This is an early Winchester brass bullet mold for the 1st Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle. In the 1870's, fixed rimfire ammunition was still a relatively recent improvement over the traditional muzzle-loader. When central fire ammunition was introduced to the American public with the debut of the Model 1873, the whole concept of reloading came along with it. That said, Winchester offered a special mold and reloading tool to complement their new product line of center fire rifles and carbines. This early brass variant dates to around the mid-late 1870's before they were replaced by an all steel variant.
There is some good reference material on early Winchester tools in the back of Lewis Yearout's book on Model 1876 NWMP Carbines. In it, he explains the first mold Winchester introduced for the 1873 (a.k.a. 1st Model) was a solid mold with a loop attachment (similar to single handle of a pair of scissors) that doubled as both handle and the lever for the sprue cutter. Here is one we sold about five years and 1,000 items ago and only example we've ever had:
The next (2nd Model) had a dedicated sprue cutter atop a solid mold with a single wooden handle.
Then came along this version which was vastly improved over the previous two and short-lived variants. This one, called the 3rd Model Mold, was a split mold with two handles and a sprue cutter. Because the mold was now split in connecting halves instead of solid, the cavity could now incorporate a better design with grease rings on its cast bullets. The bodies/handles were made of brass with iron sprue cutters and axis pins. The only markings placed on this mold was the caliber which in this case is "44 W.C.F." which is located on the left handle. The 3rd Model design in terms of mechanics was never improved upon but like the previous versions, it was soon replaced by a 4th Model; this one was nearly identical but made entirely of steel. The last version of the Winchester Model was the 5th Model which featured a nice pair of walnut grips placed over the steel handles to protect the user's hand from heat conducted from the body of the mold.
If you've been to arms collector shows or studied up online, you've probably recognized that the 5th Model Mold is quite common. The 4th Model is encountered less but still not to difficult to find in basic calibers. However, the 3rd Model Brass Mold is very uncommon and the 1st and 2nd Variants are just off the charts rare. It's been two or three years since I've physically laid eyes upon a 3rd Model up for sale.
Overall Condition grades to Very Good in uncleaned and untouched condition. The brass body is straight with no bends or cracks and shows a nice patina. The caliber marking is crisp. The iron-ware has some scattered pitting but solid and nothing broken or missing. Aside from a little dust and dirt, the mold cavity is Excellent with no dings or abuse. The handles are still tight as is the sprue cutter. While it was probably stored away in grandpa's shed, it does not show much use. A good solid example of one of Winchester's 1st bullet molds. This would make a fantastic accessory to a Winchester 1873 1st Model Rifle or Saddle Ring Carbine.