Cimarron Exclusive: Winchester 1894 Review

Blazing white in the evening light, a 10-inch steel gong offered a challenge I couldn’t resist. Throwing the color-casehardened lever on my long-barreled Winchester Model 1894 forward and back, I chambered a round and shouldered the rifle from a standing, offhand position. My sights wavered and then settled on the target, just over 100 yards distant. The trigger broke, the target clanged, and a charcoal-colored mark appeared in the exact center of the steel.

I was impressed.

The long-barreled Cimarron turned in several outstanding groups. This one was shot from a rest with iron sights at 50 yards.

HISTORY

The Winchester 1894 possesses a long and noble history and is considered by many historians to be the ultimate lever-action design. It also owns the distinction of selling more units than any other sporting rifle ever designed, at over seven million five hundred thousand rifles. Engineered by John Browning (arguably the greatest firearm designer the world has known) in 1894, this lever-action was first offered in .32-40 Win and .38-55 Win. In 1895 the Model 94 became the first rifle chambered for the smokeless-powder .30 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) cartridge. Later the .30 WCF name morphed into the .30-30 Winchester, though some rifles are still given the traditional .30 WCF label, including my test Cimarron Model 94 rifle.

Clearly printed in crisp letters is the caliber designation: .30 WCF. It’s the original name for the .30-30 Win. This rifle is also available chambered in .38-55 Win.

Winchester 94s were built in the US by Winchester Repeating Arms Company until 1980. There was, however, a major snafu in 1964, when metallurgy and manufacturing processes were changed in an effort to make rifles easier and cheaper to produce. Winchester was successful in making the rifles cheaper, but not only in production. As a result, pre-64 rifles are prized by shooters and collectors and command significantly higher prices than post-64 rifles to this day. One major design improvement the company did make in 1982, though, was changing the top-eject system to angle-eject, enabling the mounting of standard riflescopes without interference between ejecting cartridges and optic. During the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Winchester added various and sundry safeties to the ‘94 rifles, to the disappointment of shooters who understand that a safety on a lever-action ‘94 makes as much sense as carrying a spare tire on an airplane.

A long, classically styled rifle, you can be proud to carry Cimarron’s exclusive 26” Model 94 anywhere.

CIMARRON EXCLUSIVE 26” 1894 RIFLE

Cimarron abandoned all the fluff and foofaraw created during the last half-century of Winchester ‘94 design “improvement” and offers rifles that are true to the legendary design and quality earned during the early days of 1894 lever-action glory. My test model is a Cimarron exclusive and features a 26-inch octagonal barrel, curvaceous crescent steel buttplate, and top-eject design. And no foolish safety. The wood gleams nicely with a traditional oil-type finish, and color casehardening adds beautiful color to the receiver, lever, hammer, and trigger. The buttplate, forend cap, magazine tube, and barrel are all a deep blue. Uberti of Italy, a well-known manufacturer of classic firearms, builds this exclusive for Cimarron.

Wood color and finish, bluing, casehardening: all speak of classic firearms built during a time when craftsmanship and quality held sway.

Magazine capacity in my .30-30 test model 1894 is nine. Classic iron sights grace the long barrel. A crisp front post sight is nicely dovetailed into the top flat and features a setscrew mortised into the right side that locks the sight firmly into place in the dovetail. The rear sight is a traditional semi-buckhorn sight, also nicely dovetailed into the barrel. A square notch the perfect size for framing the front sight graces the inside of the buckhorn. The six-position ramp renders the sight adjustable for elevation and, like the front sight, there is a small set screw that locks the sight into position in its dovetail. Length of pull is 13 ¼ inches. Over-all weight is a mystery at this time because specs are not currently available on Cimarron’s website and my scale is exactly 485 miles away in Utah. Suffice it to say that the rifle feels solid and slightly heavy in the hand, but balances well and carries nicely.

Detail of the fine semi-buckhorn rear sight. The square notch is sized perfectly to frame a crisp sight picture with the front post sight.

FIT, FINISH, AND FUNCTION

As I mentioned above, I really like the finish on this Model 94, especially the color casehardening and the oil-type finish on the wood. The rifle looks and feels classic. The wood-to-metal fit is good, and the metal-to-metal fit is quite good. During testing, the rifle shoots rather well, as can be seen in the accuracy results in the chart below. I experienced zero malfunctions. The action is a bit tight when closing it on a cartridge, indicating close headspace tolerance. Cycling the action with ammunition on board is a bit rough, as is ejecting spent cartridges; but that’s not uncommon in a new rifle and I’m confident that the action will smooth out nicely with use.

Fit and finish on the new Cimarron Mod 94 was good, as can be seen on this tight photo of the lower action tang/trigger plate.

The rifle handles and balances like a familiar old friend while carrying and shooting. It was surprisingly stable off the bench, and while shooting offhand as well. The trigger, however, is not great. While there isn’t any creep or grind (which is great) the trigger pull is rather heavy. Exactly how heavy I can’t say because, like my weight scale, my trigger gauge is 485 miles away. I would estimate it at around seven pounds. Not awful, but not something to inspire F-Class shooters to try a lever-action, either. However, heavy triggers and rough actions are historically common on lever-action rifles, and there is a good solution available, should you want one. You can hand your new rifle over to a good smith who is familiar with lever-action design and tuning, and have him perform an action and trigger job on it. When it comes back it’ll be silky-smooth and sport a great trigger. It’s money well spent and will make your lever-gun handle like a fast sports car.

The .30-30 may not be legendary as a caliber, but it has been putting smiles on shooter’s faces and meat in the freezer for almost 115 years. Available in a wide variety at every corner store, it’s an awesome lever-action round.

As you’ll see in the accuracy test results below, the Model 1894 turned in some rather impressive groups. The groups all impacted about six inches above the point of aim at 50 yards with the sight ramp on its lowest setting. I personally would zero my rifle at 100 yards. Then I could use the rear sight ramp to adjust for longer-range shots.

Detail of the front post sight. It’s drift-able in its dovetail for zeroing. The small setscrew is a nice touch that will prevent the sight from accidentally drifting out of zero.

CONCLUSION

Cimarron’s 26” octagonal-barreled exclusive is a really nice rifle. It’s very accurate, and suitable for hunting, horseback-carry, and a really good time at the range. As a side note, Cimarron also offers the rifle in .38-55 caliber; another historic round suitable for hunting, target shooting, and more.

This Model 1894 .30-30 Winchester will be at home on the shooting range, hunting big game, or at the spring roundup.

Note: Testing was performed from a rested position at 50 yards, with a Shooting Chrony chronograph set 10 feet in front of the muzzle. Three, 5-shot groups were fired with each ammunition, the results added together and averaged.

Manufacture Bullet Velocity (FPS) Accuracy (Inches) at 50 yards ES SD
Hornady 160 Gr. FTX 2458 0.88 77 10
Winchester 150 Gr. Power Point 2435 0.52 39 11
Remington 150 Gr. Core Lokt 2473 0.81 67 23

For more information visit Cimarron Firearms website.

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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Richard Ochoa October 7, 2019, 11:57 pm

    I bought a 30-30 model 94 about a year ago from a private party. The 6 digit serial # indicates a 1923 production. Took it to a gunsmith & was well educated on how to tell the differences between a Pre ’64 & a Post ’64 Winchester 30-30. Mine is definitely a Post ’64 one. the area where the serial # is has had the bluing removed & is silver in color, Looking at it with a magnifying glass & a Bright light, you can see some tiny scratch marks + I believe the first 3 numbers being 8’s are upside down since the smaller part of the 8 is at the bottom & I believe it should be at the top???j Can you please advise what i should do about this, if Anything/?? Thanks very much! Your advice is much appreciated! Richard
    (P.S. I have no idea where the guy lives, as he wanted to meet me in a store parking lot to show me the rifle & NOT being very knowledgeable about production years, I mistakenly bought it right then & there!)

  • JCitizen October 7, 2019, 5:31 pm

    Too bad Winchester didn’t wake up to the manufacturing realities of making guns in the US – they could be the ones still making these beauties! I had a 30-30 in the late 70s that had a horrible blue job, and the receiver metal started flaking off – I think they started using what might as well be called pot metal in those days – disgusting! I gave it away to a friend.

    I have a Rossi Ranch Hand now, in .44 magnum that I am very proud of.

  • KMacK October 7, 2019, 3:59 pm

    In a lot of ways, the Winchester 1894 was the finest Winchester ever, IMHO, because it could chamber a smokeless centerfire cartridge. The previous Winnies were more black powder firearms for the simple reason that Black Powder was by far and away the most loaded propellant and the locking system was too fragile to handle the higher pressure that smokeless generated. Yes, there was some smokeless being distributed, but it was chancy as to whether the lever actions of the day could handle it.
    With the Browning redesign of the 1894, a locking system strong enough for Smokeless came into being, and Winchester developed the 30-30 round to make use of it.
    They did it right, and although Browning also designed the magazine loading 1895 for spitzer bullets, the 1894 is still around while the 1895 is a rare bird to find these days.

  • Donald Bowman October 7, 2019, 2:58 pm

    The front sight on this rifle is an easily replaced available sight and comes in many heights to correct for elevation. Better yet to use a Marbles bead sight, it will drive in with no damage to gun, as this is more than likely a standard 3/8ths dovetail.
    Nice looking rifle,the polishing on the barrel is lackluster, see the long lines in the steel, shouldn’t be there, for almost $1400 I would expect a bit more time in front of the polishing wheel. I have a 1915 model 94 octagon, and the steel on the flats is like a mirror.

    • Justin S. October 8, 2019, 6:01 pm

      LOL, I was thinking the exact same thing!

  • Erwin Lang October 7, 2019, 9:57 am

    I have a 30-30 model 94 with the 24 inch hex barrel. Serial number indicates it was made in 1912. Near perfect condition. Any guesses on current value?

  • WillB October 7, 2019, 8:55 am

    Nice gun. Have several originals but for carrying outdoors prefer the 1892s.

  • Jim October 7, 2019, 8:45 am

    I own a 1906 vintage carbine in .25-35. It has a saddle ring(standard back then) and a crescent butt plate and a Marble tang sight. The bore is shiny and clear of pits. Still a good shooter.

    • Norm Fishler October 11, 2019, 11:14 am

      With good ammunition I have found the M94 in 25/35 to be the most accurate of any Winchester lever gun I have ever fired.

    • BIRTHER December 29, 2019, 10:49 am

      I have a 94 in 25-35 my Dad won in a Poker game at Deer camp . It’s the take down model . I know it’s worth a chunk and shoots on the money .

  • Alan Westphal October 7, 2019, 8:25 am

    Seems like it should be able to be made to hold more than 9 rounds.

  • Dave Thomas October 7, 2019, 7:33 am

    I have looking for a longer barrel 30-30, lever, I have a regular model 94 built in 1965 but I want a 26″ barrel.
    The Savage 99 comes in a 30-30 lever configuration. I’ve been trying to find one in decent shape,
    This Cimarron interests me, Where can I find one for sale? If you have that info and don’t mind, would you email the info to me. Thanks in advance.

  • Greg October 7, 2019, 4:51 am

    Umm. Filing the front sight will further raise the point of impact. Not lower it.

    • Austin Van Gilder October 7, 2019, 10:54 am

      Good catch, it’s been corrected. Thanks.

  • Kevin Schubert October 6, 2019, 1:55 pm

    Original 1894 built in 1894-1895 cal. 38-55 caliber I have seen go for $18k-$20k. I have one that has been valued at auction conservatively at $19k. I am considering selling it and currently has a $19k reserve. If sold outside of auction I am probably looking in that range. But at auctions there would be fees and would have to maintain a reserve up until $18k.

  • Mark N. October 6, 2019, 2:26 am

    As an owner of a post ’64 1892 Winchester, I can attest to the fact that the safety improvements adversely effect performance. Although the action is plenty smooth, the wrist safety prevents the mounting of certain style of peep sights, and the redesigned rebounding hammer is an absolute dud. To make the hammer rebound, Winchester had to completely change the fire control group, and most particularly the hammer spring set up, bending down one fork of the pusher bar and installing a much heavier spring. (The bent down arm pushes the hammer back off the firing pin, which is why a heavier spring was included to overcome that counterforce.) The hammer is different as well, and there is no longer a half cock/ safety position. Trigger pull is easily 10+ pounds. None of the components from the earlier design fit, so tuned replacement springs are nonexistent.

    Eliminating the rebounding part of the action is easy enough (just cut off or bend up the bent arm), but since no one offers a compatible spring for the design, one necessarily has to take the risk of light strikes and trim off a couple of coils off the spring. since the spring is hardened, this is best left to a smith.

    Or one goes out and buys a Uberti. The rifles are well made and historically accurate, as far as I can tell, and are comparably priced to a new Winchester. (The new Winchesters are made in Japan by Miroku for Browning. The Winchester name is licensed by Browning).

  • Robert Tadman October 6, 2019, 1:53 am

    What is the high, low value of one of the original 1894 rifles. A year ago I saw one advertised for $8,000 from a dealer. My great grandfather handed down the gun to his son who later handed it down to me.
    He had a sling put on the 1894 does the diminish the value?

  • Walks October 5, 2019, 11:41 pm

    Why did you not use the 170gr loads ? That’s the Std weight that my Family has used since that weight came out in the 1920’s. Four Generations now.

  • Alan Brandemihl October 5, 2019, 9:46 pm

    My dad had a octogon,nickel barrel,long in 32 split. Peep sites behind the hammer and it was a one shot one deer. Very accurate out to 100yds,real heavy with no sling. A really good gun.

  • Billy October 5, 2019, 8:16 pm

    Beautiful rifle! However, if you file down the front sight, the rifle will shoot higher not lower.

    • Storm October 7, 2019, 9:04 am

      I am glad to see someone else noted that. I thought I was missing something. i.e. lower the front sight and the point of impact will be higher. No doubt a typo error.

    • Austin Van Gilder October 7, 2019, 10:51 am

      Good catch, it’s been corrected. Thanks.

    • perlcat October 7, 2019, 2:48 pm

      Aram uses a rat tail file on the bore; he says to be real careful not to take too much off, as the round will dribble out the barrel and fall on the ground, much like happened during a different occasion involving his gun, not his rifle.

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