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Newbie with family heirloom 1873 - advice on use and restoration
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May 29, 2017 - 3:59 pm
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I just received a Winchester 1873 that belonged to my grandfather (b 1899) and was his “childhood gun”. It’s in rough shape so I’m trying to determine what course I take. My son (age 19) and I shoot & hunt, so it’s a special gun. It’s a 24″ barrel rifle with an octagon barrel chambered in .38-40.

I could keep it from deteriorating further and store it or I could afford a nice restoration so my son and I could (possibly) fire it occasionally and enjoy it more….It would be neat to take a deer with it. I’ve been involved in car restoration for many years so I understand the “it’s only original once” theme and how restoration can hurt value. I’m leaning toward restoration regardless due to condition.

I’ll try to figure out how to post some photos below. Any advice on current value, restore yes/no, restoration shop recommendations (Turnbull?), restoration options (totally original or slight changes). Thank you for your advice, in advance!

Michael Branning

Lexington SC

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May 29, 2017 - 4:02 pm
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Sorry, having problems with the photos. You can view them in a dropbox link here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/oqkc6owv9n9x00o/AABgl12GEiyA22z7zMF4Okgma?dl=0

Also, after some research on the 38-40 cartridge I don’t think it’s powerful enough for ethical deer hunting, so I’ll drop that idea.

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May 29, 2017 - 7:52 pm
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My opinion:  Stop any further degradation, leave configuration alone, don’t “improve” it.  No new finishes, wood or metal, and no removal of old finishes, wood or metal.  Hang it where everyone can see it.

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May 29, 2017 - 8:19 pm
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Michael,

I would leave it as is. Just wipe it down with something like G96 to keep it from rusting. With a little inspection you probable can shoot it. I’m not up with what Turnbull gets for a restore but I would imagine  three grand  is in the ball park. A cheaper restore and your not going to like what you get back.

Bob

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May 30, 2017 - 1:42 am
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I think you and your son are very lucky to have this family heirloom.  You should both do yourselves a favor and leave grandpa’s rifle alone.  ALL of his history with this rifle will be destroyed if you have it restored. It looks to be in very good condition.  Even the screw heads are near perfect, with exception of the dust cover screw. This tells me that it was well cared for during it’s period of use and never altered. Even the sights are original. You have a real find.  How is the bore?  Clean it with G96 as 1873man suggested, otherwise I’d  leave it alone. Grandpa would probably appreciate it also.

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May 30, 2017 - 2:14 am
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G96 ordered from amazon.com! There is a lot of rust. Maybe the pics don’t really show it well. 80% of bluing on barrel is gone. 

What insurance value do y’all recommend?

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May 30, 2017 - 2:16 am
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One other note…I can easily afford a top restoration if that’s the path…it’s not a financial decision. Just thinking through pros and cons. Thank you for all viewpoints!

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May 30, 2017 - 2:47 am
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G96 is good stuff, cleans/lubricates and protects; even smells pretty good for gun oil. 

If high cost of an expert restoration isn’t an issue, and sounds like you will never sell it (you would most likely never recoup your expense of restoration) then restoration sounds like a good option to me. 

In looking at the photos, I personally would insure it for about $1500 as is. 

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Winchester Model 1873 44-40 circa 1886

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May 30, 2017 - 5:50 am
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Every dent, ding and fingerprint was added by your family.  Restoration will remove all of that historical evidence and in the end the rifle will probably not shoot any better or more a accuratly than it does now.  My opinion is if you want a “pretty” rifle then buy one, don’t erase the heirloom history of that rifle.

It is a nice honest rifle and that is just my personal opinion.

Best Regards,

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May 30, 2017 - 4:35 pm
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To what extent should it be cleaned?  Some prefer to leave the ancient grime on these heirlooms.  Personally, I would scrub it inside and outside to clean it as much as possible, then check it for mechanical soundness and, if okay, shoot and enjoy it.

Comments are welcome.  BK 

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May 30, 2017 - 11:33 pm
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I would gently clean it and give it a good looking over. If it’s in safe working order I would take it to the range or hunt with it. I really like Turnbull’s work but it’s so pretty I’d never take it hunting or even to the range after having his guys go over it. It’s your gun but I like it just the way it is, maybe just a bit cleaner.

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May 31, 2017 - 4:06 pm
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I’m on the side of cleaning rust, grime and dirt, but not removing any original finish.

You can enjoy the process and care for it as in its early life. See how it looks and fires.

After that being done, you can make a better personal decision as what to do.

 I would clean it with care, and enjoy it for what it is:

a family heirloom with multiple centuries of life and enjoyment.

Best of luck on your decision!

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June 3, 2017 - 4:43 pm
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Just back from some business travel and catching up on the comments. Thanks very much for all the advice!

I spent a couple hours this am with the G96, a diaper, and some toothpicks doing a deeper cleaning. I can see better the pros on the condition of the gun. It’s pretty much unmolested…screws had decades of gunk in the grooves and most of them have never been turned since assembly (as best I can tell). The bluing on receiver is still somewhat intact. The wood is nice, fit is good, and it cocks and the trigger releases very nicely. There doesn’t seem to be any modifications and very little substantial damage. Worse thing is the barrel rust and some pitting on receiver. 

I’m not going to be in any hurry to do a restoration and probably won’t ever. Next step is to find a really good sympathetic gunsmith to go over it and determine if its safe to fire.

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June 18, 2017 - 6:53 pm
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Glad to see you are leaning towards on restoration. If it works mechanically (using snapcap or dummy rounds) and the barrel is unobstructed , I would shoot it.

Vince
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