Make: Winchester Repeating Arms Co.
Model: 1866 Musket Third Model
Serial Number: 31981
Year of Manufacture: 1870
Caliber: This rifle has been converted from .44 Henry Rimfire to .44 Henry Centerfire. We can see a round firing pin protruding several thousands of an inch through the front face of the bolt. The bolt itself looks like it was made for a rimfire cartridge.
Action Type: Lever Action with Tubular Magazine.
Markings: The top of 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 “31981” and “B”.
Barrel Length: The barrel is 26 15/16” in length and has a nearly full length magazine tube.
Sights / Optics: The front sight is thin blade held in a slotted base atop the barrel. The rear sight is a folding ladder sight. When the ladder is folded down, a “U” notch is presented. When the ladder is folded up, there is a semi-buckhorn sight in the top edge of the slider with a tiny “V” notch at its center. There is also a tiny “V” notch at the very top of the ladder and another at the very bottom of the ladder’s rectangular opening. The ladder is marked from “2” to “8”. The slider is loose on the ladder and will not stay in position.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are two piece walnut with a lacquered finish. The buttstock has a straight grip and a brass carbine style buttplate. There is a trapdoor in the buttplate for storage of cleaning equipment in the buttstock. The forend is held with two barrel bands and there are sling swivels in the belly and on the bottom of the forward barrel band. The stocks are dark with oil staining, have been refinished, and show multiple light dings under the finish, especially in the belly and along the top of the comb. There are slight gaps between the front edges of the buttstock and the receiver, and between the wood and the edges of the upper tang. The wood is also slightly shy of the metal near the front of the upper tang. With the exception of the light dings previously mentioned, the edges of the comb are relatively sharp. The wood fits the buttplate well, but is slightly shy of the metal at the toe. There are a few light marks through the finish in the buttstock, a large gouge in the underside of the rear portion of the forend, a small chip on the underside at the back edge of the rear barrel band, and several compression marks in the current finish in the center section of the forend. The LOP measures 13 3/8” from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The buttplate shows multiple light handling marks and a mustard colored patina. The buttplate and the stocks are in about Very Good overall condition.
Type of Finish: The barrel, magazine tube and lever are blued. The frame is brass and the hammer is case colored.
Finish Originality: The finish is original except for on the magazine tube, which has been refinished.
Bore Condition: The bore is dark and the rifling is shallow. There is moderate erosion 2-3 inches behind the muzzle and light erosion the length of the bore.
Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 30% of its metal finish. There is finish remaining on the magazine tube and hammer. The barrel, barrel bands on the forend and the lever have all developed a dark plum colored patina, which appears mottled in the front half of the barrel due to the surface loss under the patina. The receiver has developed a mustard colored patina. The barrel band around the magazine tube has been polished so has to remove most of its finish and/or patina. The magazine tube shows very light pitting and a few tiny spots of solid erosion under its finish. There are a few light marks through the patina at the front of the barrel. There are tool marks and file marks on the top of the receiver’s chamber rings and multiple small dings on the top and sides of the receiver. There are also a few deeper bruises at the front right side of the receiver and a few scratches in its right side. There are also tool marks around the screw heads in the underside of the receiver. The screw heads are sharp. The barrel markings in front of the ladder sight are very thin from wear but those protected by the sight when it is folded down are clear and sharp. Overall, this rifle rates in about Very Good condition.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. The hammer has a half-cock safety. The breech bolt is the early type without inlets around the extractor, which is correct for this serial number. The breech bolt has been modified for centerfire cartridges and the round firing pin can be seen protruding out the front face of the bolt. We have not fired this rifle. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: None
Our Assessment: The Model 1866 rifle was the first firearm to be built by the new Winchester Arms after they changed their name from the New Haven Arms Company in 1866. The Model 1866 was a much improved version of the Henry rifle, with a loading port on the right side of the receiver featuring a spring loaded cover, through which cartridges could be fed into a new solid magazine tube that was much stronger than the slotted tube used on the Henry. The M1866 was made in rifle, carbine and musket versions and in four different models dependent on date of manufacture. All of the different models were chambered in .44 Henry Rimfire, with some of the later 4th Models chambered in .44 Henry Center Fire. Many of the earlier guns were also converted to .center fire. George Madis in “The Winchester Book” indicates that in examining many of the conversions, there were three distinct methods for modifying the breech bolt, and so many were found identical that there could be no doubt that Winchester was doing a lot of the modifications. This rifle is a Model 1866 Musket 4th Model that has been converted to fire .44 Henry Center Fire cartridges. The rifle has a 27” round barrel with a nearly full length magazine and two barrel bands holding the forend with a third around the barrel and magazine tube. The rifle has its original folding ladder sight, but the slider is loose and will not stay in position. The stocks and the magazine tube have been refinished, but the rest of the rifle appears to have its original finish. The rifle is in about Very Good condition with 30% of its finish remaining. The barrel, the forend barrel bands and the lever have developed a dark plum colored patina and the receiver has developed a mustard colored patina. The front half of the barrel shows a mottled finish due to the surface loss under the patina and there are spots of light pitting and tiny spots of solid erosion under the finish of the magazine tube. There are tool marks and file marks in the top of the receiver’s chamber ring, numerous small dings in the top and sides of the receiver, and a deep bruised and a few scratches in the right side of the receiver. There are multiple dings and bruises under the finish of the stocks. There are slight gaps between the wood and the upper tang and the wood and the back edges of the receiver. The buttstock has a brass carbine style buttplate that fits the wood well, except the metal is slightly proud of the wood at the toe. There is a large gouge out of the underside of the rear section of the forend and several compression marks through the finish in the center section of the forend. The bore is dark with shallow rifling and erosion near the muzzle. All of the 1866 models are very collectable due to their age and the relatively short time period over which they were made: the M1866 was made up until the 1890’s, but very few were made after the 1873 rifle was introduced with its improved center fire cartridges. Most Winchester collectors would never think that their collection was complete without at least all three variations.