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GUNS Magazine March 2010 - Page 36
An American favorite returns in a commemorative issue. C ivilization has been saved, at least for the time being. In 2005 the unthinkable happened when Winchester closed their doors and both the Model 1894 and the Model 70 disappeared. FN is now manufacturing the new Model 70, and the Model 94 (at least in a special issue) is now offered by the trio of Browning/Winchester/ Miroku. It bears the Winchester logo, and is manufactured by Miroku of Japan. It is a most beautiful and excellent shooting rifle as we shall soon see. The 1894, as the Model name indicates, arrived in 1894 chambered in two black powder cartridges, .32-40 and .38-55. One year later the .38-55 was basically necked down to 30 caliber and loaded with the new smokeless powder as the .30-30. Today it is easy to neglect the .30-30 in favor of all the other more powerful cartridges, however millions upon millions of .30-30 leverguns have been produced over the last century-plus and are still used especially by woods hunters after whitetail deer and black bear. When I was in grade school in 1951 I even wrote a poem about the .30-30 and I still remember the beginning: “Twas back in ’97 as it is in my ken. “Their names were Tuck and Shut up; they were flat countrymen.” John Taffin That’s all I remember except for their being on a trip after black bear; I got an “A” for my effort. Over the past several decades I have written about reloading and using the .30-30 as well as about leverguns made by Marlin, Mossberg and Winchester. It is one of my favorite cartridges. It may be difficult for us here in the opening decade of the 21st century to realize what a tremendous technological step forward the .30-30 was in the last decade of the 19th century. As far as I know, the first person (at least the first person I have encountered) to write about the .30-30 Winchester levergun was Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore was the real deal but he must be read in the context of the last quarter of the 19th century. Hunting was certainly different when he was ranching in the Dakotas as it was strictly open sights and black powder; the object was simply to get a bullet in the game pursued and then chase it down on horseback if necessary. Teddy Roosevelt Connection While in the Dakotas TR’s number one rifle was the Winchester model 1876 chambered in .45-75. He writes: “I had thus tagged one prong-buck as the net outcome of the expenditure of 14 cartridges. This was certainly not good shooting; but neither was this as bad as it would seem to the man inexperienced in antelope hunting. When fresh meat is urgently needed, and when time is too short, the hunter who is after antelope in an open, flattish country must risk many long shots.” Things changed for TR 10 years later: “In the fall of 1896 I spent a fortnight on the range with the ranch wagon. I was using for the first time one of the new small-caliber, smokeless-powder rifles, with the usual soft-nosed bullet.” That new rifle was the Winchester .30-30. This became Theodore’s rifle of choice for antelope hunting. “I did not have a close shot, for they were running about 180 yards off. The buck was rearmost, Oliver Winchester’s signature (above) is found in gold on the top of the bolt. Instead of the reviled cross-bolt safety found on the last Winchester 1894s, the High Grade (below) has an unobtrusive and easier to use tang safety. 36 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MARCH 2010