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1873 in 44 S&W American
May 29, 2020
1:56 am
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A couple of guys wanted to see this one that I mentioned on another  thread.

This gun is not a production gun, It was used by Winchester in  the circuit court case brought by Morse Arms Manufacturing Co. Morse had a patent in 1856 that had to do with how to seal the gases of a fired shell from coming back out the chamber by use of a shell that expanded in the chamber. Winchester used the Smith & Wesson patent of 1854 and The Henry Improvement patent of 1860 and they found there was enough differences between the Morse patent and Winchester.

I believe they made this gun to chamber the 44 S&W American shell to show the relationship to the S&W patent or just to try the ballistics. The gun will not feed the 44 S&W American since the carrier is standard length for the 44-40 and a second shell enters the elevator jamming it and the 44-40 will not chamber but you can single feed it into the barrel and it has been fired some, The bore is still mint and the metal has about 98% of the early dark blue. Has the thumb print dust cover and no caliber stamps.

The gun has a metal tag on the lever with the number 274 and is listed in the "Inventory of the Winchester Firearms Reference Collection" book. In the book lists the gun as:

44 S&W Cal American Lever Action

Regular Mod 73 tubular magazine rifle 24" Octagon Barrel

This rifle was used as an exhibit in the circuit court in the Morse vs. WRAco

This rifle bears the serial number 31,081

January 17, 1947 -A sulfur cast was taken of chamber, shows the barrel was made to handle the 44 S&W American cartridge.

The gun letters as a carbine entered April 2 1887 and shipped April 4

Bob

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May 29, 2020
2:03 am
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Interesting story, thanks for taking the time to pass it along. Somehow I suspect the story of how it came to be in your collection is at least half as interesting.

 

Mike

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May 29, 2020
2:35 am
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Yes, a very interesting story.  It would be nice to know more of the story but at least you've got a good share of it.  It is interesting that it was originally shipped as a carbine.  How it came back, or ended up being picked to be used as a test gun, is intriguing.  Neat that it is in such high condition.  By the way, what year was the court case?

May 29, 2020
2:41 am
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It was in July of 1887

Bob

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May 29, 2020
4:30 am
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Bob,

How is the barrel and elevator marked?

Sincerely,

Maverick

May 29, 2020
4:33 am
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Maverick,

No caliber stamps typical of that era.

Bob

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May 29, 2020
5:17 am
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Bob,

Ha! Yeah I forgot we're talking about an early 2nd Model. In your survey what is the earliest marked elevator you have? Earliest I know of is in the 60,000 range.

How you ever pulled the stocks? Any markings on the bottom side the barrel? Any special markings on the tangs?

Sincerely,

Maverick

May 29, 2020
9:36 am
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Nice 1873!

What would be the value of this unique, high condition Model 1873?

May 29, 2020
12:53 pm
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mrcvs said
Nice 1873!

What would be the value of this unique, high condition Model 1873?  

I wonder to what extent this is a, "cross-over" piece, meaning it would also have appeal to some Smith and Wesson collectors?

May 29, 2020
2:10 pm
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Steve, I think it would have more appeal to the Winchester collector since all its history is tied to Winchester. It would be like a Merwin Hulbert or Colt pistol in 44-40 to a Winchester collector. As to value, I'm thinking in the range of 15 - 20k. It would be simular to a factory cutaway but this has documentation were as a cutaway does not. When I bought it and was trying to figure a value, I had in the back of my mind that it would be a real minty early second model that didn't letter clean and you could say it was recorded wrong if you took a chamber reamer to it.

Maverick, If memory serves me right there was nothing unusual about any tang markings and I don't think I slide the forearm off since it had nice finish. Caliber markings would of started with the 38 caliber at around 48,000.

Bob

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May 29, 2020
2:59 pm
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1873man said
Steve, I think it would have more appeal to the Winchester collector since all its history is tied to Winchester. It would be like a Merwin Hulbert or Colt pistol in 44-40 to a Winchester collector. As to value, I'm thinking in the range of 15 - 20k. It would be simular to a factory cutaway but this has documentation were as a cutaway does not. When I bought it and was trying to figure a value, I had in the back of my mind that it would be a real minty early second model that didn't letter clean and you could say it was recorded wrong if you took a chamber reamer to it.

Maverick, If memory serves me right there was nothing unusual about any tang markings and I don't think I slide the forearm off since it had nice finish. Caliber markings would of started with the 38 caliber at around 48,000.

Bob  

I was thinking it would make an interesting companion piece to a Smith and Wesson revolver in the same chambering.  

May 29, 2020
4:52 pm
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1873man said
St It would be simular to a factory cutaway but this has documentation were as a cutaway does not. When I bought it and was trying to figure a value, I had in the back of my mind that it would be a real minty early second model that didn't letter clean and you could say it was recorded wrong if you took a chamber reamer to it.

It is definitely a one-of-a-kind piece. To me the Winchester Museum provenance (i.e. the tag, and having been in the reference collection) holds more historical importance than what the ledger entry states. I'd almost wonder if the ledger is merely in error. Either way the gun is more valuable in my opinion as is, so please don't take a chamber reamer to it! And don't throw away the museum tag, as they don't make those anymore!

1873man said
Caliber markings would of started with the 38 caliber at around 48,000.

Bob  

I was asking, what was the earliest marked 38wcf elevator you had in your 73 survey? Or is that not part of your survey?

I don't keep an active detailed survey like you, but the earliest I had info on a 38 marked elevator was in the 60,000 range. But that doesn't mean anything, whatsoever, as I've been more focused on other things as of late.

Sincerely,

Maverick

May 29, 2020
11:29 pm
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Thank you for sharing your special 73 with us Bob. What a great part of Winchester history. A fine looking rifle sir!

Chris

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June 1, 2020
4:53 pm
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To All;

     I guess by now most who followed what I've had to say on this forum over the years know I always looked for the unusual. A number of years ago I sold off most of my Winchester 1873s', amongst the rifles I sold through Little John Gangle was a Model 1873 with a late ordered Winchester barrel (cir. 1921-1923). This barrel was special ordered and chambered and rifled from a "Blank" I guess. The only markings on the barrel was the normal Winchester address. No other markings or proof marks. The '73 was given to me by an acquaintance of mine, also a long time Winchester collector. He'd just acquired the rifle at the old Pottstown, Pa. gun show. It was part of a trade and cost him nothing, so it cost me the same. He didn't want it because it wasn't in the condition he liked. The bore of this rifle was in absolute perfect condition. I at first thought it to be a 38-40 WCF as did he, it wasn't. The necked 38-40 WCF wouldn't fit in the chamber. To make a long story much shorter, this rifle with its special ordered barrel turned out to be a "Wildcat" cartridge. The caliber was 40-44. This isn't a typo error. It was chambered to handle a 44 special case using a 38-40 (40 caliber) bullet. I had about 20 cartridges made up in this "Wildcat" and fired off 18. Not only did it feed, but was accurate out to 100 yards or so. Anyway the rifle sold at Gangle's auction and is out there somewhere in someones collection. I imagine the buyer doesn't even know he's got something unusual. He probably thinks it's just a screwed up '73. By the way, the barrel was not a "Re-Chambered" 38-40 WCF as the 38-40 case was to large for the chamber. The 40-44 using a 44 special case was necked down to take a 40 caliber bullet. The 44 Special was originally a straight case, unlike the case of the 38-40.

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