This is a very colorful old First Model 1873 rifle that almost certainly saw use on the American frontier. You can tell just by looking at it that it came from an arid climate as the metal has aged to a soft grey that's molting over to a brown patina while the wood shows lots of grain. This rifle was built for the American Frontier as it was the first repeating rifle made by Winchester that used reloadable central fire cartridges aka 44-40 or 44 Winchester Center Fire. Unlike other early repeaters, with a set of tools, you could reload your own shells without having to purchase new one....which was gave a huge advantage if you were out in the middle of nowhere hundreds of miles from the nearest town. This particular gun has an early Antique Serial Number is in the 2800 range. This dates it to early 1875 Winchester production making it one of the few 73's that were out in the world prior to the Battle of Little Bighorn in the summer of 1876.
Features: This rifle has the very desirable octagon barrel in the standard 24" length, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate with trapdoor. It was ordered with one special order feature...a single set adjustable trigger that still works properly. Interestingly enough, over the years, we've seen quite a number of set triggers on early 73's in contrast to later production 2nd and 3rd models. This rifle has some great early features which are truly unique to early production Model 1873's. For starters, it has the mortised dust cover with checkered oval thumbprint. Of course the frame has an external hammer screw with the lower tang screws located beneath. The lever is held by a threaded latch and is swept back behind the trigger, just like the Henry Rifle and Model 1866, as there was no safety block on these early guns. Another early feature is the sideplates use a smaller screw to secure them to the frame as well as an externally mounted loading port screw. The magazine tube caps on early guns actually thread into the end of the tube. If you look closely at the bottom toe of the buttplate, you may also notice that its noticeably thicker than what you'd encounter on a 2nd or 3rd Model 1873. Finally, the rear sight is the shorter style with checkered knurlings on the side...later sights are longer and use simpler serrations. In the 1870's Winchester devoted a lot of time in production of these early rifles towards quality. All in all, the 1st Model 1873 is a pretty special rifle not just because of its place in history, or that its the earliest part of a 50 year production run, but collectors really enjoy all of the interesting features that went into to building these rifles. I was once told by a very knowledgeable collector that it actually took about 45 hours of hand labor to build these First model 73's as opposed to about 30 hours years later after production was stream-lined.
Condition: This gun really has a story to tell showing lot of wear and character. It was definitely carried and used as a utility rifle almost certainly in a dry Western Climate...or even Mexico. Still, the best part of this Winchester is that its not completely worn out...but a good solid representation of a Western-used rifle should look like. Overall, it grades to NRA Antique Good to Good+. The metal is worn grey that is slowly subsiding to a very light brown patina with original blue hiding in the protected areas....i.e. around the sideplates, screws, etc. If you look closely, you can still see silvery remains of what's left of the original case colors on the hammer. The metal has nice markings and good edges throughout and is still smooth/not pitted with some dings and scratches from every day use as a tool rather than a hunting rifle. There are little dings and tap marks on the dust cover and around the sights where the original owner was trying to make adjustments. The wood is remarkably solid for a 1st Model. Like I said earlier, the texture of the walnut is grainy and open demonstrating it came from a climate that was considerably drier than what we experience on the East Coast like Item #8228. The forearm shows some saddle wear and minor chips. There was a slight hairline crack along the left side near the barrel (the wood is very thin in this spot) that has been expertly mended and hardly noticeable. Good wood to metal fit that has not been sanded. Action still cycles and bore is Very Good with strong deep early style rifling. All in all, a very decent example of an early production 1st Model 1873 rifle.