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Winchester model 1873 Question
September 8, 2020
1:04 pm
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Hello Fellas, I got a question regarding Winchester 1873 model. I am retired and thinking of buying a Winchester receiver, searching for the parts, and building it into a rifle. Are all receivers  the same size or do they differ from caliber to caliber?  When you have it barreled will the toggle links and bolt interchange in the receiver? Or is  this a bad idea? Maybe a waste of money, love the old Winchester and just thinking of passing some time and love to tinker. Thanks for any information and advise you can pass to me.

September 8, 2020
2:24 pm
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They are different for each caliber with the 32 being the most unique since it has a smaller diameter magazine tube and bolt. I would think the bolt will interchange on the 44 and 38 but if you install worn toggles or toggle pins you could have a head space issue. Toggles should interchange. From a cost stand point buying one in one piece is cheaper than buying one in parts. The reason people are selling the parts is they can more money parting them out.

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September 8, 2020
2:32 pm
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I'm sure others will jump in, but in general, the .32 and .38 WCF receivers had a "step" in them where the barrel attaches.  This is because the barrel diameter at the receiver is less than the .44's.  The short barrel .44 WCF rifles made late in production typically have the stepped receiver as well.  The .22 caliber models also had the stepped receivers.  Here is a photo of the receiver of a .38 WCF rifle that shows the step at the receiver where the barrel joins.

As with all things Winchester, there are exceptions. 

On the 1873 the lower tang is separate from the receiver.  The lower tang carries the serial number and will be what "letters" as to configuration when made.

I personally don't think it's worth trying to build a rifle from parts.  It's going to cost you more than just finding a nice collector or shooter grade rifle.  Also it will be a "Frankenchester" and have little collector value.  On the other hand, a nice collector grade rifle will most likely appreciate in value over time.

Your mileage may vary.

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September 8, 2020
5:42 pm
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Problem I see with starting with a receiver is that somebody may have had good reason to take all the other parts off it. May be hard to spot the issue until you invest a lot of time and money into it. Early guns reportedly required a fair bit of skilled hand-fitting and that could make it interesting to assemble a number of parts that were fit to other guns. Sounds like fun but I’m afraid it would be above my skill level as I’m only a fair tinkerer. 

 

Mike

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September 8, 2020
8:52 pm
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 Building a 73 from parts is not the way to go! Buy an original with as much condition as you can afford. $1000 will get you an original 73 in 32-20 without much condition, $1300 will get you a 38-40, $1600 will get you a 44-40 and the price goes up from there. Stay with an original honest guns and you can always sell or upgrade without getting burned. Building a Frankenchester or buying a Frankenchester is not in your best interest financially. When it comes time to buy get help! Take your time, there's a lot of guns for sale, don't feel pressured, if you miss one another will soon come up for sale. The Forum can help if you post pictures.  

 An old gun dealer told me once, "If you want to tinker buy Tinker Toys, it's cheaper"   T/R

September 9, 2020
2:34 am
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Thanks fellas, Just wanted to get some opinions  on the subject. Started thinking about all the different parts that are made for these rifles and various  sizes. Will look for originals. Many thanks again, you guys are a valuable source  of information .

September 9, 2020
11:52 pm
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I agree with every comment made so far.  You could probably get enough out of the parts and pieces you have, to make good dent in the cost of an original, shooter grade '73.  There is ALWAYS a market for good usable parts.  If you decide to purchase an original, complete shooter or collector, you should look for one in .44 WCF (.44-40) caliber as your first choice.  They bring a little more money, when it comes time to sell.  Second choice would be the .38WCF (.38-40) and then the .32 WCF (.32-20).  The fourth caliber is .22 Short or Long.  Personally, I wouldn't  even consider these, if you want a shooter.  They tend to be expensive, even in lesser condition and the bores are often unshootable, unless the gun has high condition.

September 11, 2020
12:20 am
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I have to completely agree with the comments made.  Buy the best-conditioned original you can afford.  Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall you were starting out with any parts you already had on hand?  The funny thing about parts is they tend to be expensive.  Many, many guys will take a complete lower grade (often functioning) rifle and put all the parts (except the receiver) on Ebay.  They do this with the purpose of making money - and they usually do.  The parts sell for more than they paid for the rifle.  So, to do this in reverse... to start buying parts with the purpose of assembling a complete rifle... seems like a much more expensive option than just buying the completed rifle.  And as others said, you will end up with a Frankenchester.  They made a whole lot more M1873's than they did many of the other models (e.g. 1876, 1886, 1895) so there are plenty out there to be found in about any price range.  

September 11, 2020
12:52 am
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Years ago I tracked what a Ebay seller was getting for a parted out 73 and he doubled his money from what he paid from a auction house. So if your putting a gun back together from parts your going to pay twice what its really worth and probably more since there are parts that will not fit or are worn too much and you have to get another. The rarest 73 I saw sold in parts was a open top 73.

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September 16, 2020
2:20 pm
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Are today’s smokeless factory loads safe to shoot in pre 1894 black power 73’s ?

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September 16, 2020
4:00 pm
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Rick,

I cannot speak for all brands or flavors of 44-40 ammo on the market today, but I do know that the Winchester Cowboy ammo is perfectly safe to shoot in any mechanically sound Model 1873.

https://www.midwayusa.com/product/2900579609

Bert

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September 16, 2020
4:19 pm
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Bert H. said
Rick,
I cannot speak for all brands or flavors of 44-40 ammo on the market today, but I do know that the Winchester Cowboy ammo is perfectly safe to shoot in any mechanically sound Model 1873.
https://www.midwayusa.com/product/2900579609
Bert  

Thanks Bert that’s what I was hoping.

RickC

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September 16, 2020
4:54 pm
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I shoot the older Remington ammo in the green and yellow boxes in all my 73's

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September 16, 2020
5:02 pm
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1873man said
I shoot the older Remington ammo in the green and yellow boxes in all my 73's

Bob  

Thanks Bob I will look to get some of that. Is it the Kleanbore ?

RickC

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September 16, 2020
5:36 pm
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I chronographed some cowboy loads once.  I don't remember who's for sure, maybe Ken's 10 X?  My 73 had a 26" barrel.  350 FPS.  Shot like a pop gun.  I was expecting more like 500-800 FPS.  If buying from a major brand ask for the FPS in a rifle.  FPS gives some indication of pressure.

September 16, 2020
6:07 pm
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RickC said

Thanks Bob I will look to get some of that. Is it the Kleanbore ?

RickC  

Its this stuff.I bought mine years ago and stocked up and figure if I use it up I will reload.

Bob

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September 16, 2020
6:26 pm
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1873man said

RickC said

Thanks Bob I will look to get some of that. Is it the Kleanbore ?

RickC  

Its this stuff.I bought mine years ago and stocked up and figure if I use it up I will reload.

Bob

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Ah ok thanks Bob. That stuff isn’t as scarce. Do you know the FPS as Chuck stated. Just wondering is all.

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September 17, 2020
5:57 pm
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Most factory loaded 44 WCF is not overly fast.  They know that someone with an old gun is likely to use it.  Best bet is to contact the manufacturer.

You need to make up your own mind what is safe for your gun.  I have shot a lot of the different factory loads just to get the brass.  This goes for other calibers for other models like 32-40 and 38-55.

September 17, 2020
6:00 pm
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Chuck said
Most factory loaded 44 WCF is not overly fast.  They know that someone with an old gun is likely to use it.  Best bet is to contact the manufacturer.  

Thanks Chuck I’ll do that. Any idea what the FPS limit or max you would suggest ?

RickC

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September 17, 2020
6:29 pm
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Factory loads were about 1245 fps with black powder and around 1300 with smokeless. I would have to shoot some of the Remington over a chronograph to see what its doing.

Bob

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