Working The Winchester Model 61

This finely engineered rimfire doesn’t have to be a safe queen.

by Dick Maheu

A good friend recently brought me his Winchester Model 61 .22 rimfire rifle with feeding issues. In addition to the mechanical problem, the stock was severely cracked at the junction of the guard assembly and had been repaired by securing a hose clamp around the wrist, then painted blaze orange! I have seen a lot of unusual repairs on gunstocks in my years of gunsmithing but this was a first for me. This particular Model 61 was chambered for the .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle. According to Winchester records, its low serial number of 151xx indicates manufacture was in 1935. The rifle was originally purchased by the owner’s grandfather new, and then handed down to his father and then him.

The Model 61 was introduced in 1932 due to demand of loyal Winchester customers, although there were other slide action hammerless rifles already on the market. It was made until 1963 and over 342,000 were built in several configurations. Throughout its manufacture, the basic model was chambered in .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle interchangeably, as well as being offered with a smoothbore barrel for .22 shot cartridges in 1939. After WWII, the M61 was offered in .22 Winchester Rimfire and in .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire after 1960.

Due to a rise in collector interest, many of these great little shooters have been relegated to “safe queen” status. I have seen these rifles in the basic configuration go for $500 to $1,200 at gun auctions with the other configurations much higher if in very good to excellent condition. Recently, I saw a Model 61 in .22 WMR go for $3,000!

Read more in the May 2016 issue.

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