Winchester 1873 - The Gun that Won The West

History, 1873s For Sale, and 1873 Restoration Examples

Winchester 1873 Key Information

This article will concentrate on early history of Winchester’s Model 1873. Looking for a new-production Winchester 1873 for sale? Click here


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 (visual timeline)

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)


  • 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.


Load up on all of our favorite classic Winchester 1873 content from around the web.

Model 1873 Videos

Model 1873 Articles