I've shot both the 45-90 wcf and sharps. What rifles is it? It's a big round, kills on 1 end and wounds on the other.
Ammo is actually pretty easy to come by thanks to the BPCR adn Cowboy action shooting popularity. Quite a few bigger suppliers like Midway and Cabela's carry 45-90wcf ammo and there are a lot of BPCR speciality loaders also. It ain't cheap 45-80$ for a box of 20.
If your going to do a lot of shooting, reload. It's a very easy cartridge to load, you can actually use 45-70 reloading dies and raise them in the reloader to fit, the 45-90 case is a bit longer than a 45-70.
That gun was made somewhere around 1894, record keeping back than wasn't the best and things got lost once in a while so actuallt dating guns like this may not be 100% accurate but there pretty close. I use a few sites to see if they give the same dates for this reason. These 2 both said 1894 so i would say thats right.
But they have made reproductions of that model over the years. Best thing to do would be to call up winchester. They have records that they are usually all too happy to share and they can look up any info for you.
Winchesters of the late 1800's had serial numbers, tho the dating of those numbers is more an art than a science. The first serials were very lightly done so with normal use they would wear off or become unreadable, but in the very early 1890's they started stamping the serials deeper.
All the Winchester made replicas of the 1886 were small quantity limited edition runs of 1000 or less with special serial numbers for those guns, all sn's started at 001, 0001 or x001 in the replica's. The reciever would be the easiest way to tell, these guns were case colored while the replicas are case colored also it would be much duller and worn on an origional. most older gentlemen who grew up in the early 1920 or 30's could tell you if it's circa 1900 case color or repro.
They did a run of 500 guns in the 1886 take down model in 45-90 a few years back.
You can get brass from Midway and and reloading is easy, a 45-90 can take 90 grain of ffg black powder with a 400 plus grain bullet. I have 45-70 and 45-120 rounds that I shoot. I find that there are a lot of rumors about how bad these rifles kick. Well I guess that I must have a strange set. I have 2 Gibbs bolt action 45-70, 2 NEF barreled 45-70 that are being re-bored to 45-90 and one Sharps-Armi 45-120. I think they are great rifles and you can take the 45-120 to long range shoot of greater than 500 yards easily. Oh and I am having on Gibbs cut to 45-90 also... Oh and I shoot nitro powder in all my rifles, too lazy to clean up the black powder.... Oh and you can shoot 45-70 in the 45-90 in most cases..
Old Western Scrounger is good for old and hard to get ammo like 8x57j.
The reason so many 45-70, 45-90,45-110 ect rifles kick so bad is because of the poor ergonomics of the gun maximize the affect and feel of the recoil. They usually have alot of stock drop, little or no recoil padding, and poorly shaped buttplates/buttstock heels.
Weight of the rifle has a big effect on felt recoil. too. Lots of BPCR target rifles have heavy barrels and weigh upwards of 12 pounds. For a cavalry carbine or general purpose military round though, 45-70 makes the most sense.
I've loaded 460 grain hardcast conicals over 100 grains of black powder in my .50 cal flintlock a few times...guess that makes it a 50-100? The recoil is uncomfortable in a skinny 7.5 pound rifle. In exchange for the punishment, bore leading, and increased touchhole wear, you get a nice repeatable rainbow trajectory that I'd trust to hit and kill at ranges beyond that of an inline shooting sabots.