The Winchester Model 1894, also called the Winchester 94, is one of the most popular and classic American lever-action repeating rifles. While it was once a staple of hunting firearms in the country, it has since been replaced by a variety of other, more modern firearms.
Yet despite its age, the Winchester 94 is still an effective hunting tool and a favorite of firearm aficionados who have a soft spot for the construction and sturdiness found in many older guns.
Additionally, Winchester 94 can be improved through a number of aftermarket upgrades and additions, including optics. But because of its design, and the top-ejecting aspect of its receiver, mounting a scope on a Winchester 94 is a little more complex than normal.
Not to worry – this guide will break down everything you need to know about mounting a scope on your Winchester 94. Let’s get started!
Side-Mounting a Scope
If you want to add an optic to your Winchester 94, you’ll need to purchase a side-mounting scope rather than a traditional, top-mounted scope. Why?
You see, Winchester 94 and similar lever-action rifles eject spent cartridges out of the top of their receivers. When you pull the trigger, the bullet will explode out of the barrel and the empty cartridge will come out of the top to fall to the ground.
If you were to put a scope above the receiver, you’d run the risk of jamming your Winchester 94, of causing the hot cartridge to hit your hands and burn them, or cause other problems. Additionally, you would likely damage the scope’s bottom over time.
Side-mounted scopes allow you to circumvent these risks and still benefit from the accuracy-boosting effects of modern optics. However, side-mounted scopes have to be installed correctly, as well as properly zeroed, for you to use them effectively.
Steps to Side-Mounting a Scope on a Winchester 94 Rifle
Fortunately, mounting a side-mounted scope is relatively straightforward.
- Firstly, secure your rifle using either a rifle rest or a vice and similar equipment. Keeping the rifle stable is crucial to ensure that you mount the scope properly and in the right area
- Drop the front sight of your rifle to get it out of the way. Place it flat against the rifle barrel
- Install the base mount for your chosen side-mounted optic. You cannot side-mount traditional, top-mounted optics or bases. You have to purchase a dedicated side-mounting scope base
- To do this, remove the screws at the top of the receiver. The base mount can be placed at the top of your receiver, then positioned to the side of the barrel to receive your chosen optic. You may need to use one or more screwdrivers or an Allen wrench
- Ensure that all the screws are tight before moving on. A lever-action rifle like a Winchester 94 produces significant recoil, and if the screws are not tight, it could cause your scope to jostle around in the base
- Install the scope rings onto the base. Make sure to open them to an appropriate size for your chosen optic
- Install the scope into the rings and base, then close the rings and tighten them properly. You may need to open and close the rings several times when situating the scope for optimal stability
- Make sure that the scope doesn’t touch the front sight or any other parts of your rifle
You’re done installing the scope at this point. But you still need to correctly zero the optic so that you can actually use it to hit distant targets.
The Importance of Zeroing Your Scope
When you install a typical, top-mounted scope, any accurate round will cross the line of sight twice: once on its way up out of the barrel and once had the target. However, when you properly mount a side-mounted scope and zero it for accuracy, it will only meet your line of sight once: when it hits the target.
Therefore, properly zeroing a side-mounted scope is crucial if you want the optic to provide you with actionable information and you want to accurately hit the shots you take.
To that end, be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours zeroing your side-mounted scope. You’ll need to initially zero with your iron sights, then calibrate your Winchester 94 accordingly. Then you can start tweaking the controls and attributes of your side-mounted scope.
The complexity of this approach means that you should only side-mount a scope on your Winchester 94 if you plan to use it regularly. On the plus side, you can and should use your side-mounted scope and your iron sights in conjunction with one another. But keep in mind that your side-mounted scope will really only be useful for stationary shots at targets which you know the distance to.
What to Look for in a Winchester 94 Scope
There’s a lot to consider when looking for a good scope, but when looking for a side-mounted Winchester 94 scope, we’d recommend focusing on these major factors:
- Weatherproofing, which will allow you to take the scope into inclement weather without worrying about its performance
- A dedicated side mounting base. As mentioned above, top-mounted bases cannot be modified to side-mount an optic
- Good holdover points on the reticle, which should help you accurately hit your shots even with the initially finicky setup of a side-mounted scope
- Windage and elevation adjustment turrets to help you compensate for these variables.
You should also consider factors like the ease of installation and the overall cost of the scope. Since it takes a little while to mount the scope, consider purchasing one that has user reviews indicating that’s it’s not too difficult to install.
All in all, it’s a great idea to mount a scope on your Winchester 94 if you plan to take it seriously hunting or if you want to push out its maximum effective range for your target practice. Even better, successfully side mounting a scope on your rifle will earn you major points with your fellow marksmen.
Good luck and good hunting!
Growing up, John loved learning about the components of firearms and what makes them work, which still intrigues him to this day. He’s a very outdoorsy person, and he loves fishing, hunting, and skeet shooting. He is a firm believer in the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.