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Trying to Identify Model 1892 Winchester

Discussion in 'Firearms Research' started by JDinFbg, May 1, 2020.

  1. JDinFbg

    JDinFbg Member

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    My neighbor and I went shooting and he showed me a Model 1892 Winchester he had (and it is stamped "1892" not "92"). He would like to determine what year it was made, but the serial number is gone from the bottom of the receiver and over-stamped with the letters WRACO. It has a half round, half octagon barrel and was originally chambered for 32-20 (marking still in place), but at some point was converted to 357 Magnum. Research has revealed that Winchester used to over-stamp the serial number with WRACO when they got rifles back for refurbishment or when the serial number was worn off, I suppose to indicate it was a refurbished rifle and not factory original. My neighbor knows some of the history of the rifle and believes the conversion to 357 Magnum was likely done in the late 1930's or 1940's, may have been a lawman's rifle he wanted rechambered to shoot the same cartridge as his revolver, and that there was a gunsmith in Arizona that specialized in doing these conversions. One of the salient details of the action is that it has two "ramps", one on each side of the cartridge port, that raise the cartridge to nearly horizontal position and in alignment with the chamber just before the bolt pushes the cartridge into the chamber. I don't know if these ramps were a feature of a particular gunsmith's work, or if this was something needed in all conversions to achieve reliable feeding of the straight-walled case.

    Does anyone know how many years Winchester over-stamped serial numbers with WRACO? Did they stop this practice in a particular year?

    Does anyone know of old-timey gunsmiths who used to specialize in converting 1892 Winchesters to 357 Magnum?

    Does anyone know if there were any serial numbers stamped elsewhere on the rifles that are hidden from view? I read that some rifles had a serial number stamped on the lower tang which could be seen after the butt stock was removed, but my neighbor looked on his and there is no serial number on the lower tang.
     
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  2. Coyote3855

    Coyote3855 Member

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    Thanks for the post, sorry I can't be of help with your questions. I'm a member of the Winchester Arms Collectors Association. Lots of experts there who will be able to assist you with your inquiries.
    https://winchestercollector.org/

    Also, I have had Winchester questions answered by the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Center of the West.

    https://centerofthewest.org/explore/firearms/

    Let us know what you find out.
     
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  3. JDinFbg

    JDinFbg Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions and links. I had looked for info on the collectors web site, but hadn't found the answers I was looking for. I have now sent an email to the Cody Museum, so will see what they respond with.
     
  4. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Bert H. on the Gunbroker forum is a Winchester guru, works or has worked at Cody.
     
  5. JDinFbg

    JDinFbg Member

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    Coyote3855: I did receive a response to the questions posted above from Dan Brumley, Curatorial Assistant, Cody Firearms Museum, and he provided the following information:
    • The Half Round/Half Octagon barrel and the Shorter Than Standard Magazine were both special order options that were available throughout production. Model 1892 rifles were discontinued in 1932 but the carbines were continued until 1941.
    • The WRACo marking was used from 1899 – 1903 on guns that were returned to the factory for repair and the serial number was not completely visible or had been obliterated.
    • Between 1904 – 1910, serial numbers were sometimes stamped on the top (inside) of the lower tang (This apparently did not happen often).
    • That would probably be Roy F. Dunlap, a gunsmith in Tucson, AZ. He began after WW II and died in 1997.
    He also asked me to send some detail pictures of the rifle (which I did) and responded and asked for some more pictures and information (which I've sent). So, I'll see if he comes back with any further information. At this point we now know the rifle was made before 1903, and have the story behind the half round, half octagon barrel and shorter than standard magazine. Whether or not he is correct about the gunsmith that did the conversion may still be up in the air as I read an article by Skeeter Skelton from the July 1982 edition of Shooting Times Magazine where he indicated Ward Koozer, a master gunsmith then living in Douglas, Arizona, was converting .25-20 and .32-20 Model 92 Winchester lever actions into .357 Magnum carbines. I don't know if there are any distinguishing hallmarks of a conversion that might identify a particular gunsmith's work, but the story my neighbor heard was that the conversion was done by a gunsmith in Arizona, so both Dunlap and Koozer could be the likely candidates for doing the conversion. The work was by someone who really knew what they were doing, and both gentlemen would be in that class.
     
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  6. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Roy Dunlop was a prolific in print writer and I have enjoyed his books. I have seen examples of his work and he knew what he was doing.

    I would love to see pictures of the features you describe. Your rifle sounds very interesting, rare, unique! :p
     
  7. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Roy Dunlap's 'Ordnance Went Up Front' is very interesting. He saw a lot of the early Garands with the bugs not worked out. He considered the BAR A2 to have bugs added. He thought the Italians' .380 Beretta was a more suitable sidearm than our .45.
     
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  8. JDinFbg

    JDinFbg Member

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    Coyote3855: After Dan Brumley, Curatorial Assistant, Cody Firearms Museum, looked at the pictures I sent him, he concluded that based on the level of the gunsmithing work done, it would not have been a conversion done by Roy Dunlap. He considered the work to not be professionally done. He further noted that the characteristics of the half round, half octagon barrel was not characteristic of the special order rifles produced by Winchester since the octagon portion did not extend past the forend and did not have the octagon to round transition contour that matched those produced by Winchester. He also noted that the button on the front end of the magazine was not a Winchester original.

    I had asked him about some of the things I had read or heard as to why serial numbers would have been intentionally removed and asked him to verify the story that Sears and Roebuck removed the serial numbers so they could sell them at less than Winchester's recommended retail price. I found his response very interesting, and have included it below:

    Sears Roebuck & Company and Winchester were involved in a quarrel over retail pricing of Winchester firearms. Winchester refused to sell firearms to Sears because Sears would sell the guns below Winchester’s suggested retail price. Sears continued to sell Winchester firearms that they acquired from other dealers. Winchester notified the industry that they would not sell firearms to Sears Roebuck & Company or any other dealer who was found to be selling Winchester firearms to Sears. As a result, the dealers selling to Sears, removed the serial numbers of the firearms sold to Sears so that Winchester would not be able to identify which dealer the gun came from.

    For years I have heard that Winchester marked these Sears guns with the “WRACo” stamp (when they found them). I have found no documentation of this stamp being used for this purpose. Also, the problems between Sears and Winchester started in 1904 and continued until about 1912. Winchester stopped using the “WRACo” stamp in 1903.
     
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  9. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    Koozer did mine in the sixties. Half magazine 1892 rifle.
     
  10. KKoozer

    KKoozer Member

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    Hi, my name is Kelly Koozer and this conversion was done by my grandpa. Ward O. Koozer.
    So exciting funding stuff on the net about him since he's been gone for about 20 years.
     
  11. KKoozer

    KKoozer Member

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    Cool! That was my grandpa.
     
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  12. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    How neat. Pleased to meet you.
    I thought I did well to meet John DuBiel's granddaughter at the Trap club.
     
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