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Winchester '73 - Is it a .22 or a .38
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November 30, 2022 - 9:08 pm
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I purchased an old Winchester in the early 1960’s for $45.  Not being too smart at the time I did not realize that the rifle, SN 441519B, was missing one set of  toggle links, firing pin extractor, dust cover, and elevator for rear sight.  Down through the years as the internet became available I have been able to replace those parts.  The barrel is stamped .38 WCF.  Four years ago I contacted the Cody Museum to get one of their letters.  When it came I noticed that their records stated that the rifle was a .22 caliber manufactured in 1892.  I went back for clarification since the rifle was clearly not a .22 but they stood by their records.  So my question for the forum is, “Why would someone go to the trouble to convert the rifle from a .22 to .38 by replacing the barrel, magazine chamber, side place, loading gate, and cartridge carrier?”  Does that make sense to anyone in the forum?

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November 30, 2022 - 9:24 pm
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Bill Weidert said   Does that make sense to anyone in the forum?
  

No, that would be hard to believe.  But if a mistake was made in the factory record, that’s the only thing the Museum can report.  Too bad–would be worth more as a .22 than a .38.

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November 30, 2022 - 10:42 pm
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 Bill,

 It is possible your gun has a lower tang that was once a 22. Pictures of your gun showing lower tang fit, side plates, and butt plate would help solve the mystery. T/R

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December 1, 2022 - 12:10 am
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It is interesting that the 22 was made using the 38 frame. The first experimental 22’s were made from 38 rifles shipped to Klein & Carr minus the parts they didn’t need.

To figure it out you would need to have a close examination of the gun to see if there is any evidents its had the barrel removed and if there are assemble numbers that match. A records search of surrounding guns to see if anything was done to any of them and if there are ditto marks or the caliber was written in for this entry. It is common to find 73’s that have been changed from carbines to rifles and vise versa in the records.

Bob

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73_86cutaway.jpg

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December 3, 2022 - 6:14 pm
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Thanks for the replies.  I have had trouble with attaching photos so will work on that so you can see what the rifle looks like.

 

Regards, Bill

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December 3, 2022 - 6:33 pm
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One more note while I figure out why my jpeg photos can’t be attach with my message.  Per the comments the lower tang and the receiver show a tight, smooth fit.  And the lower tang and the stock have a tight fit.  No scratch marks anywhere that would indicate someone worked on it at one time.  Same with the barrel.  The barrel to receiver and to forend is also scratch free and a tight, smooth fit.  And one more item of interest.  The brass carrier is smooth with no caliber marking such as .22 or .38.  I have read that a factory shipped rifle would have had a marking on the carrier as to caliber.  So that may mean it was worked on at one time.  

Bill

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December 3, 2022 - 7:22 pm
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Bill,

You can email me the photos at the email address below and I will post them.

Bob

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December 4, 2022 - 12:08 am
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Bill,

Here are the pictures. They are a little small but I can see issues with the lower tang and wood fit. There is a good possibility the tang has been swapped. The lower tang were assembled in the receiver  when the receiver was polished so they fit perfectly.

Bob

IMG_1401.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1398.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1411.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_1410.JPGImage EnlargerIMG_1395.jpegImage Enlarger

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December 4, 2022 - 3:13 am
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Bill Weidert said
  So my question for the forum is, “Why would someone go to the trouble to convert the rifle from a .22 to .38 by replacing the barrel, magazine chamber, side place, loading gate, and cartridge carrier?”  Does that make sense to anyone in the forum?

  

 Bill,

 Winchester made their parts to a close standard to make assembly easy, that also makes it easy to make a gun out of parts. You may have a gun made from parts out of more than one gun. T/R

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December 4, 2022 - 9:33 pm
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Bill,

Here are the new pictures. The more I see of it the more I believe the tang has been swapped. In these pictures it looks like the lower tang has a different color or finish from the adjacent receiver which is not the way it should look. I would pull the stock and look for assembly numbers or other tell tail signs. The gun does show a bit of overall wear to account for the missing caliber mark on the elevator. I would guess the tang was swapped because of a broken tang or the original tang had a set trigger and was broken and it wasn’t swapped by a professional gunsmith.

Bob

IMG_1423.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1417.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1420.jpgImage EnlargerIMG_1422.jpgImage Enlarger

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December 4, 2022 - 11:17 pm
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1873man said
Bill,

Here are the new pictures. The more I see of it the more I believe the tang has been swapped. In these pictures it looks like the lower tang has a different color or finish from the adjacent receiver which is not the way it should look. I would pull the stock and look for assembly numbers or other tell tail signs. The gun does show a bit of overall wear to account for the missing caliber mark on the elevator. I would guess the tang was swapped because of a broken tang or the original tang had a set trigger and was broken and it wasn’t swapped by a professional gunsmith.

Bob

IMG_1423.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1417.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1420.jpgImage EnlargerIMG_1422.jpgImage Enlarger

  

The lower tang originating from a .22 rifle would explain a lot.

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December 4, 2022 - 11:23 pm
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Thanks to everyone for all the good comments and to Bob for posting the photos.  One thing I failed to mention is that the lever still has some blueing and is dark as compared to the rest of the receiver.  I took the stock off but there were no markings.  I removed the solid butt plate per T/R’s suggestion and there is a hole drilled for the three piece cleaning rod. Given how many Winchesters were produced over its 50 year manufacturing life it does seem likely that either a gunsmith or a gun owner reworked this rifle.  I doubt whether a gunsmith would have left the rifle without the right side toggle links and firing pin retractor.  Clarence’s comment that it would worth more as an original .22 are right on as I think only about 19,000 of those were made.    

This old rifle is probably not worth much but I like it just the same.  I also have an Umberti 1873 that my daughter’s partner gave me.  He bought it used in Milwaukee and after awhile decided that lever guns were not his thing.  He prefers his Glocks, Colt 1911’s, Beretta’s, and AR-15’s.  Umberti makes a fine rifle and she’s a good shooter.

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December 5, 2022 - 1:20 am
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Bill,

When you have the stock off and the sideplates. What finish is on the insides? The lever in that serial range for the tangs serial number should be case colored so if its blued its from a later gun. When the lever was blued so was the hammer, butt plate and forearm cap.

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December 8, 2022 - 8:43 pm
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I removed the side plates and butt stock.  The inside are a combination of black and bare metal in terms of coloration.  The external barrel and receiver has areas of plub brown but most of the blueing is long gone except for the lever, hammer, and loading gate.  Pitting and rust very minimal and that was mostly on the  magazine tube.  Stock and forend are both in very good shape.  To me they look much like they did when new.  Here are a few more photos.IMG_1463.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1462.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1459.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1458.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1464.jpegImage EnlargerIMG_1465.jpegImage Enlarger

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