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Thread: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

  1. #1
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    Default Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    On a recent post (Winter Ramble Firearms) on this forum, we discussed various options for off-season rambling rifles, including compact level-action rifles like the Winchester M94 Trapper and the Marlin 1894C.

    Today, one of the most common custom variations on such handy lever guns is the size of the lever. There’s the standard lever, custom mid-sized levers and what is commonly referred to as Big Loops. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to which loop size is better on a lever-action rifle.

    <span style="color: #990000">I’m curious what those of you who have experience with lever guns prefer – standard levers, mid-sized levers or Big Loops – and WHY?</span>

    The history of Big Loops on the Winchester Model 94 is interesting. The first modern factory Model 94 Big Loop I can find appeared on the John Wayne Commemorative Model 94 Carbine offered by Winchester in 1982 (I have every Winchester catalog from 1960 to 2008 and have used those catalogs as my source). Here’s the cover of the 1982 Winchester catalog depicting that special Big Loop rifle.



    That 1982 John Wayne rifle featured a pewter-plated receiver, Old-West engraving, 18.5-inch barrel and a distinctive Big Loop. The 1982 catalog copy said of the rifle, “A unique feature is the oversized bow on the lever, introduced by John Wayne in the movie ‘Stagecoach’ and popularized in all of his Western movies.” The catalog went on to say that the John Wayne Commemorative is being offered “in a limited edition of fifty thousand” rifles.

    The very next year, 1983, Winchester offered the first Wrangler Model 94, which was essentially a Trapper model with a Big Loop. While both the Trapper Model 94 and the Wrangler Model 94 sported 16-inch barrels, only the Wranglers ever had a factory Big Loop. The Trapper model was sold through its entire run (1980 to 2006) with a standard-size loop. As far as I can tell, if it had a factory Big Loop it was a Wrangler.

    In 1983, the first year of the Wrangler with its distinctive Big Loop, the rifle was offered in .32 Special only. In 1984 and 1985, the Wrangler was offered only in .38-55 Winchester. Then, suddenly, the Wrangler was temporarily discontinued. Between 1986 and 1991, no Wrangler models were offered by Winchester.

    In 1992, the Wrangler and its Big Loop was re-introduced and offered in .30-30 Winchester and 44 Magnum until 1998. This photo showing both the Trapper and the Wrangler models is from the 1993 Winchester catalog.



    In 1999, the Wrangler was offered in .30-30, 44 Magnum and 45 Colt. In 2000, the Wrangler and its distinctive Big Loop was again discontinued and never offered again.

    All that means that Winchester offered a Wrangler Big Loop Model 94 just 11 model years, plus the original 1982 John Wayne Commemorative offering. And yet, those offerings apparently sparked considerable and ongoing interest in levers of various sizes and shapes for a wide variety of Winchester and Marlin lever-action rifles.

    In the recent Kifaru post I mentioned above are two examples of that continued loop-size interest. In that post, Nake indicated that he added a Big Loop to his otherwise standard .30-30 Winchester Model 94. And OzarkRambler switched out the factory lever on his Marlin Model 336 for a David Clay mid-sized lever.

    OK you two guys, <span style="color: #990000">why did each of you make that lever change to your rifle? </span>

    I’ve been shooting Winchester lever-action rifles on and off for over 40 years. At age 12, I shot my very first deer with a borrowed Winchester Model 1892 in .32-20, and have owned a used various Winchester Model 94s ever since. But in all that time, I’ve never hunted with or really carried a lever gun with a Big Loop. I have to admit that I’m curious how the Big Loops compare to the standard loops in terms of function and carry-ability. I can see where they would work well when wearing heavy gloves, but what about bare handed? And do Big Loops make the rifle more cumbersome to carry and/or pack?

    By the way, that .32-20 Winchester Model 1892 I borrowed all those years ago had an octagon barrel that seemed to me to be as long and as heavy as a fence post. One bright opening day, a Wisconsin whitetail buck stopped broadside on the edge of an alder swamp. He was just 40 yards away from my slightly-elevated perch on a fallen tree. I aimed VERY carefully at this chest and hit him square in the neck, dropping him as dead as a rock right on the spot. Best shot I ever made.

    Again, <span style="color: #990000">what do the rest of you prefer on lever guns – standard levers, mid-sized levers or Big Loops – and why?</span> All opinions and discussion welcome.
    "Don't let the things you can't do, stop you from doing the things you can do."

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    The first instance I remember seeing a big loop on a lever action was with Chuck Conners in "The Rifleman"






    The concept of The Rifleman Television show revolves around the unique weapon wielded by the title character Lucas McCain, and his proficiency with it. Customized by James S. Stembridge, Lucas McCain’s modified 1892 Winchester SRC in .44-.40 caliber features a large rounded ring that allowed him to cock it by twirling the rifle 360 degrees. While presumably, this wouldn’t be any faster than the conventional cocking method, the technique itself was probably a good psychological weapon, as the move may be likened to a samurai brandishing his sword with lightning speed. This may startle (or puzzle) an adversary and cause him to drop his guard momentarily.

    The Rifleman’s rifle appeared in basically two different style levers. The style changed during the series to a more flattened lever instead of the large circular loop. This modified lever enabled Lucas McCain to lever the rifle in two unique fashions. He could spin dramatically in front of him and swing it by his side as seen often in the show.
    Last edited by snowdevil; 01-26-2009 at 05:36 AM. Reason: correct photo problem
    "Wild country has the power to remind civilized people that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men." - Edward Abbey

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    My current lever guns are a Marlin Guide gun and a Puma M92 .454 carbine. Both have small, stock levers that I wouldn't change. I like being able to work the lever without having a lot of play. And the standard lever is more compact, which is one of the main advantages to those guns IMO. I shun optics and even bulky iron sights for similar reasons.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    I have handled a couple of big loop leverguns. I am definitely not a fan. In fact I think the big loop is actually a gimic done for the movies. I believe it was done specifically so they could do the twirl like in the rifleman, but I can't rememeber for sure. They are big, awkward, and harder to use and harder on the hand.

    I have handeled leverguns with brockmans midsized and wild west guns midsized loops. I was actually skeptical prior to it based off the big loops. They were actually pretty dang nice. I don't think they add any size of real note and they are a bit more comfortable for a bigger handed individual or with gloves. However, all of my leverguns have the regular loops. They work just fine for my needs and replacing them with the various loops on the market is pretty expensive. So if money were no object I would probably buy one or two to try out, but I don't think they area a requirement and the money is best spent elsewhere.

    Optics and large iron sights are another discussion. I agree on the large winged sights and such. Leave them off the rifle. On optics I am torn. I have a scout scope on my 4570 trapper and my BLR. They sure are nice and easy to shoot with and they help me see my target farther out. On the flip side they add weight and size to what is supposed to be a compact package. I haven't yet decided if the pros outweight the cons, but since I have been spending my money elsewhere it hasn't really been that big an issue.
    Family Land Soul

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    All of my half dozen or so lever guns have std loops and I've never owned a larger looped rifle, so no experience there. I understand the reasoning behind the large loop on the Alaskan dangerous game guns, (same idea as a beveled mag well on a pistol, I suppose.) The only lever gun I have that really thumps my fingers is an 1886 and then just when loaded hot. A solution to that is using two fingers to work the lever but...I also like levering all my guns the same way, with three fingers, keeping the trigger finger out of the loop. This develops good habit and muscle memory. If it were big enough problem for me, I'd spring for a custom loop on the 1886. Generally speaking, I would like to see loops a bit larger if it didn't adversely effect the handling and balance. That loop on Ozark's 30-30 looked pretty ideal to my eye. Again, I'm a big fellow with largish hands. I don't see much need for oversized loops for smaller hands.
    Never liked that little snot nosed kid that played Conner's boy in the series. [img]/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif[/img]
    "A Patriot Must Always Be Ready To Defend His Freedom Against His Government"- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    The normal ones pinch my fingers (and my hands aren't that big). The LARGE loops slow down the reload (having to move that much farther to take up the space in the loop) and really detract from the look. But the midsize is JUST RIGHT [img]/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif[/img]

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    I have three Marlin levers with a regular loop. No problem, even in the winter with gloves or mittens. Just takes a little getting used to. Like scotthill, I've handled the big loops and didn't like them. Sure did look cool when Lucas was whippin' that rifle around though. I don't think I need that technique for the whitetails around here.
    William Clunie ~
    Some men go to church on Sundays and wish they were fishing ... I go fishing and talk to God.
    Anonymous

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?


    here is a pic of 2 of my lever guns
    I shot the win model 94 for years with out any
    issues and liked the small loop well enough.
    until I got the marlin 45-70 done up by WWG
    with the big loop.it carries more comfortably
    it is easier to cycle with a
    gloved hand or bare for that matter.
    so I went looking for a big loop
    for the win model 94 when I recieved
    the big loop from the guy I purchased
    it from on gunbroker it had a 3 page
    story about the rifleman and his
    model 92.I will scan it and post
    it on the board.
    I have found that the win lever is a little
    too big unless you have a gloved hand.It is little
    sloppy as far as fit goes,
    as it is not as thick as the stock lever
    and if nothing else it looks very cool.
    I have carried the marlin in my gunbearer with ease
    and the lever is not in the way even
    if it rotates a little. I feel when I hand carry
    either rifle I can get my hand
    farther thru the lever thus getting
    a whole hand grip on the stock and
    lever with my fingers next to each other.
    as opposed to having the lever between
    my fingers.When I shoulder either rifle
    the back of the lever acts like a
    pistolgrip to a certain degree.IMHO it increases
    the function of the rifle with the straight stock.
    I will put a big loop on all of my lever guns.
    I am sure there are some great levers
    out there but so far I really like the WWG configuration
    [img][/img]
    [img][/img]
    [img][/img]
    [img][/img]
    [img][/img]

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    Two reasons, first the Marlin has a curved lever on the pistol grip versions and when I converted to straight stock I needed a straight lever. I don't like Marlins squared off lever they use on the straight stocked guns so that option was out. Dave made a straight lever and knowing his work I went with it.

    Second, I had Dave put one on my 1895 45-70 when I had him customize it a few years back and it completely eliminated any trauma to my hand when shooting full power, shoot clear through a moose lengthwise, loads. I know this isn't a concern with the 30-30 but it does make it nice with gloves on.

    Timberline, my 45-70 you shot year before last had the larger loop on it if you remember how it handled.

    The loop is just slightly bigger than a standard loop so it does not change the way it carries or handles.

    Ozark
    I seek the forest for adventure and a free, open-air hunter's life

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Big Loop on a Winchester Model 94?

    Nate,
    Don't stick all four fingers into the regular-sized loop and they'll fit fine. Leave the index finger out for your trigger.

    The smaller loop of the two you show in the phots does have a nice sized surface and gripping it in the photo does look like a nice fit. I like the smaller size of that one, but not the huge hoop on the other one. Looks like even my winter mittens or a Sasquach hand could have problems filling all of that empty space.
    William Clunie ~
    Some men go to church on Sundays and wish they were fishing ... I go fishing and talk to God.
    Anonymous

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