John Browning lent his extensive design talents to a myriad of weapon types throughout his professional career. One product was the Winchester Model 1894 which was developed as a hunting rifle and based around the lever-action principle. Over 7.5 million copies of the gun were produced from 1894 until 2006 (by then coming from the U.S. Repeating Arms brand) and production was restarted in 2011 (Miroku Corp / Browning Arms). While various other cartridges were supported throughout the run of the gun, the .30-30 Winchester became its staple.
The .30-30 - originally known as the .30 WCF ("Winchester CenterFire") - made the Model 1894 the first commercial-grade rifle to fire this storied smokeless powder round.
The outward lines of the Model 1894 followed suit with other Winchester lever-actions that preceded it. The lever-action assembly doubled as the trigger ring and manipulation of this lever cleared the spent cartridge casing (ejected upwards) while introducing the next available cartridge from the tubular magazine. The tube was mounted under the barrel. As in other Winchester lever-action firearms, the "loading gate" was positioned along the right side of the receiver, the inserted cartridges being directed into the tube magazine. The tube magazine held up to eight cartridges in the standard Model 1894 offering. Wood was used at the stock, grip, and forend and sighting devices - Rear leaf, Barleycorn-type front - were located aft and forward to provide accuracy during ranged fire. Muzzle velocity reached 2,500 feet per second.
In practical use, the Model 1894 became a favorite of general shooters and hunters alike and respected for its lightweight qualities and easy operation. The guns were later pressed into military service when World War 1 (1914-1918) arrived and the United States ordered 1,800 of the type for issuance to members of the Signal Corps (U.S. Army), these to remain stateside for the entirety of the war. Other operators of the period became Britain (Royal Navy), France (specialist troops), and Belgium and many found second lives in the post-war period when sold off as surplus.
Several major changes were instituted in the design before the end of the century. In 1964, the gun was reworked to help lower production costs but this move inevitably hurt the Winchester brand. An angled cartridge ejection was introduced in 1982 in an effort to allow operators to mount optics over the receiver (previously prohibited by the upward-ejecting cartridge operation). In 1989, the U.S. Repeating Arms company went out of business and the line absorbed by Belgium-based gun-maker FN Herstal. A safety was added much to the chagrin of Winchester lever-action purists.
Additional production then lasted until 2006 before reintroduction of the series by Japan-based Miroku Corp in 2010. These guns are currently (2017) imported stateside under the Browning Arms label.