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Thread: 1894 Winchester .32WS

  1. #1
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    Default 1894 Winchester .32WS

    My dad just gave me, from what I can find, a late 1800's Winchester 1894, lever action .32WS gun. It has an octogon barrel and is in excellent shape. I was wondering if it would be safe to shoot or should I take it to a gunsmith to look over or maybe I should just hang it on the wall. I did find some Federal ammo for it at SW. What would something like this be worth? Thanks Doug

  2. #2

    Default Wow!

    What a treasure. I would gently clean it, make sure everything functions ok and shoot it. Then I would clean it again and hang it on the wall and stare at it. You should be able to get an idea on it's value if you search the internet.

  3. #3

    Default 1894 .32 Special

    To really be able to ascertain the gun's true value, it is necessary to know how it is set up, barrel length, anything custom from factory on original purchase, anything replaced, actual date of manufacture. Great Northern Guns would help you do that. The .32 Special ammo, if memory serves, was loaded with early smokeless powder, but the cases were supposed to be reloaded with black powder. I wouldn't be surprised if it was from around the turn of the century, very early 1900s. .32 Specials were known to lose accuracy regularly with any real wear to the barrel, but loading slightly over-sized lead bullets can rectify that. Probably a nice rifle.

  4. #4

    Arrow 32 Specials

    I have had two in my lifetime and both would outshoot any 30-30 I ever had. My son still has a pre 64 1894 in 32 special dad gave him on his 15th birthday it came from Alaska and its in great shape he killed a few deer and a truck load of hogs before dad gave him a Rem 700 7 mag for graduation that one still gets used alot with the grandsons and all so if your old gun has a good clean bore and is sound I just bet it will shoot like a house a fire. Federal winchester and remington still offer ammo for it one of them will shoot hunting size groups in that old rifle. Find some one with a blue book and they can date it for you by serial no. It could be a 150 dollar shooter all the way up to a 2000 dollar collectors item it will take someone who is in to 94s big time to tell you that either way its a keeper good shooting..Ronnie

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    Default 32 Winchester is special...

    The 1894 Winchester was originally made in 32-40 and 38-55. Then in 1895 the 25-35 WCF and 30 WCF were added. The 32 Winchester Special was added in 1902. Because of the order of events most folks think the 32 W.S. was just a tag olong for the 30 WCF (30-30). That isn't the case. The very popular and very accurate 32-40 was a well established black powder round and was used to win most shooting matches for more than a decade before Winchester included it in their new model '94. The 32-40 had a 1:16 twist and worked so well with lead bullets and black powder. The 30-30 had a 1:12 twist and gave so-so accuracy with the thin jacketed bullets of the era with the new smokeless powder but soft lead and black powder quickly fouled the 1:12 twist barrels.

    Winchester wanted to capture the high velocity advantage of the new smokeless powder and the lead bullet and black powder accuracy in one new cartridge. While the 32-40 gave the accuracy they wanted it was loaded with a 165 grain lead bullet at about 1500 fps velocity. The earlier guns could not be used with any high velocity smokeless powder round so just updating the 32-40 load to smokeless wouldn't achieve the desired results. The 30-30 could launch its 160 grain load at 2100 fps. Earth scorching velocity in those days. The answer was the 32 Winchester special. It's original factory loading was a 170 grain bullet at 2250 fps. It generated more energy than the 30-30 and could be hand loaded with black powder and soft lead to 32-40 accuracy srtandards. Winchester also offered a black powder lead bullet target load for this caliber for a while.

    The 32 W.S., as the barrels were stamped, was expected to combine the talents to the old and the new into one caliber and therefore be the most popular caliber for the model 1894 Winchester rifle. Well.....that didn't happen and it was relegated to be the red headed step child of the 30-30 in the 1894 rifle. The 32 W.S. was maligned by many as not having good accuracy when even slightly worn because of its slower twist. It also was considered less accurate than even the 30-30 when using the high velocity jacketed bullets. There may have been some truth to both these claims but the difference would have been slight. The fact remains that the 32 special is a very accurate rifle with cast bullets of the appropriate size and hardness when used with the good smokeless powders of today. It has been, in my life time, the '30-30' to use when a fellow wanted to use cast lead bullets. It still is that.

    I've loaded lead bullets, made by Marshall Stanton of Beartooth Bullets, in about a half dozen 32 W.S. rifles. They all worked very well and gave good accuracy. The correct bullet size for this caliber is .321"-.322".

    The 32 W.S. didn't survive the transition to the new post 1964 model 94 Winchester. Of course what that means is that any old 32 W.S. model 94's will be very well made with the pre '64 quality that earned Winchester it's claim to fame. The value of your rifle could be as high as $2000 depending on condition. It is not the most desirable caliber from a collectors perspective, falling behind the 32-40, 38-55 but any 1894 of the turn of the century, if not abused and if all original could easily be worth a $1000.

    Here is a site that can give the year of manufacture. http://armscollectors.com/sn/winlookup.php

    Your rifle will be made with Nickel Steel barrel and should be so stamped. You can handload it to about 1600 fps to very mild pressures and it will work great with lead bullets, even if the bore is a little worn. It is old and may have been used heavily so you should have it checked by a good smith. If it were mine I would not shoot it with factory jacketed ammo but would hand load it with soft (1:15) lead bullets with smokeless to about 1600 fps. It would still take a white tail buck out on the back forty. Enjoy your rifle and the memories it will bring.
    Last edited by Murphy; 12-29-2007 at 19:16. Reason: Thanks F.P. yes, 1895
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  6. #6
    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    Murph, meant 1895 not 1995.
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    Thanks for all the information. The barrel does say nickel steel and made especially for smokeless powder. It is about 25.5 inches and the serial numbers start 143---. Doug

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    Quote Originally Posted by doug carlo View Post
    Thanks for all the information. The barrel does say nickel steel and made especially for smokeless powder. It is about 25.5 inches and the serial numbers start 143---. Doug
    Doug,

    Is there another digit in there because 143,001 to 143,999 were made in 1898, the 32 W.S. came on in 1902.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Keeping Murphy's advise in mind:

    Handloader, Febuary 2007, had a good article on reloading for the .32

    Hornady and Speer make .32 bullets (170gr) and have reloading data in their books. Lyman 47th has .32 jacketed data.

    RCBS has a .32 bullet mold, but you may need to special order it. The RCBS Cast Bullet Manual #1 has .32 data from 1200 to 2000 fps.

  10. #10
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    From the Winchester Collectors site:

    Early Model 1894 Calibers:
    .32-40 – introduced in 1894
    .38-55 – introduced in 1894
    .25-35 – introduced in 1895
    .30 W.C.F. (30-30) – introduced in 1895
    .32 Winchester Special – introduced in 1902

    If that is the whole number, it was rebarreled at sometime more than likely at the factory.
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  11. #11
    Member Darreld Walton's Avatar
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    Default Had several of 'em...

    Can't seem to hang onto a .32. Someone else always figures they're worth about three times what I have in 'em, and they go away.
    I'm on the side of the fence that says there ain't a whit's worth of difference in the way that the .30-30 and .32 perform.
    I've heard all sorts of stories about what prompted Winchester to make a.32 on the 94. Probably because they'd been selling (and well, too) .32-40's as well as other makers, and it'd been successful on the target range.
    I have seen in the last year, TWO post-64 Model 94 carbines with barrels marked .32 Winchester Special!!! As I recall, we checked the serial numbers on 'em at the shop and they came up around 1969-70.

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    Is there a plague of these things coming out of the wood work?
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    I will look for another digit tonight. Thanks for the advice and help. Doug

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