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Thread: The Winchester Model 99 Thumb Trigger .22 Rifle

  1. #1
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    The Winchester Model 99 Thumb Trigger .22 Rifle

    An Older , Smaller , Stranger .22 Rimfire Rifle

    Lots of folk post articles about their pride-and-joy rimfire rifle and how well it shoots , or what they have managed to bag with it in the field. Lots of those shiny plastic and stainless rifles look the same as each other , and lack soul. This is a wee tale about not one , but two very old , very unusual “Boys Rifles” - the Winchester Model 99 , better known as the Thumb Trigger rifle.

    Produced from 1904 through to 1923 , this wee rifle is one of those “why did they ever do that” things that really has no reason to be here. Winchester had several other small-scale rifles for young people – the so-called Boys Rifles – these being the Model 1902 and Model 1900 , both designed originally by John Browning. The Thumb Trigger rifle complements these two other models , and was marketed from the angle of the thumb trigger not moving the sight picture as can be the case with traditional triggers – and the triggers on early , cheap .22 rifles were never anything other than functional.

    There are several variants of this rifle – mostly only in the patent dates stamped on the receiver , and a change in chambering during the production run. Early – pre 1914 rifles were chambered in .22 Short and Long. Post 1914 rifles were chambered in .22Short , Long , and Extra Long.

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    As you can see from the picture , this rifle was a no-frills bargain priced model with gumwood stock , fixed open rear sight , and a blade front sight . It did have the hard plastic Winchester butt plate. The barrels 18” bore was .217” ,with six rifling grooves. Many of these rifles have little or no rifling left today – the original ammunition was still largely Black Powder , and these were a boys first rifle so care and attention was not necessarily high on the agenda. Purchase price was $3.50 in 1904.

    So – the Thumb Trigger thing. We all understand how a regular trigger works. In this case there is no slot in the stock under the action. The trigger is the rearward projection of the sliding bar that runs under the wee bolt ,and this bar acts as the extractor when the bolt is opened.

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    This pic shows the bolt in the cocked position. The trigger is fired by depressing the rearmost tang and releasing the firing pin. The bolt is manually cocked each time .

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    As this image shows – the bolt is very small and the bolt handle is barely an inch in length. Also visible is the captive leaf spring that supply the appropriate tension to the trigger bar mechanism.

    Note the knurled take-down thumb screw for taking the firearm apart for cleaning or stowing for travel.

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    This is the triggerbar / extractor removed from the action. Imagine all the machining stages needed to make this part – back in 1904 this would have been quite time consuming on the machinery of the day.

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    This pic shows two of the differant barrel stampings used . The lower one is from pre-1914 , the upper between 1914 and 1923 . The lower receiver shows NZ Home Guard markings denoting use in WW2 for Home Defense purposes. None of the Model 99 rifles were factory stamped with serial numbers.

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    This pic shows just how small these rifles are . The top one is a regular Marlin XT22 for comparison.

    In the course of the rifles production life approx 75,000 units were mad . About half of them were sold in the first three years of production. Strangely – many of these wee rifles were sold in Australia where they were pretty popular. Sales for the remaining years were steady but not spectacular

    How do they shoot , I hear you ask? I dont have a target to show you but using either Long ammo or Standard Velocity ammo they are quite capable of hitting a 4 inch centre at 50 metres. Its a hundred year old rifle , uses the root of that tiny wee bolt as the action lock-up , and has 100 years of unknown abuse thrown in . Why take risks and shoot high powered ammo in such an old – and rare – rifle.

    Hopefully that was of some interest to some readers. I apologies for the rough format and un-edited pics. If you want more information or fun-filled facts be kind in the following posts .....
    Be more involved and less impressed.

  2. #2
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    Thanks for posting that @muzza brilliant
    It's all fun and games till Darthvader comes along
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  3. #3
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    Thats very cool cheers for sharing.
    "Hunting and fishing" fucking over licenced firearms owners since ages ago.

    308Win One chambering to rule them all.

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    Brilliant! I have a similar sized bolt action single shot Winchester in .22 Short, Long, and LR. It has 1905 stamped on the barrel, no serial number. It has a cracked stock that has been glued up and the chamber and headspace has been worn by, I'm guessing, a steady diet of .22 shorts. If you fire a .22 long in it today it will spit burned powder in your face and require a small pen knife to lever the spent case from the chamber. However, with .22 shorts and its miniature open sights it is deadly accurate and will reliably headshoot feral cats, possums etc out to 30m. I paid $25 for it in Dunedin in 1981, taught my primary age kids to shoot with it, one bullet at a time, and am now using it with 8 grandkids. In between times it fixed an inner city feral cat problem the authorities had washed their hands of.

    I would love to get the chamber restored and the headspace sorted but apart from feasibility the cost i suspect would be prohibitive. So it will continue to shoot a few shorts and get carried around the hills by my favourite 8 and 10 yr olds
    I know a lot but it seems less every day...

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    Interesting rifle alright, a hard case design even for way back then.

  6. #6
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    Got a pic of that one @Jhon quite a few years back I very nearly brought a semi auto win in 22 short. The tube mag was in the stock. Only reason I did not was I new nothing about 22 short the guy selling it said they where a hard round to come by so I let it pass. Wish I hadn’t
    It's all fun and games till Darthvader comes along
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  7. #7
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    JJhon - I suspect you have a Model 02 or a Model 04 / 04A rifle. Post a pic if you can and we can establish for sure. Neat wee guns.
    Be more involved and less impressed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jhon View Post
    ..the chamber and headspace has been worn by, I'm guessing, a steady diet of .22 shorts. If you fire a .22 long in it today it will spit burned powder in your face..
    That sort of grossly excessive headspace in rimfires is usually due to having massive number of rounds fired without ever being lubed at the base of the bolt handle which is the action lug. I've seen it on several v old Russian .22s.

  9. #9
    Member Micky Duck's Avatar
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    that thumb trigger is actually rather clever,it removes some bits from the equasion.....would make it interesting to decock I guess.
    75/15/10 black powder matters

  10. #10
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    theres a knack to decocking it , for sure. But the same goes for any of the older , bolt-action single shots as well. You just need three hands ... ;-)
    Micky Duck likes this.
    Be more involved and less impressed.

  11. #11
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    I should never have sold the remington..........its pretty distinctive as I took to it with rasp,put groove across forend where hand went and a bit more at thumb region...
    75/15/10 black powder matters

  12. #12
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    It's all fun and games till Darthvader comes along
    I respect your beliefs but don't impose them on me.

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    The '03 Auto is the first semi-auto .22 rifle ever. Its a whole story on its own but uses a proprietory cartridge that is shorter and fatter than a normal .22LR , was only loaded in smokeless at a time when Black Powder- loaded ammo was prevalent and cheaper. Made fro 1903 till 1932. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winchester_Model_1903

    The Wikipedia round shown is a whole nother animal again - the forerunner of the .22 Magnum.
    Be more involved and less impressed.

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    Thanks for the great write up!

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    There's been 2 of these on trademe for a while.

 

 

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