Behind the Scenes: The Restoration of Tom Selleck’s Winchester 1886

by | Apr 30, 2018 | Firearm Restoration, Restoration Resources, Shoot History, Turnbull Restoration & Manufacturing Blog | 26 comments

Tom Selleck and Doug Turnbull Inspect Tom's restored Winchester 1886

Tom Selleck and Doug Turnbull Inspect Tom’s restored Winchester 1886

Actor Tom Selleck, famous for his starring roles in the TV shows “Magnum P.I.” and “Blue Bloods,” is a collector’s collector. His fascination with the myriad details of all the historic firearms in his care is remarkable. This heightened curiosity was on display when Doug Turnbull hand-delivered the antique Winchester 1886 that he and our team of craftsmen restored and upgraded for Tom. After the unveiling, Tom and Doug talked at length about the icon they picked for this special project and all its unique detail. The rifle, with commemorative badges on its butt stock and custom case, celebrates the 163rd episode of “Blue Bloods,” which surpasses the number of episodes created for the “Magnum P.I.” series. (You can read the commemoration’s full story by visiting American Rifleman)

A Team of Restoration Experts

The Turnbull Restoration Team

The Turnbull Restoration team, from left to right: Joon Orione-Kim, Quotations & Inventory; Ryan Power, Woodworker; Keenan Whitmore, Metal Finisher; Sam Chappell, Master Gunsmith; Jake Schuler, Gunsmith; Jack Klapthor, Gunsmith; Mike Knowles, Gunsmith; Tom McArdle, Engraver

“It’s Tom’s attention to detail that attracts him to our work,” shares Doug. “He’s dedicated to the stories and intricacies of these pieces of American history.” Tom and Doug share in common their eye for detail, one of the many reasons for the success of their collaborations over the years.

Turnbull Restoration Master Gunsmith Sam Chappell

Master Gunsmith Sam Chappell

As Doug worked closely with Tom to flesh out the vision and details for this special restoration, Doug’s team of restorers, led by master gunsmith Sam Chappell, stood at the ready to bring this 130-year-old firearm back to life. For Sam, well into his second decade of service at Turnbull Restoration, it all starts with great communication, a relationship of trust and an unyielding commitment to detail. As Tom and Doug work together, “Tom can tell Doug something, and I know exactly what he’s talking about. Working next to Doug all these years and learning how to communicate, it’s almost like body language. Doug can feel a stock, do a double-take on a certain area, and I know right away what he’s thinking and what I need to do to make it right.”

“I like to know everything about the gun up-front,” Sam shares as he describes the nature of these tight collaborations. “It gives you a sense of satisfaction knowing the gun is going to fit Tom, and that it’s going to be comfortable for him. From the length of pull, to the cheek piece, to the pistol grip conversion, it’s made just for Tom.” The antique Winchester 1886’s restoration also includes special features like takedown conversion, upgrade to .50 Express, lever loop enlargement, and custom engraving. All this on top of the 1886’s color case hardened action and rust blued barrel. “Even though it’s a custom gun, it’s still correct for the age of the firearm,” Sam informs. “Winchester would have offered these features back in the day.”

Making Memories, Telling Stories and Leaving Your Mark

Tom intends to use his restored 1886, and that’s music to our ears. Especially to Doug, who always advocates using and enjoying restored firearms wherever appropriate. As Sam says, “It’s highly enjoyable putting life back into a gun that’s one hundred years old. I always think to myself, ‘if these guns could talk.’ I could sit here and listen all day. I’m sure they’ve seen a lot.” It’s just as gratifying to know that these restored guns will inspire new stories. “Tom’s going to make memories with his 1886,” Sam happily predicts. “And then some day another buyer will have a story behind that gun.”

Just as a gun’s story deserves to be heard, the Turnbull philosophy states that the original gunmaker’s story should be heard as well. That’s done by revering and respecting their original methods, and by having the same dedication to quality. In performing restorations Sam shares, “You get to actually see the craftsmanship that was put in 100 years ago. You realize that they were using hand tools, and that modern CNC machines can’t do this precise work. So we try to duplicate that.” Sam shares that wherever possible and appropriate, “I feel like I’m supposed to use hand tools to do this. It feels right.”

Just as he’s studied countless examples of the past masters’ work, Sam knows that our work will someday be subject to the same scrutiny. “We want to feel that sense of pride and be able to say ‘yeah, we did that.’”

Our sincere thanks go out to Tom Selleck for his kindness in allowing us to share this story.

Related Content:

Restoration Process in Photos (click each photo for descriptions)

The Original Winchester 1886 Receiver

Barrel Threading

Takedown Conversion

Magazine Tube Threading

Stock Duplicating

Stock Inletting

Stock Shaping

Ebony Inletting

Gold Inletting

Inlay Finishing

Final Wood Shaping and Sanding

Wood Pore Fill

Stock Staining

Custom Leather Covered Butt Pad Start

Stock Finishing

Custom Leather Covered Butt Pad Completion

Action Polishing

Stock Checkering

Custom Leather Covered Butt Pad Fitting


Final Assembly and Testing

After Restoration

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  1. Russ Tietje

    What a fantastic process- a great rifle for an iconic actor! I have an ‘86 rifle in takedown-circa 1896 in 45-90 WCF that I’ll have restored to its original condition someday.Thanks for keeping history alive!

    • Turnbull Restoration

      Thank you Russ! If we can be of service to you someday on your ’86, just give us a shout.

  2. Hal Beard

    Who do I contact to get a quote for a 1950 Winchester Model 70? It is a 270 caliber. Thank you.

  3. Robert Wilson

    Beautiful rifle. A work of art. I wish I was younger so I could learn checkering and engraving. I’m sure will treat it with care. You made the custom case and what kind of wood did you use? Thanks for showing us.

    • Turnbull Restoration

      Hi Robert, thanks for the kind words. Tom’s restored Winchester 1886 was presented in a beautiful oak and leather case reworked by David Bennett.

      • Britt Neyman

        Very beautiful work and the best craftsmen in the business!

  4. David Coenen

    Beautiful work of art then and amazing restoration job! You brought it back to life and it looks perfect!!

    • Turnbull Restoration

      Many thanks David! We never get tired of looking back on these photos. 🙂

  5. Jimmy Cain

    Work of art! You folks produce the most unique and beautiful case hardening work I’ve ever seen. I’m continually amazed.

    • Turnbull Restoration

      Many thanks Jimmy, for your kind words. We’re very fortunate to do what we love, and to work on exciting projects that are many and varied.

  6. Andrew Stockert

    Your work is beautiful! Do you have any tips, tricks or advice for a budding gunsmith? I,m a retired soldier getting my gunsmith training and have taken a liking to the old guns. Just something to be said about a gun that, whatever machining was done on a machine with leather belts and probably powered by a water wheel, then hand fit by a man with steady hands. I,m currently restoring an LC Smith 16 Ga Side by Side with Damascus Barrels made in 1899

    • Turnbull Restoration

      Hi Andrew, thank you for your kind words and thank you for your service. We applaud your gunsmith training and definitely wish you all the best. Feel free to call us if you have any specific questions. We’re happy to help get you pointed in the right direction.

  7. Charles R. Erps

    There comes a time when a tool made of wood and steel goes from being a tool to becoming a work of art. You Sir, make that magic happen. I am amazed at the quality, the beauty, and the workmanship each of your creations becomes at the hands of your craftsmen. I so much appreciate the fact that you duplicate the seemingly lost art of each of these processes. In this day of synthetic stocks, carbon fiber barrels, and cookie cutter firearms, it is refreshing to see that there are still craftsmen left in this country who do things “the old fashioned way” and take pride in the jobs they each do. Thank You for keeping these traditions alive.

    • Sara Turnbull

      Thank you for the praise, Mr. Erps! I’ll be sure to pass it along to our gunsmiths and Doug.

  8. Johnny

    Fantastic! Great job (as usual), grea actor, great rifle!
    Warm regards from Russia.

    • Sara Turnbull

      Thanks, Johnny! Hope you’re staying warm over there in Russia. It looks pretty Russian outside my window here in New York today!

  9. Michael S Jackson

    Absolutely fantastic! For years I have been threatening to have a handgun done by you and still can’t decide on one of my Peacemakers, 1911, or mid 20th century S&W. I’ll decide in the next couple of months!

    • Sara Turnbull

      Thank you! We’d be happy to work on a firearm for you. Looking forward to it!

  10. RobertB

    Beautiful restoration. Tom is the real deal. I met him and his wife several years ago, and he is the most down to earth guy

  11. Dan Hoffman

    True artistry that rivals artistry of any other form. Your folks have such a vast knowledge and skill base producing such quality of workmanship that it is amazing. I can’t imagine the skill needed for such intricate work.

    • Sara Turnbull

      Thank you, Dan!

  12. William R. Buchanan

    The workmanship on this gun is impeccable, as usual for you guys, and better than anything the Winchester Custom Shop ever did. But they were doing it 100 years ago so evolution has had a hand here.

    But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one Glaring Flaw that I saw on this gun. Many custom guns get the Owners Initials inlaid into the bottom of the receiver. This is personalization and is completely appropriate on a built to order high end custom gun.

    But,,, whoever chose the Font for the “TWS” inlay on this gun needed to be overrode, because it sticks out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t go with this gun in any way. IMHO it should have been something closer to the Font on the Engraved Brass Inlay on the stock, or at lest some period correct Font from the late 19th Century time period.

    I know I’m not the only one who has seen this. But if “the Magnum” is OK with it who am I to criticize?

  13. James Rush

    Just beautiful… I am a poor man and never could afford anything more than a common hunting rifle, but this type of work reaches deep into your soul and pulls out of you… Mike Venturino told me about Mr. Turnbull a few years ago and I started following him. I highly advise anyone who loves wonderful work like this to follow him.
    Thank you Mr Turnbull for such beautiful work…. james

  14. Charles Enlow

    You guys deserve the reputation you have built, with the help of admiring clients and gun scribes and photographers. But I want to pick a nit for a moment: the checkering is well done, but there is a tad too much finish in/on it; shouldn’t be shiny. I have built a bunch of custom rifles myself. I, like you, checker after I finish, but I put just a couple of coats of finish on the checkering, working it in with an old toothbrush and carefully wiping it off outside the edges of the pattern. Because my finish is cut in half with mineral spirits, most of the stuff winds up in, rather than on, the wood of the pattern. Some of my rifles have been featured in American Rifleman and Gun Digest. Some went to paying clients, but some also to kids and grandkids, a labor of love. I started long ago, because I didn’t have enough money to buy the kinds of guns I wanted, and continued because no factory gun (and most customs) wouldn’t satisfy…

    • Turnbull Restoration

      Thanks for your kind words, for sharing your wood finishing experiences, and for passing down your work to your kids and grandkids.


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