Winchester Model 94 Cross-Bolt Safety Removal


by L.F. Combs

photography by L.F. Combs

September 1st, 2006




The Winchester 94 Cross-bolt safety...what was Winchester thinking? They take one of the most recognized guns in history, a gun many people recognize just from the outline of it, and they grow it a wart. This is probably the worst addition ever made to a rifle. John Browning, the designer of the gun, probably did a back-flip in his grave when Winchester pulled this one. I have liked the Winchester 94 ever since I purchased my first one. The ease of handling. The history. Not to mention it just did the job. Yes maybe not as slick as some of the guns that came after it, but it did the job. I have always thought of the 94 as a "no-bull" type of gun. That is until the wart.

I first experienced this safety when a hunting buddy and I decided we missed our old 94s that we had sold some years before (a move I regretted the moment after money had changed hands) after getting caught up in the belief we needed more power, and a slicker gun. When I first looked at the gun I was uneasy about the safety. I really missed the look of my first 94. I had just about decided to forget the new ones, and try to find an older model used in a gun shop, when the sales lady at the local Kmart discovered the two guns they had in stock had back to back serial numbers, and then all the recent information about accidents replayed in my head. I reluctantly decided to try it out, and we laid out the $220.00 each for our guns.

The guns were Winchester 94 Rangers in 30-30. Plain-Jane, no-bull guns. I took mine straight to the range to try it out with the Winchester 170 grain Silvertips I purchased with the gun. On my first attempt to shoot the gun, I discovered my first problem. I would have to get use to popping the wart out to the fire position. I shot up the box of shells, and didn't have any more problems, but this problem turned into something I could not get around to working out. After this happened for the fifth or sixth time, I came to the conclusion that my no-bull hunting gun wasn't so bull-free. I had to rid my gun of this blemish. That or get rid of the gun. I refused to loose another chance at an animal, or even a soda can, because of this ugly design flaw. I would either fix this or go to the Winchester plant and kick the person responsible for this new improvement right in the rear.

My first task was to understand how the wart was held on the gun the insides of this growth. I first checked the owner's manual to see if there was any information that I could use for this task. Nothing - it just told me how it worked. I think I already knew that part. I just couldn't remember to push the thing off before trying to pull the trigger. As with any project I then looked to the web for help. After a few minutes searching I found out how to remove the safety. You will need a tool for this. It requires one paper clip. Yes, a paper clip! Won't even cost you a penny. Straighten it out, and you are ready to begin.

Figure 1 (see right) will show you the area that you will be working in. First, as always, make sure the gun is not loaded. Cock the hammer back and push the safety to the left. You will see on the right side of the gun, inside the area pictured, little holes in the cross bolt . Line up the holes and push the paper clip in until you feel the retaining spring compress all the way. Now this will take a little wiggling, but just take your time. Push the cross bolt to the left side of the gun while holding the spring compressed in the hole. The bolt will eventually work past the pin, and  slide completely out of the gun. You will have to work on this. It is a little tricky because the paper clip is in the hole. The trick is to release the bolt from the pin as you pull the clip out of the hole and  push the safety out. Be very careful, as when the bolt comes free the retaining pin spring will come out. You need to catch this spring, and the pin. You may want to put the safety back in the gun at a later date, so save the parts you remove.

After the safety was removed I had to address a problem as bad as the looks of the wart: the holes left in the sides of the receiver. What to do with these? I had read a great deal on what others had done to correct this problem. They either left the holes or threaded them - if you thread the holes you will have to blue the threads before you put a screw in place of the safety. This seemed like a lot of trouble, and cost. Also, what if I wanted to sell this gun someday? I might need to put the safety back in the gun, and the threads might cause a problem with the function. Not to mention the look of the gun. When the safety is put back in the threads would be seen, making the gun uglier than ever. What to do?

This proved to be the hardest part of the whole project. I searched the web, gunsmiths, gunsmithing sites, and just about every gun shop I could. I even called the company to see if maybe they had something that might work. The woman was very polite as she told basically that I was out of luck because they where afraid of being sued. They couldn't help with this problem, but she did tell me they had come out with a new tang safety. A whole lot that does for me. What to do?

I couldn't come up with anything. It looked as if I was going to be stuck with either threads and screws, the holes, the wart, or my foot up someone's butt. Then I would probably be in jail. I have to say it might be worth it to be rid of that safety! I was determined I was not going to give up. I did as I have many times before when at a loss for what to do - I went to the hardware store to see what I could find. If I couldn't find a solution I would just have to thread the holes like everyone else had.

At the store I looked through drawer after drawer of knobs, screws, and this or that, but just as I was about to go home to dig out the tap and die. I saw the solution to my problem. So simple and so easy.  A box that read 1/4-inch nylon hole covers. They were even black to match the gun, but would they stay in as I fired the gun? Would I have to drive to the hardware store after every shooting trip? Would they melt or deform as the gun heated up? Only one way to find out: try it stupid! That's me talking to myself, not you. I went home and slid them into the holes. Looked good. Better than the wart or a hole in the receiver. The field would be the test of my little project. So away I went.

I did this project in 2000, and I have yet to replace the nylon hole covers. I have done this same project, and more, on my other Winchester 94s. My trapper in .357 Magnum has had a great deal of work done on it, all by me. The hole covers on it have been in place since 2003,and not a problem. The Ranger my buddy purchased? I own it as well. The covers have been in it since 2004.To date I have never had to replace a cover, or a problem with the overall safety of the gun. This little project cost me a total of $1.50, including gas, per gun. Not bad for a wart removal. A doctor would have cost a whole lot more.

L.F. Combs

Ed. Note: This article is for educational purposes only. does not advocate de-activating any safety device on any firearm, and neither the author nor assumes any responsibility for the misuse of the information contained in this article.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Figure 1: Looking down into the area between the firing pin and the hammer, with the hammer cocked, showing the safety bar (the flat part with the small hole).







Author's method for removing a Winchester 94's cross-bolt safety is effective, costs basically nothing, looks good, and is easily reversible if desired.