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Winchester Factory Letters
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December 6, 2021 - 10:54 pm
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Not sure if this has been brought up before but I am curious about information contained in Winchester Factory Letters.  I have been told that if no information is listed in a letter pertaining to barrel length i.e. “Barrel – Octagon” it is assumed to be the standard length barrel for the particular model of gun.  Does this really mean that, for example, a Winchester 1876 standard rifle with a shorter than 28″ barrel (standard length) is incorrect because the letter does not list the shorter length?  I ask because I recently pursued 76s on GunsInternational and there are several guns with shorter than standard barrels listed by reputable dealers yet the shorter lengths are not called out for in the factory letters.  Thanks.

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December 6, 2021 - 11:10 pm
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How short are you talking here? Can you tell from the photos if the barrel has been messed with?

Some people don’t know how to properly measure a barrel. Once could of bought a listed 27″ barrel 76 that was actually a 28″ because the seller didn’t include the receiver portion of the barrel. I couldn’t win the bid on that one. So that’s an example. What caliber is the gun? If it is in 50 Express 22″ is the standard. 

Sincerely,

Maverick

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December 6, 2021 - 11:33 pm
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50express with a 26″ barrel.  The letter simply states “Barrel Type – Round”

Another thing I see on occasion is that the letter gives the length i.e. 28″ for a standard barrel instead of just stating Barrel – Round.

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December 6, 2021 - 11:42 pm
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Mark,

If a letter for a 76 does not state the length of a barrel its is assumed to be the standard length for that caliber and type of gun. A Carbine has a standard length as does the rifle and musket. Barrel shape is stated unless its a carbine or a musket. In the 73’s the first 38 caliber guns came standard with a shotgun butt so it was not listed with a shotgun butt but after a while you would find them letter with rifle butts then they came standard with rifle butts and they were not listed any more.

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December 7, 2021 - 3:52 am
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The barrel length for 1876 Express rifles from the April 1, 1882 catalog is “26 inches or under.”   The catalog also states that as made up for the English market a 22 inch barrel and full length magazine weighs 8 1/2 pounds.  

It’s been my experience that the warehouse ledgers are not always consistent.  Look at the contents of these two letters for Express rifles.  One shows barrel length, the other doesn’t.  They both have 26 inch barrels.  Generally, the barrel length was only listed if it was not standard.  As you can see below, this was not always the case.

Letter01.jpgImage EnlargerLetter02.jpgImage Enlarger

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December 8, 2021 - 4:54 am
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Bill,

Thanks for the example. I guess letters are  just like the guns, never say never and anything is possible.

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December 8, 2021 - 5:48 pm
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Bill, any idea who Buckhard is?  That is more info than most.

I got an email today or yesterday about a Letter sale for about the next week.  Can’t remember the details and I deleted the email because I don’t need any Letters.

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December 8, 2021 - 6:44 pm
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Chuck,  The Winchester clerk completing the ledger for 27832 misspelled the name of the dealer.  It should have been Burkhard, a large firearms and sporting goods dealer in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Just another example of the warehouse ledgers having errors. 

In my 1981 edition of George Madis’ “The Winchester Handbook” he states on page 55 that in the warehouse records for 1876 rifle serial numbers 4480-4489 it is noted that they should have “handle bent down like mouser (sic) rifle…”  A look at the Hotchkiss records shows that those serial numbers were the ones to have the special request.  The recording clerk entered those guns in the wrong book.

I have had some discussions with other collectors about the records clerks working at Winchester.  I think it’s possible they were young men and women.  This would have been an entry level job.  I can imagine there would have been distractions interacting with other employees, etc.  They may have been under pressure as well to move guns in and out.

I guess we’re lucky to have any records.  Even if we had the shipping records would most of them be to the large dealers such as Hartley & Graham or Simmons like it is with Colt guns of the period?

Here is a advertisement for W. R. Burkhard

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December 8, 2021 - 8:14 pm
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Schuyler, Hartley & Graham were the largest seller of Colts in the world.  It has always been my opinion that Schuyler, Hartley & Graham probably sold the same relative amount of Winchesters too.   After the sale nobody knows where these guns went and how they were used.   Guns that letter to the West always have a premium even if they were safe queens.  We have to understand that any place west of the Mississippi was the old west.  Simmons (St Louis) and Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. (Chicago) were a couple of the last stop offs before going west.  Next major dealers were Petmekey in Austin, Carlos Gove and George Schoyen in Denver,  Browning in Utah, Slotterbeck in Los Angeles, and Freund in Montana.  Others in San Francisco and Oregon that I can’t remember the names at this time.  I always find it interesting when a gun can be traced back through these sellers.

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December 8, 2021 - 8:49 pm
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Bill Hockett said
The barrel length for 1876 Express rifles from the April 1, 1882 catalog is “26 inches or under.”   The catalog also states that as made up for the English market a 22 inch barrel and full length magazine weighs 8 1/2 pounds.  

It’s been my experience that the warehouse ledgers are not always consistent.  Look at the contents of these two letters for Express rifles.  One shows barrel length, the other doesn’t.  They both have 26 inch barrels.  Generally, the barrel length was only listed if it was not standard.  As you can see below, this was not always the case.

Letter01.jpgImage EnlargerLetter02.jpgImage Enlarger  

 Bill,

 Thanks for posting an example of an exception, these are not rare. Sometimes we forget this was just a factory warehouse record, hand written. Unfortunately sometimes a error in entry affects the value of someone’s gun. A good reason to check the record before purchase. T/R

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December 9, 2021 - 12:58 am
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Chuck said
Schuyler, Hartley & Graham were the largest seller of Colts in the world.  It has always been my opinion that Schuyler, Hartley & Graham probably sold the same relative amount of Winchesters too.   After the sale nobody knows where these guns went and how they were used.   Guns that letter to the West always have a premium even if they were safe queens.  We have to understand that any place west of the Mississippi was the old west.  Simmons (St Louis) and Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. (Chicago) were a couple of the last stop offs before going west.  Next major dealers were Petmekey in Austin, Carlos Gove and George Schoyen in Denver,  Browning in Utah, Slotterbeck in Los Angeles, and Freund in Montana.  Others in San Francisco and Oregon that I can’t remember the names at this time.  I always find it interesting when a gun can be traced back through these sellers.  

One more big Winchester retailer was E.C. Meachum, St Louis, MO.  Winchester shipped many thousands of guns to them in the 1880s.

Bert

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December 9, 2021 - 2:22 am
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  TR said

 Thanks for posting an example of an exception, these are not rare. Sometimes we forget this was just a factory warehouse record, hand written. Unfortunately sometimes a error in entry affects the value of someone’s gun. A good reason to check the record before purchase. T/R  

But after checking the record, which do you believe if there’s a discrepancy, the gun or the record?  If it looks right, I say the gun.

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December 9, 2021 - 4:34 am
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Bill Hockett said
Chuck,  The Winchester clerk completing the ledger for 27832 misspelled the name of the dealer.  It should have been Burkhard, a large firearms and sporting goods dealer in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Just another example of the warehouse ledgers having errors. 

Or another possibility is that the Winchester clerk spelled it correctly and the Cody Museum Technician “Misinterpreted” that person’s cursive handwriting when typing up the Cody Letter.

Sincerely,

Maverick

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December 9, 2021 - 12:35 pm
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clarence said

But after checking the record, which do you believe if there’s a discrepancy, the gun or the record?  If it looks right, I say the gun.  

 Yes, I agree. But when it comes time to sell and your explaining the discrepancy most buyers walk away. Many buyers don’t know what looks right. It does affect the value. T/R

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December 9, 2021 - 2:33 pm
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I look at it like this. If I’m looking at 2 guns both identical configuration and the same condition except one does not letter, which one will I buy. Of course it will be the one that letters correctly since I know in the future when it comes time to sell I don’t have to make excuses for it and it will bring more money. Now if its a really rare piece and it does not letter, I’m going to have to decide if the risk is worth it if my eye is telling me its real.

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December 9, 2021 - 5:51 pm
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Bert H. said

One more big Winchester retailer was E.C. Meachum, St Louis, MO.  Winchester shipped many thousands of guns to them in the 1880s.

Bert  

Thanks Bert.  I know there are more but my memory isn’t what it used to be.

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