This is a good solid example of a 1st Model 1873 Saddle Ring Carbine that was recently discovered in a small town not far from San Antonio, Texas. Quite a few of these early 1873 1st Models were shipped to Texas during the 1870's. These included several hundred carbines that went to the Texas Rangers as they provided unprecedented firepower in addition to being well-suited for use on horseback. These early 1873 carbines were also quite popular with ranchers, cowboys, outlaws, Native Americans, and just about anybody who wanted a handy repeating rifle that was short and light enough to be carried on a horse. In one of the only known photographs of William Bonney, a.k.a. "Billy the Kid", he's seen posing with a first model carbine which is reputed to be serial number #20,181. George Madis noted in The Winchester Book that it wasn't uncommon for such a gun to receive 50+ years of use. Unfortunately, as a result of their popularity, it can challenging for modern collectors to obtain examples in reasonably good shape.
This particular gun is in much nicer condition than we normally see...showing plenty of use but considerable amounts of original blue in protected areas. It has all the early 1st model features including swept back lever, screw-in lever latch, mortised checkered thumbprint dustcover, early sights, screw-in magazine tube cap, etc. It's a standard carbine 20" round barrel, full magazine, saddle ring, and early thick carbine style buttplate with sliding trapdoor. Serial number is in the 15,000 range. All three sub-assembly numbers on the stock, lower tang, and buttplate are matching. See photos. A records check of the Winchester Factory records at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY revealed the following:
On your model 1873, serial number 15419:
Date In: 1-14-1878
Date Shipped: 10-19-1878
Order Number 10377
Overall condition is NRA Antique Very Good Condition with the metal turned mostly brown with thinning original blue that grows stronger in protected areas. The metal shows small nicks and scratches....the left side of the forearm even has what appears to be the original owner's initial, "R" along the left side...a common practice among cowboys and ranchers to let others know this was "their gun". The frame shows speckles of original blue across much of the frame with strong blue around the sideplates, lower tang, and a good-sized patch around the the saddle ring. Overall, we're talking around 10-15% thinning original blue. This may not sound like a lot but it's very respectable for a 1st Model carbine. The barrel and magazine tube have 15-20% faded original blue...mostly along the top edges of the forewood, around the rear sight, near the frame, and quite a bit in the recessed areas of the barrel and magazine tube. The original dust cover is intact and still has a sharp checkered oval thumbprint pattern. The stocks are in good shape overall...very solid but show plenty of use with lots of small nicks and dings. Judging from the numerous scrapes across the forend...it appears the cowboy who owned this carbine took it apart regularly for cleaning. Action is in good working order. Bore is in Fair condition with deep lands and grooves that are a bit dark with some pits. With some scrubbing, it may improve. No rings or bulges present. All in all, a very respectable First Model 73 carbine from the American West!