This is a nice Winchester 1873 Semi Deluxe Rifle with a special order case color hardened frame. It's a Third Model in the 224,000 serial range that was built in 1887. This rifle once belonged to the owner of a pawn shop here in the Atlanta area many years ago. When he passed away, his son inherited his prized collection that he'd built up over many years. I remember, he would bring some of his father's treasures to the Southeastern Antique Arms show once a year. Wow! He had some great guns! This rifle was there some years...other times not. On the occasions I saw it, he would never put a number on this gun. He also had a nice Volcanic pistol and a beautiful Henry Nettleton Inspected Colt Single Action Army Revolver. I remember he used to torment unsuspecting dealers by walking into local shows with the Henry Nettleton Colt and pretend like he had no idea what it was or its true value. This gun had nice case colors, blue on the barrel and cylinder, and super grips with a great cartouche! To a collector, it was serious EYE CANDY! He'd get half a dozen dealers chasing him all over the show thinking they were going to steal it out from under him, then walk out with a big grin on his face! He performed this ritual every now and then and for those of us in the know, it was great entertainment! Well, after several years, he set up at the Southeastern Arms show again and priced this rifle to me. Long story short, I got it. That was about ten years ago and from there, it went straight into another local collection where it was equally treasured. I'm honored to have it back once again.
This is a really nice Winchester and like most 1873's that shipped South, it's in caliber 38-40. Most antique guns from this region are typically a brown patina due to the heat and humidity. Whoever owned this rifle took pretty good care of it as while there is some light brown patina, it still has quite a bit of original finish remaining. It has a standard 24" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate with sliding brass trapdoor. Case colored frames were available from Winchester as a special order option. An octagon barrel 1873 rifle from this era would have cost about $19.50 (based on the fall 1893 catalog prices). Case hardening would have cost $1.00 extra. As was customary on semi-deluxe rifles, these rifles received a couple of extra goodies from the Winchester custom shop. For starters, as was customary, they stocked these case colored rifles with walnut that was a little fancier than standard and the finish was a little better. Note the tiger striping in the wood. They also furnished it with a platinum-lined Rocky Mountain front sight instead of the standard German silver blade style. This sight was usually reserved for full deluxe rifles and Model 1885 Hiwall Single Shots. So for roughly $20.00...a dollar more than a standard rifle, you got a case colored frame, fancier wood, and a nicer front sight. This was a pretty good deal. In contrast, a full deluxe 1873 with cc'd frame, pistol grip checkered deluxe burl walnut was $33.50.
This rifle is correct and all original. We called the Buffalo Bill Historical Center which is the custodian for the original Winchester, Marlin, and LC Smith Factory records. Here is the information they pulled from the original factory ledgers on this rifle:
WINCHESTER MODEL 1873 - SERIAL NUMBER 224186
BARREL TYPE: OCTAGON
RECEIVED IN WAREHOUSE ON FEBRUARY 22, 1887
SHIPPED FROM WAREHOUSE ON FEBRUARY 23, 1887 ORDER NUMBER 15631
Condition: NRA Antique Fine+. Frame retains 60% light to moderate case colors with the balance turned to a speckled sandy patina. Hammer retains 85% colors while the lever is more mottled with 25% remaining. Strong fire blue remaining on the loading port. Dust covers were blued on Third Model rifles with case colors and this one has a cover that retains 75% original blue. In addition to the frame, the forend is also case colored with 35% faded colors remaining...the balance turned mostly to silver. Barrel has 80% original blue w/ small dings above the Winchester address marking. Magazine tube 40% orig. blue. Mechanics are perfect...lever snaps shut and firing pin indexes positively. Bore is Excellent+ that is still mirror bright! Nice example of an untouched Winchester 73 Semi-Deluxe!