The Model 52 Winchester is regarded as one of Winchesters true masterpieces of the ancient world. It came about after the United States’ came back from WW1. At that time a lot of returning vets had grown to like the bolt action rifle over the lever action guns used for many years. Thought up as a means to offer a quality target rifle in the more affordable .22 long rifle. the 52 was considered a classic form its start.
The first models where pretty much military training rifles. They looked a lot like the 1903 and Winchester had hoped to be making a lot of them for the military. The early guns had a very distinct military style carried over from the war. After the national matches of 1919 where the M52 was first used in matches, many other versions followed with a production of over 125,000 made up into the 80s. The down side was, the 52 was expensive, very expensive and labor intensive. It really is a classic. In my years I have heard it called “the most perfect rifle ever made” and “perfection in design” which is even a title of a book about the rifle. Few who have experience with one wil disagree that is truly was the finest production target rifle ever made in the country by a factory.
The model I own in the pictures above are the Model52 B. The “B” does not really mean anything or denote details, it is just a stamping and used by people to get a rough idea of what and when the gun was made. My rifle in the picture has a lyman peep sight used for shooting at vermin as opposed to large target sights. On the right side of the stock you can see the magazine release button. The ’52 uses a standard 5 round magazine but would also take a mag block to make the gun a single fire, a extended 10 round magazine as well. The magazine was very tough and I have never seen or heard of one failing. The same mag was used in the M69, the M75 and the M52.
the top of the action shows the machined flat for another model of rear sight that could come with the rifle. Sights could be selected by the buyer in the long gone age, back when factories really tried to satisfy customers. Forward of the receiver, on the barrel, you can see a target sight block. This is the type used for target scopes of the era. Mine is a Unertl block to accpet a Unertl target optic. You may also notice the profile of the wlanut stock. This type was called the “Marksman” stock. It was the same type used on the Model 70 target adn National Match rifles. The stock was also used by Winchester on the heavy varmint models before going out of business, though it was made by H_S Precision in their synthetic/viberglass with bedding blocks and pillar bedding. It is still a very useable and comfortable stock for general use.
The wide forearm of the stock had an accessory rail installed for a variety of extras. Mine has the standard front swivel for a sling and the hand stop with sling swivel. The slots allow the shooter to move the accessories to any position desired. These are the factory parts, but a large amount of other target factory and custom pieces would fit and were used.
The barrel on the target M52 B was a very heavy target barrel and they are exceptionally accurate. With proper ammo, it is easy to shoot 5 rounds into almost one hole at 25 yards and sub MOA at 50 yards. These are some of the best barrels made at the time and the 52 was already hand fitted to be as accurate as humans knew how to make a rimfire at the time. As before, the front sight is a smaller model for field work. The front sight is installed and removed by drifting it in via dove tail. The crown is a flat target crown.
The barrel has the forward target/optic block the proper distance from the rear for the optics at the time. The scopes needed a certain distance from each other to allow the target elevation and windage turrets to have a value of 1/4 MOA. Further apart or closer made the clicks move the POI more or less. You can see the barrel band before the end of the fore arm. Surprisingly to some, the barrel is not free floated. The gun is still astoundingly accurate, the match gunsmiths at Winchester at the time, knew how to make a gun accurate before free floating became something every one wanted. I have found the barrel band does not hurt POI or shift zero even when temp or weather conditions would effect the zero of lesser guns.
Above is the inside of the action. The trigger on Model 52s are another legend , and they are as fine a target trigger that can be found on a non custom gun. It indeed feels like a custom trigger and can be adjusted easy. The bolt is jeweled and very smooth with dual extractors. The safety can be seen on the right hand side of the action near the tang.
And above, is a picture with a variety of standard accessories that would have came with the M52. A Redfield Olympic front and rear iron sight set, a Lyman small peep and a Lyman front sight. The front sight inserts are at the far right. They go into the front sight and allow you to change from post to globe. Below the Redield rear sight in the target block for installed the rear sight on the receiver of the action. It allows some forward and rear placement for eye relief and comfort.
Above is an optic that is the finest rifle telescope ever produced in the US of A. It is of course a Unertl ( pronounced YOU- NUR-DULL ) target/varmint 12x optic. It is externally adjustable and I have talked about them at length before. It would have been common to see the Unertl scopes on guns way up until the 80s. The rifle/optic combo is a real classic or its day and would have been the mark of a series small bore shooter.
There was a lot different 52s made over its run though not that many made over all. It just cost too much at the time and few people took target shooting serious. The high cost and effort to make the gun doomed it before the shooting sports grew to be as popular as they are now. For a while, Winchester/Olin had a sporter version made in Japan that is sold here, but of course it was not the same. Although a serviceable plinker, they did not have the level of craftsmanship and quality in them to equal the originals.