I am trying to find out if there are any P.O. Ackley collectors, the rifle's approximate value and if possible, the original caliber.
El Paso, Texas
A: P.O. Ackley, best known for the "Ackley Improved" wildcat cartridges, also ran a general gunsmithing operation for many years. I did a cursory Web search of or a P.O. Ackley collector's association with no luck. If our good readers can help in this matter, I'll certainly print the info in this column. There's no good way to be sure of the original caliber of your 1895. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center (P.O. Box 1000, Cody, WY 82414, 307/587-4771, www.bbhc.org/firearms) can letter many Winchesters, Marlins and L.C. Smiths through the remaining factory records, but in your case, the 1895 records only go from 1 to 59,999. The letter costs $55 to non-members, by the way.
If I had to guess, though, I'd say your '95 was originally a .30-06, since the serial number is so high (production ended in 1932 at serial number 425,881). The only other rimless caliber chambered was the .30-03, which was discontinued in 1908 when the '06 supplanted it. Ackley would have encountered no problems rebarreling an '06 to 7mm Mauser because both cartridges share the same case head. Were your rifle any other round originally chambered in the '95, the conversion to a rimless caliber would have required considerable bolt-face and extractor modifications and the bolt face should show the evidence.
As to value, that's a tough one. Most Winchester collectors want the piece to be factory original before they'll fork over the big bucks. Since your rifle has been custom barreled and probably completely refinished, its value rests in how well the gun "shows." A plain 1895 in .30-06 with about 95 percent original finish can fetch upwards of $2,500 to $3,000, while a gun with no finish is hard put to fetch $450. Since your gun probably sports a pretty good refinish (just guessing), I'd put it somewhere in the $650 to $750 range with the higher price coming from someone who appreciates the name. Don't take that as gospel, though. It is nigh impossible to assign values sight unseen.