This a nice example of the Winchester 1873 3rd Model Rifle in caliber 44-40 a.k.a. .44 WCF with TWO SPECIAL ORDER features which include a 1/2 octagon, 1/2 round barrel, and a 1/2 button magazine. Lots of original blue on this one! Antique serial number is in the 461,000 range which dates its production to late 1893. Interestingly, this exact variation was illustrated in the fall edition of the 1893 Winchester catalog for $19.50. See photo. Original sights include the semi-buckhorn rear and standard front with German silver blade. Brass loading block is still clearly marked "44 CAL" in script...correct for 1873's in 44-40 produced after 1883. Top of barrel has two-line Winchester New Haven address and 1860 and 1866 patent dates. Top of breech is stamped "44 W.C.F." which is correct for 1893 production. Top tang is marked "MODEL 1873" which is bracketed by two fleurs-de-lis symbols. Original hammer has the correct checkering pattern with Victorian-era dipped border. Original dust cover is intact.
These half octagon rifles are an interesting variation of the 1873 and most will be found with 1/2 button magazines. There is a certain degree of refinement to it. While the standard sporting rifle with its full magazine was equally as good for protection as it was for hunting, this configuration held a few advantages. This was more of a dedicated hunting rifle and after carrying one a few miles through the woods, a hunter could easily note a difference between a loaded full magazine and a full octagon barrel! That difference was "weight"! The 1/2 magazine and its fewer shells cut down on weight as did the 1/2 octagon barrel. Its six round capacity was considered adequate for a good shot and more sporting and it drew on target a little faster. While this is a standard finish gun with a blued frame, it's interesting to see so many full and semi deluxe rifles that turn up with 1/2 oct button mags as well. President Theodore Roosevelt owned a number of Winchesters and he clearly preferred the 1/2 mag over the full and he usually went with 1/2 octagon or full round barrels instead of octagons. See link for a short presentation on one of his Winchesters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQMoWmK1mn4
As we mentioned in the first paragraph, even though these were special order, Winchester was on to something with this configuration and it's probably why they featured the 1/2 octagon 1/2 round in their catalogs. As Winchester continued into the 20th century, its product line became more and more focused on offering rifles with 1/2 magazines. Standard rifles with full mags and octagon barrels started to wane in the 1920's and were phased out in the 1930's. In their place came new models. Once a special order feature, these new models cam standard with button magazines. For example, the Models 55 and 64 were essentially the next generations to the Model 1894 model with button magazines which came as standard equipment. The, Model 1892 rifle fell away to the Models 53 and 65 which also featured button mags. Then there was the famous Model 71...the .348 caliber extension of the Model 1886. It too featured a short magazine. The production for the Model 1873 ended in the early 1920's...the last of the toggle link action Winchester, its mechanics dated back to the 1850's. John Browning's Model 1892 design was far superior but demand was so strong for the 1873, that Winchester continued to produce it for another three decades. Had the 1873 rifle lived on, it probably would have evolved into a dedicated hunting rifle along the lines of the Models 53 and 55 Winchester. This rifle was just a little ahead of its time!
Overall Condition Grade is NRA Antique Fine Plus. Receiver has 80% original blue remaining. Barrel retains 50% thinning original blue and 70% remaining on the forend cap. Loading port has 45% original fire blue. 70% original case colors on the hammer which are thinning. 20% case colors on the lever. Excellent markings and fine screws throughout. There is a small but notable bruise on the edge of the lower tang and stock where it looks as though something may have struck it. See photo. The wood is in Fine Condition with a few handling marks. Very good wood to metal fit overall with the walnut standing slightly proud of the metal; the way it left the factory. Bore is Very Good Plus to Fine Condition with nice lands and grooves and only a few light pits. No rings or bulges. Action is Excellent showing little usage. The breech and bolt assembly still retains 50% original blue. Firing pin still indexes properly off of the toggle link cam and springs are strong...lever still snaps up with zero sag. Nice example of the Winchester 1873 in 44-40 in a desirable hunter's configuration that T.R. would have approved!