This is an early Winchester Model 1873 Semi-Deluxe Rifle with an extremely rare 19th century Side-Mounted Telescopic Sight by John W. Sidle. This is the only Winchester we've ever seen like this. By trade, Sidle was a well-known Philadelphia-based optician who made microscopes. At the dawn of the telescopic sight era, he built a number of these special sights which he offered for sale in a small catalog. Later in life, it is my understanding that he moved to California and continued selling scopes on a small scale. Today, his scopes are usually found on single shot rifles but he developed a special set of mounts specifically for lever actions and even one for Stevens single shot pistols. More on this in a bit. The rifle itself is a 2nd Model 1873 Semi Deluxe in caliber .38 WCF or 38-40 with a special order case colored receiver, 1/2 magazine, 24" round barrel, and special crescent buttplate. The 38-40 was meant to be a more accurate target oriented alternative to the standard 44-40 caliber. They didn't hit the market in any real quantities until 1881 in the 60,000 range. The 38-40's in the 2nd and early 3rd model serial ranges tended to come standard with shotgun buttplates so to find an early one with a crescent buttplate is unusual (even though it's standard on everything else). The serial number of this rifle is 77,717...kind of neat and about as lucky a number as you'll find on a '73 and let me tell you guys...all those 7's came in handy! When I found this rifle at the Baltimore Arms Show several years ago, this rifle was a little down on its luck. It had just the rear mount that was holding a partial ring, and the original Lyman tang sight. The front mount, scope, and front sight were missing. I bought it because it was a fantastic gun on its own merits but the partial early telescopic scope setup really intrigued me. I'd never seen one before and seeing it with some of that original equipment only made me want to know what this rifle originally looked like back around 1881-82 when it was new? As there were no markings, I had no idea what kind of mount it was or anything about the scope. With the help of single shot expert Gary Quinlan of Philadelphia and another dealer who specialized in sights, they were able to identify the maker as John Sidle. I basically remember Gary telling me "good luck finding one"! Was he ever right! I looked for years for anything John Sidle related and nothing turned up...not on the internet, nothing at shows. When I asked, most guys had never heard of Sidle. The best I could come up with was a copy of his original catalog which had an illustration of a Model 1886 Winchester with this elusive scope. It wasn't much to go on but it gave me a better idea of what it looked like. We also learned that Sidle termed this type of scope as a "Snap-Shot Telescope". Another two years passed and one day I remember talking with a friend who was a member of the ASAC (American Society of Arms Collectors) and mentioned that I had this really interesting Winchester that had once had a scope made by a microscope maker by John Sidle. He said, "Oh, I've got one of his scopes, mounts and all!" He went on to say, "the guy I got it from (another ASAC member) told me it was for a lever action rifle." Both of these guys being single shot collectors had little use for it...and long story short, that is how we were able to get this Winchester back to its original circa 1880's configuration with the Sidle scope. Not only that but the scope matched perfectly across the distance between rear mount and where the front mount had originally been. This was incredible because Sidle made numerous scopes in different lengths and powers and his mounts vary quite a bit too. This one is 24" long, 3/4" in diameter with two slides for adjustments. Rear of scope is marked "JOHN W. SIDLE PHILA. PA 1356". These were basically handmade instruments and these almost dropped in on the first try. So yes, it's all back together and I guess those 7's in the serial number turned out to be lucky! I have been collecting for over thirty years and I've yet to see another one that's complete. My guess is that all it took was leaning the rifle up against a wall or a tree while hunting for the rifle (which balances slightly off center) to slip and fall. Just one time could have easily bent the tube, shattered the optics, and rendered the scope useless. Of the few that were made, most were probably damaged while hunting and discarded. That is probably what happened to this one only for some reason the owner left the back mount and ring attached to the left side plate. From that, we figured everything out 100 years later thanks to the help of my friends and a couple more friends in the ASAC! This scope is in nice shape with most of its original blue and best of all, the fragile original 19th century optics are intact including the cross hairs. As for the front sight, this rifle deserved something special so we went with an early original Gold-Plated Beech Combination Globe Sight which was a nice match for the existing adjustable short range rear tangent sight. Another reason I like the beech is the open sight blade is quite sharp and tends to anchor the barrel a little more securely if you're leaning the rifle against the wall with such a fragile scope.
Overall condition of the rifle is NRA Antique Fine with the case color receiver mostly faded to a mottled silvery pattern with about 15% discernible colors on the left side of the frame near the back which was protected by the mount. The barrel has 25% original blue mostly around the forend with the balance turned to a gray to brown patina. The original walnut wood is in Fine condition with a fair bit of the original varnish remaining. There are not chips, cracks, or repairs, and the wood to metal fit is perfect. The walnut has some slight figure in the grain which was common on special order guns as the Winchester custom shop tended to stock them with wood that was a little better than standard but not quite fancy or symmetrical enough on both sides to grade as 1X, 2X, or 3X. Screws are nice overall. Bore and mechanics are NRA Fine with nice lands, grooves, no rings, no bulges. Overall, this is a fantastic little 1873 and the early scope gives it a completely different look. At some point, this rifle would be deserving of a custom made case to protect the optics. With that in mind for some future owner, we are including an original set of Winchester loading tools in .38 WCF to go with it. The mold has the early iron handles which is period correct to the rifle as is the Model 1882 reloading tool with an earlier style Winchester address.