Improving the Winchester 94 Trapper .357

On my 94AE Trapper in .357, I decided to do a little work to slick up the action and make the gun easier to load and cycle. I bought it brand new and it had the typical "lawyer trigger" -- WAY too heavy. Mine has the rebounding hammer and crossbolt safety that some folks don't like, but they are fine for me. But the gun did need some help in factory configuration. I am impressed with the machining and fit and finish on this rifle. It is well made and the parts are fit very nicely, especially for a rifle in this price range. I could tell right away that I wouldn't have any major modifications to do, just some polishing and tweaking. I found this site, which is where I got my initial information to start the project: Cleaning up the action of a Winchester New Model 94 Trapper

But I quickly found that there was more I could do to my particular rifle that wasn't documented on that site, so I ventured on my own to discover what I needed to know.
I also needed complete detail strip instructions, but I couldn't find any online for the 94AE with crossbolt safety, so I also had to venture out on my own here. This site has info for takedown of the old style 94 without the crossbolt safety: Winchester 94 Takedown Page

I also found this site with some information on taking the lower tang out of a 94AE, but again, this is for the pre-crossbolt safety models: M94 Lower Tang Swap

I received some more detailed instructions on a complete detail strip (again on models without the crossbolt) from Harley Nolden. I also found an exploded view of the 94 on Winchester's Home Page

So now I had several examples and sets of instructions, yet none was exactly right. But each was enough to help me get almost where I needed to go.

Step 1: Trigger Job

The first modification I undertook was a trigger job. The primary offender in the very stiff trigger was the hammer spring. I ordered two replacement springs from Numrich Gun Parts. This way, I could put the factory spring aside and make modifications to the extra springs. They only cost about 3-4 dollars, so you won't break the bank. The overall idea is, keep the factory spring as is, modify one spring until you start getting light primer strikes, then modify the second spare spring a little less than the one you modified first. This way, you find the breaking point of modification on the springs -- the point where too much modification causes problems. Then you can modify the next spring to just under that point and get the maximum gains. You'll still have a perfect, un-touched factory spring to revert to if you so choose.

I used the instructions from Mojave Gambler as listed above, to remove the lower tang and the hammer/sear/trigger assembly. The instructions are right on the mark and very easy to follow. I first cut 4 coils from the hammer spring. This lightened the trigger a good bit. While I had it apart, I took some 600 grit sandpaper wrapped around a popsicle stick to the hammer hooks and sear face too. They actually weren't bad at all. I just did some very fine polishing. I also used 220 grit to polish the hammer spring guide rod and the contact points between the rod and the hammer. I basically followed all of the instructions as illustrated on that site.

But next, I realized there was more to do. On the bottom tang, there is a leaf spring that contacts the trigger and the sear. I noticed that relieving the tension on the right leg of this spring would reduce the pull weight required to move the sear, thus lowering the overall trigger pull in the gun. Now be careful here! You don't want to modify the leaf spring where it contacts the trigger for the leg of the trigger that sticks out below the lower tang. This is where the lever has to contact in order to make the gun fire. This is what keeps the gun from firing unless the action is totally closed and the lever is held firmly. But the right leg only contacts the sear. You want some tension so you don't have a floppy sear that won't hold the hammer hooks, but you can safely reduce the tension by probably 50% over it's factory setting. Winchester sells this part (trigger stop spring) for about $5 if you mess it up. I just used a samll screwdriver and pried the spring away from the sear until the tension was reduced sufficiently. This combined with the shorter hammer spring made the trigger quite a bit nicer than stock.

Step 2: Smoothing the Bolt

The removal of a few coils on the hammer spring eased cocking the hammer on the downward lever stroke. I then noticed there was still a little too much friction/resistance between the top of the hammer and the bolt while operating the lever. I decided to polish the underside of the bolt where it contacts the hammer. This demanded that I do a much more thorough disassembly of the rifle.

Starting with the gun completely assembled, the first step was to remove the top front screw from the left side and drift out the pin holding the lever. Next remove the screw at the base of the lever and push out that pin. Gently pull the entire lever assembly out of the rifle. Next, remove the lower tang and trigger/hammer assembly as described above. Then you have to remove the crossbolt safety enough to free the bolt. NOTE: I did not completely remove the crossbolt safety from the rifle. I just moved it enough to get the bolt out. With the bolt closed, you can look down at the safety and see a small hole on the right hand side. Use a very small punch, allen wrench or bent paperclip to punch in the hole just enough to relieve the pressure on the safety from a small detent ball and spring. Once you push that ball out of the way, drift the safety from left to right until the safety is almost out of the gun, but not quite. You just need to give enough room for the bolt to slide free. I used a nylon punch to do this, as it required some force and I didn't want to mar the safety.

With the safety all the way to the right, the bolt slides out easily. I used 600 grit sandpaper wrapped around a paint stir stick to polish the small machining marks out of the underside of the bolt and smooth the surface. This is just to polish, removing as little metal as possible. I then covered the underside of the bolt woth Flitz and polished it with a felt wheel on my Dremel. It came to a nice shine and the surface was tons smoother than it started. The feel when working the lever is noticably improved.

Step 3: Improving loading

On my rifle, I noticed the loading gate was particularly stiff. This made loading the rifle somewhat difficult. By removing a small screw from the left of the receiver, the loading gate came loose. I took it out of the gun and bent the leaf on it slightly to reduce the tension and pressure required to move it inward as in loading the rifle.

Next, I removed the magazine spring and cut 4 coils from it. This also made it easier to load the rifle and had no effect on functioning or reliability. In fact, the magazine still holds 9rds of .357 but holds 10 rounds of .38 Special without a problem. As with the hammer spring above, I ordered a couple of replacement mag springs to modify and saved the factory spring. As above, modify one spring until the rifle doesn't function, then modify the second spare spring a little less than the one you modified first.

Step 4: Improving the sights

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