Published: Saturday, 02 May 2015 18:45
Written by Patrick Burell
Recently I took in a NIB Winchester Model1892 in a trade. As a western firearms enthusiast I wanted to know a little more about it. Hearing that Winchester still wasn't producing lever action rifles at an overwhelming pace. Through research I determined this was the special run in 1997 and mine is UFNIB. I typically don't own non-shooters but sometimes you have to make an exception.
The Winchester Model 1892 was a lever-action repeating rifle designed by John Browning as a smaller, lighter version of his large-frame Model 1886, and which replaced the Model 1873 as the company's lever-action for pistol-caliber rounds such as the .44-40 in the days when a mans rifle and sidearm fired the same round. It was the lever action that shooters fell in love with.
When asked by Winchester to design an improved pistol caliber lever action, John Browning said he would have the prototype completed in under a month or it would be free. Within 2 weeks, Browning had a functioning prototype of the 92. Calibers for the rifle vary and some are custom-chambered. The original rounds were the .32-20, .38-40, and .44-40 Winchester centerfire rounds, followed in 1895 by the new .25-20. A few Model 92's chambered for .218 Bee were produced in 1936-38.
The Winchester Models 53 (1924) and 65 (1933) were relabeled Model 1892's. Admiral Robert E. Peary carried an 1892 on his trips to the North Pole., and Secretary of War Patrick Hurley was presented with the one millionth rifle on December 13, 1932.
1,007,608 Model 1892 rifles were made by Winchester, and although the company phased them out by 1945, they are still being made under the Puma label by the Brazilian arms maker, Rossi, by Chiappa Firearms, an Italian factory, and by Browning in Japan. In its modern form, using updated materials and production techniques, the Model 1892's action is strong enough to chamber high pressure handgun rounds, such as .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .454 Casull. Despite being designed for smaller cartridges, the 1892's dual forward locking-block action is actually stronger than Browning's rear-locked Model 1894.
The '92 goes to Hollywood
John Wayne aims a Model 92 rifle in The Searchers (1956).
Although the Model 1892 made its debut after the closing of the American frontier, and the true "Guns that Won the West" were the earlier Models 1866 and 1873, nonetheless the '92 became an indelible icon of Western mythology through its use in hundreds of motion pictures and television shows, standing in for its older siblings. John Wayne famously carried Model 92s in dozens of films and owned several personally, some with the distinctive oversized "loop" lever. Other notable screen 92s were those of Chuck Connors in The Rifleman TV series, and Steve McQueen's "Mare's Leg" in Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Hollywood studios purchased the '92 in quantity because it was in regular production (until World War II) but looked sufficiently like Old West Winchesters to substitute for valuable antiques, and because in calibers .44-40 and .38-40 it could fire, together with the Colt Single Action Army "Peacemaker" revolver, the standard Five-in-One blank cartridge. This latter practice mirrored the real cowboys, who found it convenient to carry a rifle and a revolver chambered with the same ammunition.
Modern copies Winchester ended production of the Model 1892 in 1945; however in 1997 and 1998 a limited run was produced. And, in arms manufacturers such as Browning, Navy Arms, Chiappa, Armi San Marco, and Rossi have continued to produce copies. Copies or "clone" versions of the Model 1892 have continued to be produced almost continuously since Winchester ended its production run. They range in quality and price from midrange firearms to highly decorated presentation pieces.
Winchester produced limited numbers of the Model 1892 in 1997. In November, 2006, Winchester announced the Model 1892 John Wayne 100th Anniversary Rifle, chambered in Win 44-40. Since then, Winchester has offered several versions of the Model 1892. In early 2012, Winchester produced a limited number of Large Loop Carbines in 4 calibers; .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, .44-40 (44 WCF) and .45 Colt.