With roots dating back to the 1890s, the Winchester Model 62 was the best of a long line of .22 caliber pump action rifles. These handy guns put food on the table, taught many a young shooter, and proved the weapon of choice for those who would plink tin cans, clay ducks, or spin the pinwheels at carnival shooting galleries on warm summer days.
Why was it invented?
In the year 1890, a few things happened at Winchester. The company picked up a new president, Mr. TG Bennett. One of the first things that Bennett did was look at the company’s dated line of 1870s lever action rifles and shake his head. They needed new rifles, better rifles and to come up with new ideas he reached out for new blood. It was then, while making moves to diversify this line, Bennett contracted with a young gunsmith by the name of John Moses Browning. That very year the new Model 1890 slide-action .22 rimfire rifle was introduced.
Spawned from Browning’s drawing board, this gun was a super simple pump-action rifle, the first of its kind, and it was fast, light, and accurate to boot. This gun was modified in 1906 with a rounded barrel as the logically named Model 1906. The Models 1890 and 1906 combined proved wildly successful with over 1.6-million of the handy shooters made by 1932 and inspiring such imitation as the Colt Lightning.
By 1932, Browning was called to the great gun shop in the sky, as had Bennett, but Winchester still wanted to update the then-classic Model 1890.
Based on Browning’s proven original, the gun that became the Model 62 looked almost identical for many reasons. Internally, it was the same rifle, using a slide-action worked manually by the user to load and unload rounds from the under barrel tubular magazine into the chamber with each rear-then-forward stroke. A visible exposed hammer was left cocked at the end of the cycle, allowing the user to fire the gun with a very light squeeze of the single action trigger. This minimized trigger slap and, along with the long sight radius on its 23-inch barrel, made the gun extremely accurate.
Unlike the Model 1890, the new gun was made to shoot various .22 rimfire rounds interchangeably. This enabled it to cycle either .22Short (20-shots), Long (16-shots), and Long Rifle (14-shots) cartridges in the same magazine. Also unlike the Model 1890, the gun was never able to fire the slightly longer .22 WRF round, which was the .22 Magnum 1900s-era.
The Model 62 was designed as a takedown rifle. An oversized screw on the rear of the receiver, when removed, allowed the gun to break apart into two pieces for cleaning, storage, and transport.
It loaded much like the Marlin Model 60 of today with a tube mounted under and parallel to the barrel held into place by a spring-loaded plunger at the top. The gun was fitted with basic bead front and open rear sights. A plain walnut straight-grip stock with a rubber plate, very similar to the one sported by the Model 1906, held the back of the rifle steady while the pump was a long, thin wooden handle with grooves to help the shooter’s grip.
Replacing both the Model 1890 and the 1906 in production when introduced in 1932, the new Model 62 was sold in a standard commercial and a ‘gallery’ version. Gallery guns typically were chambered for .22 short only, the breech unable to feed longer rounds. A triangular cartridge-shaped cutout in the top of the tube ensured the rounds were loaded facing the right direction, making them great gallery guns. Winchester marketed these little gatts to carnivals by the crate, and, because they were likely to be seen and handled by thousands, placed a huge rollmark on the left hand side of these receivers so that new shooters who liked the rifle and had no doubt who made it. These gallery guns also had better sights, typically with adjustable rears and a post front.
The guns were durable and well liked. However, they did not have the commercial success that its forefathers did. This was in part that new semi-automatic rimfire rifles were similarly priced and competitors like Colt had garnered a good bit of the market. Just 409,000 Model 62s were made before the company pulled the plug on these handy little guns in 1959.
Getting your own
No less than six generations of the Model 62 were made from 1932 until 1958. Three of these are pre-WWII while the other three are post-1945. The easiest way to tell postwar versions is that they have a 17-groove 8.75-inch foregrip while prewar versions have a 5.75-inch 10-groove grip. After 1940, the Model was modified with an improved hammer spring and dubbed the 62A, so if you see a 62A mark on your Winchester pump rifle, that is an easy way to tell that it was made after that year. The value of standard Model 62/62As start at about $300 for shooter grade guns and go as high as $1000. Gallery models and pre-WWII guns run much more, with prices over $3,000 not uncommon.
On former gallery guns, condition is everything. If a Model 62 has the large Winchester rollmark, triangular cutout on the magazine tube, and is chambered in .22S only, you may have a diamond. However if that gun is also brown instead of blue, the rifling is worn flat, and it won’t cycle, its value is dubious. Another common problem encountered is mismatched forward and rear halves. This came about when carnival staff broke the guns down at night to clean the gunk out of them, and then reassembled them the next morning with no guarantee that they matched the right forward section to the correct rear. Multiply that by 365 days a year and dozens of years and you see what we mean.
To preserve or shoot
The Model 1890 Grandfather of the Model 62, as well as the Model 1906 father, typically go for well over $2,000 in complete condition, with very nice early guns reaching several times that amount. With the fact that these guns, made in much greater quantities than the Model 62, are so expensive and collectable these days, it only stands to reason that their offspring will do the same in coming generations. With this in mind, should you come across a good 62 or 62A that is more blue than brown, cycles well and has a minimum of abuse to it, you may want to consider putting it in the safe and mentioning it in a will.
Should you have a shooter-grade gun that has seen better days, shoot it some more. They make absolutely great plinkers. Wisners in Chehalis, Washington makes new internal replacement parts for 1890/1906/62 Winchester pumps so you are not completely up the creek if you have one that doesn’t go pop anymore. If you have a Model 62 in any condition, it may be a good idea to stock up on these spares while you still can.
Your great grandchildren may thank you.
The tin cans surely wont.