This is a Winchester Model 1873 deluxe rifle with some exciting special order options...a couple are quite rare including a full matted barrel. Matted barrels were checkered along the top of the sighting plane to reduce glare from sunlight. Caliber is 44-40 with 24" barrel and full magazine. Special order features include a pistol grip stock, 3X Deluxe Burl Walnut, Checkered stocks, a case colored frame, set trigger, shotgun butt, full Matted Barrel, with a sporting leaf rear sight (marked 1873), and globe front sight. It comes with a letter from the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum verifying all its features and special order options. Antique serial number is in the 446,000 range. Made in 1893. This particular was discovered in South Africa several years ago by an American during a business trip. This was back before this country passed a strict set of cultural heritage laws preventing the export of its historical past. While it lived a pretty hard life in Africa, the good news is that it survived with all of its features intact. It has English Proofs (London to be exact) on the barrel and frame so this would have shipped initially to a dealer in London back in 1893.
Most of you out there already know that Full Matted Barrels are pretty rare. This feature was almost never ordered on the Model 1873. Once in a while, you'll one on a Model 1886 and if you're lucky, a Model 1876. To my knowledge, nobody has ever been able to tabulate all the special order features on the 720,000 Model 1873 which would be an enormous task and an act of Sainthood for us Winchester collectors. However, the former curator of the BBHC, Mr. Madaus, did just exactly that on the Model 1876 which was slightly more manageable (63,000) which he reveals in his book on the Model 1876 Winchester. In all calibers, there were only 200 1876 rifles that will letter with a Matted Barrel. In 24 years of collecting, I've seen a lot of 73's with all kinds special order features but can recall seeing just one other Model 1873 with a full matted barrel (if my memory is correct, the barrel on that one was cut). My guess would be this feature was probably more common on exports. While existing factory records cannot disclose shipping destinations, with the London Proving House marks on the barrel of this rifle gives us a pretty fair indication it was originally shipped to a dealer in the British Isles. From there, it could have either been purchased by a British Hunter who took it to Africa (Africa was a great draw for many British hunters in search of adventure and game trophies.) or been forwarded to a South African dealer...as there were a number gun dealers in the major coastal towns during the 19th century that sold Winchesters.
Overall Condition is NRA Antique Good. Over the years, I've met collectors along the Southern border who collect Winchester who use the phrase "Mexican Mint Condition" to describe a Winchester or Colt that we would pass off as being as good working order. That's pretty much how here...its all there and intact and it looks pretty good. That's saying a lot for an African Winchester. These don't show extreme use but tend to show varying degrees of neglect and abuse...the most common thing being broken stocks. This isn't a cream-puff by our standards but its a pretty good deluxe rifle for one that came from Africa. The case colors on the frame are a mixture grey patina and case colors which have faded and worn to silver over the years. Loading port still shows some nice fire blue. The markings and edges are in excellent shape. The barrel has all of its checkered matting in near perfect conditon...still sharp and crisp. Overall, the barrel and tube are a light grey to brown patina and show some partial cleaning in places. The rear sight is the original sporting leaf ladder sight...just like what you see on the Model 1876 and 1886, only its marked specially marked "1873" at the top of the ladder. The globe front shows some cleaning but its all there and intact with its original insert. The nice thing about this type of front sight is that you can change out the bead by simply removing the wedge located horizontally along the base and drop in a new one. Check out the Winchester address on top of the matted barrel...the markings have 100 years of dirt in them but they're perfect! Also note, that the Caliber marking is located on the left side octagon instead of the top of the barrel. Mechanically, the action is in very good shape. The lever stays up just fine, the firing pin still indexes, and the single set trigger still works just fine. The bore however is another story. It has some bright spots with good rifling but its dark in other places. I would grade it Poor overall. The deluxe wood is 3x with some nice figure with sunburst and rays running through the marbled layers of burl....especially strong on the right side. The pistol grip has the ebony insert at the bottom. Wood has been refinished and the checkering has been re-done. The forend looks great but the checkering on the stock has some of the "V" pattern checkered over into an extra point. Instead of being a "V", it looks like a "W". A clever woodworker could probably restore this with some splices but its never really bothered me....as it looks pretty good and its part of this gun's history. Only flaws in the wood are some small checks in the stock burl near the buttplate and a small crack in the left side of the forend...which isn't bad and could be easily repaired if desired. This rifle has been in my personal collection for the past 5 years. I've enjoyed every minute owning this great rifle and while its tough to sell something that probably can't be replaced, a growing family has reduced my collecting budget to where I've decided to place this one the market.