Special Short Winchesters

By George Madis

Among the Winchesters which are popular with collectors, "baby" carbines have probably gained more popularity than any other gun. These handy little guns were made in relatively low numbers, and many of them were exported.

"Trapper Model" is a description often heard for these special carbines, but Winchester never used this term. While this name has "caught on" with collectors, it is probable that more of these "shorties" were carried by Lawmen than by Trappers. If I were to "christen" these guns, I'd have called them "Lawmen Carbines". Winchester occasionally called these "Baby Carbines" and in the case of the Single Shot, called them "Ponies". "Special Short Carbines" was the term most often used by Winchester. Whatever we choose to call them, they are rare and desirable collectors Winchesters.

In order to be cleared by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (B.A.T.F.), the carbine must have an original Winchester short barrel. If the gun has an altered barrel, or if the barrel is not original to the receiver the gun will not be cleared. B.A.T.F. has never made a charge to remove a gun from the provisions of The National Firearms Act. Beware of fake letters and photocopies of B.A.T.F. letters. Some have been reported.

In a count of these Winchesters already cleared through the B.A.T.F., some interesting facts come to light: A total of 23 Model 1873 Babies have been cleared, and of these five had fourteen inch barrels; all of the nine Single Shots (Model 1885) had fifteen inch barrels; of a total of 215 Model 1892's two had twelve inch barrels; the rest had fourteen and fifteen inch barrels and the old Model 94 saw 159 carbines cleared. These counts are only approximate, since a few of these special carbines do not have notations as to barrel lengths. Of the small number of "Special Short Carbines" made, many were sent to other countries. Those who ordered these special guns probably intended to use them a great deal every day, in all weather and in any possible situation.

Because of their handy size, these babies often saw much abuse and the majority has seen neglect and abuse. In determining the originality of these Winchesters a close inspection should be made of the front sight. Original Winchester carbines usually had the sight base forged as part of the barrel; they are not soldered or otherwise attached. If there is any sign of solder or other means of attachment the gun can be suspected of alteration. Some new barrels in various lengths have been made. A close inspection of the barrel markings as well on the front sight should be made to detect these new barrels.

Many of these "Special Short Carbines" are historically important, and even the latest made are over seventy years old, since after 1933 Winchester discontinued sales of these rare guns.

While often we see carbines that have seen much use and abuse, unless someone has tinkered with them, they still operate well and many of them will still shoot. These rare Winchesters are a tribute to the people who designed them, made them and used them. Prices for these Winchesters are rapidly rising, and every Winchester collector would like to have at least one in his collection.

Remember, any carbine or rifle with a barrel less than sixteen inches long must be declared a curio or relic. If the gun is not "cleared" it is illegal. We should bear in mind that collectors and B.A.T.F. have the same goals; these are responsible gun ownership and use, and the gun should be original.

 

 

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