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1876 winchester generations
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February 7, 2023 - 9:13 pm
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I just saw in my 30th edition blue book that the 1876  had no dust cover nor rail until approximately SN 5000. 2nd generation had thumb print dust cover and screwed-on rail which is what mine has. My SN is 3267 and I have it lettered. The only comment in the letter was that it was not shipped out for 2 years until the set trigger was removed. Am I 1st or 2nd generation?

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February 7, 2023 - 9:27 pm
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86Win said
I just saw in my 30th edition blue book that the 1876  had no dust cover nor rail until approximately SN 5000. 2nd generation had thumb print dust cover and screwed-on rail which is what mine has. My SN is 3267 and I have it lettered. The only comment in the letter was that it was not shipped out for 2 years until the set trigger was removed. Am I 1st or 2nd generation?

  

I have one similar (2545) that left the factory with dust cover and rail, although the dust cover or “lid” is not mentioned in the letter.  It was originally a 45/75 with 30″ barrel and set trigger and was changed to a 30″ barrel in 45/60 with plain trigger before it was shipped in 1878.  Houze mentions some 60-70 rifles that were converted in this manner if I remember right??  So, they started out as a first model but were updated before shipping and now wear a 2nd model dust cover.

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February 8, 2023 - 1:54 am
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I have 2332 45-75, 28″ round barrel with “mortise cover” and screwed on rail. The cover is mentioned in the letter.

Type: Rifle

Barrel Type: Round

Trigger: Plain

Mortise Cover

Received in warehouse March 12, 1878

Shipped from warehouse on June 29, 1878, Order number 11878

interestingly, the caliber is not mentioned in the letter.

Darrin

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February 8, 2023 - 2:10 am
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Darrin,

The caliber is not stated on the letter since it was the standard caliber the gun was first made with. It assumed to be 45-75 just like the early 73’s  in 44 they didn’t state the caliber in the ledgers.

Bob

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February 8, 2023 - 2:38 am
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1873man said
Darrin,

The caliber is not stated on the letter since it was the standard caliber the gun was first made with. It assumed to be 45-75 just like the early 73’s  in 44 they didn’t state the caliber in the ledgers.

Bob

  

Thank you Bob,

I suspected that after I looked at some other early 1873 letters. I was not sure however when or what the subsequent calibers were for 1876’s.

Darrin

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February 8, 2023 - 2:47 am
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My 1876 was received in warehouse Sept. 13, 1878 with a set trigger. It was shipped July 29, 1880 with a plain trigger but with a notch behind the trigger where the set trigger had been located. I believe, based on a small section of ledger that I have seen, that various employees recorded info. You can tell by the handwriting and the dates that probably not all employees did their job alike. I saw the ledger entry for 1 of my guns. The entries above and below mine were in the same handwriting but different for mine. Have you ever seen 2 people do their jobs exactly the same?

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February 8, 2023 - 2:58 am
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Darrin Smith said
Thank you Bob,

I suspected that after I looked at some other early 1873 letters. I was not sure however when or what the subsequent calibers were for 1876’s.

Darrin

  

The 45-60 was being produced while your gun was made. The 73’s didn’t even caliber mark the guns even when the other caliber were out.

Is your gun marked?

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February 8, 2023 - 10:01 am
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It is not marked as per caliber, it is stamped J.P.Lower on the barrel. 

Darrin

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February 8, 2023 - 12:47 pm
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 Darrin,

 I have found these three books very helpful in my attempt to understand the 1876 Model.

The Winchester model 1876 Centennial Rifle by Herbert Houze

 Winchester’s Northwest Mounted Police Carbines And Other Model 1876 Data by Lewis Yearout

 Winchester Lever Action Repeating Firearms Volume 1 by Arthur Pirkle

                                                                                  T/R

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February 11, 2023 - 2:50 am
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I have #1490 that also has the screw attached rail and thumbprint cover. I’ve never known if it’s original. Sounds like it might be. It has a set trigger as well.

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February 12, 2023 - 3:46 pm
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I own SN 1855 – a Carbine. 

It has a “lid” and screwed on dust cover guide rail that is not mentioned in the Cody letter. 

The letter further says it was shipped May 8, 1878 to order # 11779 with 530 other arms.

I always went back and forth on this lid… and suspected it was added sometime after the 5/8/1878 ship date, but now I am not sure. About 10 years ago while doing some research, I found some information  on guns in this particular order number that further added to the interest factor for me. 

Yearout in his book (previously mentioned by T/R) indicates on pages 19 & 20 that order 11779 including my gun (#1855) was likely shipped to the IG Baker Co. Montana Territory.  IG Baker was a noted supplier to the N.W.M.P. and also sold guns to the general public. 

On page 21 Yearout also discusses the dust cover modifications.

On page 73 Yearout discusses specific guns from order 11779 

On page 145 Yearout again discusses the dust cover modifications … but was vague about the source of these modifications. 

To further add to the mystery…Madis (1985 edition) in the section on 1876’s says on page 215 that dust covers could be factory ordered after SN 1600. On page 220 Madis pictures a Carbine that he says shipped on May 8, 1878 (same date as my #1855) … WITH the dust cover attached.

BTW… my gun- SN 1855 has no NWMP markings on it, still has a lot of factory blue, and with the exception of “the lid” (but jury is still out on that) … appears to be original and unmolested. 

-Mike

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February 13, 2023 - 12:03 am
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Folks,  I have some info to add which may either clarify or muddy the situation under discussion.  At one point years ago it was considered the dust cover became “standard” at around 3000 serial number, then facts weighed in and the 5000 number became the serial number around which the dust cover became standardized for the model 1876.  So, using actual rifles and their serial numbers, I can add the following.  Serial 544 is an open top model 1876 and went to the warehouse 23 Oct 1877.  Serial 5332 is an open top model 1876 and went to the warehouse 10 Aug 1878.  Please note the month/year of that.  Serial 7822 is noted in the ledger with “Lid” and went to the warehouse 18 Nov 1878.  Now backing up to the time I bought 5332–I had the serial number of 3000 in mind as being the extent of first models so was skeptical to say the least.  I was allowed to remove the side plates and look carefully before buying.  I found no evidence of any welding up or modifying the receiver to obscure any removed dust cover and rail, or relief cut for the cover guide in the mortise, so bought it.  After that I SEEMED to see other 5000 serial number open top, first model rifles at auction etc.  The month and year of it going to warehouse is cited in Madis and Pirkle as the approximate time of transition to second models WITH dust covers or “lids” if I remember correctly.  I also may no longer do so, unfortunately and I am responding without pulling out various references.  Add in that one of our members in years gone by displayed the “open top” models 1873 and numbers of those had been subsequently sent back to Winchester and had “lids” added to them.  I’ve no doubt that many of the original “open top” models 1876 also were subsequently fitted for “lids” by Winchester.  Now–was this work annotated in the records?  I’ve not seen any as yet personally.  That only means I HAVE NOT SEEN IT, not that it did not happen.  I have not researched the records at Cody to say yea or nay on the subject.  I do think the transition is at least bracketed by the two I cite above since the one does have “Lid” in its records.  It must have been rather a new item to be specifically listed.  My thoughts only.  Tim

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February 13, 2023 - 3:44 am
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So, at #1490 I can be almost sure that mine was added later but that only brings up another question.

I can assume that Winchester did the work so at some point the rifle had to make a trip back to the factory. Would it have likely been returned for just this modification? It sounds like a fair number of the pre dust cover rifles end up with dust covers. Seems to me like this is a pretty insignificant mod to send your rifle across country in the 1870s- 1880s.

I do not have a letter on this one yet (soon) but it will be interesting to see what it includes if anything.

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February 13, 2023 - 4:52 am
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 Winchester produced more early 1876s than sold the first couple years. The warehouse held the surplus and modified previous produced guns to fill orders. The lid had a patent problem and until they settled it they sold open tops. Winchester added different calibers and modified guns to install lids moving guns in and out of the warehouse. I have seen several original guns from this time period, all parts look like they aged together, but do not match the letter. It’s my opinion the factory did the lid work and you have to accept errors in the records.

 I have seen errors in caliber during this time period. The 76 only requires the barrel and elevator to be changed to go to a different caliber. This change could be done by big dealers at point of sale but most likely a warehouse record error or omission. The sad part of this even though the gun is original, if it doesn’t match the letter it effects value. T/R

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February 13, 2023 - 2:29 pm
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dbro and TR,  First some pure speculation on my part.  S. G. Bayes had sued for patent infringement which caused Winchester to change, for a time, putting dust covers on its rifles.  Thus the open top first model 1876 and the first model, 4th variation (per Tommy Rholes’ account) model 1873.  Now look again at the months I showed for the two model 1876’s.  In Aug of 1878, the serial numbers were in the mid 5300 range.  Just 3 months later they were 2500 numbers higher.  Something noteworthy seemed to have happened about then.  I agree with TR that many models 1876 went to warehouse and remained there for longer periods of time.  But seems to me around August to November things picked up and significant numbers began going out the doors.  Was the patent infringement case settled?  Wish I knew but I do suspect so.  I’ve no doubt that older rifles in the warehouse and waiting to be sold were likely retrofitted by Winchester.  For them it would likely be relatively easy to do.  Was this recorded in the inventory books?  I’ve no idea as yet.  

If not stated in research letters a deviation is not as valuable, yet may well be correct.  As I have heard many times, let the rifle tell you.  But will it also tell the next prospective owner?  Houze gives some interesting insights as to how the model 1876 would build up in inventory and then be reworked to fill  orders.  But major changes seemed to have been documented.  Dust covers?  Not apparently so much.  Tim

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February 13, 2023 - 4:12 pm
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I thought that you guys would be interested in seeing the lid and guide rail on my Carbine -SN 1855 that I discussed in a previous post.

I also removed the assembly from the top of the frame to further analyze the modification details as well as the blue and patina pattern on top of the frame under and around the guide rail.

The rail has a curvature on its bottom that matches the curve of the top of frame. The frame itself was modified at the rear of the ejector opening for this rail and lid assembly. The frame metal that was cut during the modification – was left raw and does not show any sign of blue.

I find it curious that my dust cover has more age and patina than the rest of the gun. Either the blue process was more fragile on the lid  … or it was swapped out before my ownership. Thoughts?

-Mike

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February 13, 2023 - 4:36 pm
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One more picture of the top of frame with an LED light used for better blue and patina observation. I like what I see under the guide rail.

– Mike

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February 13, 2023 - 4:52 pm
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For reference … here is an open top I own that has not been modified for a dust cover.

It is SN 912

-Mike

 

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February 13, 2023 - 5:20 pm
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Thanks, Mike. Very helpful in understanding the retrofit process. I don’t know if records at that point were cards or ledgers but that would be interesting to explore.

 

Mike

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February 13, 2023 - 6:48 pm
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TXGunNut said
Thanks, Mike. Very helpful in understanding the retrofit process. I don’t know if records at that point were cards or ledgers but that would be interesting to explore.

Mike  

Ledger books.  Index Cards did not come into use until mid-year 1907.

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