US Navy Winchester Improved 2nd Model Hotchkiss .45-70 Bolt Rifle, Antique

SOLD FOR: $3025

LSB#: 230113RB007

Make: Winchester

Model: 1879 Hotchkiss, 2nd Model Musket, U.S. Navy

Serial Number: 5308

Year of Manufacture: 1881

Caliber: .45-70 Government, Black Powder

Action Type: Bolt Action Internal Tubular Magazine

Markings: The left of the receiver is marked “MANUFACTURED BY THE WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN. CONN. U.S.A. / -PATENTED OCT. 16. 1860. JUNE 25. 1872. JULY 23. 1878. AND UNDER- / B. B. HOTCHKISS’ PAT’S AUG.17.1869.FEB.15.1870.NOV.9.1875.NOV.14.1876.JAN.23.1877.”. The top of the barrel at the rear has “W.W.K.” (W.W. Kimball, USN inspector), “R”, “US / anchor” and “V / P / eagle’s head) with a faint “H.N.” (Henry Nettleton, US Ordnance inspector). Nettleton’s inspection mark is found agaon on the bolt sleeve, bolt head and the left shoulder of the receiver. The left shoulder is also marked with the serial number “5308”.

Barrel Length: 29”

Sights / Optics: There is a hood and a slotted base at the front of the barrel, but no front sight is present. The rear sight is an M1879 rifle sight.

Stock Configuration & Condition: The stock is one-piece smooth walnut with nosecap, two barrel bands, straight wrist, straight comb and smooth steel buttplate. There are sling swivels on the front band and the front of the trigger guard, the front band also has a stacking swivel. The stock has some scattered nicks, dings, scuffs and scratches. There is a crack across the escutcheon on the right of the stock below the receiver and there are cracks extending back from the rear edge of the receiver in the top of the wrist. The LOP measures 13 1/4″ from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The plate is polished bright with some erosion at the heel and scattered minor oxidation. Overall, the stock is in Very Good condition as Antique.

Type of Finish: There is infrequent blued finish, most surfaces have been polished Bright.

Finish Originality: The finish has been intentionally removed.

Bore Condition: The bore is semi-bright. The rifling is sharp where not interrupted by erosion. There is some scattered light erosion and pitting in the bore. In this writer’s opinion, this bore rates a 7 out of 10.

Most antique firearms have bores that will show erosion. This is not only due to age but to the use of black powder. When fired, black powder reacts corrosively. NRA Antique Firearm Conditions Standards are quite lenient for bores. In some cases the NRA standards disregarded the bore’s condition for collectors firearms.

Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 5% of its metal finish, only in protected areas. Most surfaces have been polished bright. There are some scattered light nicks and scratches. There are spots of light surface oxidation. The action shows operational wear. The screw heads range from sharp to tool marked with strong slots. The markings range from clear to worn, but legible. Overall, this rifle rates in Good-Very Good condition as Antique (see Mechanics).

Mechanics: The follower spring appears weak, and there is likely erosion impeding the follower in the magazine tube. Otherwise, the action functions correctly. We did not fire this rifle. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.

Box, Paperwork & Accessories: A reproduction leather sling is included. Also included is a Cody Firearms Office Winchester Records Check which indicates that this rifle was received in warehouse February 21, 1881, and shipped the same day on order number 20736. The records check notes Musket type, Nickel barrel and New System.

Our Assessment: The Winchester Hotchkiss was a bolt-action repeating rifle patented by Benjamin B. Hotchkiss in 1876 and produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and Springfield Arsenal from 1878. The Hotchkiss like most early bolt-actions had a single rear locking lug integral with the bolt handle, but was unique in feeding multiple rounds from a tubular buttstock magazine similar to the Spencer rifle. A magazine cutoff mechanism was adopted, allowing the user to fire the rifle as a single-shot while retaining the magazine in reserve.

There were three basic variants to the Hotchkiss. The original rifle had the magazine cutoff and bolt lock integral to a dial on the right side, with only the one control. Testing and feedback from military trials led to the 2nd or “Improved” model being made, having separate levers to each side of the receiver. Curiously, 1st Model rifles and carbines continued to be produced even after the 2nd Model went into production. Due to frequent cracking of the stock at the rear of the receiver, the 3rd Model altered the receiver once more and used two-piece stocks, largely solving the issue of cracking.

The .45-70 Hotchkiss was acquired in limited numbers by the US Navy as the M1879, and (in a slightly modified version) by the US Army and several state militias as the M1883, making it the first bolt-action repeater to be adopted by any major military. While production began at Winchester, there were also many rifles that were assembled at Springfield Armory using Winchester-made parts. The Chinese Empire purchased 15,000 Winchester-Hotchkiss rifles in 1881. However, the result of the US Army’s 1883 field trials was the rejection of the Hotchkiss and Remington-Lee bolt-actions for general issue, and the retention of the single-shot “trapdoor” Springfield Model 1873 as its primary longarm for another decade.

This is a solid example of a seldom seen gun. It is a 2nd Model US Navy musket that remains attractive, showing quite light wear for a 140 year old military rifle. This checks a lot of boxes for collectors as a fairly scarce Model, a military gun, and an intriguing mechanism. It will add nicely to a variety of collections. Please see our photos and good luck!

Please forgive any typos, I was educated in California -Bud

US Navy Winchester Improved 2nd Model Hotchkiss .45-70 Bolt Rifle, Antique
US Navy Winchester Improved 2nd Model Hotchkiss .45-70 Bolt Rifle, Antique