This is a very good example of an early 1880's vintage 3rd Model Winchester 1873 Rifle in desirable 44-40 caliber with an octagon barrel. This is the configuration everyone wants and if you look at replicas and modern reproductions, you'll be hard pressed to ever find a rifle made with a round barrel. Everyone wants an octagon barrel. To find an original with the octagon barrel in 44-40 is the best of both worlds. This one is above average and still has a bit of original finish remaining! It is a standard Winchester Sporting rifle with a 24 inch barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate w/ sliding trapdoor. Antique serial number is in the 143,000 range and was manufactured towards the end of 1883. Correct sights include the standard Winchester semi-buckhorn style rear and front with the German silver style blade.
Judging from the strong condition of the action and the bore, it does not appear this rifle was used a great deal, however, don't think it wasn't always stored in the best of conditions. Remember that in 1880's, many Winchesters, rifles but especially saddle ring carbines were used as tools. They did not always receive the best care and that is sort of the story with this one.
Overall this one grades at NRA Antique Very Good+ to the low end of FINE Condition. For starters, the receiver has 25% original blue that is strongest in protected areas but very thin out of the flats. It is stronger on the left side with the right side having blue mostly in the protected areas while the balance is brown with a few pin pricks of very light corrosion. The left side photographed pretty well as though it had 45-50% blue in low ambient sunlight but in bright light, you're not going to see all of the thinned out areas...it will look more brown with 25% blue. The top and bottom sections of the receiver have a fair bit of blue remaining and even the dust cover shows a fair bit of color remaining. The loading port on the right side plate retains a nice strong 80% of its original fire blue. The hammer and lever are mostly brown with some traces of original case colors. Brass loading block has a light patina with no major dents or bumps. Since its in 44-40 and was made in 1883, there is no caliber designation on the block nor the top of the barrel. This is correct. Here is a brief explanation: The 44 Caliber 1873's were not marked as such on 1st, 2nd, and early 3rd Models probably since it was the original caliber and for the first few years of production, the sole caliber. However, as 38-40 hit the market around 1881 (yes, the books all say 1879 but it really didn't see the market until about '81), 32-20 in 1882, and then in 1884, the .22 caliber 1873's were introduced. All 1873's in these calibers were marked but still not the 44-40. Finally, in 1884, things must have been getting a little confusing so Winchester finally began marking their .44 caliber Model 1873's. That said, this, built towards the end of 1883, is near the top end of the serial range to still be without the caliber marking. You'll see roughly the same thing with the Model 1876 Winchester in its original 45-75 chambering. These were not marked as such until after other calibers had become available. The barrel retains 35% blue that is strongest on the upper and left flats...strongest in protected areas and streaky patches of blue out on the flats. See photos. The magazine tube is mostly brown with no dents with 10% original blue just under the barrel. Nice markings and very good screws throughout. The wood is in Very Good Plus condition that has never been cleaned or sanded with great wood to metal fit. There are some nicks, dings, and scratches, but the walnut stock and forend are in remarkably good shape for 130+ years old. The action doesn't show much wear. The top of the bolt has 25% original blue while the firing pin still has 50% original blue. Very crisp and the lever still snaps shut. The bore is still bright with nice lands and grooves and just a few minor pits. No rings or bulges. I would grade it as Very Good Plus to Fine. We search all over for 1873's in 44-40 with octagon barrels but ones still showing some original finish are getting more and more difficult to find.