This is a very early Winchester Model 1873 saddle ring carbine with raised thumbprint dust cover and an exceptionally three digit low serial number in the 900 range. The 1873 was built around Winchesters new 44 Caliber cartridge with central priming. While center-fire cartridges seem normal to us today, when this carbine was shipped in 1874, it was the most advanced repeating rifle in the world. Not only could a 73 carbine fire 13 shots in as many seconds like its predecessor the Model 1866, but the shell casings could now be reloaded and used over and over again. This gave the owner of this repeating gun a distinct advantage as he could now be hundreds of miles from the nearest town and still be able to reload his own cartridges.
Here is a chance to own one of the very first ones made that was out in there somewhere in the world a full two years before Custer's demise at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876! Saddle ring carbines were designed as to be short, light, in a military-style configuration for use as an all-purpose utility gun and suitable for use on horseback. Most were used hard and lived outdoors where they were poorly sheltered from the elements unlike they pampered brother, the sporting rifle. The result is that the survival rates for carbines, especially early ones are quite low. Today, there are probably no more than a handful of known early First Model carbines with lower serial numbers than this one in existence.
Even more amazing is that a good portion of the the original shipping records still exist for these old Winchesters now housed at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody Wyoming. This gun letters with the Cody museum just as it was 133 years ago:
- Entered the Warehouse on April 30, 1874
- Listed as a CARBINE with
- 20" BARREL
- Shipped from the warehouse on June 5, 1874
- Order Number 1492
- Was shipped as part of an order of 6 Model 1873 carbines.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Good with the metal turned to a soft grey patina mixed here and there with some very light peppered corrosion. Lots of wear on the corners and edges. Original raised thumbprint dust cover (scarce, often lost, and only used on the first 2500 Model 1873's) has worn checkering but is all there and intact. Barrel address is worn but still partially legible including King's 1866 Improvement and Henry's 1860 Patent. Upper tang reads "MODEL 1873" and serial number is clearly legible on the lower tang. Original sights include the early style short rear folding rear sight w/1,3, and 500 yard graduations. The front sight is also the early style mounted to the front barrel band. It also has the early style screw-in magazine tube plug, early side-plates with small-head screw, original saddle ring, and swooped back finger lever. Mechanically, it still retains is early style bolt with sleeved firing pin as well as the early type screw-in lever latch. Original brass loading block is unmarked...also correct as Winchester only offered this gun in one caliber and didn't begin marking them with a 44 Caliber designation until 10 years later. Carbine style buttstock with sliding trapdoor for the cleaning rods...now long gone. The wood is in good shape showing plenty of wear, some weathering to the grain, but solid with no noteworthy cracks or repairs. Some long ago cowboy scratched his initials into the left side of the forend, "JV". In spite of the wear and usage, the mechanics on this carbine are still quite good...the firing pin still indexes and hammer works well on both full and half cock. Even more of a surprise is the bore which is in VG+ to Fine condition. Whoever owned it knew how to take care of a bore. A rare little 73 src that you rarely see with the raised thumbprint dust cover. These are probably even harder to find than an early flatside Model 1866 carbine.