This is a fantastic example of an early 1880's vintage 3rd Model 1873 lever action rifle. Antique Pre-1898 Serial number is in the 119,000 range. This is a sporting rifle configuration with special order shotgun buttplate, caliber 44-40, 24" round barrel, and full magazine. It has an inscription on the top of the dust cover, perhaps a dealer or company marking which reads "H. Dickinson/ 2 Union Row Minories/London". It also bears London viewer's marks and proofs. We don't know who Dickinson was...most likely, he was a dealer as it was common practice for English dealers to inscribe their guns with their name and store locations. However, we did find a prestigious law firm in London named Hill Dickinson which has specialized in Maritime law for over 2 centuries...perhaps there is some connection with this Company as I'm sure travel to unstable areas was required at times. Whatever the case, this rifle shows very little use...a remarkable feat for a gun made in 1883.
Overall, its in NRA Antique Excellent Condition with 80% original bright blue on the receiver with some brown freckles mixing through and some thinning in front of the sideplates. There is still almost all the original bright blue on the bellow of the frame and lower tang as well as the top of the action and dust cover. The to of the dust cover rail has almost all its original blue...which is a good overall indicator of how little this rifle was used....generally sliding the cover back and forth wore away the blue quickly from this area. The hammer and lever retain much of their original case colors which are faded and mottled with bright flashes of colors in the more protected areas. The loading port has 90+% bright vibrant fire blue remaining. The barrel, tube, and forend cap have 95% strong original blue with a few specks of brown beginning to mix through....again, quite extraordinary for a 73 considering the barrel and mag tube were rust blued. This type of finish is very fragile and tends to oxidize on its own back to a plum brown. It was a tedious process performed by hand by independent contractors inside the plant...(Oliver Winchester, being a shirt-maker by trade probably used contractors to do these types of jobs in the form "piece work"). Nice markings throughout...of course, being early production, this rifle has no caliber markings because on the bronze loading block or the barrel....the first markings for the 44-40 came out about a year later, around 1884 in the form of "44 CAL" and later on "44 W.C.F." In 1883, only the 38-40 and 32-20 caliber rifles had markings. Original sights include the standard German silver blade front sight and the early style short rear semi-buckhorn rear sight with checkered sides which is correct for early 3rd models up into the 120,000's. The barrel has the small flat milled behind the rear sight elevator....this area is usually worn from the sliding the elevator back and forth...there is minimal wear here with almost all the original bluing intact. The wood is in Fine+++ to Excellent shape...completely untouched, never sanded or redone, just some minor handling marks with perfect wood to metal fit with the wood standing slightly proud over the metal....this is exactly how the wood was when it left the factory...Winchester made their wood this way in order to compensate for slight shrinkage in their walnut if or when their products were shipped to an arid climate with low humidity. Today, provided the wood hasn't been altered in the recent past, you can often tell what kind of climate a Winchester lived in for the past 100 or more years just by looking at the wood....the color, the grain, and the wood to metal fit. Mechanically, this rifle is perfect showing very little wear....very tight and the lever snaps shut as strong as the day it was made. Both the bolt and firing pin retain most of their original blue which was usually worn away quickly as these have nearly 100% metal to metal contact points inside the frame when the action is cycled. Bore is mint!
Overall, this is just a fantastic, completely untouched example of an early 73 Winchester. If I could find antique guns like this every day, my life would be a lot easier but unfortunately, guns like this just aren't showing up on the market very often these days. Collectors are holding on to the nicer ones as they make fantastic investments that can be admired and enjoyed while their values appreciate.