This is one of the very first Model 1873 Deluxe rifles ever produced at the Winchester factory in 1874. The serial number is in the 400 range...so early that the factory letter lists it as firing a 2-1/2" target group...only a few of the earliest 1873's will letter with this type of information. This is one of the most well-optioned Winchester 1873 rifles I've ever seen for such an early production gun. Special order features include a rare 30" octagon barrel (the longest length available back in 1874), set trigger, case color hardened finish, checkered wood which of course came with deluxe grade walnut.
Many of the special order features on this rifle are SO EARLY that they actually pre-date patterns and configurations commonly accepted by Winchester collectors as standard on 1st and 2nd models. For example, this rifle was within about the first twenty guns Winchester ever checkered. Its unique "W" shaped pattern is probably one of just a tiny handful of early rifles checkered this way. Also check out the 30" barrel with the magazine tube retaining band sitting way back...exactly where it would be on a standard 24" rifle. This was actually standard on early 30" Model 1866 and 1873 rifles from 1872 into 1874. See the 1873 Chapter in the Winchester Book by George Madis which illustrates a similar rifle with a three digit number.
Beyond the special order features are another overlapping group of early production features which only show up on the very earliest first models which for simplicity, we'll just list:
--Raised Thumbprint Checkered Dust Cover (Time-consuming and expensive to make, these were used on 1873's up to the 2,600 serial range)
--Reversed Rear Sight (Winchester used Model 1866 barrel on the first approx. 1,300 rifles. In order to fit into the pre-existing dovetail sight slots, the rear sight had to be installed backwards with the apertures cut on the opposite face of the buckhorn.)
--Squared-Brass Loading Block (found only on very early 1st Models)
--Rounded Front to Frame ahead of Loading block (found on earliest 1st Models)
For more details, please see captions provided in the photos.
As for condition, this rifle grades to NRA Antique Very Good Plus which is on par with most 1st Model Deluxe rifles that have managed to escape what has in recent years become almost a plague of cosmetic restorations on these historic weapons. This rifle is an attic gun in nearly "as-found" condition. Clear markings throughout. The receiver still shows some silvery faded remains of case colors with the balance worn to a smooth light gray patina. Loading port exhibits strong traces of bright fire blue around the edges. Barrel and magazine tube show original blue in protected areas. Wood is in Very Good condition with nearly all of its original checkering intact which has never been freshened or re-cut. The action works nicely as does the adjustable single set trigger. Fine bore with no rings or bulges.
This is a very special Winchester Deluxe Rifle which pre-dates the first 1 of 1,000 rifle by nearly 3,000 serial numbers. In some ways, this rifle is a one-gun collection as it has not only a desirable group of early 1st Model features but is overlapped by a unique array of some early special order features found on a Model 1873. For most advanced collectors, it would take the purchase of three or four very expensive rifles...(i.e. Deluxe 1st Model, Standard 1st Model with 30" barrel, & 1st Model with early raised thumbprint dust cover and reversed sight) just to duplicate most, but not all, of the features found on this one single rifle.