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Winchester 1873 Rifle in .44 Caliber M'fd in 1883

This is an early 3rd Model Winchester 1873 Rifle in standard configuration. Serial number is in the 114,000 range which dates its manufacture to early 1883. Standard 24" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate w/ sliding brass trapdoor. As best I can tell, the 3rd Model 1873 begins to appear around the 85,000-87,000 range in the year 1882. A number of changes were made to the frame...i.e. screw positions, integrated dust cover rail, etc. to better streamline production.

Being an early 3rd Model however, it has a couple of early features carried over from 1st and 2nd Models...both of which were done away with later in 1883 at the 120,000-140,000 serial ranges. The first one is the early style short rear sight. This is the first style of leaf spring semi-buckhorn sight ever used by Winchester. As you can see in the photos, it's a little shorter than the later styles and usually has checkering on the sides of the horns instead of serrations (but not always). The base will have fairly sharp beveled edges. This sight is found on early Model 1873's (1st, 2nd, and early 3rd Models). You will also find this sight on later Model 1866 Rifles as well as Model 1876's in caliber 50-95.

The second interesting feature on this Model 1873 is that it has assembly numbers on the lower tang, stock, and buttplate. The practice of assembly numbers dates all the way back to the 1850's when Oliver Winchester was only an investor in the Volcanic Pistol Company. From there, it continued on with Volcanic's successor, New Haven Arms, with the Henry Rifle, and then on to the earliest Winchester Models 1866, 1873, and 1876. At some point in 1883, assembly numbers disappear from "standard" model 1873's...my best guess is somewhere between 130,000-140,000 range. Why the significance of these numbers? Well, today as collectors, we use these assembly numbers as a way of verification that certain components are original to the gun. However, the workmen at Winchester back in the 19th century had a far more practical reason for their application. Basically, the stocks were hand-fitted to the frame and buttplate of each rifle prior to finishing. The wood to metal fit on Winchesters back in the 1860's and 1870's was really something to behold. As a friend of mine once exclaimed while looking at a 1st Model 1873, "the metal fit is so tight around these tangs...it looks as though they poured the wood around the metal". In order for Winchester to maintain this level of fit, they had to come up with some sort of system to keep track of what went with what. Once fitted, the buttplate went one way (presumably with a pile of other buttplates) to be case color hardened, the frame and tang went to another part of the plant to be blued, and the stock to still another to be finished with oil or varnish. The workmen applied assembly numbers to these parts so they could be retrieved and properly matched during final assembly. While assembly numbers were dropped from standard 1873's, the practice continued on in the Winchester Custom Shop for special order guns. Also, right at the end of production, there is actually a brief re-emergence of assembly numbers on the 1873. I've only seen a couple but they've been in the 600,000 ranges and George Madis makes further mention of them in The Winchester Book. At any rate, it's kind of neat when you find an early 3rd Model that uses the old-fashioned workman practice of assembly numbers. This rifle has them and they're all matching. See photos.

Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Good+. We were told this rifle was found in a barn here in Georgia. Aside from the 1873's used by the Atlanta Police, this is only the second or third Winchester 1873 that is native to Georgia that I've seen in caliber 44-40. Nearly all the ones you find are either in 38-40 or 32-20. It had been well protected but was extremely dirty. Took us about a month to get the gunk off of it but it really turned out nicely. The metal has a smooth dark brown patina with original blue in the protected areas...i.e. around the sideplates, around the screws, under the receiver flares, and between the barrel and magazine tube. Good edges. The markings are all very good and legible. Since this is an early 1873 in the original 44-40 chambering, it does not have a caliber designation on the top of the barrel on the brass loading block. This is correct for an early 1883 vintage rifle as only the 38-40's and 32-20's were being marked at that point in time. Again, the lack of the caliber marking is another carry-over from the 1st and 2nd Model 1873's that we find on early production 3rd models. The screws on this rifle are all original with ONE exception. After it was recovered from the barn, we noticed that the side plate screw had been lost and an old nail had been inserted and peened to hold the covers onto the frame...a common practice during the 19th century. We went ahead and removed the nail and replaced it with a correct screw. The wood is in Very Good Condition Overall with a few handling marks with 40% original varnish remaining. Wood has never been sanded or refinished. Good wood to metal fit. No cracks. Action cycles properly. Bore is Fair+...decent rifling with some areas of corrosion...probably from mud dobber nests. Nice example of an untouched Model 1873 Rifle in 44-40.

Item# 1704




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