Old West Firearms Collectors and Friends; I recently added a grand prize to my collection and wanted some advice. I have acquired an 1873 Winchester Carbine .32-20 CTG with Saddle Ring. This a great example of the gun that won the west and has a great patina of wear as a prairie used and tested weapon. Sometime in the latter years of it's life, an unknown past owner had attempted to re-bore the worn out out barrel of this otherwise fine weapon, enlarging by a centimeter the original chambered caliber diameter. Now let me explain that this gun is certainly not a museum piece as there is some rust and rough wear on the metal and walnut stock. Everything is original, but the weapon is not safe to fire. My question of the day is this... Does a barrel relining job by a competent gunsmith ruin, or enhance the weapon which obviously has a lot of history, which is unknown to anyone except the dearly departed owner(s) and to God.
I have done alot of online research but there is not much out there, but have been told that if a collectable gun is relined and done properly it will increase the gun's value. If done poorly, it will obviously reduce the gun's value. A great relining job should conceal the seam of the liner at the muzzle end making it very hard, if not impossible, to tell that the barrel has been relined. Is the idea of having this Winchetser restored to its former glory a good idea or a bad idea? I have already made my decision, but am wondering what your thoughts may be?
To restore or not to restore, that is the question!
I am an owner and not a collector, and there is a subtle diff. A collector buys a gun and keeps it or not. An owner buys a gun and keeps it. I have sold a very few guns, like maybe three and I own hundreds.
Since I don't care about collector value, or what a gun might be worth, I do with them as I please. I always have respect for the piece however. I will not cut down a 97 Win, for instance. (You can't buy replacement barrels for them anymore.) I would not hesitate to reline the barrel of your 73. I'd fix it's guts if it needs it and lightly remove some of the rust (but be easy on the old girl!). I'd work on the sights if it needs it. A rough looking gun that shoots well is fun. I'd not Trumbull it, but it's up to you and your pocket book. A rifle is made to be shot. The 32-20 about equals a 30 carbine and were popular when new. In summation: re-line and enjoy that crusty old Winchester.
Thanks Steve! I 100% agree... The Gun without the work is nothing more than a piece of art on the wall. With the barrel work, it brings life back to a weapon with a history! The gunsmith said that hard-nosed collectors would turn their noses away from this weapon because it isn't in pristine condition. Well I say ta heck with em! I wouldnt sell it anyway! I will enjoy that old girl just as Randy enjoyed Old Blue in A Christmas Story!
The appeal of collecting Winchesters stems from how well they were made. Although considered "production" guns in their day, they were, by today's standards, very much custom, hand-fitted works of art. Winchesters represent the great era of American history. With famous characters like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, Texas Rangers, and Teddy Roosevelt, who can resist the historical appeal of these tools of the Wild West? Art and craftsmanship, mechanics and performance, history and romance, all combined to create that relentless passion for collecting.
Mike: If you want to remove some of that rust here is how I do it. I soak the rusty spots in Liquid Wrench and then, very, very lightly remove what will easily come off with OOOO steel wool. You will be amazed how much comes off. Learn to love the pits. Never touch the metal so hard that you leave a mark. The Liquid Wrench gets underneath the rust and lifts it off, all the steel wool does is to brush it away.
Your liner will be modern steel and it will make a great shooting barrell. You can shoot jacketted bullets all day long. Of course you are still shooting a '73 which is pretty weak. Does Speer still make their Plinker bullet? My 32/20 '73 has its original barrell and I shoot only cast bullets through it.
By all means reline the barrel and enjoy the heck out of it.I own two top break 44-40 model 3 S&W's.One is near pristine and only a once in a while shooter.The other needed extensive work to bring it back and gets used pretty regularly.
The gunbarrel of this classic rifle was relined, the saddle ring was tightened, the dust cover was tightened, the trigger was fixed, along with a new sear. The adjustable fixed sights were adjusted, and are now freely working (rusted in place). All of this along with sighting in and range testing. The historic rifle works as good as new, but retains it's originality, as it still looks like it should be hanging on the wall of a John Wayne movie. I have to give kudos to Tony Fitch at the Winchester Gallery Gunsmith Shoppe. The barrel reline is incredibly seamless, and the rifle retains it's originality just as I asked! Now I will acquire a Factory Letter from the Cody Firearms Museum! If this Gun could only talk... What FUN!
The '73 in 32/20 was the varmit rifle of its day, and they are still pretty good. Is your rifle round or oct?
You did the right thing to have it relined and you've got a great and interesting rifle to shoot for the rest of your life! Good for you.
Thanks Steve, You are sooo right! By the way, the penetrating oil was a great idea. As shown in the photo, the grive and rust brushed away without use of any abrasive including steel wool. The original condition of the rear sights were corroded with grime rust and many years of dust dirt and oils. The penetrating oil removed all w/o and scraping. As you know, ordinarily I wouldnt advise touching a collectors piece as removing years of wear can be damaging. Here however, the removal of all the gunk was a good thing!
(The sights were dirty brown to black w/ corrosion and years of grime and rust. A simple soaking of the sights in a penetrating oil for 24 hours removed all of the grime and rust revealing the markings of the sight, loosening the adjustment bar as well as revealing the year "1873" above the port view opening.)
Boy, that rear sight came out fine! Make sure you don't lose that screw at the top of the slide. It keeps the rear sight piece from slipping off of the slide. I see them missing from rear sight ladders all of the time.
Sometimes I touch pieces like your rear sight with cold blue, or I allow white metal to take on some brown patiena, which is light rust. I've read that wiping the part with vineger helps the piece to brown, but honestly I've never tried it. Blueing is just rusting after all. A light coat of brown rust is really a protective. Just oil it once in a while. It's deep rust that creats pits often caused by constant wetting or damp storage, as in long storage a case or rug.
I ruined an old 32/20 '73 once be having it relined and the gunsmith did a lousy job. I gave the gun away. It would never make a shooter. I still have a very nice one however, and I used to shoot it a lot, no longer. No reason why, I just don't.