This is an early 3rd Model 1873 SRC that is straight out of the American West! This particular 1873 Carbine came from Okmulgee, Oklahoma which is part of the Creek Indian Reservation. The man we got it from was still living on his family's original 160 acre allotment. He got this carbine locally from a friend who inherited it from a deceased estate some 30 years ago in Okmulgee. As far as he knows, its been in Oklahoma all its life and judging from the light patina and grain in the wood as well as other guns I've found in this region, it has definitely spent many decades in Oklahoma's somewhat arid climate.
If there is one gun that iconically sums up the American West, it would have to be the 1873 carbine or the Colt Single Action Army in 44-40. The 1873 was regarded as the finest repeating rifle in the world through the 1870's and 80's. It was chambered for a cartridge designed for the vast uninhabited regions of the Western frontier, the 44-40 cartridge. The biggest drawback of the repeating rifle prior to the model 1873 was that --what you gained in firepower...e.g. a Henry could fire 16 rounds in 16 seconds --you in turn lost in terms of practicality due to basic lack of resources on the Frontier. Once you ran out of cartridges, you couldn't just ride over to Walmart and pick up another box...since it might be hundreds of miles to the nearest town. You couldn't reload the spent rimfire ammuntion either so basically you were doomed in the wrong situation which certainly happened. This made muzzleloaders still practical but that didn't give you much of an advantage with firepower if you found yourself outnumbered. The 1873 solved both of those problems when it was introduced with a new type of ammunition, a .44 caliber cartridge with a reloadable central fire priming system. Winchester also made a bullet mold and a special reloading tool for this cartridge. Best of all, the Colt Single Action was also chambered in this cartridge called the Frontier Six Shooter so all you needed was one type of cartridge for both your rifle and pistol. The 1873 was really quite an innovation in its day as it coupled, Henry's mechanical design, King's loading port improvement, and centrally primed ammunition, to make this a weapon that delivered superior firepower to almost anything in the world at the time with re-usable ammuntion. That is how the 1873 became known as "The Gun that Won the West."
The saddle ring carbine variation of the Model 1873 was regarded as a utility gun and accounts for roughly 36% of total production for the Model 1873. Designed to be short, light, handy, and carried on horseback, it was the perfect configuration for anyone traveling throughout the West. They were especially popular with lawmen, cowboys, and even outlaws. They were generally carried on horseback inside a leather scabbard and secured by a tie around the saddle ring. Many were used for decades until there were completely worn out.....its believed that some saw service for more than 50 years of day to day use. What a lot of collectors don't realize though is that while the 73 was designed for the West, many carbines found their way to different parts of the world where there were similar conditions...especially Mexico and South America. I've even seen one that had ownership markings to the King of Siam, now Thailand. Winchester was a major player in the world of international arms during the late 19th century.
This is a standard carbine configuration in Caliber 44 WCF, 20" barrel, full magazine, saddle ring, and carbine buttplate. Serial number is in the 116,000 range which dates it to the year 1883. One thing that is unique about early 3rd models are the rear sights...some have the early leaf style sights look the 1st and 2nd models while others, like this one have the scarce early reversed rear ladder sight which is typically found on a few 2nd and early 3rd models. The reason for this sight was due to the number of barrels Winchester had on hand dovetailed near the receiver for the smaller early carbine leaf sights. When the new ladder sight was introduced, in order to fit and work properly, Winchester simply turned the new sights around backwards. Because the ladder opens in the reverse direction, the graduations had to be placed on the inside face of the ladder rather than the outside. I've had a lot of carbines over the years, and while this isn't extremely rare, its the first one I've ever owned. Probably the most famous carbine with this rear sight configuration was either a late 2nd model or very early 3rd model once owned by Bass Outlaw, a well known Texas Ranger.
Overall, this gun has a great Western look to it. Its in NRA Antique good condition with a brown patina on the metal with good edges. In spite of all the character and wear on the outside of the gun, it has a remarkably good action and a good bore...clearly, it was carried more than it was fired. The markings are all good and legible although they're still caked with years of dirt and oil....with a nice barrel address, clear tang markings, and serial number. Note: there are no caliber markings on the barrel or brass carrier which is correct for an early 73...only the 32 and 38 calibers had markings at this point in production. The wood is well worn but original and completely untouched....the climate has left this carbine with lots of grain showing that has never been sanded or refinished....generally good wood to metal fit that isn't undersized...there are a couple of chips in the wood and a couple of minor inert dry cracks which includes the usual one in the forewood in front of the barrel band. One fantastic feature for us collectors that we sometimes find on 1st, 2nd, and early 3rd Models is Winchester's use of assembly numbers. Winchester seems to have abandoned this practice around 1884...although they briefly resumed it at the turn of the 20th century with some guns in the 600,000 range. The result is very few 3rd models have these numbers. As you can see in the photographs, the numbers are located inside the stock under the upper, on the side of the lower tang, and on the bottom lip of the inside of the buttplate. This carbine's assembly number is 1923 and is all matching. The buttplate's assembly number is difficult to see...you really have to concentrate to see the individual numbers so I placed the gun's screw tips as the photo makes it even harder to see.
All in all, this is just a good example of an early 1873 carbine that is 100% original with lots of character. A true example of a 73 src from the American West. This one would look fantastic hanging up over an old fireplace mantle.