My nephew Brandyn’s
grandfather died recently, and bequeathed him his “old rifle”. As Brandyn
is just seven years old, it came to me in trust.The ‘old rifle’ is a
Winchester Model 1890 in .22 WRF (more on this unusual cartridge later).
It’s a little pump gun with a nice octagonal barrel, and is in desperate
need of some attention. It’s not been fired in a long time, the action is
very stiff in operation.
can’t see into the bore but I’m sure it’s not good. The stock also needs
refinishing. So just what is it about this ‘old rifle’ that makes it
The Winchester 1890
The model 1890 was the
first slide (pump) action rifle produced by Winchester, as they had
previously concentrated on the popular lever action repeaters. It went on
to become one of the company’s best selling small calibre firearms
worldwide. The rifle, designed by brothers John and Matthew Browning, was
available chambered for the .22 Short, Long, and Winchester Rim fire
cartridges, but not interchangeably. It wasn’t until 1919 that the .22 LR
cartridge was also offered. The rifle was a slide action, top ejecting
rifle with 18” magazine tube under the barrel. All Model 1890’s were
furnished standard with plain walnut straight stocks, a crescent butt
plate and 12 groove slide handle, however over time three distinct
Octagonal barrel and tube magazine
Solid frame, 24” octagonal
barrel, case hardened frame, fixed rear sight. Manufactured from 1890 to
1892, It is thought that 15,552 of these first models were produced. They
are distinguished by their concealed locking lugs and solid frame. They
are serial numbered on the lower tang only.
Takedown, 24” octagonal barrel, case
hardened frame, adjustable rear sight. Serial numbered (on lower tang
only) from 15,553 to 112,970. They retain the concealed locking lugs but
add the takedown feature. A Deluxe version was available featuring fancy
walnut chequered straight or pistol grip stock and grooved slide handle.
Second Model. (Blued
Distinguished only by the frame being blued rather than case hardened, but
otherwise identical to other Second models. Serial numbered from 112,971
to 325,250. (From number 232,328 the serial number was also stamped into
the bottom front end of the receiver as well as the lower tang).
A Deluxe version was also available.
Note the cut out and external locking lugs on the breech bolt
Takedown, 24” octagonal barrel, blued
frame, adjustable rear sight. Serial numbered from 325,251 to as high as
853,000 it is clearly the most common of the 1890 model types. (The
serial number is stamped into the bottom front end of the receiver as well
as the lower tang). Distinguished by the locking cut made on the front
top of the receiver to allow the breech bolt to lock externally. A Deluxe
version was also available.
The Model 1890 was produced from 1890 to
1932, with around 775,000 guns sold. Values can vary enormously according
to model, chambering, and condition.
If you are fortunate
enough to have an excellent condition First Model (standard grade) then in
2001 an expert would have appraised it at around USD $9,000. A Case
hardened Second Model Deluxe in excellent condition would fetch even more
at around USD $10,000, though even a poor one would command USD $1,000.
Interestingly because the .22LR was only introduced during the third model
run they command a 25% premium.
The 1890 Third Model
Brandyn’s standard grade gun is serial numbered in the 738,000’s which
makes it a late production model (probably around 1930), and given that it
is in poor condition it would be worth no more than USD $500 but probably
much less. In this case however the value is sentimental and historical,
rather than monetary. It is a connection with his grandfather, not a term
deposit. So, what next?
I need to establish to what extent it is possible to restore (or at least
refinish) the rifle. I’ll need to strip the rifle and give it a good
clean, examine the bore, and go from there. Obviously the stock needs to
be refinished too. As far as I can tell this particular rifle has no
great collectors or monetary value so this work won’t do any ‘harm’ to
it. Naturally as this work is done I’ll document it for a follow up
article for AHN.
The Successors to the 1890
The Model 1906
was designed as a lower cost version of the 1890. While using the same
receiver it was fitted with a 20” round barrel and gumwood stock. In 1908
it was altered so that it could shoot the .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle
cartridges interchangeably, making it a very flexible and cheaper (about
two-thirds the cost of an 1890) option ensuring its success.
The Model 62
that replaced both these earlier models, featured a 23” round barrel,
combined the ability to shoot the .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle
cartridges interchangeably (from the 1906) with some of the 1890’s finer
finish features, as well as incorporating a few “modern” manufacturing
refinements to the basic Browning action. What if I want to buy a new
one? Well, you are in luck!
Picture from taurususa.com
is, as the model number suggests, modelled after the Winchester Model 62.
It has a 23” barrel, with a tube magazine holding thirteen .22 LR rounds
only. Metalwork is stainless steel, contrasting with dark stained timber
Naturally the Taurus features some concessions to modern design such as a
safety mechanism, which was not seen back in the days of the 1890. (The
Taurus M62R is reviewed in the June 2004 Edition of “Australian Shooter”
and at the time the RRP was $600).
The .22 WRF Cartridge
The .22 WRF (Winchester Rim Fire) was
designed specifically for the Model 1890 slide action rifle. It was later
adapted to Remington and Stevens Rifles as well as Colt Revolvers. While
the Winchester round used a flattened point bullet, when Remington
manufactured for the cartridge they used a round nose bullet and the name
.22 Remington Special. (These cartridges are otherwise identical and the
name simply points to the fact that Remington did not want the name
Winchester to appear on any of their rifles. Times have changed in these
days of WSMs and WSSMs haven’t they!)
Chuck Hawks tells us that “The .22WRF fires a 45 grain, copper-plated,
lead semi-wadcutter style bullet at a velocity of 1,320 fps and 175 ft.
lbs. of energy at the muzzle of a 22" rifle barrel.