February 22, 2021
By Joseph Von Benedikt
Winchester’s smooth-functioning and reliable Model 1906 is distinctly more elegant than most other pump-action rimfire models, featuring slender dimensions and a light 4.5-pound weight. Winchester advertised the 1906 as an ideal youth rifle, but savvy adults across America cottoned on to the fact that the model offered unequalled responsiveness, pointability, balance, and an extremely rapid rate of fire.
Today, the Model 1906 is one of the most collectible rimfires on the market. Most examples display considerable use and the wear and tear that comes along with that. Even in rough condition, they bring close to $500, and those in prime condition command premium prices, sometimes four times that.
Many have been refinished, which of course damages their collectability unless they were in dreadful condition when the work was commenced. The rifle shown, manufactured in the latter part of 1914, is one such.
Nearly 732,000 were produced between 1906 and 1932. For the first couple of years, all were chambered in .22 Short; after serial number 113,000, the model was changed to allow the use of .22 Long and .22 Long Rifle cartridges as well.
Variations include the .22 Short model mentioned, the Standard Model, which is showcased by the example shown here and sported a grooved forearm and straight grip, and an Expert model with a pistol grip and a forearm with fluted sides.
The Model 1906 is a tube-fed, pump-action .22 rimfire with an exposed hammer. A large knurled thumb screw in the left side of the action allows the rifle to be taken down for cleaning, transport, and storage.
To load, turn the knurled end of the magazine tube follower to unlock it and draw it out far enough to expose the loading port in the mag tube. Drop cartridges in through the cutout. Push the magazine follower back in and rotate it to lock it in place.
If the hammer is on half- or full-cock, the forearm is locked in battery, so before attempting to operate the slide, confirm the hammer is fully down, resting against the rear of the rebounding firing pin assembly. Work the slide rearward, then forward briskly.
As the slide moves rearward, it cams the tilting breechblock up out of its mortice and rearward, which drives the hammer rearward, cocking it. As the action opens fully, the lifter presents a fresh cartridge to the chamber, and when the slide is pressed forward, the breechblock chambers the cartridge and locks back down into battery.
Exposed-hammer slide-action guns have pros and cons. Exposed hammers provide an area for dust and other detritus to get inside the action. However, the hammer may be lowered to the halfcock “Safe” position with a cartridge in the chamber, then swiftly thumbed to the cocked position when a shot opportunity presents. Internal hammers may not, and shooters must rely on a safety if stalking a rabbit or squirrel with a cartridge chambered.
This particular Model 1906 has a very cool history. After helping a neighbor rebuild the carburetor on a vintage tractor, the neighbor gifted a “rusted hulk of a .22” to an old friend of mine. Covered in rust, it had been found in the rafters of an ancient log cabin over 40 years earlier. The forearm was gone. The buttstock was badly cracked and chewed by rodents. At some point a vigorous whitewashing of the ceiling had splattered the rifle with white. Most of the rifling was pitted and eroded away. A couple of screws were missing, and a previous owner had whittled wood pins to take their place in an attempt to keep the rifle functioning.
My friend carefully took the rifle apart and went to work restoring it. Numrich Arms had screws to replace those missing. Oil and 2,000-grit sandpaper removed superficial rust. A steel mandrel reversed the dents in the magazine tube. The bore was beyond help, so he reamed it out and installed and chambered a .22 liner. Both sights were missing, so he replaced them and the forearm with new parts from Brownells. By shortening the stock, he was able to salvage it—and optimize its length of pull for his grandson. As a final touch, he reblued the rifle.
Borrowing the rebuilt Model 1906, I headed to the range with my son William. To my surprise and delight, the little rifle is wonderfully accurate, particularly considering the fact that my middle-age eyes struggled to resolve the silver gleam of the front bead. Average groups were just a shade over an inch at 25 yards with all three loads I tested—certainly adequate to head-shoot a squirrel or cottontail.
Just as impressive is how beautifully smooth the action is. Presumably, over 100 years of existence has burnished all the rough spots away, aided by the work of my old friend who rebuilt it. I was actually surprised to find the little rifle 100 percent reliable; most of the severely used vintage .22s I’ve tested have had some hang-ups. Not this one. Additionally, the trigger is good, breaking right at 2 pounds, 12 ounces, according to my Lyman digital trigger gauge.
Point of impact with the replaced sights was about an inch high at 25 yards, perfect for versatile work on small game out to 50 yards. With formal accuracy testing and chronographing complete, I handed the little Model 1906 off to William. Standing spent 12-gauge shotgun hulls in a row 10 yards downrange, he picked them off one by one. Clearly, the Model 1906’s light weight, light trigger, and correctly fitting stock helped him shoot it well.
Model 1906 Specs
MANUFACTURER: Winchester Repeating Arms
TYPE: Pump-action repeater
CALIBER: .22 Long Rifle
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 10 rounds
BARREL: 20 in.
OVERALL LENGTH: 34.75 in.
WEIGHT, EMPTY: 4.5 lbs.
LENGTH OF PULL: 11.2 in.
FINISH: Polished blue
SIGHTS: Adjustable U-notch rear, bead front
TRIGGER: 2.75-lb. pull (as tested)
SAFETY: Halfcock notch