Winchester Model 1873 showing its age

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by Downriver, Jul 7, 2011.

  1. Downriver

    Downriver Member

    Jun 23, 2011
    Gulf Coast of Florida
    Although I’d like to know the value of this rifle as judged by the forum, this write-up is really along the lines of an appreciation. I have a small collection of eight Winchester lever-actions, and this Model 1873 carbine is the oldest, rattiest, most beat-up, nastiest of the bunch. And it’s also undoubtedly my favorite. I’m sure all of you have a similar favorite firearm, maybe for reasons somebody else might not understand.

    It’s often said of an antique firearm, “if this gun could talk…” If this Model 1873 could talk, it would speak Spanish. As far as I can determine, it spent the first century of its life in Mexico. That was a particularly tumultuous time in Mexican history, and I can well imagine the carbine being kept handy to put food on the table, hold off banditos, and take part in the Mexican Revolution (but on which side?).

    Note: serious collectors may wish to skip this paragraph. Somewhere over time an owner with the initials DM decided to stipple his initials into both sides of the receiver, maybe out of pride or perhaps to distinguish his weapon from others. I’ve had this carbine for nearly 30 years, and in taking photos today I noticed for the first time that the initials differ on one side from the other, with a fancy “M” standing out from the block style of the other letters. A shame the initials aren’t “PV.”

    As I value my eyesight I’ve never fired the 1873, but it handles beautifully. It feels comfortable in the hands and comes to the shoulder quickly, settling into firing position with no fuss. Probably my favorite thing about the Winchester is working the action. My other Winchesters, models 1892, 1894 and 53, cycle with a strong “click-click” sound and a solid modern action. The 1873 emits instead a low metallic “clunk-clunk,” and in cycling the action you can just feel the toggle link and the various gizmos inside working away. 1873 state of the art. Sweet.

    As for the specifics, I believe it to be a third model .44-40, serial number 976XX, manufactured 1882. It’s missing its dust cover, but otherwise is intact.

    Value: I expect some to proclaim it only a parts gun. Not to me. It’s worth its weight in character, functionality, engineering and history.

    Your thoughts welcome. Thanks in advance.

    And what's your favorite firearm in your collection?

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    Last edited: Jul 7, 2011
    shootbrownelk likes this.
  2. oneshot onekill

    oneshot onekill New Member

    May 27, 2010
    DeBary, Florida
    I've seen worse... If the bore's good, I'd shoot that Bad-Boy! I have no idea of the value but I like it!

  3. NZEF1945

    NZEF1945 New Member

    Jul 9, 2011
    Otago, New Zealand
    I have had one worse than this one - I would shoot it using black powder of course - but I might also add at this point that I am known to be quite mad - when my friends all use modern high powered hunting rifles I use ones like Whitney Kennedy and my New Model 1863 Sharps for pigs and a Martini Henry carbine now and again - still using 1899 - 1901 foil Ammunition for the latter!!!

    I like your rifle - I would be happy to have it because it has history.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  4. permafrost

    permafrost Active Member

    Feb 24, 2010
    Oklahoma, USA
    I couln't stand it, myself .It would keep whispering to me "shoot me, shoot me"! I'd give in sooner or later.
  5. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    I'd have already shot it.
  6. Downriver

    Downriver Member

    Jun 23, 2011
    Gulf Coast of Florida
    Well, maybe you ol' boys are convincing me to give the carbine a try - after a gunsmith checks it out, as it's even older than I am. Two questions: what type of off-the-shelf ammo should I use? (I'm not a reloader.) And should I go to the expense of replacing the dustcover before shooting? It doesn't bother me that it's missing.
  7. Jim Hauff

    Jim Hauff New Member

    Apr 20, 2008
    Lehigh Valley, PA
    Nice old piece with lots of character. "Cowboy Action - SASS" sanctioned loads are way down-loaded for their type of low power competition.
  8. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    Don't worry about the dust cover and use cowboy loads.
  9. Downriver

    Downriver Member

    Jun 23, 2011
    Gulf Coast of Florida
    Glad to see there are some fellow "character" buffs out there.

    Anybody available to give a value? Bert H? Jim K? jjmitchell60? Pls weigh in.
  10. Downriver

    Downriver Member

    Jun 23, 2011
    Gulf Coast of Florida
    I'm resurrecting this thread after the Winchester 1873 carbine hung on my wall for another four years. I finally had it checked out by my gunsmith. He found the carbine safe to shoot with cowboy ammo, so with two boxes of Hornady 44-40 WIN 205 gr Cowboy, I hit the range. And my ratty 133-year-old relic rifle shot like it was new from the Deadwood general store. I was concerned that the gun wouldn't feed ammo, as the magazine tube spring rattles around a bit, but the single round I loaded chambered perfectly via the lever action. A bit cautious, I didn't shoulder the weapon, but rather held it to one side with the top facing away. The cowboy round fired uneventfully, and I even managed to hit the target. 133 years old and still doing the job. I loaded up more rounds and shot from the shoulder. Aside from hitting a bit high, the 1873 functioned flawlessly. I used up the rest of the ammo on myself and also invited various range employees and fellow shooters to put a couple of rounds through a real piece of history. So thanks to all you guys who four years ago encouraged me to shoot the Winchester. Better late than never.
    jwdurf likes this.
  11. sharps4590

    sharps4590 Well-Known Member

    Aug 10, 2013
    Missouri Ozarks
    Good on you Downriver!!! I would have fired it long ago! I expect you learned that as you loaded more rounds in the magazine the spring compressed and had more than enough strength to feed the cartridges. Not uncommon with old lever rifles.

    I too much prefer the old, original stuff and regularly shoot several German rifles, drillings, combination guns, one British double rifle and a couple Winchester lever rifles around the same age as yours, but I handload so correct, safe ammo is no problem.

    There's a bunch of Winchester 73's here so perhaps you can wade through them and decide upon a value for yours. The saddle ring carbine will add a bit of a premium.
  12. jwdurf

    jwdurf Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2014
    Rural Northern CA
    Thanks for the post. Congrats on having such an great piece.
  13. Gabob

    Gabob Well-Known Member

    Dec 5, 2005
    I love shooting the oldies. I had a 1871 Springfield 50-70 Rolling block that I fired a few times and an 1884 45-70 Trapdoor that I fired quite a bit
    You have a real piece of history in that 1873.
  14. Fatstrat

    Fatstrat Well-Known Member

    Apr 17, 2003
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