I’ve always had a Winchester 94. I mean it. My dad stored a ’94 under my crib as a baby. But I’ve never owned one this fine.
The Miroku-made Winchester Model 1894 Deluxe Sporting Rifle is one of the finest standard models to ever carry the Winchester name.
For those shooters who only know of the Model 94 from its US Repeating Arms Company days, the Miroku guns will feel fantastically smooth in operation by comparison. For folks who have 60-year-old guns with a lot of use, the action of the new Model 94s will feel very much like a homecoming.
The Miroku Winchesters bring back rounded bolt trunnions and have added a relief cut to the bottom of the bolt to reduce drag. You’ll also find radiused edges along the color case hardened lever, all of which add up to a great feel on a slick, fast action.
The ridiculously long rollmark on the right side of the barrel tells the modern story of Winchester Repeating Arms.
Made by Miroku – Japan – Imported by BACO, Inc – Morgan, Utah
Winchester is a registered trademark of Olin Corporation
BACO, of course, is Browning Arms Company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fabrique National Hertsal of Belgium.
Some folks are concerned by a Japanese-made rifle. I’m assuming those folks are over 80 years old and carry a reasonable grudge against the land of the rising sun. But when it comes to pure quality, these rifles are exceptionally good. I have Model 94s from every era of production, save the cross-bolt safety models. This Miroku-made rifle is the best of them.
I’ve been looking for this particular rifle for years. That’s because it’s the only new production .30-30 Winchester chambered lever action rifle I can find on the market that comes from the factory with a 24-inch barrel.
For all its success, the .30-30 Win is a ballistically mediocre cartridge. A full rifle-length barrel helps the shooter by providing a bit more speed over the now more common 20-inch tubes, so the 24” barrel was a must. Everything else is a bonus. A big one.
Take a look at the stock . . .
The wood is gorgeous, full of swirls and flame. The black walnut is checkered at 22 lines per inch. Taking a look at the Miroku website, they typically machine checker stocks and then follow it up, deepening and “correcting” the checkering by hand. Whatever method they use, the result is deep grooves and fine points on wood far above what is being produced by the other large lever gun manufacturers.
If you want to get a better look at the people and process involved in all of the finishes of the Deluxe Sporting Rifle, head over to Miroku’s website and read their chief polisher’s philosophy on his work.
You’ll also see where much of the beauty of the metalwork comes from…experience and diligence.
That’s evident on both the receiver and the barrel itself. The receiver is a breathtaking swirl of grays and blues, greens and browns, all due to the color case hardening process of the metal.
That 24-inch button rifled barrel is half octagonal, half round. It’s blued and polished to a gleaming black.
Note the color case hardening continues to the lever, the steel crescent butt plate and the fore-end cap on the longer, rifle-length fore stock.
The excellent front sight is from Marble Arms and features a thin post with a small brass bead with a flattened face. It’s perfect for precise shots in a wide range of lighting conditions.
The buckhorn rear is less than ideal. Style-wise, it’s great and the sight itself is well-made with swooping, polished lines. Unfortunately, the “ears” are far too wide and the slot for the front sight post is far too narrow.
If this were a gun designed for tight brush hunting, that rear sight would work, but then it wouldn’t go with the 24-inch barrel and the small front sight. Instead, the rear sight is the worst of both worlds, making precision shots possible, but very slow, and fast shots on close-in or moving targets particularly imprecise.
If you want to keep that rear sight, I’d highly recommend you take a file to the vertical slot and open it up a bit. Otherwise that front sight post will completely fill the space, making it very difficult to see when the front post is in the middle of the rear sight. The better option is to pull it off altogether and install a peep site, which is what I did immediately after this review.
All of these Miroku-produced guns feature drilled and tapped receivers and the ability to add a hammer spur for mounting a scope to the rifle. Since all of these guns also feature an angle-eject feature, there’s really no issue installing a scope, although it would certainly ruin the appearance of this particular model.
For those of you not familiar with the newer 94s, angle eject is exactly what it sounds like. The bolt still sits on the top of the receiver, but right as the cartridge is released from the bolt face, it’s pushed slightly starboard, where it then jumps across the top of the frame and to the right. This feature serves to aid with the use of a magnified optic. Give the lever a hard yank and you’ll find the empty shell launches fully clear, but rather than straight up, it will head off and land over your right shoulder.
The trigger is okay for a lever action centerfire rifle. It broke at an average of 6 lbs, 5 oz from three pulls with my Lyman digital trigger scale. That break comes all at once, with very little squish or slop after you squeeze down firmly on the lever and pull back on the shoe.
The issue that makes the trigger no better than okay is the grip safety indent. More than any of my other 94s, this particular rifle needs to be squeezed quite hard to disengage that safety. That means the shooter has to keep a very tight grip around the gun while still gently squeezing the trigger.
Because of the shape of the traditional stock, that works great from standing or kneeling, but it’s more challenging in the prone or off bags.
The newer Winchester guns made by Miroku wisely remove the out-of-place and unnecessary cross-bolt safety. That safety has been replaced by a tang-mounted safety instead, which is far more visually appealing.
Because the 94 has both the aforementioned grip safety as well as a rebounding hammer, any additional safety is almost always redundant. The only realistic use case I can find for the tang-mounted safety is when a shooter changes their mind about shooting, wants to lower the hammer, and for some reason doesn’t want to remove heavy winter gloves. But for a few of you hard-core northern woods hunters, that tang-mounted safety is a nice-to-have feature.
As expected, reliability is perfect with any flat-nosed or round-nosed bullet I have available in weights from 150 to 180gr. I also used one box of Hornady’s LeveRevolution 160gr FTX round and it worked just fine as well. (That Hornady commercial round lives up to its name and turns the .30-30 Win into a legitimate 300-yard deer rifle.)
Other than pure nostalgia, one of the reasons I wanted a Model 94 with a 24-inch barrel (the original length the .30-30 Win was shipped with) was for its longer sight radius. I’d like to see what’s possible with the old lever gun and its first smokeless cartridge with just irons, and every bit of sight radius helps with that. I didn’t have very many commercial loads to test, but those that I had available scored well.
The Winchester Deer Season XP 150gr round nosed cartridge printed 3.8” groups at 100 yards when shot from a Caldwell stinger shooting rest. Hornady’s Reduced Recoil 150gr round nose cartridge did a bit worse, right at 4”. The best shooting commercial group, which genuinely surprised me, was Remington’s 170 Grain Core-Lokt Soft Point Box cartridge, at 3.5”. I’d have no qualms at all with using that widely distributed and relatively inexpensive round with this rifle on deer out to 200 yards and maybe a bit further.
The homemade round I shoot in all my 94s is 29 grains of IMR 4064 behind a 150r flat nosed jacketed round printed 4.4-inch groups. That combination rarely shoots great in anything, but shoots okay in everything, is easy on old guns, and kills deer and pigs just fine.
All groups were five-shot groups averaged over four shot strings, untimed and on a fouled bore and using the supplied iron sights.
Some of my 94s are over 100 years old. Some only 50. All of them look like they’ve been down the trail a few times.
The Deluxe Sporting Model looks like it’s designed for the discriminating hunter who wanted the best, a century ago. Right now it looks great propped up against my desk. It’ll look even better this fall, propped up against a Whitetail.
Specifications: Winchester Model 94 Deluxe Sporting Rifle
Caliber: .30-30 Win
Barrel Length: 24 inches
Overall Length: 42½ inches
Length of Pull: 13½ inches
Drop at Comb: 1¼ inch
Drop at Heel: 1¾ inch
Weight: 7 lbs 8 oz
Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
Twist Rate: 1:12
Rifling: Triple-checked button rifled
Barrel Finish: Polished Blued
Stock Finish: Oil
Wood Grade: Grade V/VI Walnut Stock with satin oil finish, authentic straight-grip styling and cut checkering
Receiver Finish: Color Case
Chamber Finish: Polished
Barrel Material: Steel
Barrel Contour: Sporter, Half Round Half Octagonal, triple checked button rifled
Stock Material: Black Walnut
Recoil Pad: Crescent Metal
Checkering: Cut 22 LPI
Sling Swivel Studs: None
Receiver Material: Steel
Trigger Finish: Brushed Polish
Magazine Type: Full-Length Tube
Trigger Material: Steel
Trigger Guard Material: Steel
Sights: Marble Arms front sight and adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight
Drilled and Tapped for Scope: Yes
MSRP: $2,229.99 (about $1950 retail)
Style and appearance * * * * 9/10
The polar opposite of a “tactical lever gun.” The tang-mounted safety is the only thing that takes way from its potential perfection.
Customization * * *
Reliability * * * * *
Accuracy * * *
This new model shoots about the same as my older models that are in very good condition. The installation of a rear peep-style sight improved both speed and accuracy. (Separate review pending of the peep sights.)
Overall * * * *
The Winchester Model 94 Deluxe Sporting model is the epitome of a fine factory lever gun. I dearly wish other manufacturers would follow Winchester’s example here. The price reflects the level of effort that goes into producing a gun of this quality, and the fact that these models are sold out just about everywhere shows there is a solid market for them. One star off for the wrong rear sight for the model, mediocre accuracy, and a grip safety that’s too difficult to disengage.