Blast From the Past: Old Neck Shot’s Winchester Model 94
It’s hard to decide what’s more legendary in this story—the classic lever-action rifle or the old-timer who hunted with it
The Winchester Model 94 is a classic, of course, and one that even non-gun people recognize. It’s also an immensely successful and popular design, with over 7,500,000 made. Today’s gun is a Model 94, but when it was made there weren’t 7,500,000 guns just like it. There were very few 94s back then, as it dates to the early years of Model 94 production.
Harold S’s Model 94
This is a picture of my grandfather’s Model 1894 .30/30 Winchester. Actually, it belongs to me now but my grandfather bought it used when he was about 19 years old and was his only big-game rifle for his entire life. The old saying, “Beware of a man with one gun; he probably knows how to use it!” pretty well sums it up. He was famous in the little mining town in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota for shooting running deer through the neck. His friends called him Old Neck Shot. I’d love to know how many four-legged victims this rifle has accounted for, but I’m sure it’s well over a hundred.
The rifle itself was manufactured in 1897 when my grandfather was only a year old. He bought it off an old retired professor at Spearfish Normal School, who was done hunting and needed the money more than the gun. Actually, I should say guns, because Granddad bought both this one and its consecutively numbered twin from the old boy. Soon after, he sold one and kept one—dang it! As you can see, it has the curved steel butt plate and fore-end cap of the really old model 94s. The back sight is a Lyman tang peep with the front being a flip-up with both a post (topped with an ivory bead) and the other a ball-on-a-post within a circle target sight. I don’t think Granddad ever used the second front sight; it’s really hard to use. The long eye-relief aids accuracy and the weight-forward balance of the 26-inch octagonal barrel helps hold the rifle steady. Despite long years of use, it’s in excellent working condition. The bore is pretty darn good considering its age. Accuracy is only fair with regular .30/30 ammo but improves considerably with Hornaday’s LEVERevolution. Naturally, it shows the marks of time and many hunts. Most of the blue is gone from the receiver, and the rest is thinning. The stock shows its age but hasn’t been abused. I’ve killed one doe mule deer with it and I’m hoping to take it afield the next time I hunt the Black Hills.
So, while I’m the current caretaker of Granddad’s gun, it’s really his gun! When I pick it up, I can still see him walking down a snowy forest road in November, with his cap, red and black checkered coat, green wool pants, and this rifle clutched in his right hand while his grin telling us that another deer has fallen to him and his rifle.
Who wouldn’t want to earn the nickname Old Neck Shot? Thanks, Harold, for the picture and the family story. Keep the old gun pictures coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.