SOLD FOR: $130,900

Rare & Very early Winchester Model 1873 1 of 1,000 1873 Lever Action Rifle

Make: Winchester

Model: 1873 Rifle, 1st Model, 1 of 1,000

Serial Number: 778

Year of Manufacture: 1874

Caliber: .44-40

Markings: The barrel is marked “WINCHESTER’S- REPEATING ARMS. NEW HAVEN. CT. / KING’S-IMPROVEMENT-PATENTED-MARCH 29.1866. OCTOBER 16.1860.”. The lower tang is marked “778”. The upper tang is marked “MODEL. 1873”. The left of the bottom tang, the upper tang inlet of the wrist, and the inside of the buttplate at the toe each have “481” assembly number. The lower tang is also marked “XX”. The barrel has “1 of 1000” hand-engraved on the top of the barrel at the breech.

Barrel Length: 28″

Sights / Optics: The front sight is a German silver blade in a slotted base dovetailed to the front of the barrel. The rear sight is a “V”-notch elevator sight dovetailed to the rear of the barrel. The top tang is drilled, tapped and filled for a tang sight (none present).

Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are two-piece checkered 2-X deluxe walnut with capped forend, straight grip, straight comb and steel crescent buttplate with sliding trapdoor in the rear face. The stocks have some light nicks and scratches. There is a small loss at the toe. There is a thin crack at the left-front edge of the forend. There are a few tiny losses at the left-front edge of the wrist. The checkering is well defined. The LOP measures 12 3/4″ from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. Overall, the stocks are in Very Good condition as ANTIQUE.

Type of Finish: Blue & Case Hardened

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: 8 out of 10.

Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 55% of its metal finish. The metal has taken a very attractive and natural patina. There is light wear on the top tang consistent with a previously installed tang sight. The screw heads range from sharp to lightly tool marked with strong slots. The markings are clear. Overall, this rifle is in Fine-plus condition as ANTIQUE.

Box, Paperwork & Accessories: A four-piece cleaning rod is included, in the buttstock.

Our Assessment: early in 1873 production, Winchester distributed a pamphlet extolling the virtues of their new model of rifle and all of the ways it was an improvement over their previous Model 1866. In this pamphlet they also layed out a plan which would lead to some of the most desired Winchester rifles ever produced:”every Sporting Rifle we make will be proved and shot at a target, and the target will be numbered to correspond with the barrel attached to it. When one hundred barrels are thus proved, the one making the best target will be selected and set aside, and another hundred proved in the same way, and so on until one thousand have been tested and ten targets selected with the barrels with which they were made.They will then be made up into Guns, in which each part is selected with the utmost care and finished in the finest manner. They will then be again subjected to trials for accuracy, and the best of the ten selected and marked ‘One of a thousand,’ the price of which will be from $80.00 to $100.00.”While certainly an interesting marketing idea, one can plainly see that the process is complicated and without sufficient orders, the best of the rifles would remain at the factory waiting to be sold. It also was not ideal to indicate that every other Winchester was an inherently inferior rifle. Winchester obviously did not follow through with the plan as there were 700,000+ Models 1873 produced with only 132 “One of a Thousand” rifles made. The option was dropped from the Winchester catalog in 1875 and nearly all of the 1 of 1,000 rifles were produced before 1880. Interest in these Rare Winchesters was revived in 1950 with the release of Winchester ’73 starring James Stewart, in which a 1 of 1,000 played a prominent role. The rifles have since become perhaps the most sought after of all Winchesters among collectors. This example is particularly interesting due to its documentation and inspection by none other than George Madis. The rifle is photographed in “The Winchester Book” and Madis notes “The serial number of this rifle is 778; of over thirty One of One Thousand models 73 this writer has observed, this the lowest number.” The rifle is also noted in James D. Gordon’s “Winchester’s New Model of 1873 A Tribute” as an example of a 1 of 1000 marked rifle which is not recorded in Winchester’s warehouse ledgers as such.As a rifle not only inspected by George Madis, but also pictured in his book, this an especially Rare opportunity. The inherent rarity of a 1 of 1000, the rifle’s high condition, its extra-length barrel all make for one of the finest Winchester’s to add to a collection.