This is a good solid example of a 1st Model 1873 Saddle Ring Carbine with a low serial number in the 8,000 range. It was manufactured in the year 1875 and just a few months before the Battle of Little Bighorn in the summer of 1876. Back in 1875, this little Winchester carbine was the most potent repeating shoulder weapon in the world. It held twelve rounds of .44 caliber central fire ammunition which meant that the shell casings could be reloaded...a big advantage when you were 500 or more miles from the nearest town with a hardware store. This one is a standard carbine with 20" round barrel, full magazine, saddle ring, carbine stocks, and carbine sights. We contacted the Buffalo Bill Historical Center which houses the original Winchester factory records. This is the information they sent us:
On your model 1873, serial number 8355:
Date In: 9-16-1875 (This is the date the gun went into the factory warehouse)
Date Shipped: 12-10-1875 (Date shipped from the factory warehouse)
Order Number: 4938
Quite a few of these early 1873 1st Models were shipped to Texas during the 1870's. This gun is almost identical in appearance to a Win. 1873 SRC we picked up at the Las Vegas show almost ten years ago that had originally been found in just south of the Texas border in the Mexican state of Coahuila. It too, was in the 8,000 serial range and about 400 numbers away. That said, it's known that several hundred carbines were shipped to the Texas Rangers via NY based gun dealer Schuyler Hartley and Graham. Upon their arrival, they provided unprecedented firepower in addition to being well suited for use on horseback. These early 1873 carbines were also quite popular with ranchers, cowboys, outlaws, Native Americans, and just about anybody who wanted a handy repeating rifle that was short and light enough to be carried on a horse. In one of the only known photographs of William Bonney, a.k.a. "Billy the Kid", he's seen posing with a first model carbine which is purported to be serial number #20,181. Today, survivors under the 10,000 range are few and far between. They lived and worked outdoors alongside their owners, were packed aboard horses in leather scabbards, and were often used until the gun was completely wore out. George Madis notes in The Winchester Book that it wasn't unusual for a Winchester carbine to see fifty years of continuous use.
For such an early example, this 1873 SRC is in Good+ conditon. The metal has turned to a silvery gray patina from spending many years in an arid climate with little moisture. There is just a hint of original blue around the saddle ring. The markings are in good condition and completely legible. Good serviceable screws throughout. Nice original early style features on this gun include the first model mortised dust cover, the screw-in cap for the magazine tube, the original early type Model 1866 yellowboy style rear sight and pinched front sight atop the front barrel band. Wood is in good condition showing lots of wear and character from many years of use. Decent working action and a Very Good bore. All assembly numbers are matching which are found on the buttplate, stock, and lower tang. A good solid early example of a 1st Model 73 Saddle Ring Carbine showing western usage!