This is a scarce First Model 1873 Winchester with a low 4-digit serial number is 6606. Its also a musket which is quite a rare variation for a First Model. This was quite a formidable weapon for a mid-1870's rifle. In terms of appearance, its quite similar to the 3rd Model Muskets you find from time to time with the exception of the rear sight and of course, various features found exclusively on first models. It has a full forewood with 30" round barrel. Early 1st model features include early mortised frame w/thumbprint dust cover, oval lever w/no safety block andearly style screw-type lever catch, screw-in type magazine tube plug, small sideplate screw, and exposed hammer screw with lower tang screws underneath. The upper tang is marked "Model 1873". Barrel address is worn in places with about 2/3 of the top line worn away while all of the bottom is still legible. Given the rounded contours of the barrel and the inconsistency in wear of the top and bottom lines of the address, it appears the roll die did not impress the metal as well as the bottom line. Note: this is not uncommon on carbines and muskets as round barrel were more difficult to mark than the octagon barrels of their sporting rifle counterparts. The ladder sight is similar to the Model 1866 rifle sight with the block dovetailed into the barrel and tensioned with a leaf spring. Later muskets had military sights with longer blocks that encased the ladder and attached via screws. Over the years, we've bee fortunate enough to see a couple of first model muskets. One even had symbols denoting ownership by the King of Siam who built quite an advanced army with a good rail system. Siam was the only country in Southeast Asia that didn't get gobbled up as a European colony. We've also heard there was a shipment of early muskets to Haiti. This musket however bears no foreign proofs or symbols on the metal or wood and may have stayed here in the US. It letters with the Cody Museum as the following:
Model 1873, serial number 6606
Date In: 7-31-1875 (into warehouse)
Date Shipped: 8-16-1875
Order Number: 2606
There were 10 guns with this order number.
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Good+ with the metal turned mostly over to a grey/brown patina. The metal is mostly smooth with a few light pinpricks of corrosion in places. Very good screws overall and sharp checkered knurling on the hammer. Very Good bore has strong early wide style lands with deep grooves. Action works Good. Hammer still hits both half and full cock notches. Sliding brass trapdoor in the buttplate for the cleaning rods (long gone). Very good wood with no signifcant chips, major dings, or damage. There was a small hairline crack on the right side of the stock that we had professionally mended...and is now almost imperceivable. Complete with original sling swivels.
Other interesting note: This musket was in good company while it was being built as many of its brothers and sisters were destined to the London Armoury for the Prince of Wales. This musket's serial number is just a few digits away (one only 2 numbers away in one case) from several of those 1873 Winchesters special-ordered with case colored receivers and made up as presentation guns for Edward VII (Queen Victoria's son and future King). In all, the Prince of Wales presented approximately 30 Model 1873 carbines to Rajahs on his tour of India in 1875-76. Back in 1875, a Model 1873 repeating rifle with reloadable center-primed cartridges was arguably the most advanced small arms in the world. You couldn't buy a more advanced shoulder arm with this kind of firepower. One can only surmise, but it must have been quite an honor to receive such a gun as a gift. What's interesting to us is that the future King of the British Empire would choose an American design to give as gifts over ones of English make. If you look in RL Wilson's book "Winchester An American Legend" on page 43, you will find one of those 30 presentation 1873's from the Prince of Wales pictured; serial number 6618. Other serial numbers in the Prince of Wales group of Model 73 presentations were 6604, 6597, 6616, and 6617. These guns were part of order 3701 and entered the warehouse and shipped out the same day on July 31, 1875. This was the same day as our musket #6606 on order 2606 with 9 other guns enterered the warehouse...only it shipped out 2 weeks later.