Getting the 1890 ready to ride... update!

Getting the 1890 ready to ride... update!

This is a discussion on Getting the 1890 ready to ride... update! within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Some good news showed up last week in the form of a product notification from Midway, announcing that after years of being out of stock, ...

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    Getting the 1890 ready to ride... update!

    Some good news showed up last week in the form of a product notification from Midway, announcing that after years of being out of stock, CCI .22 Long ammo was finally available. That might be a ho-hum yawner for some, but for me it meant that I could once again feed the heirloom Winchester 1890 that's been hiding in the safe for well over a decade. Seriously, it got my juices flowing.

    Mine is a Third Model, dating from 1909 with an octagonal barrel and as most, it's a take-down model. Lamentably - but the genesis of this post - the gun is chambered in .22 Long. Dang! .22 Long Rifle would be just fine, and .22 WRF even better, but no - mine is chambered for the illegitimate child of rimfire ammo. A Long Rifle case with a Short bullet, and an oddball rifling twist. My New York City-based grandfather bought it when he was on a powerplant engineering assignment in the West, possibly in Colorado. In high school, my father used it at an indoor range in the basement of the YMCA in Ridgewood, NJ. My mother was deathly afraid of guns so the old boy lay dormant from before WWII until the early 60s when I harangued my dad into teaching me to shoot with it. I could probably count those sessions on one hand.

    When I reached high school I had a lot of "unsupervised" time, as the youngest of 3 I think my folks were just done with active parenting by then. I was of the mind that what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them, so they never knew that a high school friend supplied me with a few boxes of .22 Longs as I needed, and I started managing the bunny and squirrel population on our 2+ rural acres. The dang bunnies were eating up my mom's prized giant iris, and although she never knew why that depredation ceased, she wasn't unhappy about it.

    Fast forward to about 2000, and when we sold my late parent's Cape Cod home, the 1890 came into my physical possession. I think the statute of limitations has expired by now, so I can relate that the way that antique migrated out of MA was probably not completely in accordance with that state's laws, although all Federal laws were indeed obeyed. Then just 3 years later the job moved me to the firearms and shooting Mecca known as Arizona, but - NO AMMO. .22 Longs have been scarcer than hen's teeth since I moved! I consoled myself with the fact that the gun needed its chamber repaired, as some nitwit (yr obdt svt) had years ago dry fired the gun excessively out of ignorance. Within the past few years some knowledgeable collectors I've talked to at gun shows advised me of the chamber "ironing" tool, so some months ago I acquired such tool from Brownell's. In the absence of ammo there was no urgency to attacking the repair. That changed within the last week.

    A supply of .22 Long was ordered and received, and concurrently some friends scheduled a "desert run" for next weekend. That was all the motivation I needed. Today was "1890 day!" I stripped the old boy down to parade rest, and I dare say there were some parts that hadn't seen the light of day since New Haven in 1909. Remarkably, there were a lot of sharp edges and roughly-machined areas. Nothing which compromised function, mind you, but enough to dispel any lingering notions that every gun manufactured a century ago was put together with all the loving care and fine finish of a 21-jewel Swiss watch. On the positive side, some of those sharp edges bore testament that this gun had not seen a lot of use. My guess is that this gun total usage is in the 10,000 round range - and if that's true, that's barely a hundred rounds a year since it left the factory.

    Teardown was uneventful, and the guidance of a YouTube video and some Winchester cognoscenti over on RimfireCentral.com were helpful. The closest to "stuck together" was the magazine tube, but some Kroil and a little encouragement from a tack hammer and a hardwood dowel were all that was necessary. All parts had up to 108 years' worth of crud removed and some sharp edges lightly stoned. Reassembly was a piece of cake.

    Beyond the functioning of the action, the other critical component was the bore. I was dismayed to see flecks of powder littering the bore, indicating inattention after the last time it was fired. Since the gun had not been fired for over 13 years, my guess was that both chamber and bore needed some work. Oodles of patches, Hoppes #9, a nylon bore brush, VG pellets and JB bore paste were all called into use to clean things up. Actually, after the first swipe with wet and dry patches, the bore showed the mirror brightness I hoped for, so the only issue was the chamber. About a dozen VG pellets and JB bore paste cleaned up the chamber. As of this moment I don't think the chamber and bore have been cleaner since 1909! There's not a speck of pitting or corrosion in either, which is remarkable given that the gun probably did not see smokeless powder in the first half of its lifetime.

    Lastly, the chamber repair. This was less of a problem than I thought it was. I ran a new .22 Long cartridge into the clean (but unrepaired) chamber, and although it was snug going in and needed a knife blade to encourage it out, the bullet bore no obvious signs of deformation or scoring from a chamber burr. Nonetheless I gave the chamber some "love" with the tool, and by feel I could tell there was a problem. A few minutes with the tool resulted in a cartridge being able to drop in and pop right out almost by gravity alone, so I think that exercise was worthwhile.

    So the gun is now back together and fully functional. Some poor pictures are included which show the reassembled gun. After 108 years this piece shows only a little freckling on the receiver and a couple of shallow pits on the barrel, so my gut says it's in NRA VG to excellent condition. That's really immaterial as it's not for sale, and will hopefully be handed down to a succeeding generation.

    Next stop - next week's desert run. I'm not expecting great accuracy, given iron sights, sexagenarian eyes, and a cartridge not known for accuracy. If I can break stationary clay birds at 50 yards, I'll consider that accurate enough! Stay tuned for the "range report" on my centenarian.





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    VIP Member Array PAcanis's Avatar
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    Beautiful plinker.
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    That is sooooooo nice !!! WOOF !
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    Very nice sir,
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    That's a sharp looking rifle. Function, form, and a family heirloom, make for a nice firearm trifecta.
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    Wow, That's a real nice rifle! I love old 22's...walnut and steel
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    That's a sweetheart, Gary!

    Love the old Winchesters.
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    Great story! Shooting these old guns is like stepping back in time - you're just there with the gun, just like someone was 100+ years ago! Looking forward to the range report.
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    Enjoy, that is nice.
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    A great write-up for this beauty and a family treasure to boot. Very nice.
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    Had to be away for most of the weekend and look in late to find this thread. What a treat! Good photos of a really nice Winchester Model 1890. Love Model 1890s! One lives around here. Can't wait to read the range report.

    The .22 Long gets little love, but I have a kind of affection for it as a pretty effective round. Shot many cartons of .22 Long years ago because they were obtainable for cheap from my reloading component supplier at that time who had heaping stacks of cartons of the stuff and wanted to get rid of it. Shot them through a Winchester Model 190 .22 automatic rifle which gave good function and usable accuracy with them. Later shot a lot through the Smith & Wesson Model 17 that lives here with good success and good performance on cottontails and squirrels.

    Funny about the .22 Long and its history. Barnes "Cartridges of the World" says the .22 Long predated the .22 Long Rifle by 16 years. The .22 Long Rifle was said to have been introduced in 1887 as a combination of the .22 Long cartridge case and the 40 grain bullet of the now-obsolete .22 Extra Long black powder rim fire cartridge. Now Gary, I wasn't around back then to know this for sure.
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    It has been many years since I have seen 22long even offered for sale, it is wonderful you may now resurrect a family heirloom.
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    Bryan, I had you in mind when I put that post together, and I'm gratified you had a chance to see it. This is my one real antique (and a classic Winchester at that) and I'm blessed that it fell into my care in such good shape.

    My dad had a half-dozen boxes of old ammo lying around, and he never missed the few rounds I appropriated for "test" purposes in his absence. I wish now I'd at last kept the boxes for their historical value! But along with shooting a few of those old rounds, I also disassembled some, which is how I knew they were mostly black powder loads. I shot a few at night, and even with a modest load out of a 22+ inch barrel there was a pretty impressive lick of yellow flame. I'm still impressed at the good condition of the bore, given a half-century of shooting black powder loads.

    God willin' and the crick don't rise, Bryan, some day we'll have ourselves an 1890 shootoff!
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    Wouldn't that be something, Gary!

    I'm thinking your rifle will group considerably better that you might expect with fresh new ammunition. Amazing that the bore has remained bright and clean, given the age of the rifle! What good fortune that is!

    I've heard of buggered chambers in rim fires that have been dry-fired, but have had no experience with them or with correcting the condition. I read your description with interest. Sounds like ... no big deal to correct.


    Here's this one kept here. A .22 Long Rifle chambered Model 1890, acquired from the rifle's original owner who bought it new in San Antonio, Texas in 1924 and who put the Lyman tang sight on it in 1928. The tang sight has remained perfectly sighted in for standard velocity .22 Long Rifle at 25 yards since 1928. I don't have the heart to adjust it. The rifle also has a flip-up two-leaf rear sight in the barrel's dove tail.

    Here's an "action shot" of our youngest son shooting the Winchester Model '90 at targets on the side of the hill at 200 yards on the old home place several years ago. See the ejected cartridge case above his cap?


    One of the targets, a can opener from the lake cabin that needed to be put out of our misery.


    Your thread has given me an inspired thought. Our oldest granddaughter is coming tomorrow to stay with us all by herself for a week for the first time. She needs to be introduced to .22 shooting with the Winchester Model 1890.
    Last edited by bmcgilvray; March 30th, 2017 at 11:49 AM.
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    A masterpiece of a writeup for a true classic; Bravo.

    I enjoyed that, Sir.

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