This is a very early Model 1894 Rifle in caliber 38-55. Standard 26" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate. It has a low four digit serial number in the 9,000 range which makes it a Pre-1898 Antique under federal law. Of the millions produced, nice sound Model 1894's that are antique and made at the end of the 19th century are hard to come by. We contacted the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY and they were able to confirm the configuration of this rifle is completely original. They provided us with the following information:
WINCHESTER MODEL 1894 - SERIAL NUMBER 9.798
Barrel Type: Octagon
Received in warehouse on November 15, 1895
Shipped from warehouse on May 25, 1896, Order number 11400
Historically, the 38-55 was the original cartridge used in the Model 1894; at least for about the first 500 produced. Shortly thereafter, the 32-40 began to appear. Both of these cartridges were black powder and had earned a strong reputation since the 1880's in the Winchester Model 1885 Single Shot Rifle. The 32-40 was and still is one of the best target cartridges at 200 yards in the world. The 38-55 was also regarded as a formidable target round but packed a bigger punch making it more suitable as a hunting round. Once Winchester perfected their loading procedures in the ammunition plant, the smokeless .30 WCF, a.k.a. 30-30 and the 25-35 WCF began to be produced. One of the interesting aspects of the black powder 38-55 was that it was not only powerful but easy to hand reload. This could not be said for smokeless ammunition where measuring had to be much more precise. In fact, Winchester seems to have had quite a thriving business selling reloading tools and bullet molds for these 38-55's as they turn up quite frequently at shows.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine. It's a nice untouched example that's all original and appears to have been used but well-cared for. The receiver has 70% original blue showing that is thinning with balance turned to a pleasing patina. The barrel and magazine have 70% original dull blue with a smooth brown patina mixing in and along the bottom of the tube. Hammer has 35% original faded case colors. The lever has 5-10% washed out colors in the protected areas with the balance turned to a smooth brown patina. The screws are Very Good overall. Nice markings including the early three-lines on the upper tang with manufacture, model, and inventor John Browning's original August 21, 1894 patent date. Barrel has the three-line Winchester address located on the top flat. "38-55" is marked on top just ahead of the receiver. Being early production, it has no barrel proofs which is correct as they didn't start until around 1903-04. Original sights include standard semi-buckhorn rear and German silver blade front. The original walnut stock and forend are in Fine and Very Good Plus Condition respectively with 80% original varnish remaining overall...the worn spots being the wrist of the stock and back of the forend from where the owner's hands carried this rifle. There are no chips, no cracks, and no repairs and the wood-to-metal fit is perfect. Mechanics are in nice shape and the bore is Fine...still semi-bright and not pitted. It may clean even better. Lands and grooves are still pronounced with no rings, no bulges. . A very solid example of a scarce early Model 1894 Winchester rifle.