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Spotting fake guns
January 12, 2020
3:01 am
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Here are some important things I learned over the years that has helped me spot bad or faked guns and now with restored guns becoming more popular it’s more relevant. The more interesting the Cody letter, the more incentive to build a gun to match the letter.

 The first thing I look at is the serial number. It’s like the foundation of a house, if a house has a bad foundation the house sitting on it is not worth much. When I look at a serial number I look at the style of the numbers. Most gunsmiths only have a few styles of number stamps and use the wrong style and don’t realize the importance of using the correct ones. They can’t be bought from a supply store, they have to be made. You need to research the gun you’re interested in and know what it’s supposed to look like. I’ve started to collect pictures of serial numbers from the 73’s to use to confirm if a gun in question has the right style for the era as well as the depth of the stamping. The 73 has wide variety of styles from the beginning to the end of production. If the stamp is light and the gun has good finish on it I can assume it’s been refinished but some guns were stamped light. That is were the photos of what a normal serial number looks like.  The same can be said about barrel address’s they were often stamped light on round barreled 73's.

The next thing I look at is on guns that have the serial number on the lower tang is how the lower tang fits in the receiver. The lower tang and receiver were sanded/buffed assembled so they matched perfectly. If you swap a lower tang to another gun chances are it will not match up right. If it does and it has original finish or patina on it as well as the area next to the tang I can be confident the tang with the serial number came with the receiver. Now with a well-used gun that’s been taken apart many times the fit between the two can get sloppy and you have to use your judgement. There is another trick some guys use to change the serial number of a gun on 73’s. Say they have a gun with a badly rust receiver or holes drilled in it, is they cut the bottom tang at the lever latch and weld it to another receiver with no issues or has better finish. Now they have a good serial number on a tang that fits the receiver. The weld is under the lever latch so it’s easy to hide the weld job.

When you get to the receiver you’re looking for rounded corners from improper buffing or sanding. The one that most refinishers mess up is the screw holes. When Winchester worked the receiver they took care not to round the corners of the holes and edges. Some refinishers just take the gun to a buffing wheel that has a soft wheel that can dig into the holes removing metal quickly leaving the tell tail rounded corner generally in one direction from the hole. The same can be seen in any stampings on the gun that got too close to a buffing wheel. Determining if the finish of the gun is real can’t be learned from reading a book. It has to be learned from experience from seeing good guns in person in good light. Blue on old guns has a depth to it. When looking at it in good light and you roll the gun around the blue almost looks three dimensional. Cold blue and modern blues don’t have that look to it. As the blue ages (oxidizes) you see a plum color to it which you can see easier when viewed in sun light or with LED lights. In recent years I’ve seen a lot of dealer and collectors using them.

Barrels are being made new all the time so you have to look at blue to see if it’s real as well as the barrel address. Some barrel addresses are real good and others look hokey.  Some long barreled guns were cut short years ago since they were hard to carry and too heavy. Now when the value of the long barreled guns are a premium they get repaired either by replacing the barrel with new or by stretching the original barrel. Stretching a barrel is done by welding on a piece of barrel and then relining the barrel. Relining can be done differently. The easiest way is by drilling and gluing in a thin liner but it’s the easiest to spot since you can see the ring of the liner at the muzzle. The better way is to use a thicker liner and weld it at the ends then refinish and age the muzzle. Liners most of the time can be spotted by the mint rifling in a worn rifle. You can sometinmes spot the weld seam or pin holing on the outside at the stretch point if the guy was not careful. On standard length and short barrels there are some guys that will take a used barrel and turn it down into a liner and weld it in on a gun with a nice blued barrel with a bad bore. Now when you look down the bore it looks like a normal used bore.

I not going to talk about wood since it’s been discussed enough here. If you research the guns you’re interested in and learn all you can, you can buy intelligently. It’s when you buy something you have little knowledge of is when you get took.

Bob

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January 12, 2020
4:29 am
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Bob,

This is some very good info regarding the 1873's.  Thanks for posting.  My collection consists of mostly 1894's so the 1873's are somewhat new territory for me.  Back to these two consecutive 1873 carbines in a prior post, there's something fishy with the serial numbers. To me, serial number 72824 looks completely wrong compared to serial number 72823.  Am I right or are they both bogus?  The wood finish on both guns look way to shiny and look refinished too.  Coming from this seller, nothing would surprise me.

https://www.gunbroker.com/item/839696695

Don

January 12, 2020
4:56 am
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1873man said

Liners most of the time can be spotted by the mint rifling in a worn rifle.  

That's the dead give-away, & why I've never worried about disguising the muzzle when having a lining job done--not for the purpose of fakery, but to restore shootability.  Even when the muzzle is disguised, it's often possible to see the other end of the liner from the breech.

January 12, 2020
5:38 am
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Clarence,

I wrote this post to educate the collector that is more concerned about the value of the gun. I understand a shooter has different concerns.

Bob

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January 12, 2020
5:58 pm
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Second gun is laughable. 

January 12, 2020
9:27 pm
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This is the kind of knowledge that I like.  Although its focus is centered around the 1873, much of it has to do with most all old guns that I am somewhat or very much familiar with.  I especially liked the information about the stamps, bluing, and buffing.

James

January 13, 2020
5:45 pm
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1873man said
Here are some important things I learned over the years that has helped me spot bad or faked guns and now with restored guns becoming more popular it’s more relevant. The more interesting the Cody letter, the more incentive to build a gun to match the letter.

 The first thing I look at is the serial number. It’s like the foundation of a house, if a house has a bad foundation the house sitting on it is not worth much. When I look at a serial number I look at the style of the numbers. Most gunsmiths only have a few styles of number stamps and use the wrong style and don’t realize the importance of using the correct ones. They can’t be bought from a supply store, they have to be made. You need to research the gun you’re interested in and know what it’s supposed to look like. I’ve started to collect pictures of serial numbers from the 73’s to use to confirm if a gun in question has the right style for the era as well as the depth of the stamping. The 73 has wide variety of styles from the beginning to the end of production. If the stamp is light and the gun has good finish on it I can assume it’s been refinished but some guns were stamped light. That is were the photos of what a normal serial number looks like.  The same can be said about barrel address’s they were often stamped light on round barreled 73's.

The next thing I look at is on guns that have the serial number on the lower tang is how the lower tang fits in the receiver. The lower tang and receiver were sanded/buffed assembled so they matched perfectly. If you swap a lower tang to another gun chances are it will not match up right. If it does and it has original finish or patina on it as well as the area next to the tang I can be confident the tang with the serial number came with the receiver. Now with a well-used gun that’s been taken apart many times the fit between the two can get sloppy and you have to use your judgement. There is another trick some guys use to change the serial number of a gun on 73’s. Say they have a gun with a badly rust receiver or holes drilled in it, is they cut the bottom tang at the lever latch and weld it to another receiver with no issues or has better finish. Now they have a good serial number on a tang that fits the receiver. The weld is under the lever latch so it’s easy to hide the weld job.

When you get to the receiver you’re looking for rounded corners from improper buffing or sanding. The one that most refinishers mess up is the screw holes. When Winchester worked the receiver they took care not to round the corners of the holes and edges. Some refinishers just take the gun to a buffing wheel that has a soft wheel that can dig into the holes removing metal quickly leaving the tell tail rounded corner generally in one direction from the hole. The same can be seen in any stampings on the gun that got too close to a buffing wheel. Determining if the finish of the gun is real can’t be learned from reading a book. It has to be learned from experience from seeing good guns in person in good light. Blue on old guns has a depth to it. When looking at it in good light and you roll the gun around the blue almost looks three dimensional. Cold blue and modern blues don’t have that look to it. As the blue ages (oxidizes) you see a plum color to it which you can see easier when viewed in sun light or with LED lights. In recent years I’ve seen a lot of dealer and collectors using them.

Barrels are being made new all the time so you have to look at blue to see if it’s real as well as the barrel address. Some barrel addresses are real good and others look hokey.  Some long barreled guns were cut short years ago since they were hard to carry and too heavy. Now when the value of the long barreled guns are a premium they get repaired either by replacing the barrel with new or by stretching the original barrel. Stretching a barrel is done by welding on a piece of barrel and then relining the barrel. Relining can be done differently. The easiest way is by drilling and gluing in a thin liner but it’s the easiest to spot since you can see the ring of the liner at the muzzle. The better way is to use a thicker liner and weld it at the ends then refinish and age the muzzle. Liners most of the time can be spotted by the mint rifling in a worn rifle. You can sometinmes spot the weld seam or pin holing on the outside at the stretch point if the guy was not careful. On standard length and short barrels there are some guys that will take a used barrel and turn it down into a liner and weld it in on a gun with a nice blued barrel with a bad bore. Now when you look down the bore it looks like a normal used bore.

I not going to talk about wood since it’s been discussed enough here. If you research the guns you’re interested in and learn all you can, you can buy intelligently. It’s when you buy something you have little knowledge of is when you get took.

Bob  

Bob you make a lot of good points.  I am going to add some more.  Usually when a tang has been welded the finish will age differently and in time you will see a distinct line between the two areas.  Not all tangs are cut and rewelded in the same location.

Font style is very important.  One of my first lessons was on an 86.  Many 86's have been modified to be 45-70's.  Make sure you look at the barrel very closely to see if there has been any signs of work on the barrel in this area. Font may be wrong, signs of refinishing and even a slight dip where the old numbers have been removed.

After you look at many hundreds of guns you will know signs of bad or over buffing of parts.  Buffing marks are not like original, certain areas on the barrel and receiver will get rounded.  Bad buffing around the screw holes can show up with halos after blueing.  Using a bright light to check the blueing has been around for years.  No matter how new the blue looks it will show the plumb/brown in it like Bob said.  New blue won't.

Since Bob did not want to rehash the wood issue I will.  Wood to metal fit should be perfect. The stock and forend were buffed at the same time as the metal parts and every thing was hand fit.  No matter what others believe the wood does not get shorter or shrink or grow enough to show a gap.  Check to make sure the wood shows no sighs of sanding like rounded edges that should be very sharp.  Learn that the upper rounded corner of the buttplate area the wood is proud of the metal.

The bottom line is you need to pick up every Winchester you can just to learn and in time you will get better at spotting problems. 

January 13, 2020
11:55 pm
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All good points Chuck, Like you said the key to learning how to spot problem guns is you have to look at enough good guns. If you just walk around a gun show and look you don't know whats good and whats not. You need a mentor that knows his stuff. I had a good fortune that the first Winchester I bought at a local show was a rusty second model 73 in 44 with split wood for around $800 but after talking with the guy he learned we didn't know a thing about old guns. He could of ripped me off but instead he invited us over to his house and told us what books to read and then would pull guns off the wall  and show us the finer points. Then he would point to one and ask to look it over and find what wrong with it. We visited his house several times and learned more then you could from a book. A book will tell you at what serial number the different features or change happened but not what real looks like

Bob

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January 14, 2020
3:09 am
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deerhunter said
Bob,

This is some very good info regarding the 1873's.  Thanks for posting.  My collection consists of mostly 1894's so the 1873's are somewhat new territory for me.  Back to these two consecutive 1873 carbines in a prior post, there's something fishy with the serial numbers. To me, serial number 72824 looks completely wrong compared to serial number 72823.  Am I right or are they both bogus?  The wood finish on both guns look way to shiny and look refinished too.  Coming from this seller, nothing would surprise me.

https://www.gunbroker.com/item/839696695

Don  

I expect that it has already been pointed out that the seller appears to be the notorious/ridiculous Selling Dad's Old Guns (or whatever he used to scam under.)

January 14, 2020
4:11 am
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FromTheWoods said

I expect that it has already been pointed out that the seller appears to be the notorious/ridiculous Selling Dad's Old Guns (or whatever he used to scam under.)  

No shat, is that the same crook as "Selling Dad's Old Guns"?  If so, it has not been pointed out! 

January 14, 2020
8:23 pm
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Many aspects of that auction point specifically to it being the same dishonorable....

January 15, 2020
1:11 am
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  In order to consider an old Winchester rare it has to have the original serial number stamped by the factory, if not it's a clone. A clone can be made duplicating the rare gun including the serial number at anytime, but it's not the original gun, it's not rare, and it's not worth as much. Before you spend money to buy rare be sure the serial number was applied by Winchester and determine what parts if any belonged to the original. If it's restored and restamped make sure you have documentation. Just my opinion. T/R

January 15, 2020
5:25 am
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"This fabulous pair of 73's is considered to be the RAREST & MOST VALUABLE PAIR OF CONSECUTIVE NUMBERED, ENGRAVED, GOLD & NICKEL PLATED Winchester Model 1873 Deluxe Saddle Ring Carbines in existence!!!"

How many other consecutive numbered, engraved,  gold and nickel plated Winchester 73s were there for this to be the most valuable?  This guy should write used car ads.

Vince
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January 15, 2020
1:56 pm
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Vince said
"This fabulous pair of 73's is considered to be the RAREST & MOST VALUABLE PAIR OF CONSECUTIVE NUMBERED, ENGRAVED, GOLD & NICKEL PLATED Winchester Model 1873 Deluxe Saddle Ring Carbines in existence!!!"

How many other consecutive numbered, engraved,  gold and nickel plated Winchester 73s were there for this to be the most valuable?  This guy should write used car ads.  

The “description” is certainly a piece of work, not without a fair bit of entertainment value.

 

Mike

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January 15, 2020
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1873man said
All good points Chuck, Like you said the key to learning how to spot problem guns is you have to look at enough good guns. If you just walk around a gun show and look you don't know whats good and whats not. You need a mentor that knows his stuff. I had a good fortune that the first Winchester I bought at a local show was a rusty second model 73 in 44 with split wood for around $800 but after talking with the guy he learned we didn't know a thing about old guns. He could of ripped me off but instead he invited us over to his house and told us what books to read and then would pull guns off the wall  and show us the finer points. Then he would point to one and ask to look it over and find what wrong with it. We visited his house several times and learned more then you could from a book. A book will tell you at what serial number the different features or change happened but not what real looks like

Bob  

Bob you were lucky to run across this guy.  I had a similar experience, sort of.  One of the first collector gun shows I went to I came upon a dealer that had a couple tables of Winchester.  He proceeded to explain each one and point out the ones he had restored.  At this point he could have fooled me on each one.  We became friends and traveling partners for about 20 years.  I never could figure out why he could be so dishonest at times and other times so truthful.  He had to be honest with the experienced dealers and collectors but would rip off others.  I never knew why he would choose to be honest with certain people.  I used to tell him he wore the cowboy hat to hide his horns.  He's gone now but I learned a lot about Winchesters and the restoration process and the people in the restoration and sales of these type of guns.  Yes I have been criticized for hanging out with him but the dealers know I am only guilty by association.  He was one of the smartest men I knew and was a load of fun.  At shows we always had extra chairs for all the people that came to hang out and ask for his advise.  I can't tell you how many times he would bless a gun that was not his and start a feeding frenzy.  Many dealers wouldn't buy a gun until he said it was OK.

January 15, 2020
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 Chuck, He told me that if you ask nice and make a effort to learn he would help. If you thought you knew it all and tried to impress the crowd he would make a example. He was nice to me to. T/R

January 15, 2020
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TR said
 Chuck, He told me that if you ask nice and make a effort to learn he would help. If you thought you knew it all and tried to impress the crowd he would make a example. He was nice to me to. T/R  

He wasn't always nice to me and I surely didn't know much and I was his lackey as he would put it.  I only bought 1 gun from him and we had an issue because he raised the price at the last minute after we had already agreed to one.  Just one example.  It is the 76 that I put your sight on.

January 15, 2020
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  Sorry Chuck, but you have to admit Walt was one of a kind. Maybe I was lucky to live 2000 miles away. T/R

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