This old Winchester Model 1873 is a Standard 3rd Model Sporting Rifle in the desirable 44-40 caliber with a 24" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate. The serial number is in the 219,000 range and was made in 1886. Until just recently, this rifle has spent its entire life in a single family from Missouri where it was passed down through four generations starting with the original owner of this rifle. In 1952, the son of the original owner wrote to Winchester Repeating Arms Company inquiring about this rifle which was in response to the incredible publicity and acclaim the Winchester Model 1873 received in the motion picture "Winchester 73" starring Jimmy Stewart in 1950. The movie's co-star was a Winchester 1873 1 of 1000 Rifle and as part of the publicity, Winchester put out a national search in the form of wanted posters for surviving original 1 of 1000 rifles. As a reward, I believe Winchester gave any person that owned a One of One Thousand that could be verified a new Model 94 carbine. That said, in 1952, the family wrote Winchester inquiring about this particular rifle and although the contest had ended, received a four page letter back from Robert McMahon of the Winchester public relations department. While this is mostly a form letter; there were likely thousands of people writing Winchester following the movie, and Winchester did note that this rifle was made in 1886. The rest of the letter provides historical information, notes the rapid rise in collector value of these rifles, and includes the results of the contest. To my amazement, Winchester actually lists the 22 contest winners who owned Model 1873 1 of 1000 Rifles. The family must have treasured this rifle because they kept the letter along with the WANTED POSTER with this rifle for the next 64 years until it was sold last year. Now, guys, I purchased the rifle and it came with the Winchester letter and the historical timeline of the family and who it was passed down for 130 years, the wanted poster was for sale separately and was several hundred dollars. I did not purchase the poster HOWEVER, I will be more than happy to put you in touch with the collector who acquired this rifle directly from the family. No guarantees but he very well may still have it and be willing to sell it. On an interesting side note, several years ago in a large West Coast Auction, there was a rifle almost identical to this one and only a few serial numbers apart that had been passed down through a single California family.
Condition of this rifle grades to a solid NRA Antique Good Plus and is 100% all original down to the smallest screw. I would say this was a working gun back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It shows use but it appears it was looked after and kept dry. One thing that we found when we opened the sideplates was what appeared to be some blackened oil-soaked grass behind the loading port under the toggle links...no doubt where it was snagged while the original owner was loading the magazine. The metal has turned to a pleasant even brown patina that retains hints of original blue in the protected areas including the edges around the side plates, under the flares at the front and back of the receiver and on the barrel down the wood-line of the forend. Nice barrel address with 1860 Henry and 1866 King's Improvement Patent Dates. Top of the barrel ahead of the receiver is stamped "44 W.C.F." which is correct and spot on for what you want to see for a rifle made in 1886. The brass loading block has aged to a perfect marbled patina known as crystal lattice. As brass is much softer than iron or steel, it wears fast so there are only faint remnants of the original "44 CAL" in script across the block. This extra bit of wear also corresponds to a little bit of extra wear (not bad, but a little) at the bottom of the forend ahead of the receiver which may be the result of the owner having rested this rifle across the pommel of a saddle while on horseback. Hammer has the correct rectangular border around the checkering. Top tang is clearly stamped MODEL 1873 bracketed by two fleurs de lis. Original sights and dust cover. Serial number is nice and clear. Upper and lower tangs are perfectly straight with no bends, crack, or repairs. The original wood still shows about 30% original varnish that is blended nicely with a nice patina that has formed over many years. It's never been sanded or refinished, the wood to metal fit is nice and tight, and it shows a lot of character. Buttplate has the correct sliding brass trapdoor. Mechanics appear to be in good order but at 130 years old, they are far from being new. That said, the lever stays up with no sag, the firing pin still indexes, hammer still cocks, springs are all still doing their jobs. Screws are in Good to Very Good shape overall as well. Bore-wise, the pipe in this rifle is pretty good for a black powder era gun. The rifling is all there with decent lands and grooves and most important, there are no rings, bulges, or bad areas of corrosion. The overall texture of the bore I would describe as that of a a light frosted appearance with some scattered light pits (to be expected) but not dark. With a bore light, there is actually a little bit of sheen but it is far from being mirror bright.
If you've been looking for a good honest Winchester Model 1873 Rifle for your collection with a family history with lineage all the way to the original owner who purchased this rifle back in 1886, this is a great rifle for the money. Furthermore, its in the most desirable caliber, 44 WCF and has the octagon barrel configuration so many collectors are trying to find. Not only that, but it comes with A GREAT WRA CO. written to the original family from 1952 back during the Korean War and Harry Truman was president!