Every Man’s Deer Rifle

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deer rifle on display

There are few firearms that symbolize the American Deer Hunter as perfectly as the Winchester Model 94 chambered in .30-30. It just doesn’t get any more pure than that.

The 94 is another one of John Browning’s beautiful and functional creations. Browning lead designers to beef up and lengthen his Model 1892 just in time to become the perfect platform for the new smokeless .30-30 cartridge. This combination of cartridge and gun is so popular that almost everyone who has carried a hunting rifle into the woods has either used a 94 or knows someone who would loan them theirs.

I guess we all have a touch of the Cowboy Mystique in us. Something in us just swells with pride at seeing the good guy with the white hat triumph over the bad guy with the black hat while using that trusty Winchester lever action. We all want to be that good guy. We all want to be that great American Rifleman.

It was that first American smokeless powder rifle, the Winchester 94, we took hunting with us. It was tough enough to be carried into the woods, and it always worked. Lots of us have bolt action rifles with more powerful cartridges and modern optics that can reach out to great distances, but the 94 with open sights (the way it is supposed to be) just screams “Classic, Traditional Hunting Heritage.”

If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, I guess the closest analogy would come from Star Wars. When Luke Skywalker was zooming down the trench looking through his targeting computer, he heard Obi-won Kenobi’s voice. “Trust your feelings, Luke” Old Ben said. As you know, Luke turned off the targeting computer, trusted his training and his gut, and made that one-in-a-million shot.

Me, I hear my dad’s voice. He’s the one who taught me to shoot. He’s the one I first saw carrying that classic 94 to put meat on the table. He’s the one who gave me my 94.

Some of you may hear your grandfather’s or an uncle’s voice calling you to get just a little more in sync with the natural world around you. Feel the smoothness of John Browning’s perfect machine as you operate the lever and slide that .30-30 cartridge into the chamber. Line up those open sights. Remember the old ways. Take in a deep breath. Let out half of that breath. Gently squeeze the trigger and join the age-old circle of the men and women who have shouldered the more than 7 million Winchester 94s that have been built since 1894.

If you want to take a look at a great collection of more than thirty Winchester 94s, come visit the J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum, on historic Route 66 in Claremore, OK. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted.  Open Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5:00, Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, and Sunday 1:00 to 5:00.  For more information call (918) 341-5707 or visit our website: www.thegunmuseum.com.

JM Davis


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