This is a nice antique Winchester 1873 rifle in caliber 44 W.C.F. Serial number is in the 480,000 range which was produced towards the end of the year 1894. Standard sporting rifle with 24" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle style buttplate. The previous owner mentioned that his father purchased this rifle in the 1950's along with several Model 1873 muskets that most likely came back from Central or South America. Winchester's 1873 musket production (which comprised just 5%) were originally shipped to foreign countries. Until these muskets appeared in the 1950's, these were probably very scarce here on American soil and would have generated considerable interest and excitement.
I believe these were originally sold by Richard Short of Woodstock, New York in the late 1950's. What's interesting is that Short had obtained not only muskets but a small number of sporting rifles. Several years ago, we were fortunate to obtain one of Mr. Short's original brochures. It mentions that in addition to the muskets which were listed in four grades of condition ranging from $27.50 to $60.00 (like new), Mr. Short had also obtained 68 sporting rifles...all .44 caliber with octagon barrels with the original four piece cleaning rods in the stocks. These were being sold for the whopping sum of $35.00. His brochure stated:
IN ADDITION--SOME '73 SPORTING RIFLE. I have 68 of the Cal. 44-40 sporting rifle, 24" octagon barrels, full magazine. Bore are good to very good. The original blue finish shows use. Walnut stocks with trap in butt, complete with 4 piece joined cleaning rod. Each............................................................$35.00
There is no doubt in my mind that this rifle is one of those 68 rifles mentioned by Short in his 1873 Musket brochure. Not only does the previous owner's story match up to the muskets, timeframe, and location but this rifle is extremely close to a batch of approximately 600 muskets produced in 1894 that are mostly in the 480,000-481,000 range. Like several of the muskets that have turned up in this range, it shows remarkably little usage with strong bright blue and lots of original case colors clearly visible. As Short's ad states, it even has the original four piece cleaning road in the stock which is a fairly uncommon occurrence. Unfortunately, in order to ship these back to America, someone must have thrown these Winchesters into a pile and banded them together for transport resulting in a number of scratches on the receiver and dings to the wood. See photos.
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Excellent with 95% bright receiver blue with numerous nicks and scratches near the back of the frame. I can't get over just how little actual use this rifle shows. The bolt and firing pin still retain most of their original blue...as do the dust cover and belly of the frame, and tangs...all areas subject to high wear. The loading port still has nearly all of its vivid fire blue. The lever still retains 75% of its original case colors as does the hammer...which is partially obscured by what appears to be original factory grease. The barrel has some brown spotting mixing through but still retains 80% original blue with the magazine tube and forend cap around 90% original blue. The original walnut has 95% original varnish with lots of raised grain. It has never been cleaned or sanded and exhibits perfect wood-to-metal fit. As stated above, when this rifle was shipped back to the United States 50+ years ago, it was most likely bundled with other Winchesters resulting in various nicks, dings, and scratches. Still, the wood is extremely nice and I would grade the forend at Very Good+ and the stock at Fine+. There was one small crack near the bottom toe of the stock at the lower buttplate screw which we mended and is now barely noticeable. See photos. The original sights include a standard rear semi-buckhorn rear with the standard German Silver front sight. Excellent markings and fine screws overall. The action is Excellent. Bore is Excellent...still bright and shiny with strong lands and grooves. Just a hint of light frosting down in the corner of the grooves. The four piece cleaning rods are original and have the later style iron tip which is correct for an 1894 vintage Model 1873 tip. The iron tip replaced the older brass-tipped variant in 1892. This 1873 is a real time capsule and while it shows some mishandling, it has remarkably little "real" wear or "actual" usage.