COLLECTORS CORNER: COLLECTING THE BOLT-ACTION
WINCHESTER .22 RIFLE
BY WAYNE MILLER


Twenty-five years ago discussion seldom occurred between Winchester collectors concerning .22 rifles. As more and more collectors appeared in the late 1970’s, it came as no surprise that good collection quality Winchester shotguns and center fire rifles became increasingly difficult to find. This situation resulted in collectors beginning to give attention to .22 rimfire Winchesters.

At first, the slide action rifles garnered most interest with a few collectors pursuing the bolt-action Models 52 and 75 in the sporter version. As time went on, the interest and pursuit of the other bolt-action Winchester .22’s became more evident.

Over the last ten years, value of bolt-action .22’s has increased dramatically with several models eclipsing $1500.00. This certainly places the bolt-action Winchester .22 in the same status as other Winchesters.

Collecting these Winchester bolt-action .22’s is virtually an endless endeavor considering the multitude of variations within certain models. If a collector were to pursue only the single shot Model 67 and the clip-fed repeater Model 69 in all variations, a rather extensive collection would result. In my own collection, I count over forty Model 67 and Model 69 rifles in various configurations, and I do not possess them all, by any means.

A letter cannot be obtained from Winchester on a .22 rifle such as those available on the lever-action rifles. This inability to authenticate a Winchester .22 rimfire rifle is perhaps one real reason to collect them. In other words, one can neither prove nor disprove a particular feature. This results in endless discussions and debates, which only adds fuel to the burning interest in these magnificent little rifles.

As mentioned earlier, the Model 52 and Model 75 spotters were pursued initially, with their heavy barreled counterpart target versions showing little interest to collectors. This has certainly changed and very recently even the target style Model 52’s will bring approximately $1000.00 when original and complete with sights.

The “youth” models are now sought extensively. The Model 1900 with three variations is very difficult to find in good condition. These little rifles had no butt-plates, and interestingly, the third variation sported the word “Winchester” across the butt in a checkering design. Other “youth” models included the Models 1902, 1904, 58, 59, 60, and, of course, the unique thumb-trigger model. This unusual rifle with no conventional trigger seems to captivate even collectors who do not ordinarily pursue .22 rifles. A “youth” model variation was also manufactured later in the Model 67 and a very few in the Model 68.

Two models, the clip-fed repeater Model 56 and the single-shot Model 1904, were produced with a schnabel forend stock similar to early Savage Model 99 rifles. A rather strange design at that point in time since it was obviously more costly to produce.

Over the years, Winchester offered a number of target-style .22 rifles. The most famous being the Model 52 followed by the Model 75. Somewhat lesser known, the Model 69 was offered in both target and match versions. The Model 60 sported a target-style also termed 60A Target. An interesting feature on this rifle was an opening in the top of the bolt through which safe or fire position could be seen. The Model 57 stands alone as the only model number offered in target version only. This Model 57 is also unique being the only target model available in the .22 short only chambering.

Smoothbore rifles have always aroused the curiosity and interest of collectors. Winchester chose to produce only one bolt-action Model .22 in smoothbore. The Model 67 was available in two variations: the 27-inch barreled rifle with conventional sights and the 24-inch barrel with shotgun bead sights. The latter being counter-bored from the muzzle end to a larger diameter to resist deformation of the tiny shot. The smoothbore more than doubles the effective range of the .22 rimfire shot cartridge over being fired in a rifled barrel.

The Model 47 single shot possesses two interesting features. Rearward movement of the bolt automatically moves the safety lever to the safe position and it is the only pre-64 bolt-action .22 rifle with a red fire position indicator.

Winchester .22 rifles in short only version is much in demand by collectors. Bolt-action rifles in short only include Models 56, 57 and 72 with the latter advertised as the “gallery special”. Magazines for shorts only were available for the clip-fed models.

Perhaps the most intriguing and least understood of all the Winchester bolt-action .22 rimfire rifles are the factory-scoped models. The Models 67, 68, 69 and 72 were at one point in time available with scopes only or a combination of open sights and scopes. Proof marks on these scoped rifles were usually relocated to prevent the rear scope block from covering them. Scopes supplied were either 2-3/4 or 5 power. Scopes themselves were not marked Winchester but the front ring was. The combination rifles were called dual sight with scopes mounted on V blocks through which the open sights could be seen and utilized. The scope only versions were advertised as 677, 697, etc., even though the last digit was never stamped on the barrel. Scopes on these models were mounted on lower solid blocks. Collectors need to beware of rifles wearing scopes but with not visible proof marks.

High on the list of desirable bolt-action .22’s are those chambered for the WRF cartridge. Models 67 and 68 were chambered for the .22 WRF along with the very rare Model 677. Dual sight models were also offered, but are extremely scarce. One of the rarest of all .22 rifles in the Youth Model 67 in .22 WRF.

Winchester collectors who have become complacent with their collecting or frustrated in their inability to find good Winchester centerfire rifles can open the door to a new and fascinating world. They can begin learning of the wonderful world of the bolt-action .22!