Winchester 1873 - The Gun that Won The WestExploring the Classics
Original Manufacturer: Winchester Repeating Arms Company
Model Designation: Model 1873, popularly known as “Winchester ’73” and “The Gun that Won the West”
Firearm Type: Lever-action rifle
Designer: The ’73 design can be considered a 25-year evolution, from 1848 and Walter Hunt’s original Volition Repeating Rifle, extending through Nelson King’s improved patent of 1866 and beyond
Years Produced: 1873-1919
Original Chamberings: .44 WCF, .38 WCF, .32 WCF, .22 Rimfire
Capacity: Tubular magazine; Generally 12 to 15 rounds, depending on chambering and barrel length
Key Features & Identifiers: Tubular magazine, complex (but considered fragile) linkage system; First Model, Second Model and Third Model distinguished by their respective dust cover configurations (see “Did You Know?” for more information)
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Model 1873 was the first Winchester to have a formal year designation.
- Winchester’s new cartridge, the .44 Winchester Center Fire, was introduced in 1873 as well and promoted as the standard chambering for their new Model 1873 rifle.
- .44 WCF was both a rifle and a revolver caliber, AND reloadable, gaining the cartridge widespread popularity and contributing to the rifle’s popular moniker “The gun that won the West”.
- The Winchester 1873 worked via action largely based on the Henry 1860 mechanism. This linkage system and other elements had undergone a series of improvements since its origination by Hunt in 1848 (“Volition Repeating Rifle”).
- The improved design of the 1873 utilized stronger and lighter steel receivers, as opposed to the yellow gunmetal on the preceding Winchester Repeating Rifle (i.e., “1866”).
- Further improvement included the addition of a dust cover to the receiver top. The First Model 1873 (s/n 1 to about 31000) has grooved guides on each side to retain the dustcover (sometimes referred to as a “mortised dustcover). The Second Model (s/n 31000 to 90000) has a dust cover on one central guide secured to the receiver with two screws. The central guide rail on the Third Model is integrally machined as part of the receiver.
- Throughout its 46-year production, the Model 1873 was offered in a number of configurations with a wide range of special order features.
- The U.S. military never adopted the Model 1873, but the lever action rifle was widely adopted by frontiersmen, scouts and Native American forces.
- The Model 1873 .22 Rimfire Rifle was the first .22 caliber repeating rifle in America was introduced in 1884 and discontinued in 1904. Winchester sold a little more than 19,000 .22 caliber Model 1873s.
- As with all historic firearms, a Winchester Model 1873’s value is determined by a number of factors, ranging from year of manufacture, to configuration, to condition, and more. As one example, The Blue Book of Gun Values Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Edition valued a below average Model 1873 First Model between $900 – $1,650; an average Model 1873 First Model between $1,650 – $2,500; an above-average Model 1873 First Model between $2,500 – $4,950. All based on originality and brightness of finish. Each example’s history and provenance will significantly influence the Winchester 1873’s value.
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