This is a rare engraved Model 1873 Winchester short rifle in Caliber 44-40. Its special order features include a 20" octagon barrel, set trigger, and about $2.00 worth of Engraving. Serial number is in the 500,122B which dates it to the year 1896. Most of these short rifles were shipped to Texas-Mexican Border during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. George Madis probably knew more about Mexican shipped Winchesters than anyone...he termed these short rifles "The Border Model" in The Winchester Book. I've also since learned from another Winchester export expert that during the 1800's these 1873 short rifles could be purchased with light engraving (about $2.00 worth) for the same price as a standard 73 carbine.
Condition-wise, like most Mexican Border Winchesters, this little 1873 is never going to win any beauty contests. Its lived a hard life and looks like many of the engraved Mexican guns George Madis shows in his book. It shows hard use and plenty of bad storage. The metal has good markings and all the engraving is visible and not worn, however, there is a great deal of scattered pitting, possibly from blood. Surprisingly though, there is still 15% original blue remaining mainly at the back of the frame and around the sideplates. There are also small traces of original blue in the protected areas of the barrel and magazine tube. In spite of the pitting, the engraving is still quite good and typical of $2.00 worth, it has simple scrollwork with partial coverage and without dense vignettes or fancy reliefs. The punch dot reliefs are mainly inside of the scrollwork. The left sideplate has a nice round panel with a game scene consisting of a large deer or buck standing in an open field. The outer edges of the frame are borderline engraved...our simply outlined without. In addition to the frame and sideplates, the dust cover. brass loading block and forend cap are also lightly engraved. The wood shows a lot of grain in the stock from living in a dry climate...still solid with no cracks or repairs. The forewood is the correct short type....like most forewoods on short rifles, they spent a lot of time on horseback, this one was pretty beat up with a couple of cracks and a couple of significant chips...after many hours of work, we were able to save the foreend and it now looks really good...the cracks were mended and chips were repaired. As you can see in the photos, its shorter than a standard rifle measuring 8 3/8". Also, note the placement of the rear sight which is just forward of the receiver. Being so close to the receiver, Winchester had to locate the caliber marking on the left flat of the octagon barrel (see photo) which reads "44 WCF". This is the same procedure Winchester used for marking the caliber on rifles with 7 leaf rear sights. You may also notice that in spite of being .44 Caliber, it has a stepped frame...this is also correct for many special order shorter than standard 73 rifles.....you will usually find these .44 cal stepped frames on trapper carbines, short rifles, carbine in the high 300,000 ranges, and very late 73's usually over 650,000 serial ranges. The set trigger still works quite well. Bore is still in good condition with a few scattered pits....the last owner of this rifle was still shooting it and claimed he regularly picked off gophers from his back door. However, we highly recommend you don't try this given the age of this rifle and its rarity. It is being sold as a collectible only.
This particular carbine was part of a consecutively numbered 4 gun shipment of 1873's all sharing the same order number that very likely went to Texas or Mexico. The first rifle in this group, no. 500119 letters just like this gun, a 20" short rifle with set trigger and $2.00 worth of engraving. The second gun, no. 500, 120 is a standard carbine. The third rifle 500, 121 which is consecutive to this rifle is also exactly like this gun, a 20" short rifle with set trigger and $2.00 of factory engraving. Then there is the fourth gun..this gun, no. 500, 122..... just like the other two guns in this shipment, it is a 20" short rifle with set trigger, about $2.00 worth of engraving but its entry shows up as blank in the factory ledgers...obviously, the clerk forgot to put ditto's corresponding to the above entry. This is always a frustrating part of Winchester collecting as ledgers do contain mistakes...a very obvious mistake was made in this case and once you see this rifle, it will take you about 5 seconds to see that this is a legitimate factory engraved short rifle. It's a complete NO-BRAINER! Nonetheless, for those collectors out there who live and die by what those records say, this gun is obviously not for you. However, I will guarantee this rifle's configuration and engraving to be Factory original. I realize there is are a lot of modern engravers out there applying their work to old Winchesters which eventually ends up being advertised as original. First off, given the condition of this rifle, I seriously doubt any engraver would be able to apply his craft with this much pitting. Second, why would someone want to engrave a pitted gun? 3rd, most modern engravers can't duplicate original Winchester factory engraving...as much as they try, very few are capable of matching the precise and lightness of the Master engravers of the 19th century. Winchester employed several very talented engravers during the late 19th century, mainly Nimschke and the Ulrich's. While they were very good, their game scenes are usually not quite anatomically correct but rather, almost cartoon-like depictions of deer and elk. Typically, most modern engravers don't pick up on this and do these scenes a little too well. Finally, once you see the original blue on the back of the receiver mixing through the engraving, you know this is original. If you've ever spent hours gawking at factory engraved Winchesters in RL Wilson books or auction catalogs and wanted to own one but couldn't afford those $10,000-$35,000 price tags, here is an economical alternative for a very rare Factory engraved short rifle that's just as original and really did earn its keep out West!