This is a scarce example of the Colt Burgess Lever Action Rifle. Standard 25-1/2" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate with trapdoor for cleaning rod. Caliber is 44-40. Production on this rifle was limited to just over 6,400 units manufactured from 1883 to January 1885. While the rifle was well built and aesthetically pleasing, Colt's leap from the revolver business into the lever action rifle market struck a sour chord with Colt's Connecticut neighbor, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. To say Winchester wasn't happy about the Colt's new Lever Action design, which bore a resemblance to their Model 1873 and was even chambered in the Winchester caliber 44-40, would probably be an understatement. While the threat of the Spencer Rifle had all but disappeared by the mid-1880's, the lever action market had heated up considerably with competition from two New Haven-based mfrs, Whitney Arms and Marlin. Having Colt taking another slice from their market share was more than Winchester could take so the company went on the offensive. Two could play at this game. Winchester's response to Colt was to let it be known that they intended to introduce a new line-up of revolvers which they backed up by producing several working models. One model was based on the Colt's flagship model, the Single Action Army, only it could be produced more cheaply. Realizing that both companies would be hurting each other's bottom lines, a meeting was held between Colt and Winchester in 1884 where it was agreed that Colt would discontinue the Burgess rifle in exchange for Winchester dropping their revolver line. While the short-lived Burgess rifle was dropped, this didn't keep Colt out of the rifle business. The company quickly changed gears and developed the Colt Pump Action Rifle which it offered in small, medium, and large framed models in a multitude of different calibers.
Despite its limited production, a number of Colt Burgess Rifles reached the American West. A number were sold by Western-based dealers such as Curry & Brothers of San Francisco, CA and JP Lower of Denver, CO. JP Lower's assessment of the Burgess was penned in a letter to Colt in which he both praised and expressed its limitations which was largely the smaller caliber:
The Repeating Rifle I like very much, and have no doubt it will make its own reputation if there is any demand for such...as I have already advertised them in about 6 or 8 newspapers I may stir up at least some enquiries about them--but business is exceedingly dull hereabouts....and if you take into consideration the fact of the easy procuring of Government 45/70 Ctgs. and the desire for long range shooting, you would do better to make [a gun] to compete with the Burgess, Marlin & Kennedys.... Page 200, Firearms of the American West 1866-1894 by Garavaglia and Worman.
There is also strong photographic evidence that least one Burgess found its way into the hands of Texas Ranger Ernest E. Rogers as he appears to be holding a carbine in the group of Rangers from Company D. Colt also presented Buffalo Bill "William Cody" with an engraved Burgess Rifle. Still, others were shipped abroad. Had this rifle been produced a little longer, it would have been interesting to see if Colt would have expanded the line to include a large frame version as it did a few years later with the Lightning Rifle.
This one is in NRA Antique Fine Plus Condition. The receiver has 65% original blue with the balance turned to a smooth brown patina. You can see some nice wavy forging striations across the slab-sided frame...similar to ones you find on the Smith and Wesson Schofield Revolver or early Winchester 1873's. Hammer shows 60% case colors while the lever looks like it has about 35-30% mottled colors on the profiles and stronger colors on the inner surfaces. Top inside of lever is stamped "Burgess Patent". Bolt shows 70% bright original nitre blue. Barrel and magazine have 50% original blue which I would describe as "age-darkened". Top barrel flat has a perfect Colt address with numerous patent dates which run from 1873 to 1882. Original Colt Rear Sight with a period correct Lyman Hunting Front Sight. The end of the magazine tube appears to have had a little work done on it as the screw holding the end cap appears to be a replacement that is somewhat over-sized. Original walnut wood is in Fine+ Condition with nice wood to metal fit. The forend is remarkably solid as most Burgess rifles have significant cracks and breakout sections of wood on the right side where the forearm is machined very thin to accomodate the loading port mechanism. This rifle is one of the few I've seen with an original forearm that hasn't cracked. Excellent bore is bright with strong rifling. Good Action. Nice Fine Plus Condition example of the only Lever Action Rifle Colt ever built.