North American Auction Company
Timed Auction

Last Chance September Passed Lots Auction

Mon, Sep 25, 2023 02:00AM EDT - Fri, Sep 29, 2023 03:00PM EDT
Lot 199

Winchester Model 1873 .38-40 Special Order Rifle

Estimate: $2,250 - $2,800

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$50 $10
$100 $25
$500 $50
$1,000 $100
$2,000 $250
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$35,000 $2,500
Special order Winchester Model 1873 rifle. This unusual 1873 rifle features a special order half magazine with standard 24” round barrel. It is chambered in the large and desirable .38-40 caliber. The serial number 433649 indicates a manufacturre date of 1892. According to the classic reference work, The Winchester Handbook by George Madis, of the over 720,000 Model 1873s produced by Winchester, only 2669 were special ordered with shorter than standard magazines. Madis also shows that of this number of 1873s, 586,487 were made in .44-40 caliber and 109,558 were made in .32-20 caliber. Only 24,826 were made in .38-40 caliber making this a fairly scarce rifle in its own right. With the half-magazine feature in this caliber rifle, it is a true Winchester rarity. Sophisticated riflemen of the day ordered their rifles with half-magazines as they tended to be more accurate than those featuring full magazines. This is because a long magazine attached to the bottom of the barrel changed “harmonics” and weight distribution as each cartridge was fired and another fed from the magazine tube. A half magazine that extended only to the end of the forearm did not have this problem. While it did not hold as many rounds in reserve, it could be counted on for extreme accurace. Interestingly, Theodore Roosevelt who was known for being a true rifle aficionado, ordered almost all of his special Winchester rifles with half-magazines. This example shows use, but was not abused. The barrel and receiver reveal an honest, uncleaned aged patina with some dull blue in the most protected areas and on the loading gate. All markings on the barrel and upper tang are present and distinct. It also retains the dust cover on the receiver top which all too often is missing. The stock and forend show normal handling, yet are uncleaned, unsanded and show a tight wood to metal fit. The action functions properly and the hammer retains a strong safety half-cock. The brass lifter on the receiver bottom is correctly engraved with the caliber and is also an uncleaned mellow patina. The barrel is fitted with a typical buckhorn rear sight with small Winchester German silver front sight blade. As expecterd from a black powder era Winchester, the bore is dark and worn with visible rifling that would benefit from a good cleaning. The 1873 Model was Winchester’s first rifle made for center fire, reloadable cartridges. It proved popular on the frontier as well as in the eastern woodlands. The rare .38-40 caliber was considered adequate for hunting about all game from rabbits to deer and bear. It was also a formidable weapon for self defense. This is an interesting and attractive 131 year old special order 1873 in a rare caliber with a doubly rare half magazine. This firearm qualifies as an Antique, and does not require FFL Transfer or NICS Background Check.

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