This is a good solid example of an early Model 1873 rifle with a pleasing appearance and lots of original finish remaining. It's an early example in the 19,000 serial range which makes it a desirable First Model and dates its production to the year 1877. Standard Grade Rifle with 24" round barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate. Barrel marked with Henry's Oct. 16, 1860 and King's 1866 patent dates. This rifle has all its original first model features which include the mortised dust cover with checkered thumbprint, rounded lever loop, and early style screw-in lever catch. The barrel and bronze lifter or "loading block" have no markings to denote the caliber. This is correct on a first model as all are default chambered in 44-40...same as on the early Model 1876's...all are in 45-75 but left unmarked. Other early and/or 1st Model features include the early type hammer knurling, the screw-in end cap for the magazine tube (see photo). Also, the side plates are secured by the early type screw with small head (found on 1st and 2nd models) and if you look closely, you'll see the loading port screw is externally mounted which is also correct for an early 73. Note the first model frame has an external hammer screw and the tang screws are located just beneath. Another interesting thing about the screws on these early guns is their narrow slots. Rear sight is the short type semi-buckhorn with standard early front sight with no set screw. Internally, the breech bolt has a sleeved firing pin...only found on 1st and 2nd models. These also had no safety blocks for locking up the hammer when the lever was open. Rifling in the barrel is even unique on early 73's with 5-groove rifling that is deeper and wider than 3rd Models. Assembly numbers located on the inside of the buttplate, stock, and lower tang are all matching. See photos.
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Fine with 40-50% original receiver blue that is thinning with the balance worn to a light brown patina that runs to silver along the edges and higher-wear areas. The loading port spring shows 50% original fire blue around the rim and inner areas of the scoop. Case colors on the hammer and lever have faded over the years to a coined silver appearance. Barrel has 65% original blue with 25% remaining on the magazine tube. The walnut stocks are in Fine condition, untouched with minor handling marks and very tight wood-to-metal fit that is even and not under-sized. When it came to wood-fit, Winchester was really in their prime during the 1870's. A collector and friend of mine once jokingly marveled that during this era, it was as though Winchester had "poured the wood around the metal tangs" on their Models 1866, 1873, and 1876. This rifle is no exception and as these were much more carefully hand fit than later years. As noted earlier, the assembly number on the stock, tang, and buttplate are all matching. No chips, cracks, or repairs. Wood appears to still be holding onto much of its original varnish. Good screws. Action is still tight and with that nice metallic "clack" upon closing the lever. Bore is nearly Excellent; still bright with nice strong lands and grooves. All in all, a very solid example of an early Model 1873 rifle.
See also Item# 9183 for a scarce early Winchester Model 1875 Loading Tool in 44-40 (Circa 1875-1881)