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Winchester 94s, George Madis, and the ATF

David KennedyDavid Kennedy Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
edited June 2016 in Ask the Experts
Bert and others - sorry to hijack the forum, but I felt a response was necessary.

The recent research into the Winchester Polishing Room Books (disussed here and elsewhere) has resulted into a number of findings. The most interesting of these is likely the discovery of data that heavily suggests that there are issues with the many serialization lists published in books, magazines, and on the internet.

These lists, many originating with the works of George Madis, are often a good guideline for dating a Winchester. Unfortunately, several lists show very different results from what can be found in the archival materials available at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

The cause of these differences is unknown. It is known that while George Madis did research this information at Winchester, he did not get to see everything or spend as much time as he wished. From discussions with friends of his (and George's widow, Pat), George did not know of the existence of the Polishing Room Books. The polishing Room Books apparently sat quietly in a vault in 1-A-1 (Building 1, Tract A, Floor 1 - AKA - the headquarters offices) for a 40-year period before coming to Cody.

After arriving in Cody, these records were used by a few scholars in their research of a few models over the past fifteen years - the 1890, the 1906, the 52, and a couple of others. Still, the existence of the records was not wide known - even by most staff members and collectors.

When I became aware of the records and began to study them in earnest, I became aware of their importance. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to discuss them with George as he had passed away approximately one year before I began to research them. As it was, I am a relative newcomer to this field, having been hired as the Curator of the Firearms Museum in July 2003.

I have attempted to educate collectors and others regarding this information. My experiences have been similar to Bert's - Some folks suspected this was the case and other folks think I have an agenda. I am simply trying to present the most accurate data I can povide.

I do take some offense at being referred to as a "wannabe" and that I am attempting to "bad-mouth Madis", having "conveniently waited until George was dead before questioning his results." (I also acknowledge that I am not the only person included in this accusation) I wish I had the opportunity to talk to George regarding this work. I consider his work to still be the starting point for anyone wanting to know more about Winchester. However, taking the entirety of his work as irrefutable fact requires that you ignore almost a half century of further research published by others (Schwing, Pirkle, Houze, Flayderman, Wilson, Rule, Campbell, Watrous, Riffle, Henshaw, etc.). I have the utmost respect for George Madis and the body of his work. It is the bedrock on which all other Winchester research will be based. As new research is performed, old information is corrected. I have no doubt that some bright-eyed researcher will correct my work down the road. I hope I will not be resentful enough to refer to him or her as a "wannabe".

Regarding the ATF and their acceptance/opinions regarding this research, they don't care. I have had conversations with Industry Operations Investigators and with Firearms Technology Branch. This is not a concern. Their worry is the guy building Sten guns in his garage or converting AKs/ARs/Glocks to fire on full auto. If they have a question, they call. However, they have had a list that corresponds with these numbers since the 1980s. I haven't heard of any issues anyone has had.

If anyone has any concerns or questions regarding the operations of the Cody Firearms Museum or the services we provide, I would be more than happy to respond to them.

Very Respectfully,
David Kennedy

PS - The Universe does not revolve around the Earth

edit: acknowledging that I am not alone in the group of the accused.

Edit: Even though the BATF stated that "they don't care" (back in 2008) about the antique status of old Winchester lever-action firearms, one should never assume that they are "safe" or that it is legal to sell & transfer (across states lines) any Winchester firearm that can be proven to have been manufactured after December 31st, 1898. It is always the correct and prudent choice to strictly follow both federal and state laws exactly as they are written. As such, GunBroker does not endorse or support the sale and transfer of any firearm in violation of established law. Bert H.


  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,741 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hello David, and welcome to the forum. I really appreciate the information that you have posted here. In part, it shows due respect to Madis' work and those individuals who will follow in his footsteps.

    Thank you.
    What's next?
  • David KennedyDavid Kennedy Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Kimi - thanks for the welcome, but I have actually lurked here off and on for awhile - Most of my attention has been on the Winchester, Marlin, and LC Smith collector forums maintained by those groups.

    The reason for my sudden appearance is that a recent discussion here was trapped by an internet search I run. I felt I needed to stop in.

  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,741 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Oh, I figured you had been around for quite some time, David, but no one had extended a greeting to you as yet. [:)]

    The information that you furnished about the Polishing Room Books is great to know about. I know that Bert has posted a sticky regarding this type of information, which has helped those of us who are interested in it.

    I did not get to make it to Cody and meet you this summer, but maybe I will in the not too distant future.

    Again, thank you for the post, and don't be such a stranger to the forum! [8D]
    What's next?
  • Bert H.Bert H. Member Posts: 11,280 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hello Dave,

    It was about time that you stepped up to the plate![^][;)]

    I will most likely see you in Reno this coming November.

    edit: In light of the significance of this post by David, I am making it a Sticky so that it does not fade into near non existance.

    edit: Dave, I agree with the other fellows... don't be a stranger on this forum. I always enjoy our discusssions, whether they be in person, or in the cyber world[^].
  •[email protected] Member Posts: 3,804
    edited November -1
    Good afternoon , and welcome aboard the 'Ask The Experts Forum' and becoming a member of the <> Family.
    Its a pleasure to meet You online and on the Ask the Experts...
    If there is anything I can do for You, don't hesitate to contact Me...
    I'm at your service.....Respectfully Yours.....Captain Kirk
  • givettegivette Member Posts: 10,886
    edited November -1
    David Kennedy: givette here. Thanks from taking the time from your busy schedule to post. Please Do occasionally pull up a chair, and sit and chat with us. And guess what? The poster that used the phrase "wannabe" did something good in my kinda made you come over to us and chat for awhile. Now that the ice is broken as it were, don't be a stranger. Even if it's just for a simple 'HI'. Best, Joe
  • Spider7115Spider7115 Member, Moderator Posts: 29,705 ******
    edited November -1
    Welcome, David! Between you and Bert, maybe more of us can become Winchester experts (eventually!). In any event, we certainly appreciate your combined knowledge and advice.
  • Old-ColtsOld-Colts Member Posts: 22,702 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    David, welcome to the forums. I hope you are able to stop by occasionally and share museum and firearms related information with us!

    If you can't feel the music; it's only pink noise!

  • footlongfootlong Member Posts: 8,009
    edited November -1
    David, I too am a new member to this forum. I used your services last
    year in an effort to find the origins of a M94 I own. Although you
    were to give only a dom & shipment date I believe that time is money
    and the reference fee is very reasonable in light of the info you
    supply and service you perform. Unlike some mfrs fees that I consider
    to be a bit, shall we say "extreme". I just hope that one day CODY
    MUSEUM will be able to obtain the "Custom Shop Records" from Win.
    Thanks again David.
  • David KennedyDavid Kennedy Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Footlong -

    We do hold records from the Custom Shop on the Model 21s and order sheets for these and a number of other firearms. Unfortunately, these records are sparse outside of the 21 and are nonexistent for the last 35 years. From my understanding, most of these records (pre-USRAC) were bulldozed under when the Custom Shop was destroyed or (USRAC/Herstal) kept as needed for business purposes and then destroyed or held as corporate records.

    We have to remember that for much of its history, Winchester was ran very seriously as a business and that they did not imagine (at least not until 1956 or so), that there would be interest in their documents in another 50-100 years. They were pieces of paper that took up space.

  • Old GunnyOld Gunny Member Posts: 193 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I'll join my Brother "Jarheads" here and extend a welcome to you David- I have both Madis and the Riffle books on the M12-and the Rule book on the M70-We were in Cody years ago and visited the Museum- what a great experience. You mentioned L.C. Smith and Marlin forums, besides your research on the M21-Where is a good source for information and mfg. dates on Ithaca doubles? A friend has both a side-by and a single trap Ithaca, from his family- wanted to know when they were made and what model? Old Gunny!!
  • David KennedyDavid Kennedy Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Old Gunny -

    First - aren't "old" and "Gunny" redundant? :)

    Second - As far as I know, The Ithaca records have not been published. I know that the original company had access to them and would use the data to respond to inquiries.

    With the sale of the company a couple years back, a very large amount of paperwork went with the equipment and company name. What I am not sure of at this time is what went to ATF when Ithaca Gun closed in New York. All of their shipping records should have been provided to Uncle Sam, but there may be other info. I have been slowly trying to nail down what may still be intact, but I have not had a chance to go to Upper Sandusky.

    Thanks for the question,

    (a former Army Specialist who found out the hard way that you do NOT call a USMC Gunnery Sergeant - or Staff Sergeant, for that matter - "Sergeant")

    Semper Fi to all of you (if you will allow a non-jarhead to do so...)
  • kimikimi Member Posts: 44,741 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    What's next?
  • David KennedyDavid Kennedy Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    OK - in an attempt to talk to the fans of the Cody Firearms Museum on a more regular basis, we have started up a Blog!

    To read it, please go to If you see something you like (or don't like) or if you have a question, please leave a comment.

    Thanks again,
    Dave Kennedy
  • tsr1965tsr1965 Member Posts: 8,682 ✭✭
    edited November -1

    Welcome aboard here at GunBroker.

    I look at everyday as a learning experience, and have learned quite a lot from your colleague Bert , and your work. It is truly a labor of love to the rest of us.

    I would like to express my gratitude to the both of you and many of our fine moderators on the forums here and else where for everything they do to educate the rest of us(wannabe's...hehehe).

    Please stop by frequently.

  • USN_AirdaleUSN_Airdale Member Posts: 2,987
    edited November -1
    David, Welcome !
    my first acquaintance with Cody Wyoming and the Cody Firearms Museum was in 1966, Buffalo Bill's Boyhood Home was still on the trailer (moving apparatus) i was traveling up to Yellowstone N.P. with my 5 y.o. son, we stopped and talked to a man about the house and he said it had, "just been moved here", the firearms museum was just a bare trickle of guns. then in 1969, 1974, 1977, and lastly 1987 it was a beauty of a collection then.

    BTW, my best friend was the manager of the San Diego Wingo range, he gave me a new box of Wingo ammo for my ammo collection.., what would they be worth today ? didn't Winchester recall all the guns, ammo and equipment ? then scraped it all ?
  • David KennedyDavid Kennedy Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    All -

    I just wanted to pass along that, as of May 1, 2009, I will no longer be the Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum. I have accepted a job at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid, Oklahoma.

    This may come as a shock to some (i.e. "Why the hell would anyone ever want to leave THAT job???"). My wife and I simply reached the decision that it was time to move on. There was very little professional advancement to be made in Cody and Oklahoma gives us the professional and educational opportunities we have been looking for.

    I am still a gun guy and I still want to maintain my ties to the community so I will be stopping in from time to time - especially if Bert gives me a holler to chime in.

    As for the future of the Cody Firearms Museum, there will soon been an announcement for a national search to fill the position. I have not seen the announcement or any sort of updated job description, but I expect that the minimum requirements will be something along the lines of a Masters Degree in history, museum studies, etc., 3-5 years experience working with museum collections, and subject knowledge.

    Now I know there are a lot of folks who think that because they are know-it-all about guns, former LEO/Military, etc., that they are qualified for this job (trust me, I have talked to them... *sigh*). What this does is qualify you to work as a volunteer for the Museum (actually one of our BEST volunteers knows nothing about guns except that you pull the trigger and it goes bang!).

    A background in museums/museum management is necessary because most of the work required at this level is administrative, exhibits planning, and working with donors and an advisory board. If you are not someone who can compromise and work with a WIDE variety of personalities, museum work is not for you.

    OK, I've gone on too long. However, I have already received the question to the above answer several times and wanted to nip it in the bud.

    Dave K.
  • Texas BearTexas Bear Member Posts: 59 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I have been an occasional listener on this forum and learned a great deal. Just a small time collector of old Winchesters. [:)]

    I just found the Madis/CFM W94 date topic discussed on the following the site: [?]

    This is an Answer on and list both the CFM & Madis dates for the W94. It appears to come from:
    Cody Firearms Museum Records Office
    1. Since it gives CFM dates to 1945 and CFM does not claim to have dates past 1906, is there any validity to these dates? [?]
    2. Does anyone know where these CFM dates came from? [?]
    3. Are there corresponding CFM lists for the W92 & W73, etc.? [?]

    The following is a part of the Answer from this site:

    Winchester 1894/94 Serial Number List
    Determining date by serialization has become confusing as it has been determined by the staff of the Cody Firearms Museum that previous work by George Madis is incorrect. This is not due to the quality of work performed by Mr. Madis, but by the questionable data provided to him. The following list includes the data held at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody Wyoming (CFM) and the previously understood figures (Madis). It is up to the collector to make the best use of this data that they can.
    1894 end of year serial number was 1674 (CFM), 14579 (Madis)
    1895 end of year serial number was 14222 (CFM), 44359 (Madis)
    1896 end of year serial number was 18571 (CFM), 76464 (Madis)
    1897 end of year serial number was 33108 (CFM), 111453 (Madis)
    1898 end of year serial number was 53941 (CFM), 147684 (Madis)
    This list extends to 1982.

    4. A footnote on this list states:
    Numbers 2586001 through 2699999 were not used.
    Actually, it appears that this was based on the end of year production for 1963, not the end of production of the Pre 64 W94s. I have a pre 64 with a SN of 2,599,XXX. I would like to know the SN of the last pre 64 made?
  • Bert H.Bert H. Member Posts: 11,280 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hello Texas Bear,

    In answer to your question, David Kennedy is the person who posted the information on Wiki.Answers, and the information was derived from the Polishing Room Serialization Record Books (PRSRB).

    The PRSRB for the Model 1894/94 are complete through December of 1945 (serial number 1352066), whereas the Factory Warehouse Ledger records are only extant for serial numbers 1 - 353,999. It is important to understand what the difference between the two sets of records is;

    1. The Polishing Room Serialization Records Books contain only the last serial number stamped and polished on any given day... there is no configuration information listed what-so-ever. The date listed in the PRSRB precedes the Warehouse ledger date by as little as a few days, to as much as several years. Typically, it is two - four weeks. Per federal (BATF) regulations, a firearm officially becomes such the instant a serial number is applied, and this is why the PRSRB information is important... especially for those serial numbers that precede January 1st, 1899.

    2. The Warehouse ledger books contain detailed information about the individual serial number after it was assembled into a completed, ready for sale firearm. These records are what is used to create a Factory Letter. For the Model 1894, the warehouse ledger records end at serial number 353,999, which was early May, 1907. The information contained in the warehouse ledgers is as follows;

    Received in Warehouse date
    Type (e.g. Rifle, Carbine, Musket)
    Caliber (e.g. 30 W.C.F., 32-40, 38-55, etc.)
    Barrel (e.g. Octagon, Round, or 1/2 Octagon), and if the length was non-standard, it will be listed.
    Trigger type (only listed if a set trigger was ordered)
    Stocks (only listed if non-standard)
    Sights (only listed if non-standard)
    Butt (only listed if non-standard, e.g. Shotgun, Swiss, etc.)
    Remarks (special finishes, Take Down, engraving, or if returned & repaired)
    Work Order number
    Shipped date (Sold)

    It is extremely rare to find a warehouse ledger record entry with any shipping destination information.

    As for the Model 1892/92 and Model 1873 DOM records, they too are not accurate as listed by Madis. The Warehouse ledger records are available for the Model 1892 up to serial number 379,999, and they are nearly 100% complete for the Model 1873 (720,000+). As of this time, no effort has been made to create a PRSRB table for the Model 1892/92. What I can tell you (from personal observation), is that the PRSRB records are not as complete for the Model 1892/92 as they are for the Model 1894/94. For the Model 1873, because the warehouse ledger records are nearly 100% intact, the PRSRB records are merely a curiousity. What I can tell you, is that serial number 525,750 is the last "true" antique Model 1873.

    In answer to your last comment/question...

    quote:A footnote on this list states:
    Numbers 2586001 through 2699999 were not used.
    Actually, it appears that this was based on the end of year production for 1963, not the end of production of the Pre 64 W94s. I have a pre 64 with a SN of 2,599,XXX. I would like to know the SN of the last pre 64 made?

    It is not entirely true that serial numbers 2586001 through 2699999 were skipped. This is just another case where George Madis was not accurate. Pre-64 serial numbers reached the low 2.6 million range. The highest serial number I have surveyed is 2,600,011. It does appear that most (but not all) of the serial numbers in the 2,586,000 to 2,699,999 were skipped. Thus far, I have verified (46) pre-64 Model 94s that are serial numbered greater than 2,586,600. Your Model 94 (serial 2,599,xxx) was manufactured in the very early months of 1963.
  • David KennedyDavid Kennedy Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Bert -

    Thanks for picking this one up. I have been a bit busy with other things lately.

    Texas Bear - I am the person who updated what was on the WikiAnswers site. What Bert said sums it up.

  • VirgilCaineVirgilCaine Member Posts: 858 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Would this be correct on these 94s....1959 .32 WIN. SPECIAL, SERIAL # 2386339 & 1960 .30-.30, SERIAL # 2428855.
  • Bert H.Bert H. Member Posts: 11,280 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by VirgilCaine
    Would this be correct on these 94s....1959 .32 WIN. SPECIAL, SERIAL # 2386339 & 1960 .30-.30, SERIAL # 2428855.

    Yes... you have the correct YOM for each serial number.
  • tamarackcovetamarackcove Member Posts: 30 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I just came upon this Madis discussion and have a questions for anyone here. What ever happened to the Winchester Collectors Association calendars they used to give out with a membership. This was the organization based in Montana.

    I was a member for many years and when Pat Madis became involved with the organization, it seemed to really go downhill. The issues were published less often and the calendars ceased. When I contacted the old President, he said when Pat came on board, he felt that she was not really financially capable of running the organization. Not claiming theft, but rather poor business decisions. Anyone know if the organization is still operating
  • Texas BearTexas Bear Member Posts: 59 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    HI tamarackcove, You ask about the Winchester Collectors Association, Actually the Winchester Arms Collectors association. Go to . It is alive and well. Publishes a great magazine 4 times a year and the calendar. Of course you have to pay the dues. And they appear to have some good and responsibly board members now.
  • tamarackcovetamarackcove Member Posts: 30 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Big THANKS Texas Bear! I was a member for years and paid my membership every year. Man, thy had some GREAT calendars!

    I only asked the question because of the Madis dialogue on this forum. I have a couple Model 12's in Madis's Model 12 book, and he did provide a great service with his earlier books on lever actions. He must have had some great access to the Winchester facilities.

    His brother ran a gun shop in Eau Claire, WI for many years, and had a lot of real odd-ball Winchester items. Lots of Winchester blueprints of their guns, some done on cloth, rather than paper. Major $$$$, even for those days,(1970's).

    I picked up a used Model 1897 that had WRACO stamped over where the serial number would normally be. I looked up W. Raco in the area phone books, trying to find who this guy was who stamped his name on the gun, to get some history on it.

    TThis went on for about 2-3 years, and one day looking through my new Madis book,(Circa 1973), I saw the WRACO stamp on a Model 94 and the story behind it. This was my first collectible Winchester I bought. Paid $15.00 for it... I now own 3 WRACOs, two Model 1897's and a 32" Model 1893.

    I learned a lot about Winchesters from his books.

    Thanks again Texas Bear!
  • Bert H.Bert H. Member Posts: 11,280 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Texas Bear
    HI tamarackcove, You ask about the Winchester Collectors Association, Actually the Winchester Arms Collectors association. Go to . It is alive and well. Publishes a great magazine 4 times a year and the calendar. Of course you have to pay the dues. And they appear to have some good and responsibly board members now.

    Thank you for the compliment[^], I just so happen to be on the WACA Board of Directors (just re-elected to a second term).
  • ron65ron65 Member Posts: 66 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    HI Just a footnote, A trip to the Cody Museum is worthwhile ; especially if you have lunch at the Chinatown restaurant just down the street. Best Chinese food I've eaten in years.
  • GreyghostGreyghost Member Posts: 1

    One aspect that seems to escape most, and one I personally have had long discussions with Pat Madis is about Winchester employees. All or most of whom were very accomplished gun smiths in their own rights. In regards to some seemingly strange and out of place serial numbers. One theory that we discussed was what she termed as the lunch box specials. Rifles that were built by employees at home from parts carried off in their lunch box with random serial numbers stamped of their own choosing and built to their own specification.


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