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The Model 1873 and the lowly .32-20
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January 9, 2022 - 6:18 pm
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I have to confess that I’ve had very very minimal interest in Model 1873’s in .32-20.  I’m not sure why.  I have several M1892’s in .32-20, had a M53 in this chambering and would love to have a M65.  I’ve had Remington M25 rifles and carbines in .32-20 and again, like them just fine.  Oh, a few Marlin M1894’s in .32-20.  Again, liked it fine.

I have a feeling that when it comes to the M1873, I am not alone in my apparent snobbishness.

What brought this topic to mind on this cold winter day this morning was a scan of some past Rock Island auctions.  I happened on this M1873 Deluxe.  This rifle has a great deal going for it.  I like the condition – lots of blue (they say 8% but I think that’s a typo) and lot of nice receiver case color.  It letters with the sights – (and letters with no rear sight seat) and it letters with a factory inscription.  Unless I’m missing something, this is a desirable rifle.  Auction estimate is $9500 to $16,000 and it hammers for $6,900.  I think the auction estimate was very reasonable.  However, I have to confess, the .32-20 aspect would have held me back.  I know .44-40’s bring more than .32-20’s when it comes to the M1892.  But for some reason, I seem to hold the .32-20 more against a M1873 than I would on a M1892.  Anyone else feel the same way?  Any analysts around here who can tell me what’s going on?  I do not recall any childhood trauma with a M1873 .32-20.  

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/79/1/special-order-deluxe-winchester-model-1873-lever-action-rifle

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January 9, 2022 - 6:46 pm
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Steve,

Somebody got a very good buy on that rifle… at least in my opinion.

The 32 WCF is a great cartridge for plinking and small game/varmint eradication. That stated, I was looking for a repeater in that cartridge, would rather have a Model 1892 or Model 43. My first choice is always a Winchester Single Shot rifle, and there were a lot of them made in 32 WCF. With jacketed bullets and smokeless powder loads, it can be stretched out to 200-yards without much effort.

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January 9, 2022 - 7:28 pm
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I think it’s probably a combination of not being one of the “sexy” cowboy calibers combined with the fact that they are relatively big and heavy rifles for that cartridge. You see pretty much the same thing with Colt SAAs in 32-20. It’s actually a great cartridge in those guns and for a short period of time in the early 1900s was the most popular chambering for SAAs and Bisley. It has become much more of a niche round in recent decades, but it still has many fans and is a great cartridge to shoot, especially if you reload.

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January 9, 2022 - 7:29 pm
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I agree with Bert.  Someone got a good deal.  As far as 32’s they are not what I buy.  I need to save my money to spend on the larger calibers.  This is good gun for a 73 collector that wants all the calibers or a 32 collector.  I tend to collect all Winchesters models not just one.   Nice gun though.

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January 9, 2022 - 7:48 pm
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I don’t see any reason it went that cheap. Could it be a error in the sale price on the web site?

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January 9, 2022 - 8:08 pm
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Bert H. said
Steve,
Somebody got a very good buy on that rifle… at least in my opinion.
The 32 WCF is a great cartridge for plinking and small game/varmint eradication. That stated, I was looking for a repeater in that cartridge, would rather have a Model 1892 or Model 43. My first choice is always a Winchester Single Shot rifle, and there were a lot of them made in 32 WCF. With jacketed bullets and smokeless powder loads, it can be stretched out to 200-yards without much effort.
Bert  

Sure it’s a great cartridge for plinking–IF you can afford that kind of plinking, which I never could.  I’ve owned several, but could never conceive a fully satisfactory use for them.  As for small-game, you really want to shoot a squirrel or rabbit with one?  Would make a great turkey round except for the little problem of legality.  Woodchucks are a possibility in a scoped SS with the requisite accuracy, but trajectory might be a problem & much better cartridges are available.  I never had to deal with varmints, except marauding coons, but if you’re close enough to hit one of those, a .22LR does the job equally well.

Makes a better revolver than rifle round, I think.

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January 9, 2022 - 8:16 pm
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clarence said

Sure it’s a great cartridge for plinking–IF you can afford that kind of plinking, which I never could.  I’ve owned several, but could never conceive a fully satisfactory use for them.  As for small-game, you really want to shoot a squirrel or rabbit with one?  Would make a great turkey round except for the little problem of legality.  Woodchucks are a possibility in a scoped SS with the requisite accuracy, but trajectory might be a problem & much better cartridges are available.  I never had to deal with varmints, except marauding coons, but if you’re close enough to hit one of those, a .22LR does the job equally well.

Makes a better revolver than rifle round, I think.  

It’s very inexpensive to reload for and I enjoy loading this cartridge more than the .38-40 or .44-40.

My Dad grew up on a farm and I spent a lot of time on that farm.  There was really only need for three types of firearms.  A shotgun for anything that flew, a deer rifle for deer and a .22 for everything else – squirrels, coons, skunk, porcupine and the like.  There was never anything like a .25-20 or .32-20 used – or a felt need for one.  Way back, some .38-40’s and .44-40’s got used but only because they were big enough for deer.

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January 9, 2022 - 9:27 pm
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Someone took a bath on the sake price of $6000 before commission in 2020.  That seller likely purchased it for $10,455 in 2018.

https://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/3165M/lots/108

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January 9, 2022 - 9:38 pm
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That ‘someone” certainly did take a substantial loss on it!

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January 10, 2022 - 7:41 pm
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steve004 said
I have to confess that I’ve had very very minimal interest in Model 1873’s in .32-20.  I’m not sure why.  I have several M1892’s in .32-20, had a M53 in this chambering and would love to have a M65.  I’ve had Remington M25 rifles and carbines in .32-20 and again, like them just fine.  Oh, a few Marlin M1894’s in .32-20.  Again, liked it fine
I have a feeling that when it comes to the M1873, I am not alone in my apparent snobbishness.

What brought this topic to mind on this cold winter day this morning was a scan of some past Rock Island auctions.  I happened on this M1873 Deluxe.  This rifle has a great deal going for it.  I like the condition – lots of blue (they say 8% but I think that’s a typo) and lot of nice receiver case color.  It letters with the sights – (and letters with no rear sight seat) and it letters with a factory inscription.  Unless I’m missing something, this is a desirable rifle.  Auction estimate is $9500 to $16,000 and it hammers for $6,900.  I think the auction estimate was very reasonable.  However, I have to confess, the .32-20 aspect would have held me back.  I know .44-40’s bring more than .32-20’s when it comes to the M1892.  But for some reason, I seem to hold the .32-20 more against a M1873 than I would on a M1892.  Anyone else feel the same way?  Any analysts around here who can tell me what’s going on?  I do not recall any childhood trauma with a M1873 .32-20.  

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/79/1/special-order-deluxe-winchester-model-1873-lever-action-rifle    

I am surprised that it brought as much as it did in that auction.  You mentioned that you have had Remington M25s in that caliber and like them OK.  The Remington pumps can be had for about one tenth the cost of the M1873, can’t they?  Are the Winchester M 1873 rifles that much more desirable/collectible than the Remington pump action rifles, if condition is equivalent? 

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January 13, 2022 - 4:29 pm
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Jack Reed said

I am surprised that it brought as much as it did in that auction.  You mentioned that you have had Remington M25s in that caliber and like them OK.  The Remington pumps can be had for about one tenth the cost of the M1873, can’t they?  Are the Winchester M 1873 rifles that much more desirable/collectible than the Remington pump action rifles, if condition is equivalent? 

  

There’s more to it than to just say, “Remington pump.”  A favorite of mine was a M25 carbine in .32-20.  There is no comparison with a .32-20 Winchester ’73 when it comes to handling.  And I would say this piece is a heck of a lot harder to find than a Winchester ’73.  A M25 with fancy wood and checkering is highly collectible.  Unfortunately, I’ve never owned one. 

Jack – it is interesting that you said you were surprised the Fancy ’73 brought as much as it did.  Those of us who commented thought it went low.  

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January 13, 2022 - 6:42 pm
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That 73 was shopped around about 15 years ago and the price was well north of $25k. I found the emails from 2008. 

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January 13, 2022 - 9:01 pm
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steve004 said

There’s more to it than to just say, “Remington pump.”  A favorite of mine was a M25 carbine in .32-20.  There is no comparison with a .32-20 Winchester ’73 when it comes to handling.

  

I had a M.25 in .25-20, & if the handling comparison was with a ’92, the M.25 would still be king of the hill–about like shooting a semi-auto.  But like .32-20s I’ve had, I just couldn’t find a good enough USE for it, beyond burning up ammo in case lots, & being perpetually short of funds, it got traded…to my lasting regret.

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January 13, 2022 - 9:23 pm
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Please help me understand the rating definition.  It says very fine with 8% plus original blue finish.  Is this a typo (should it be 80%) or was it reblued?

 

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 8% plus original blue finish, 60% plus original niter blue on the loading gate, 50% of the original fading colors, flashes of vibrant case colors in the protected areas, spots of minor oxidation, and general mild wear. The wood is fine and has nice figure, mostly crisp checkering, and moderate handling wear. Mechanically excellent.

 

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/79/1/special-order-deluxe-winchester-model-1873-lever-action-rifle

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January 13, 2022 - 10:01 pm
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DannyBoy said
Please help me understand the rating definition.  It says very fine with 8% plus original blue finish.  Is this a typo (should it be 80%) or was it reblued?

 
 

Typo.  If reblued, original finish would be 0%.  Looks even better than 80% to me.

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January 13, 2022 - 10:21 pm
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DannyBoy said
Please help me understand the rating definition.  It says very fine with 8% plus original blue finish.  Is this a typo (should it be 80%) or was it reblued?

 

Rating Definition:

Very fine with 8% plus original blue finish, 60% plus original niter blue on the loading gate, 50% of the original fading colors, flashes of vibrant case colors in the protected areas, spots of minor oxidation, and general mild wear. The wood is fine and has nice figure, mostly crisp checkering, and moderate handling wear. Mechanically excellent.

 

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/79/1/special-order-deluxe-winchester-model-1873-lever-action-rifle  

If you read the first post that started this thread (mine) you will see that I address the, “8%” blue referenced in the description.

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January 14, 2022 - 2:25 am
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If I were an 1873 collector I’d most certainly have one chambered in 32WCF! I like shooting the cartridge and the tightwad in me even likes loading it. All it takes is a little dab of lead, a few grains of powder and a small pistol primer. It costs me more to shoot some .22’s! My token 1873 is the nearly-as-lowly 38WCF, maybe I’ll get lucky and move “down” a notch someday. Pretty sure it won’t be this one but if the new owner wants to take a beating like a previous owner apparently did I’ll take it off his hands. 

 

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January 14, 2022 - 1:56 pm
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 I know nothing about the gun that started this thread. That said a 1873 in 32-20 has always been the cheapest caliber to buy in a 73!

 It is my opinion that many 73 collectors are buying to own a piece of American history, Cowboy and Indian, gun that won the West, 44-40, and Hollywood movies. When you pickup a 1873 made before June of 1876 it could have been at the Little Big Horn, some were. The 32-20 came out in 1882 for the 73 and Colt started using it in the single action in 1887. It’s stopping power is not like the 45 or 44. If you wanted to use one on the frontier, the availability of the cartridges would be limited. Some have called it a eastern gun. When I pickup a 1st model 73 I feel the history, they were all made in 44 cal. T/R

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January 14, 2022 - 3:39 pm
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TR said
 I know nothing about the gun that started this thread. That said a 1873 in 32-20 has always been the cheapest caliber to buy in a 73!

 It is my opinion that many 73 collectors are buying to own a piece of American history, Cowboy and Indian, gun that won the West, 44-40, and Hollywood movies. When you pickup a 1873 made before June of 1876 it could have been at the Little Big Horn, some were. The 32-20 came out in 1882 for the 73 and Colt started using it in the single action in 1887. It’s stopping power is not like the 45 or 44. If you wanted to use one on the frontier, the availability of the cartridges would be limited. Some have called it a eastern gun. When I pickup a 1st model 73 I feel the history, they were all made in 44 cal. T/R  

Let’s remember this from Nanzca:

That 73 was shopped around about 15 years ago and the price was well north of $25k. I found the emails from 2008. 

MRCVS also contributed the link from Skinners showing a hammer price of over $10k.

This rifle is no ordinary .32-20.  

We know that the chambering often has a strong bearing on the desirability/value of a Winchester.  In the M1886, the .45 and .50 calibers are much more desirable than the .38 and .40 calibers (and the .33 caliberWink). However, as a generality, for special rifles (e.g. high condition, engraved or factory inscribed, special order features), the chambering can be less of a factor.  Conversely, in a plain Jane M1873, the .44-40 has the .32-20 beat by a mile.  

I remain perplexed over the low hammer price of this rifle. Someone suggested perhaps it was an error on the part of the auction house.  If the sale figures above are accurate, some significant money has been lost on this rifle.  

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January 14, 2022 - 4:47 pm
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steve004 said
 If the sale figures above are accurate, some significant money has been lost on this rifle.    

Ah, the hardships of a speculator’s life! 

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