The Winchester Model 52



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.


  1. I have seen some thoughts that precision 22 rimfires should never have the bore cleaned. That the effects of cleaning are worse than not cleaning. What are your thoughts on that?

    • I agree about not cleaning the bore. Maybe every one in a while I will use a wet patch and some dry patches if some ammo was strangely fouling. But a dirty bore on older target rimfires does seem to settle and shoot better. One thing I do clean on rimfires is the carbon ring in side the chamber. that does have an affect on accuracy

  2. I pull a bore snake through my bore everytime i shoot it,leaving powder flakes in the barrel attracts moisture and causes pitting,i have a Mossberg model 46A heavy barreled target 27” that my grandmother bought new in 1938 and gave it to me when i was eight and the barrel has been kept spotless since new and it will outshout any other 22 that its ever been put up against so proper cleaning wont hurt a thing.

  3. Hello, I have a M75 with the accessory rail inset into the forearm like your M52. I would like to install a sling swivel stud into one of the threaded holes in order to then attach a bipod. Am having difficulty determining the thread size of these holes. My guess is they are 5/16-24 or 5/16-32 but can’t find any documentation and have not tracked down screws of these sizes to test. Am hoping that you can help me with this information.
    Thank you much in advance.

    • Frank I can’t say off hand the thread size, but if you check out “Outback Gun parts” that guy has most of the vintage parts that will fit your excellent Model 75 winchester.

      • Shawn, as a follow-up, I just wanted to let you know that I spoke with Wendel at Outback Gun– really great and helpful folks– who were most knowledgeable about providing a solution to mounting a bipod on the M75. As I suspected, no swivel stud is available commercially, as the rail threads are Winchester proprietary (9/32-30) so I am having them fabricate a picatinny style mounting block which will also have a hole tapped to accept an Uncle Mike’s stud. That way I can use either a Harris style or picatinny style bipod. Luckily Outback does have the correct size screw to mount the block to the existing adjustable rail. It’ll be a few weeks for them to make due to the upcoming Christmas holidays, but I’m very pleased that there will be a solution. (Maybe this explanation will be helpful if anybody with a similar need ever asks you). Thanks again!

        • Excellent. Thanks for dropping back in with an Update Frank. When you get it all done. maybe you can send me some pictures and some writing about what you had done and how its working out for you and i will post it to the site

    • No Larry off the top of my head I don’t. I would have to google around same as you. I think your problem is the extractors which are common to several winchester rimfire bolt action models. I think it is a fairly common part to find, try numerich

  4. Does the Winchester 52B have an adjustable trigger and if not are adjustable triggers available and from where?


  5. Mark-Regards “Clean or Not?” I have a couple 52B’s, one with a Kenyon trigger. I’ve been shooting 50YD. Benchrest for 5 yrs. now and here’s my story: The first year, I had 19 bulls out of 25, using RWS Rifle Match ammo. Not too expensive, right. Well, that was my highlight, until recently. I tried all kinds of similar priced ammo, trying to keep up with my buddies. I tried everything, except the $15/16 high priced ammo. This year started out the same. All this time, I thought I was cleaning the gun properly, patches & solvent.
    Then, I happened to click on the Eley website and printed-out their cleaning procedure. Page two read, “after 200-300 rounds, intensive cleaning is required”. Hmmm…I wonder. All this time, 4-5 yrs, I never used a brush once! Big mistake. So, I got out a brass brush, soaked it with CLP and Pushed from breech to muzzle, REMOVE BRUSH, withdraw rod and repeat! Twice more! My very next outing: 19 bulls! (This is with RWS R100 ammo, by the way).
    So, I now follow the Eley method: clean w/patch after every shoot; clean with brush after 200-300rounds. Caution: never push/pull with brush! Push only…
    Good luck, hope this helps.

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