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Sporterized Musket or Special Order Sporter?
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February 18, 2024 - 1:15 am
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Hi Forum. I have just learned of your existence this very day. One characteristic I share with many of you is my recent ownership of a Model 1873, cal. 44-40. The serial number begins with 4315, suggesting it was produced in 1890. I bought the gun as a rifle described as having a 24\” barrel, but on measuring it I recorded 30.\” I reached out to my other forum, the Colt Forum, and found no dearth of experts to comment. The consensus, by no means universal, is that I have bought a musket, not a rifle. However, there are issues. One is with the overall appearance of the gun; the forend stock is too short, stopping 16 1/2\” short of the muzzle. There are only two hangers, one on the forend, the other connecting the barrel and the magazine tube similar to more advanced rifles such as the Model 1892 and 1894. There is a long range rear sight, a ladder sight like those found on the muskets, but the foresight is a civilian pattern square post, with no bayonet attachment evident. The buttplate resembles the typical musket, not the crescent of a rifle. Finally, the gun is deeply and attractively blued, with a uniform type and color, as opposed to the combination of rust and heat blues, and color casehardening said to be characteristic of the Model 1873. rnThe gun looks like a long, slender, and elegant 1873 rifle, and it looks legit to my untrained eye. However, it is said by my corresponding experts to be a \”sporterized musket,\” that was once exported by Winchester as a musket to one of many South American militias, where it was subsequently used hard and even abused, before being reblued and having its forend butchered, and then imported back into the United States sometime during the 1950s and 1960s. The front barrel band is said to be cannibalized from a Model 92 or Model 94. I note that the lettering on the gun is sharp, not buffed as with a typical reblue, and the forend screams \”factory\” with its beauty, but to little avail. Apart from some unfortunate rust spots, the gun is in excellent condition, and the bore is excellent. I was told by the LGS where I bought it that it came from the collection of a recently-deceased grandfather and was being liquidated along with many others by the grandson and heir, who claims to know nothing about his grandfather\’s guns. Here is my question; is this gun more plausible as a sporterized musket with no collectible value, or as a rare, special-order sporter? I\’ll try and post a couple of images below. Many thanks in advance for any and all replies!rnrn rn 

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February 18, 2024 - 8:11 am
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Since I posted I’ve looked over the forum’s own “Tips on buying Winchester rifles,” and want to note that the muzzle is in the white, absolutely flat, with a hint of chamfer inside. That is diagnostic of the barrel not having been reblued, if that might make a difference to readers. Until I sort out my membership options I will not be able to post images, but I assure you they are forthcoming.Cool

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February 18, 2024 - 10:40 am
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Okay, one more pertinent fact; in “Win Model 1873 SRC Special Order Sight/Winchester Sights” my front sight, which I stated was of a civilian pattern, is identified and described thus:

Maverick on 03/16/2015 stated that the sight is “. . .what Winchester used on the standard 1873 Musket front sight.”

Same thread—Blueliner on 03/23/2015 posted pictures and described it as “. . .sight is 5/15″ long, 1/4″ wide, and 3/8″ at the highest point. . .” He also quoted a Cody letter describing the sight as “Front sights fine. . .”

Same thread—1873man on 03/24/2015 described it as a soldered-in solid type post sight.

It could be a factory-sporterized Musket, but it’s beginning to look like, basically, a Musket, not so much a special order rifle. However, I stand by my belief that it has NOT been reblued. I will provide pictures soon.

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February 18, 2024 - 1:56 pm
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Photos would help a lot.  Just to help you avoid frustration, note that as a guest, you cannot download photos directly to the forum.  You can use an outside photo hosting site (e.g. Imgur).  Or, there are members here who would be happy to have you e-mail your photos to them and they will post them for you.

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February 18, 2024 - 3:21 pm
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James,

The muskets that were sent to South America and sat in a warehouse before coming back into this country were in the 569,000 to 571,000 serial range. You can send me the pictures. The bayonet would use the front sight to lock it on and the barrel would stick out in front of the magazine tube to accommodate it. On some of them that were made for officers they would have a saber bayonet that had a lug on the right side of the front barrel band to lock on and fit around the front sight. This is the reason for the front sight that was soldered on so it kept the bayonet from rotating.

Bob

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Researching the Winchester 1873's

73_86cutaway.jpg

Email: [email protected]

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February 18, 2024 - 4:34 pm
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Thanks, Bob. I’m sending about 10 images to your email. Let me know if you need me to take and send any others. I took these with a smartphone, so if I understand the technology all the information in the subject is present and it just needs sufficient magnification to find any desired detail. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is why I don’t study the photographic arts; each of my pictures is actually a data dump.

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February 18, 2024 - 5:10 pm
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James,

I separated some pictures to rotate them so the gun is right side up and so I could zoom in on them better. From what I see is just the forearm has been shortened probably from it being damaged in the front end so they cut off the damaged part and added the front band to hold the tube. Added the front sling swivel to the tube and the gun reblued. I do see signs of buffing. In looking in my database of 73’s I don’t believe this gun was part of any larger order that was sent to a foreign country but a check with the Cody Firearms Record Office would shed a some light on that if you asked them to see how many arms were included in the order. They would probably check a few pages on either side for you without paying them for doing research.

The gun wasn’t sporterized, I would think if you were doing that to a musket they would of shortened the barrel and tube to make it easier to carry and use. Gunsmiths would take muskets especially the ones in the 570,000 range that were minty and make them into carbines since the musket was the cheapest version of the 73 and a minty carbine was worth a lot more. So if you are looking at a minty carbine in the 570,000 range a call to Cody is a must.

Bob

https://centerofthewest.org/explore/firearms/firearms-records/

2024-02-18_102530.jpgImage Enlarger2024-02-18_103031.jpgImage Enlarger2024-02-18_103101.jpgImage Enlarger2024-02-18_103243.jpgImage Enlarger2024-02-18_103408.jpgImage Enlarger2024-02-18_103454.jpgImage Enlarger

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Researching the Winchester 1873's

73_86cutaway.jpg

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February 18, 2024 - 5:56 pm
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Good to know at least this gun didn’t suffer the fate of abuse and neglect in South America. Still, hard to understand the attraction of a Musket to the regular Joe; 9+ pounds, lotsa firepower though. This would fit on a horse I’m thinkin, although you could also pack it if you were determined. Still no idea if it was sent from the factory like that, or if it was sporterized by a third party and when. It’s a handicap, for sure in CAS; slow to swing from target to target. I won’t be lightning fast on the lever either to save the joint. But, I’ll tell you I believe folks will be just plain interested in watching that musket perform, especially with black powder, even if it ain’t that quick. I’m taking it out tomorrow with 100 rounds of HSM Cowboy Action loads to sight it in and get a sense of what’s what. Initially at 25 yards, then if no issues, at 100 (we have 15, 25, 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards at my local). After ladder testing I determined my pistol will shoot 3 shots from a rest into 1″ to 2″ at 15 yards and 2″ at 25 yards with 32 1/2 grains of 3FG Goex and 255 Keith type soft cast bullet in 45 Colt. Once I’ve got some brass freed up tomorrow I’ll start the ladder testing for 44-40 with 2FG Swiss and 200 grain lead round nose flat point projectiles. My go to target is a 6-roundel target sheet, 2 in 3 rows. I set up two of these and fire 3-shot groups, 6 rounds in each category of 40 grains, 37 1/2, 35, 32 1/2, 30, and 27 1/2 grains by volume. For the last two categories I also include a fiber overpowder wad to take up any airspace. All the rest are under compression from 1/8″ up to 1/4″. All rounds get a heavy crimp. Repeat until out of ammo, then retrieve the multiple targets and analyze at home. Supposed to be a warm one, into the 70s. I’ll post groups when I get privileges.

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February 18, 2024 - 6:19 pm
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Thank you Bob, for this favor. Considering I just brought the gun home on Wednesday last, so much has been discovered! Of course, I’ve also had it apart looking to confirm complete, undamaged and fully functional parts, and cleaned it thoroughly. Finding and acquainting myself with this forum and participating in the debates on the other one also took some time and energy. Now I just want to go shoot the thang before becoming a responsible adult again. So, in your observation the gun was not exported and re-imported to and from South America, and it is not sporterized, just adapted to a damaged forend. However, it has been reblued, so its collector value is significantly diminished, if not altogether gone. I’m okay with that outcome, because I started out looking for a new or used Uberti for CAS. This one is infinitely more interesting, still retains a good deal of mystery and romance, and was cheaper by almost half what I would have had to pay for an Uberti. I also believe that it will still appreciate in value because it is a genuine Winchester Model 1873, although not as rapidly as a collectible gun will appreciate. Still, try that with a Uberti!

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February 18, 2024 - 7:04 pm
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James Popoff said
Good to know at least this gun didn’t suffer the fate of abuse and neglect in South America. Still, hard to understand the attraction of a Musket to the regular Joe; 9+ pounds, lotsa firepower though. This would fit on a horse I’m thinkin, although you could also pack it if you were determined. Still no idea if it was sent from the factory like that, or if it was sporterized by a third party and when. It’s a handicap, for sure in CAS; slow to swing from target to target. I won’t be lightning fast on the lever either to save the joint. But, I’ll tell you I believe folks will be just plain interested in watching that musket perform, especially with black powder, even if it ain’t that quick. I’m taking it out tomorrow with 100 rounds of HSM Cowboy Action loads to sight it in and get a sense of what’s what. Initially at 25 yards, then if no issues, at 100 (we have 15, 25, 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards at my local). After ladder testing I determined my pistol will shoot 3 shots from a rest into 1″ to 2″ at 15 yards and 2″ at 25 yards with 32 1/2 grains of 3FG Goex and 255 Keith type soft cast bullet in 45 Colt. Once I’ve got some brass freed up tomorrow I’ll start the ladder testing for 44-40 with 2FG Swiss and 200 grain lead round nose flat point projectiles. My go to target is a 6-roundel target sheet, 2 in 3 rows. I set up two of these and fire 3-shot groups, 6 rounds in each category of 40 grains, 37 1/2, 35, 32 1/2, 30, and 27 1/2 grains by volume. For the last two categories I also include a fiber overpowder wad to take up any airspace. All the rest are under compression from 1/8″ up to 1/4″. All rounds get a heavy crimp. Repeat until out of ammo, then retrieve the multiple targets and analyze at home. Supposed to be a warm one, into the 70s. I’ll post groups when I get privileges.

  

James –

I am envious of the temperature you describe.  Right now, I’m sitting in, “warmer than average” temperatures (for us) and it’s hovering right a freezing.  I don’t enjoy cold range trips, which blocks out about half the year for me.  

One book you would probably enjoy is, “Shooting Lever Guns of the Old West” by Mike Venturino.  It’s out of print but there’s plenty on ebay for $25 to $30.  I have this book but regret not acquiring it earlier in my collecting career.  Mike also covers some of the replicas.  I think you would find his section on the .44-40 most interesting.  Also of interest, one of Mike’s favorite shooters he describes in his book is a Model 1873 .44-40 musket. In fact, here is a quote from the book:

“That Model 1873 musket is one of my most prized possessions.  One year I even packed it to End of Trail and shot all events with the bayonet mounted.  Other shooters would wait in line to get to handle it.  Also, with its 17 round capacity several teams asked me to join them during the team competitions.  I don’t think I ever ran it dry, but did get it hot!  That musket was one of the rifles used to gather data for the reloading section of this book.”

I hope your musket shoots well for you and look forward to your range report.

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February 19, 2024 - 5:36 am
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Moving to new thread at “Winchester Shooting and Hunting/Progress In Ladder Testing Black Powder 44-40 Rifle”

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