This is a strong example of a Winchester Model 1873 Saddle Ring Carbine in .44 WCF that comes with a complete set of loading tools and original set of carbine cleaning rods. It has an antique serial number in the 516,000 range and was built in the year 1898.
This is a bit of an uncommon year for the Model 1873 as production was really ramping up for its contemporary, the Model 1892 lever action repeater. At the end of the 19th century, production was down to about a quarter of the volume being turned out by the Winchester factory at the beginning of the 1890's. 1898 was also the year that this model's toggle link action brethren, the Models 1866 and 1876, were phased out of production. Fortunately, the 1873 was so well known around the world that it would remain in production on almost ever-diminishing scale for another quarter century. In spite of it being 117 years old, this is about as new as you can get for an antique Winchester Model 1873 under US laws as the cutoff is Jan. 1, 1899 (approx. SN# 525,9XX).
Caliber is .44 WCF and is in every respect a standard carbine with 20" round barrel, full magazine, semi-crescent buttplate with trapdoor, saddle ring, and carbine sights. It has a great look to it showing a pleasing combination of original blue and nice wood while still showing use. All correct with proper markings and knurlings. This includes the decorative style hammer checkering with the Victorian-era dip along the top border. This style is found on the Model 1873 from circa 1890 thru 1900. Nice two-line barrel address with Henry and King's Improvement patent dates. Top of barrel marked "44 W.C.F." while the brass loading block also has the .44 caliber designation. See photos. The ladder rear sight is graduated from 2-9 hundred yards which is also correct for 1898. Note that the ladder still has a little bit of blue left on it...so the slide was not used much at all. Also, there is an "1873" designation at the top of the ladder. This is also correct for this style sight after the year 1892...as other models such as the 1892 and 1894 were now using this same ladder sight. Top tang marked "Model 1873" bracketed by a pair of fleur-de-lis.
Carbines, unlike most of their rifle configured brothers, were used primarily as working tools. They were short, handy and designed specifically for travel on horseback. When it hit the market in 1874, this repeater delivered twelve rounds of fire power with centrally primed reloadable cartridges. This made it far less dependent upon civilization for ammunition and provided its owners with the ideal weapon for the frontier. Thus, there was good reason for the Model 1873 being dubbed "The Gun that Won the West!" Its owners had quite a bit in common with these 1873 carbines. Both were rugged and independent which is why so many ended up in the hands of cowboys, ranchers, law enforcement officials as well as outlaws. This wasn't just here in the United States but all over the world. Today, surviving specimens often show a much higher degree of wear and abuse than the average rifle including exposure to the outdoor elements.
That said, this carbine is unusual in that it was used for a relatively short period of time as a working gun. It has a little bit of scabbard and edge wear but still retains much of its original blued finish. Check out the magnificent wear shadow from the saddle ring on the left side of the frame! This condition of this carbine is unusual as most carbines were used until they simply wore out. Other dealers and collectors have commented to me over the years that 1873 carbines are either nearly new or worn out with very little in between. Of course, being manufactured in 1898 instead of 1878 or 1888 was a factor in its overall condition. To say it is above average is really an understatement...it is exceptionally nice but one look at it and you also know it was used by some cowboy as a tool. In fact, we have a theory that this carbine was used quite literally not only as a saddle gun but as a tool. If you look at the top left corner of the stock next to the upper tang, there is some wear and compression as though it had something pressed pretty hard across this small area. We think it was used to stretch barbed and/or fencing wire. If you think about, it sort of makes sense. Stringing wire fence across a piece of open grazing land could spell big trouble for the poor ranch hands who got picked for the job. By the 1890's, the days of the open frontier were rapidly coming to an end and fences were going up all across the West. Being well-armed with a Winchester at the ready while putting up a fence would have made good sense and apparently; it also looks like it also doubled as a pretty good wire straightener too!
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine+ with 70% thinning original blue on the receiver. Note the nice wear shadow formed by the saddle ring on the left side of the receiver. Barrel and magazine retain 50% original blue with the blue strongest in the lower and protected areas....which is indicative of being kept in a leather scabbard. Hammer shows about 50% fading case colors with traces of color remaining on the lever. Loading port still shows much of its original fire blue. Even the bolt and firing pin still show much of their original blued finish indicating this carbine was fired very little. The action is in perfect order and very crisp. Note the minimal wear to the blue on the inside faces of the side plates from the toggle links. Then check out the toggle links themselves as they still retain almost all of their original factory "bright" polish! The bore on this carbine is Excellent. Bright and shiny with nice strong lands and grooves. Best of all, no problems! One of the things that seems to have plagued these carbines was bulges and rings that would form when firing with obstructions down in the barrel. Just a little bit of dirt could do a great deal of damage to the bore. That said, this carbine was well looked after and it has zero rings or bulges in the bore. The original walnut stock and forend have a few nicks and dings but are in in Fine+ Condition overall. For a carbine, this wood is just incredible! It has a nice light reddish brown hue which compliments the original blue on the barrel and receiver quite nicely. Great wood to metal fit with sharp edges and the wood standing slightly proud of the metal. There are no major chips, cracks, or repairs. As noted, there is a small wear spot at the front edge of the stock by the upper tang. You will look for a long time before you find a carbine with such a pleasing combination of condition and Western character as this one!
The original Winchester loading tools are in nearly equal condition to this carbine. Both show much of their original blue. The loading tool still has its scarce and hard to find original decapping pin which is marked 44W. Both the tool and model are marked 44 W.C.F. which we know today as "44-40". Mold has excellent bullet cavities. Original Winchester three piece carbine rods are in buttstock and are accessible by means of a sliding trapdoor in the buttplate.