Great thread and pics of what I consider the "Holy Grail of American Hunting Rifles"!
The 71 is a deluxe in any form!
Ditto. About time I got up to speed on the fraternal twin brother of the Winchester Model 70.
The long-tang/short-comb began to peter out in 1940, as parts inventories got used up and depleted during WWII.
Apparently Winchester had decided to start making the short tang by late 1937, but still had some long-tang receivers left over.
From 1935 to late 1937, both the Deluxe and Standard Rifles were all long-tang/short-comb:"This is from serial number 1 through serial numbers c. 12,500, with a very few long tangs appearing as late as serial numbers c.17,000."
(pre-1941 for the last of the long-tang, pre-1942 for the better QA, though all are of same metallurgy)
After WW-II the Deluxe and Standard were all short-tang/long-comb,
and might not have been as carefully fitted and finished, on average, as the earlier rifles,
according to the below excerpt from here:https://www.leverguns.com/articles/model71_info.htm
Winchester wanted the stocking and the strength of the stocking - I emphasize the latter, the strength of the stocking - to be absolutely right. They wanted the Model 71 to be built like a battleship (this was also the period of the ultimate battleships), but not to handle like a battleship. The original, "long tang" Model 71 was their first "go" at this. They wanted dampened recoil, excellent balance, and absolutely NO stock cracking!
From the first manufacture in late 1935 through late (September) 1937, the Model 71 was the "long tang, short comb" model. This is from serial number 1 through serial numbers c. 12,500, with a very few long tangs appearing as late as serial numbers c.17,000. Why the spread on the end date? It is because, as always with Winchester, available parts were used up to fill new orders. There is no clear, absolute cut-off point. The upper tangs of these earlier guns are 3 7/8" in length. The later (post-September, 1937) Model 71's have the "short tang, long comb" configuration. The tang is 1" shorter.
Collectors love the original "long tang, short comb" variation for at least two reasons. (1) It is the "rare" variation, and rarity affects collecting value. It is also the "original" variation. (2) The checkering, finish quality, wood-to-steel fit, etc. are all superior on these early rifles, when compared with the postwar (1945-1957) Model 71's. BUT, the superior "build quality" (factor 2) is NOT because these early rifles are "long tang, short comb" configuration rifles. It is because they are PRE-WAR rifles. The drop-off in build quality (which is not tremendous; the 1945-1957 Model 71's are still excellent rifles) takes place when production is resumed after World War II. You can see the transition in the (relatively) few rifles finished during the war (doubtless from existing parts). I believe that the magical moment in time passed, when many of the Winchester production people either did not come back after 1945 or returned to a different business & production climate.I hope you are being patient with me, as I am only now coming to why Winchester changed to the "short tang, long comb" configuration.
This is my own view, based on handling many different Model 71's. You will see much "received wisdom"/uncritical praise for the original "long tang, short comb" version. I believe that is due to the better finish & attention to detail. I very humbly & respectfully DEFY anyone to shoot a long string with the short comb (necessitated by the vaunted long tang!), in comparison with the longer, second style comb, and tell me that the first version handles better. It doesn't - the end.
For the Winchester people in 1937, the handling of the Model 71 was everything. Why would you buy a 71 over a 70? The levergun handled better (especially when compared to a scoped 70); that's why. Fantastic handling was the 71's raison d'etre. So, when reports from the field came back on the original version of the stocking, the Winchester folk needed to make a choice. Do we really need that long tang to reinforce the neck, as was done on quality Purdey or Holland & Holland dangerous game double rifles? Or will the 71 work with a more conventional tang, so that we can put on a longer comb? In the result, they went with the latter, and, I believe, rightly so. Also, the "short rifle" (mistakenly termed "carbine") 20" version appeared in 1937 (and lasted only until 1947). Consider the appearance of that "short rifle" with a long tang & short comb. Ooooh! Aesthetics is at least something, after all.Therefore, I said, that "the pick of the litter" on the Model 71's are those rifles (and "short rifles") made from 1937 through 1941. This group has the rifles with both the superior stock design and the superior pre-war finishing of wood, metal, fit, etc. I regard those rifles as absolutely the apogee of Winchester's big game lever rifles.
There are two very good analyses of the Model 71 that I highly recommend to you. You can still order them, as back issues or photocopies, from Wolfe Publications. Perhaps you already have the first: Ken Waters, "Classic Rifles: Winchester Model 71," in "Rifle," September-October, 1976, pages 51-53. Ken Waters (the model of what a gun writer should be!) includes in that article a very thorough discussion of the mechanical changes that make the Model 71 superior to the Model 1886. (In answer to your other question, there were, to my knowledge, no mechanical changes that accompanied the change-over from the "long tang, short comb" to the "short tang, long comb" c. September, 1937 and thereafter.
The second article is Jim Scott, "Model 71: Golden Jubilee Winchester," in "Rifle" also, May-June, 1974, pages 16-19 & 52-53. This second article has many very helpful photos (by Les Gard), which show the differences between the "long Tang, short comb" and "short tang, long comb" versions. Please remember, though, that all pre-war 71's are not "long tangs."