Model 1873 Saddle Ring Carbine in .44-40 with standard features and some interesting history. Early 3rd Model in the 117,000 range. Made in 1883. This is without a doubt, the best 73 src we've listed on the site since we started it in 2004 and perhaps the nicest I've had 25 years of collecting. That's not to say there aren't better ones, there are, but this is really getting up there for such an early gun. As some of my New England friends used to say, this little 1873 carbine is "wicked good!" You just don't come across ones like this very often. As many of you already know, carbines were designed and used as utility guns, especially for use on horseback. Compared to their brothers in other configurations like the sporting rifle, most of these lived outdoors and saw hard use both on the American Frontier and around the world. This was especially true of early production guns. Somehow,this particular carbine has lived an exceptionally sheltered life and its nice enough with so little wear, that its almost right out of the crate.
History: Yes, there's a little history on this one as there was a pretty good trail of bread crumbs left for us to follow. This carbine recently came from the estate of General Edward Martin (1879-1967). Mr. Martin also served as Governor of Pennsylvania and two terms in the US Senate. He is one of the few Americans to have fought in four wars, the Span-American War, 1916 Mexican Punitive Expedition, World War One, and World War Two. During his spare time, Mr. Martin was also an avid collector old firearms, autographs, and books on history. He most likely acquired this carbine sometime between World War II and 1967 when he passed away. From there it spent the past 40 years in his son's possession, a prominent Washington DC-based Attorney who lived to the age of 93. Unfortunately, Mr. Martin's son had no heirs and his collection was auctioned off.
Would love to say I won this from the auction that handled Mr. Martin's estate auction who also had a Henry and Volcanic Carbine, but bailed out too early. The pictures I had to go by told me it was more a mixture of blue and patina. Two weeks later, by sheer luck, I stumbled across it on a dealer's table (the winning bidder) at the Louisville show. Boy, was I wrong about this one! What I had thought was patina was a thin layer of old grease over a gun that looked virtually unused aside from a little flaking. Not surprisingly, along with my risen expectations, so had the price.
OK, so now that we've established who has owned it for the last 40-60 years, let's keep going back! As you will note from pictures, there are some English proofs on the left side of the frame and barrel that state "Not English Make". At some point, perhaps 1920's, it was either brought or shipped to the UK, most likely from Australia (we'll get to that part next). One of my customers from the UK has informed us that this style proof was used during the early 20th century up to 1928...so it came to the UK around WW1 or the 1920's is our guess. The proofing was performed at a London Proof house. This involved discharging the weapon and is one of the only times this 1873 was ever fired, if any more.
The next piece of the puzzle and how we know this carbine came from Australia. There is a tiny mark found on the bottom of the frame just in back of the forewood, "JR 10095". This mark is so small, you almost don't see it but there was only one person in the world who used this marking on their Winchesters. His name was James Rosier and he owned a store at 66 Elizabeth Street in Melbourne, Australia from around 1880-1920. Rosier was one of only a handful of dealers who marked the guns they retailed. All Winchesters he sold as new bear his marking and some type of inventory or invoice #. Rosier bought and sold quite a number of Model 1873's to farmers, gold miners, ranchers, and even law enforcement all across the state of Victoria in Southeastern Australia during the late 19th century. He even supplied several dozen 1873 SRC's to one of Australia's most notorious jails, the Pentridge Prison in Melbourne. In fact, there are several documented Rosier-supplied 73 SRC's with Pentridge history in very close proximity to this carbine's serial number in the 117,000 range with one less than 10 numbers away. A lot of folks think Winchester was an American Company that sold their repeating rifles to be used in the American West. Its true, they did play an important role in the American West. However, we'll also contend that much of the true history and historical significance of Winchester has been lost to our romantic notions of the American West through decades of countless movies and novels. Winchester was quite simply much bigger than this... a true world-class gun manufacturer that shipped their products throughout the world (especially the Models 1866, 1873, and 1892). Perhaps arguably, the Microsoft of their day!
Lastly, we contacted the Buffalo Bill Historical Center which houses the original Winchester shipping records. The were able to trace this 1873 back to its initial shipment (which probably went either straight to Rosier or a large Distributor and then Rosier) from the Winchester warehouse and confirm its configuration as a carbine:
On your model 1873, serial number 117476:
Date In: 2-22-1883
Date Shipped: 2-27-1883
Order Number: 2725
They were also able to add the following information:
"I looked at the page before and the page after Win. 1873, SN 117476 and counted just 23 guns in Order 2725 ."
Records Specialist Cody Firearms Museum
That said, that's all we know about this gun. Most antique guns have survived with very little history and while this one is far from complete, it is quite exciting to have such a nice example that can be traced back to 3 identified owners (Mr. Rosier, Mr, Martin, and Mr. Martin's Son) and having lived on 3 different continents, 3 countries, and at least 3 major cities its lived/visited over the past 125 years.
Condition: NRA Antique Excellent Plus. 100% original down to the smallest screw. Original 3 piece cleaning rod kit are still in the buttstock. The frame has 90-93% strong original blue with the balanced flaked and turned to a smooth patina. Note: The blue loss is primarily due to natural aging rather than wear with bulk towards the forward part of the frame and left sideplate. The loading port has 98% bright fire blue intact. High wear areas like the Bolt and firing pin still show 95-98% original blue. Both the hammer and lever still retain most of their original case colors mixed with old dried grease. Barrel and magazine tube are about as good as you'll ever find...98% bright shiny original blue with a few light speckles of patina from age. What's even more amazing are the barrel bands which are the highest points along the sides of the barrel and usually show significant amounts of finish loss. Not so on this one...the best you'll ever see still showing 97-98% strong original blue intact. Original ladder rear sight shows 95% original blue with hardly any slide wear. Even the dust cover rail on the top of the frame has most of its original blue. The screws have never been turned on this gun...they are perfect. Actually, let me take that back...the sideplate screw was turned once (1920's English Proofing house?). The wood is as nice as you'll find on a carbine showing just a handful of minor surface blemishes since 1883. The wood retains nearly all of its original oil finish with no chips, cracks, or repairs. Wood to metal fit is PERFECT, none better...its never been off the gun! Mechanics are like new and bore is mint!