This is a classic Winchester rifle I have enjoyed for years. It was last produced in 1973, so many of the newer hunters among us has never seen nor heard of this classy semi-auto. It is unlike any other high powered semi-auto in that it wears a nice one-piece stock, just like a typical bolt rifle. It makes the sometimes misunderstood semi-auto look a bit more civilized.
That is actually the reason that I originally became interested in this rifle; it's classy looks compared to most other autoloaders. Winchester brought out the Model 100 in 1961 as a kind of companion to their Model 88 lever action, which debuted in 1955). It too, wears a one-piece stock of very similar design, except that the semi-auto has a fuller forend to contain the working mechanism. The same two checkering patterns, one a hand checkered point pattern and the other a fancier basket weave impressed design, were used on both rifles. The cut checkering was used prior to 1964 and, as a cost cutting method, the basket weave pattern after 1964.
Other than the checkering change on both guns, there were no other wholesale changes to either the Model 88 or the Model 100 in 1964, so the easiest way to recognize pre and post '64s is by the checkering alone. I actually prefer the look of the cheaper basket weave pattern. Such is my appreciation for the "classic." Anyway, one of the big reasons I like both of these rifles is because of their stock designs. The Model 100's stock, however, is a bit beefier than the Model 88 stock.
The Model 100 was originally offered in two calibers (.243 and .308 Win.) and one model, a rifle with a 22" barrel. Later on another caliber, .284 Winchester, and style--a carbine with a 19" barrel and no checkering on the stock--were added. I understand that the carbine model in .284 caliber is the rarest version of the model 100.
In fact, any .284 Model 100 in good condition is a coveted collector's piece. By far most Model 100s are rifles in .308 caliber. Followed by rifles in .243. Any carbine is automatically an interesting collector's item, but again most were produced in .308.
My first model 100 was a rifle in .308 purchased around 1980. It has been very finicky in operation from the day I purchased it (used). It is prone to jamming at any time, and any place. I took, at one point, to calling it my single shot semi-auto. I have taken it to no less than 3 different gunsmiths and even though it may seem better for a while, it has never been "cured".
About ten or twelve years after I purchased my first model 100 I bought another as a "return from Desert Storm" present, this one a carbine model in .308. This carbine has always functioned near perfectly. The 19" barrel makes it a very handy 39" (approximately) in overall length, perfect for all but the longest shots in typical whitetail habitat.
The carbine is just about perfect in length and the rifle is exactly the same length as a Model 70 with 22' barrel. The weight is also pretty close to that of a bolt action rifle of the same size. It's not a heavy rifle, lighter than a similar BAR or Remington 7400 by at least a 1/4 pound. I have also somehow acquired a rifle in .243 and it is a real pleasure to shoot. There is practically no apparent recoil shooting .243 cartridges in a gas operated autoloading rifle of this weight.
I have refinished both the .308s, the rifle with impressed checkering and the carbine with it's smooth stock. Both were finished with a clear polyurethane finish and the grain on both these pieces of walnut is nothing short of beautiful. I have likely destroyed some or most of the collector value in doing so, but their new look is so nice, I'm glad I did it.
The .243 still wears what appears to be the original lacquer finish, flaking in spots. All Model 100s (and Model 88s) are fed from the same type of detachable box magazine. This holds 4 cartridges in .243, .308 and .358 Win. (the latter a Model 88 caliber only) and 3 in .284 due to it's fatter case.
One of my favorite features about these rifles is the fact you can remove the magazine, eject the chambered round, then insert the 4th round back into the magazine. That makes it quick and easy to unload and reload, as long as you only used four rounds in the first place.
The safety is a "push button" type, as on most semi-autos. But, this one is placed in a better position. It's located in the front of the trigger guard, not behind the trigger. This, to me, is a much more natural and comfortable spot to keep your finger when still hunting, a forte of semi-autos in my opinion. It feels quite natural to have your index finger on the safety and, while shouldering the rifle for a quick shot, push it "off" and then move your finger back a bit to the trigger as you prepare to fire at your quarry.
The Model 100 stock is classically styled, with no cheek piece or Monte Carlo hump. It has a metal pistol grip cap and most have a red "W" on a circular plate glued to the metal grip cap. Unfortunately for me, the epoxy I used to re-glue these plates back onto the grip cap didn't hold well and now both of the rifles I refinished have a grip cap without the plate.
All Model 100s were also supplied with Winchester's sling swivels of that era. These are the permanently attached type that needs a sling to keep them from rattling, just like the older Model 70s. (Or, you can wrap them with cloth tape. -Ed.)
Not to belabor the point, but the Model 100's stock design made it a very attractive rifle in its day, and it still is. Unfortunately, sales were never outstanding and when production costs for both the Model 100 and Model 88 soared, Winchester ceased production in 1973.
Both models are still occasionally seen on dealers' used shelves, and if you spot one have a look. Many are missing the front sight hood, and most have had recoil pads installed. No Model 100 or Model 88 was ever produced with a recoil pad. This would most certainly affect its collector value. Spend accordingly.
I have enjoyed my Model 100s (and my Model 88 as well) through the years and I always seem to "need" to use one of them during every deer season in my home state of Tennessee. I have always considered myself lucky to live in a state where a long and liberal season allows me the time to enjoy a low key, "classic" hunt.
With one of these rifles in hand I feel totally capable of harvesting any animal I might see. Even though none of my Winchester semi-autos will win any bench rest shooting competitions, they have helped me harvest my two best whitetail bucks with "dropped in their tracks" shots. Not much more you can ask for, is there? Attractive, nice handling, and gets the job done with minimum fuss. Heck, we should all be happy to have a wife so good, never mind a deer rifle!