This is an exceptionally good example of a Winchester Model 1876 Saddle Ring Carbine that was issued to the Canadian North West Mounted Police, a.k.a. the NWMP. It's marked with the "NWMP" inside a chevron located on the right side of the stock. Following its service with the NWMP, it was later issued to the Legion of Frontiersmen as it bears their stamp on the mark of that organization along the bottom of the stock as well. This gun is in the 32,000 range which is noted as a correct serial range for Mountie Carbines in Winchester's North West Mounted Police Carbines by Lewis Yearout.
The NWMP "Force" was created in 1874 to keep the peace in a vast expanse of territory that had once been the Hudson Bay Company's trading territory as granted by King Charles II of England in 1670. Hudson Bay Company referred to this "Trading Empire" as "Rupert's Land" until it was transferred to the Dominion of Canada in 1869 and was renamed the North West Territory. This area, that now makes up most of western Canada was composed of mostly grasslands, few trees and inhabited by various tribes of Native Americans as well as the "Metis", a group of French and Irish settlers who had intermarried with the Cree Tribes. This territory was controlled by just a few hundred NWMP Mounted Police. Their mission was simple, "Originate and Enforce Canadian Law and Authority" throughout the region. The first few hundred NWMP policemen arrived in the Territory in Sept. 1874 and were mainly armed with single shot Snider carbines. After several years of hard service, the Sniders were not only worn but grossly obsolete compared to native tribes in the south who were usually much better armed than the NWMP. Just imagine riding into a village armed with a single shot rifle to arrest a whisky peddler surrounded by a tribe of Blackfoot or Cree holding brand new Winchester repeating rifles. Clearly, something had to be done to correct such a technological disadvantage. For such a small force of law officers to govern such a wide expanse of territory, they clearly needed an edge over potential threats.
This "edge" in firepower was solved with the introduction of the Winchester Model 1876 with the first examples arriving on the frontier in the fall of 1877. This new model was also known as the Centennial Model of 1876 when it was debuted at the Great Exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 as part of the United States' 100 year anniversary. Yes, there's a bit of irony that an American gun that debuted as part of America's centennial celebration of independence from English rule would be used to enforce British rule over a large chunk of the North America's upper territory. That said, the gun was impressive...as it was essentially an 1873 Winchester repeating rifle scaled up to handle much more powerful cartridges like the 45-75 and 50-95 Express. The 1876 lever action carbine could deliver nine rounds of this potent medicine which would give each member of the Force...an added measure of respect while on patrol. One thing I've also noticed about the 1876 that would have let this gun's presence be known is the loud mechanical "CLANK" "CLANK" sound the action makes when a round is chambered into the breech from the magazine. Any foe of the Mounted Police would have quickly understood what would happen next if orders weren't followed. It reminds me of someone many years ago during my youth explaining the benefits of a pump shotgun..."Son, you don't want an semi-auto, the sound of that pump action being racked usually stops any trouble from going further." He was right. Well, this large toggle link action (essentially a Model 1873 on steroids) sounds very similar to that of a pump shotgun...with just a bit more of a metallic ring to it. It was almost certainly used as a deterrent in tense situations along the frontier.
The NWMP purchased some of the very first Model 1876 carbines ever made...almost certainly through the IG Baker & Company located in Fort Benton, Montana around the spring of 1878. From that point on, the NWMP purchased 1876 carbines on a yearly basis (usually 50 to 100 at a time) through the year 1885. My guess here is the Force had an annual budget to contend with...otherwise they would have replaced all of their Sniders at once. As a result, there simply weren't enough 1876's to arm the entire force...although every Mounted Policemen wanted one. There were a few problems with the 1876 however. The first guns didn't have dust covers...which were later added by Winchester...but the main culprits in the design were in terms of durability...a common 19th century critique from military ordnance boards regarding lever action repeaters. For example, the small ladder rear sights moved from side to side in the barrel from riding in leather scabbards on horseback. Stocks were often broken, and there were even cases of frame failures at the barrel juncture...one notable failure when a trooper slipped on a patch of ice resulted in the barrel dislodging from the frame on his carbine. The Winchester Repeating Arms Co. took these critiques seriously and to heart and thus began producing a more "beefed up" carbine especially for the NWMP. These new 1876 carbines are referred to in the Force's annual reports as the "New Pattern" Winchester Carbines. They have thicker barrel shanks, high quality stocks that are a slightly thicker, and a special rear sight called the "Spanish Meter Sight" that is mounted more firmly to the barrel with screws instead of tradition slotted dovetails. All of these improvements were lauded by the NWMP and more orders followed in subsequent years for this "New Pattern". These 1876's covered literally thousands of miles on horseback for many years.
That said, this particular carbine is one of the better examples we've seen. It's still wearing all of its raw frontier usage and even has some original finish remaining. Fortunately, it has never been cleaned up or had its wood refinished. The wood still has all of its frontier usage right there on the surface along with its original patina, dirt from the trooper's hands, etc...completely untouched! Best of all, the NWMP markings, which were light stamped into the stocks to begin with, is still intact and legible. (See photos). In addition, we contacted the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY for the factory records and received the following information. Note, that like all but the earliest NWMP 1876 carbines, it letters correctly with the "New Pattern" improvements including the Spanish Meter rear sight. Here is the info they sent:
Win. 1876, SN 33220
Date in: 3-26-1883
Spanish meter sights
Good quality stock
Date shipped: 4-11-1883
Here is what Yearout's book notes about this order:
Winchester Factory shipping order number 2915 left New Haven, Connecticut on April 11, 1883. The shipment consisted of 101 "New Pattern Carbines" bearing the following serial numbers:
Serial number 33197 through and including 33296
Described in the records as "Carbine-Cal. .45-75 W.C.F. Large Shank -Good Quality Stock Spanish Meter Sights."...The "Force" ended the year of 1883 with a total of 537 Model 1876 Carbines. Commissioner Irvine in his annual report for that year, considered the "New Pattern" carbines as a most excellent arm and of superior manufacture. It is, in every respect, "well adapted to our use."
The following year in 1885, the NWMP would face the task of putting down a full-scale uprising by the Cree tribe and the "Metis" led by Louis Riel which became known as the North West Rebellion. "The year of 1885 is quite notable in Canadian records, as it also reflected the beginning, as well as the ending of "The North West Rebellion," on May 9th. The Model 1876 played an important part in the battles that took place at Duck Lake, Cut Knife Hill, Fort Pitt, and Batoche." Louis Riel, leader of the "Metis", surrendered at Batoche on the May 9th date. With a speedy trial, and conviction of the charge of "Treason", he was executed by hanging in Regina, Saskatchewan the same year. This "trial and execution" would separate the people of Canada for many years to come.
Gabriel Dumont, Riel's second in command, was wounded at Duck Lake and later escaped at the battle of Batoche. He crossed the border into Montana Territory, and remained in the United States. In 1886 he joined Buffalo Bill Cody's "Wild West Show" and as a member of such toured, not only the United States and Europe, but possibly England. Lewis Yearout, page 60 of Winchester's North West Mounted Police Carbines.
Legion of Frontiersmen: there are more than a few Model 1876 NWMP carbines that bear strange little markings on the bottom of the stock..."L.O.F." followed by a number. This stands for Legion of Frontiersmen. The organization started in 1904 by a group of patriotic British ex-military men who were looking for a way to serve the Empire. I personally don't know much about them but the premise was to offer their services free of charge to their country. It's interesting in that Yearout's book notes that the first men from England to cross the English Channel and land in Belgium to fight the Germans were LOF men acting on their own accord well ahead of the British government. The Belgians however gladly accepted them. There were also LOF branches in Canada and that appears to be how this carbine ended up in their organization.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Very Good Plus. The metal has original blue in the protected areas including about 15% on the frame...mainly in areas around the original saddle ring and edges of the sideplate and along the dust cover rail. In addition traces of original blue can be found on the rear sight, edges of the loading port, saddle ring, and forend cap, and along the edges of the barrel where it meets the fore wood. Hammer has some silvery remains of case colors as well. The wood is Good+ condition with numerous nicks and dings from years of service on the Canadian frontier. The extra robust "Good Quality Stock" provided by Winchester certainly did its job as in spite of the wear; it's solid with no chips or repairs. As mentioned earlier, the original NWMP stamp on the stock...it's light like it's supposed to be as these were never deeply stamped but still legible. The LOF (Legion of Frontiersmen) marking on the lower portion of the stock is also present and would have been placed on the gun years well after its original period of use with the NWMP. This would explain why the stamp is so crisp on a gun that's seen years of frontier use. The wood has never been sanded or cleaned and still mostly stands slightly proud of the metal...just the way it did when it left the Winchester factory in 1883. Mechanically, the action works perfectly and the bore is in Fine condition, still bright with nice lands and grooves. Like most guns used by a police force, this carbine was well looked after, carried quite a bit, but show far less wear from firing. There is a researcher in Canada named Donald Klancher (RCMP ret.) who has access to the original police records and can often-times provide even more detailed history by specific serial number on these NWMP carbines. There are very few Winchesters out there that a collector can acquire which have genuine and documentable law enforcement use on the North American frontier.