Models 1885, 1886, 1892, 1895, plus the Model 71 —both Custom Grade and High Grade rifles feature 24-inch half-round, half-octagon barrels topped with Marble’s buckhorn rear and gold bead front sights, plus checkered high-gloss walnut stocks with crescent buttplates, and angle eject actions. Appropriately, the rifles are chambered in .30-30 Win., the cartridge synonymous with the Model 94.

The Custom Grade, priced at $1,959, has Grade IV/V walnut and is richly blued with scroll engraving and gold accents. The right side of the receiver depicts a gold portrait of Oliver Winchester alongside a gold banner proclaiming “1810-2010 —Two Hundred Years—Oliver F. Winchester.” The receiver’s left side features a gold 1890s “WRA” logo with scrollwork. The top of the bolt sports Oliver Winchester’s signature in gold and the barrel is gold-inscribed “One of Five Hundred.”

At suggested retail price of $1,469, the High Grade features high-gloss fancy Grade II/III walnut and the same engraving patterns on the receiver as the Custom Grade, but is differentiated by a “French gray” silver nitrate finish without gold accents. However, like the Custom Grade, the blued bolt features Winchester’s gold signature. Five hundred Custom Grade and High Grade rifles will be offered as two-gun sets with matching serial numbers, but dealers may sell them individually. Up to 5,000 additional High Grades with unique serial numbers will be available as well.

Nearly five years have transpired since the closing of the Winchester factory, and this limited edition pays tribute to the New England shirt maker whose name has come to personify the first successful lever-action repeater. But the saga of the Model 94 has been a much longer journey, one that began when Oliver Winchester paid John Browning $15,000 —the same amount he had received for his Model 1886 and 1892 patents—for rights to manufacture what was destined to become the first repeating rifle adapted to smokeless-powder cartridges. Specifically, it was the .25-35 Win. and the .30 WCF or, as the latter came to be known, the .30-30 Win., which would become indelibly linked to the Winchester 94.

Ironically, metallurgy problems initially kept these two smokeless loadings from being introduced with the rifle for which they were intended. Thus, in 1894 the newest Winchester made its debut with two older blackpowder cartridges, the .32-40 Win. and .38-55 Win. It wasn’t until a year later that the Model 94 came out in its much-touted .25-35 Win. and .30 WCF chamberings. But nickel steel barrels weren’t the rifle’s only new features.

Unlike the twin sliding rods of the Model 86 and 92, the Model 94 had a single bar, which contained the firing pin and slid up and locked between the hammer and the closed bolt, thus providing a greater margin of safety. In addition, the new rifle had a hinged receiver floor that pivoted downward when the lever opened the action. It wasn’t quite as smooth as its two predecessors, but it was a lot stronger.

Rifles with 26-inch round or octagon barrels were offered, along with a 20-inch-barreled saddle ring carbine. In addition, special-order Model 94s were produced with half-round, half-octagon barrels, take-down versions, special engraving and checkering patterns, and in a variety of barrel lengths, including rare “Baby Carbines” (since dubbed “Trappers” by collectors) that sported 14-, 15-, and 16-inch barrels.

The Winchester 94 met with immediate success, especially in its .30-30 Win. loading, which propelled the original 160-grain soft-point bullet out of the muzzle at 1970 fps. This extended the lever-action’s effectiveness, as the same sight picture could be used out to 125 yards and still result in a hit on a deer-sized target. Small wonder that some have credited the Model 94 with putting more venison on the table than any other rifle in history. It became a favored firearm not only for hunters, but also as a working tool on ranches and farms. Also, because its large trigger guard accommodated gloved hands, it was the rifle of choice during the 1897 Alaskan Gold Rush, causing the Winchester 94 to be christened “The Klondike Model.”

Read the Winchester 94: The First Century.

View A Lifetime Affair: Winchester Model 94 photo gallery.

See the Winchester Model 94 video from American Rifleman TV.

In addition, law enforcement agencies, such as the Los Angeles and Glendale, Calif., police departments, various railroad police and the Texas Rangers added the Winchester 94 to their gun racks. And during World Wars I and II special Ordnance-marked Model 94 carbines were issued to U.S. troops stationed along the Mexican and Canadian borders, as well as to home guard units. Through the years the Model 94 was used by such diverse individuals as frontiersman Nat Love, presidential sportsman and NRA Life member Theodore Roosevelt, and Texas lawman Tom Threepersons, all of whom favored the Model 94 in .30-30 Win.

So closely has the Model 94 remained identified with this cartridge that I remember, growing up in Arizona, any Winchester 94 was generically referred to as either a “thuty-thuty,” or a “treinta-treinta,” no matter what its actual caliber might have been. Today there is still an obscure brand of tequila called “30-30” that, up until recently, depicted a Model 94 carbine on its label.

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37 Responses to The Winchester Model 94 Rides Again

Rick wrote:
June 20, 2014

I found a new winchester 94 in 30-30 at a gun store in Tell City In. It was made in 2004 but was new on the shelf, I got lucky. The rifle has beautiful walnut and a 24' barrel and made in America!!!

John L. wrote:
June 11, 2014

Apparently this article has been cleaned up a little from its initial form, but it still stinks. 'Nearly five years have transpired...'? What kind of crap English is that? Time periods pass, they don't transpire.

John L. wrote:
June 11, 2014

Winchester could no longer profitably make the M94 in America as a lower-priced, mass-produced item. They could have tried to up the quality to appeal more to the top end of the market, collectors and such, but the price per unit would go up too much. That would reduce sales more, making it harder to justify modern equipment and tooling. Stuck with older equipment, costs would continue to rise and better quality would not be possible. It was a death spiral. Somehow Miroku in Japan has pulled off what we could not, and I'm just glad that these old classic Winchester models are still being made, to good quality standards, SOMEWHERE. By the way, labor at Miroku IS unionized; a difference may be that the union/management relationship in Japan is not so antagonistic and confrontational. They work together for mutual benefit, instead of each trying to grab all they can get without considering consequences.

Thom Mcneely wrote:
May 25, 2014

Sure it looks OK but I would rather buy an old American made gun. I am sick and tired of everything we see made in other countries. For sake of our kids and their kids we have to start buying American. And isn't it amazing that it cost more made in Japan then they cost when they were made here in the U.S. and the company said production cost was too high to make a profit. I love my Winchester Model 1300 shotgun but after 28 years it was time to buy new one so I bought a Mossberg only because they were made in the U.S. A.

Bobo Jackson wrote:
January 28, 2014

MADE IN JAPAN.. I will not pay that price... Buy American made, keep Americans working

Henry P wrote:
January 26, 2014

I am a new owner of a 94 30-30 Win, it has a little rust pitted damaged from a flood. Can a octogon barrel replace a round barrel???

Tom S wrote:
December 26, 2013

Well, I happen to own one of these guns and I'm here to tell you Winchester in America NEVER made a 94 as quality and beautiful as this one. I don't care if it is made in Japan. The 'old days' are a thing of the past guys get over it.

ALT wrote:
November 05, 2013

Savage arms AMERICAN MADE affordable accurate sure their not as aesthetically appealing as some of the Winchester or other rifles out there but again AMERICAN MADE

ALT wrote:
November 05, 2013

I'm A young proud AMERICAN of the generation x I will only by american and if american is only manufacturing junk for guns why is that Kimber hand guns made in new york are the setting the bench mark for an age old pistol known as the 1911 I proudly work union. Cheap labor isn't skilled and Skilled labor isn't cheap

James Bailey wrote:
April 01, 2013

It seems that only certain union jobs are bad.All of the people in the theater film's we watch are probably at least 99% union.All of the pro athletes and official's are union. Do you hate all of these people too? are any of these over paid? Most manufacturing job's have been lost in the U.S. that's true so if you have insurance, or enjoy paid days off at work, the 40 hour work week, or overtime you owe some debt of thanks to a union guy that made that possible. I am one of those guys. (retired)

joab wrote:
November 24, 2012

Um Scooter, no jobs were eliminated for these guns to be made in japan. Those jobs were eliminated years ago due to high labor costs. And to all of you union supporters. Ruger and Henry are non union, as are the new Winchesters being made.

Scooter wrote:
November 05, 2012

To all who say good for Japan. Would your opinion be the same if it were your job that was eliminated to make these firearms in Japan?

dtmarcell wrote:
August 30, 2012

The people of japan are not aloud to even own a gun so how can they make it better than the folks here?its like taking your car to a mechanic thats never even driven a car.if they cant own it they dont know what its supposed to do.

Travis vargas wrote:
May 24, 2012

How do i check the serial number aginst age and value& year made

gunwin5X wrote:
February 19, 2012

How is it that unions are responsible for the loss of jobs in the U.S.A. when it is the CEO's who insist on the multi-million-dollar stock-option "compensation packages"? Just think, all those millions of dollars could be spent hiring -- and PAYING -- employees......

jske wrote:
January 31, 2012

unions dont kill america corporate greed did. so mr. percival you can thank unions for bring up wages.

R. Percival wrote:
December 08, 2011

It is true, unions are killing everything in America that was at one time considered the best. There is a Delco plant in Milwaukee that shut down because Delco could not afford to pay union janitors $90,000.00 a year! Wake up America, teachers unions are teaching your children that America is bad, and guns are evil. Wake up!

RIPN 48 wrote:
March 15, 2011

I would rather the 94 be mfg.in America but that's not happening so more power to the japs if they can build it and if it is as good as the original.I wish them well on this venture and i hope it keeps this fine gun alive.

jodie huebner wrote:
February 27, 2011

i have a matched set of 200th anniversay model winchesters NIB matching serial num...CUSTOM & HIGH GRADE...being so rare ? what is the best way of selling them ? i live in wisconsin..THANKS

John L. wrote:
January 18, 2011

Henry? Well they use nice wood, but most of their guns are made out of zamak. But it is the way they shamelessly rip off the historical Henry rifle that REALLY bothers me. They have no connection to the Civil War Henry rifle whatsoever, yet constantly let on like it is their own company history.

R.E. Hafner wrote:
January 18, 2011

Made in the USA has become to equate over priced junk thanks to unions and the lack of skill of American workers. Sorry but true. If you want a superior shotgun purchase Italian. You want a good rifle? Sweden, Japan, Germany. Even handguns have become the domain of Europe, glock for instance. About the only people that produce high quality rifle are the small independent gun makers starting to make a dent in the market. Don't like it? Get rid of lawyers and unions. Mean while I'll hang onto my pre 64 Winchesters, 700 Remington's from their custom shop, Weather's and Mauser 98s. Remember if you accept junk your will be fed junk.

D. Coggins wrote:
December 30, 2010

I'm with JC, I just got my third Henry for Christmas a few days ago. I don't think you can beat the machine work on their rifles. Every part comes from and is made in the U.S. Winchester has let me down on this overseas venture.

Chad B. wrote:
December 16, 2010

JC has it right. Buy a Henry!! They are far superior in quality and you can get a Big Boy for around 600.00. If Winchester really wanted to do something special for the anniversary, they would have made it in the US.

Joy C. wrote:
December 01, 2010

I want winchester to come out with a standard model 94 that the working man can afford for around 350.00. Made in America

John L. wrote:
November 30, 2010

My, a lot of nationalism here. I'm more inclined to reward competence myself, rather that buy whatever over-priced crap the American labor unions feel like dawdling out. It was "Americans" that killed all the good Winchester models back in 1957-1964 and I'm thankful the Japanese have the ingenuity to somehow wring a profit out of the low production they do of the models they brought back to life for us. More power to them, and last time I checked they were our allies not our enemies. There is no law stopping anyone from producing the M1894 or a decent clone of it in America at a fair price, but the truth is that American workers have not been up to the task. If they were we would see one.

RB wrote:
November 23, 2010

winchester being made in Japan is a slap in the face. Everybody is right in saying what a disgrace. Buy a Ruger or a Thompson Center because they are made in the USA.

JC wrote:
November 23, 2010

Just buy a Henry 30-30. They're MADE IN THE USA!!

Ron Taber wrote:
November 21, 2010

I agree, it's time to bring manufacturing back to the US. It's the only way to decrease unemployment in our counrty and Americans want American made products.

Kim H. wrote:
November 19, 2010

Winchester is the american way,not Japanese junk. I agree with kc. it must come back to the us. it is a disgrace to discontinue the leaver in us...

Millard Huff wrote:
November 17, 2010

i would never buy a model 94 made in japan i won't even buy there cars why would i buy a rifle that was made in american now made in japan that's just cazy

John L. wrote:
November 03, 2010

The disgrace is that these rifles are probably machined better and finished better than any U.S. made M94's have been anytime in the last 50 years, at least. Miroku is capable of some fine work. Indeed these rifles are symbols of an era when American workers took pride in their work and turned out 1st class products -- an era unfortunately now past as the quality of writing in this article reminds us. Seeing as how Oliver Winchester died in 1880, just how was it that he cut a deal with Browning for the M1894 patents?

kc wrote:
November 02, 2010

A Winchester built in JAPAN! what a disgrace.

Fuzzbean wrote:
November 01, 2010

This article is full of mistakes... was the author asleep and dreaming when he wrote this, or what?

Timothy Hunt wrote:
October 28, 2010

Wow, $1500 Japanese made model 94 Winchesters. Not exactly the gun that will be someones "first" deer gun. Thanks for the nice article. Maybe the powers that be will see fit to have U.S. citizens make model 94's again one day that the average guy can afford.

Jimmy Jones wrote:
October 27, 2010

Wow. Two hundred year anniversary Model 94 replica. Made in Japan. I'll pass.

Felice Silvestri wrote:
October 27, 2010

Yeas, I want a Model 94, but it has to be AMERICAN!!

Rodger J Thomas wrote:
October 23, 2010

I've been calling all over US to buy a match set of 94's without any luck. Per this printing 5000 additional high grades with unique serial numbers will be available. Please let me know where I can order/see one of these rifle. Thank you