Winchester 1886 by Turnbull Makes the Case for Restoring Antique Rifles

This Winchester 1886, built in 1890, was restored by the Turnbull Manufacturing Company.

I have been in the firearms business my entire career. And for as long as I can remember, it has been taboo to refinish American-made guns. For every original gun I’ve seen, there’s also been a version with refinished wood, re-blued metal or a chopped off stock. Unfortunately, the work was poor and the lost qualities not recovered.

In today’s market, a gun that has been altered outside of the factory will have a much lower resale value than the same model still in its manufactured condition, which is the most desirable for a collector. I was well into my career when I realized this trend was because of poor workmanship on the “restorations” I encountered.

We are finding it increasingly difficult to acquire high condition, original specimens due to supply and demand. These rare and high-grade guns are selling at auctions for more than the cost of college tuition.

I first heard of Doug Turnbull in the early 1990s when my dad and business partner, Duke McCaa, was working on a custom project. He needed someone to case-harden a few turn-of-the-century rifle actions. Dad told me that Turnbull has the knowledge and ability to make them as good, if not better, than the day they left the factory, because he is faithful to the original design and exudes superior craftsmanship.

Turnbull Manufacturing Company (T.M.C.) is the country’s most highly regarded restorer of antique firearms, and an innovative and respected gunmaker. It has made the restoration of vintage guns an acceptable practice.

T.M.C. offers other services as well. It restores and upgrades existing guns; manufacture lever-action rifles, single-action revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. It also creates proprietary cartridges intended for big-game hunting with lever-action rifles. To say the least, Turnbull has the ability to make silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The latest restoration from T.M.C. is a Winchester 1886, built in 1890. I don’t know what it looked like when Turnbull received it, but after he was through, the quality and configuration resembled that of the rifles in the Cody Firearms Museum. Turnbull not only restored the rifle, he upgraded the wood, engravings and options to the highest degree.

The checkering represents the original factory “E-pattern.” The scroll engraving is a factory #9 pattern with the addition of borders and modern interpretations of North American game in 14-karat gold. A color case-hardened frame displays a vividness only Turnbull can produce.

The rifle is chambered in the venerable .45-70 WCF. Rare options include a 26-inch, half-round/half-octagon barrel, half-magazine, checkered trigger, Winchester folding two-leaf rear sight, Lyman #4 ivory bead hunter front sight, XXX fancy American black walnut stock, scalloped pistol grip with ebony inlay and a smooth, shotgun-style steel buttplate.

This gun’s serial number falls in the 53,000s. It’s in new condition, and the features and embellishments are some of the finest I’ve seen.

Today, an original Winchester 1886 with a similar configuration (if one even exists) is so rare and valuable the only safe place for it is a museum. This Winchester 1886 by Turnbull Manufacturing Company is a good example of how restoring a gun can present the opportunity for anyone to own a high-quality gun—one that we might actually use.

NOTE: The Winchester 1886 restored by Turnbull is available for purchase through Gulf Breeze Firearms. For more information, call 850.932.4867.

L.D. McCaa, along with his dad, and business partner, Duke McCaa, own Gulf Breeze Firearms in Gulf Breeze, Florida. He is readily known as one of the most knowledgeable gun experts throughout the United States.

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