From 1939 through 1955, Winchester Repeating Arms Co. of Ithaca, New York, manufactured the Model 74, .22 caliber, tube fed, semi-automatic rifle. The 1941 catalog listed the price as $18.45 retail(open sights) $19.25 retail (peep sights) for 5 different versions, .22 short peep or open sights, .22 LR peep or open sights and a .22 short "Gallery Special" with a shell deflector.
In 1942 the U.K. issued approximately 500 of these to the civilian defense forces or Auxilary Units ( The A.U., Churchill's Underground Army) for use as sniper rifles. Modified with a artillery scope and a silencer, these rifles were meant to be used for disruption in case the Nazis invaded. (Thanks to www.rifleman.org.uk).
The particular rifle I have is an early version, probably 1941 manufacture, and is the standard .22 LR with open sights. Later models have a slightly more tapered forend stock and a sculpted area in the stock under the bolt handle. All Model 74 .22 LR have a magazine capacity of 14. Barrel length is 24 inches with an overall length of 43-3/4 inches.
Apparently, they caught a bad rap among users for the difficulty in maintenance. In order to remove the bolt assembly from the bolt chamber, the safety MUST be in the fire position and de-cocked. Since the only way to de-cock the rifle is to fire it, this meant either putting an empty shell in the chamber or dry firing it. Once the bolt assembly was out, caution had to be used when clening as it is complicated to disassemble and reassemble properly. If not paying very close attention it could spring apart and throw parts all over. Dry firing a rimfire is never a real good idea as it could bend the firing pin. Just for the record, mine has absolutely no problem with the firing pin, but just in case, I found a replacement firing pin for $27.00 from Midway USA.
It took me a good while to figure out the right way to remove the bolt assembly. No matter what I tried I could not remove it to clean it. A dirty bolt carrier was causing stovepipes on every round fired. I put the gun away until I found a tutorial online showing how to remove it. I never would have thought to slide the safety to fire and pull the trigger simply to remove the bolt assembly but it worked. After some serious cleaning of the bolt chamber and the bolt assembly (without totally stripping the assembly down) and reassembling, the rifle fires flawlessly.
Considering resale on these rifles is less than the cost of a Ruger 10/22, I decided I would trick it out a little and see what I could do with it. I installed a rail on the forend onto which I attached a bipod and a sling stud. I drilled the butt stock and attached a sling stud about 2 and 1/2 inches from the end. I fitted it with a Butler Creek standard sling (modified a bit for my preferences). Then I threw on a UTG Saddle Mount Scope Mount made for a Remington 870 and a Leapers UTG 4 x 32 L.E.R. Mill Dot scope. Camo is Khaki with Forest Green and Dove Grey and Brown.
My 30 year old son and I did a little target practice. 3" round Shoot-N-C discs at 25 yards. I had already zeroed the scope so I had the advantage. He had a little trouble adjusting to the scope so we shot a set of 4 targets for him to get used to it then got serious. Far left in picture of targets is his third set, 14 shots. Next to it is his fourth set, 28 rounds. Then my set of 28 shots. Last, on the right his last set of 28 shots. As you can see, he pretty much obliterated the center of that little Shoot-N-C target. By then we were losing daylight and had to start picking up the brass. Great little rifle to shoot. We started out shooting American Eagle CJHP and switched to Blazer round nose. The Blazer actually performed better ballistically for him, however we had several stovepipes with it (about 1 per magazine) and none with the American Eagle. I didn't notice any difference ballistically between the two. Could have been the American Eagle is a bit hotter load and he was letting the slight bit of recoil affect his shots by keeping too loose a grip. I stabilized the rifle by putting my left hand on top of the barrel and pressing down, whereas he had a more traditional hold.