This is an extremely rare 1st Model bullet Mold in 44 Caliber for the Winchester Model 1873 rifle. This is about as rare as Winchester loading tools and accessories get and came right out of South Dakota! This was Winchester's very first mold for the world's first reloadable cartridge. For years, the biggest problem with early repeating rifles was that in spite of superior fire power, they were completely useless once you ran out of rimfire ammuntion. The logistics in finding more ammunition back in the 1860's and 70's was also difficult and this was especially true on the American frontier. Unforunately, this was the one place where repeating rifles were badly needed and Walmart usually wasn't right down the street to purchase more ammunition..
To solve this problem, Winchester designed the first centrally primed reloadable cartridge and introduced it in their Model 1873 Winchester rifle. In order to make this practical, they also had to design a set of reloading tools to go with the gun. This crudely cast little brass mold with unusual scissor handles is the first bullet mold Winchester ever made along with their 1874 model reloading tool. Since the cavity had only a solid drag with only a sprue cutter and no cope, these must have been tough to pry a freshly case bullet out of. I would imagine a great many were probably broken because of this. Thus, this mold was only made for a short time and was quickly replaced by a more conventional style two-handled mold made of brass and subsequentally iron.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Good condition with a nice patina formed over the brass with several dings on the bottom of the mold cavity where they tried to knock loose the freshly cast bullets. The handle has a slight bend but is totally solid and has never been damaged or repaired. The sprue cutter is made of iron and has a nice dark uncleaned patina. Mold cavity looks nice. As with most of these, there are no caliber markings. Since the 1873 only came in one caliber, the 44 WCF, Winchester didn't even mark caliber designations on their rifles until some years later.
In over 20 years of collecting Winchesters, this is the only example I've ever found and owned. In that same period of time, I have also been fortunate enough to have had the companion to this mold, the scarce Model 1874 reloading tool that was only produced for a very short time. That may not seem like a big deal to some of you out there, but I have friends who've been collecting Winchester for 40 to 50 years who have never found either of these elusive little critters! If you are collecting early Model 1873's, I believe these are probably harder to find than the earliest variant of 1st Model (approx. 350 made) with a raised-thumbprint dust cover with hand-engraved lower tang. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own the Holy Grail of Winchester tools!