For years dealers had been asking Winchester to make a reasonably priced tubular magazine repeater. Clip-fed magazine repeaters have the objection of a loose magazine to lose and rarely feed the Short, Long and Long Rifle cartridges interchangeably. In 1939 the model 72 was introduced to fill this demand.Also...
At first production was on a standard rifle with two standard sight combinations. After production of less than one year, a "Gallery Special" was added to the listing. Standard rifles have 25 inch barrels. Gallery Special rifles are the same as the standard models but were chambered for the 22 Short only and are so marked.
Barrels of this model are made separate from the receiver and are threaded into the receiver. A sliding safety was provided. Earlier rifles will have the bolt handle bent downward, later arms have the handle bent downward and to the rear.
Earlier arms have a stock which is 1-5/8 inch thick. When production began after WWII, the stocks were 1-3/4 inch thick and forends were more rounded and tapered with a slightly more beavertail shape in some issues. Production of this model, as with some previous models, ceased in 1941 due to the war and began again in late 1946. Three quarter length magazines are found on this model. Some longer magazines, extending to within six inches of the muzzle, were assembled. Standard magazines are 7-5/8 inches from the muzzle. Attractive bolt handles (knobs) of ovoid shape are standard on this model. The first rifles made had the handles of round shape, but this was changed after production of a few hundred guns (sic).
Pistol grips and composition shotgun buttplates were standard. All steel parts except bolt fronts were blued.And...
Barrel markings are the same as the 69-A with the model marking changed. Latest of the rifles have a barrel marking:
WINCHESTER - MODEL 72A -
TRADEMARK - 22 S.L. OR L.R. -
MADE IN U.S.A.
A few barrels have the "made in U.S.A." following the model marking.
After production reached nearly 100,000 guns, triggers were grooved.
Early in production two sight combinations were offered. First was the number 32 open rear barrel mounted and series 75 front: A tin bead was attached to the front sight. Second to be announced to dealers was the rifle with a series 97 hooded ramp front with an 80A receiver moutned peep sight.
In 1959 the model 72 and 72A were discontinued when production passed 161,000.
This model 72 Winchester was Dad's. I had thought that he may have bought it new after coming home from the Army (the first time) in 1947 but it seems to be an early gun. As you can see this seems to my eye to be a round bolt knob and it isn't swept back. However, the stock is about 1-3/4" wide. The barrel marking is also of the earlier type. The mag ends 6-7/8" from the muzzle. Does this gun exhibit a mix of features or was Winchester's production so varied that this is completely normal? Unfortunately for me, these rifles are unserialed and so it is yet more difficult to date. Hindsight being 20/20, I wish Dad had told me more of the history of these guns as I'm trying to do for my grandchildren.
To my mind the Model 72 is nearly the epitome of the bolt-action .22 LR. The trigger is more than adequate and the stock is comfortable in both carrying and shooting. Complete with the factory peep sight, this gun has taken numerous squirrels and rabbits, more than a few groundhogs and given many years of pleasure to two generations.