Model 1873, "The gun that won the west"

Text and drawings by Tommy Rholes


The Winchester 1873 was made in rifles, carbines and muskets. Most of the carbines and muskets were of standard configuration but many rifles had features such as fancy wood, pistol grip, checking, longer or shorter barrel length, heavier barrel weight, octagon or half octagon barrel (round was standard), matted barrel, shotgun butt, Swiss butt, sling swivels, special stock dimensions, shorter magazine, engraving, special sights, nickel or part nickel finish (sometimes silver or gold), case hardened frame and many other custom features. Standard barrels on carbines were 20" round, rifles 24" round (more octagon barrels were made), Muskets 30" round. The carbines and muskets were always made with round barrels. Rifle barrels were as short as 14" and up to 36".  Carbine barrels were as short as 12" with many In 15" and 16".  A few Spanish contract carbines and muskets were made and were quite different - see The Winchester Book [by George Madis]

The information in these pages is very limited and mainly covers changes of the receiver. Features such as barrel addresses, caliber markings, types of sights, internal changes, special guns like the One of One Hundred and One of One Thousand, barrel dimensions, assembly markings and other things are found in The Winchester Book by George Madis and in very great detail with many rare variations illustrated.

There are a few changes and features of the 1873 Winchester that are of significant importance and should be mentioned:

Magazines of all First Models and some early Second Models used a screw-in plug. Later ones used a plug that was held in by a screw.

Carbine front sights were an integral part of the front barrel band until about the 47,000 range when changed to a post type with blade.

Carbines in caliber 32 WCF (32-20) used a rifle type magazine hanger instead of a front barrel band.

1873's made after about the 560,000 range (1906) were proof marked on the front top of receiver and rear top of barrel. Earlier ones with proofing stamps indicate they were returned to the factory for repair or rework.

Butt plates of 1873's in 32 WCF were solid without a cleaning rod trapdoor. Also no cleaning rod trapdoor will be found on shotgun or Swiss butt plates.

Two magazine hangers were used on rifles with 32", 34" and 361, barrels with full length magazines.

Three types of hammer knurling were used. See The Winchester Book.

All First Model 1873's were made in 44 WCF (44-40) caliber. In 1879 the 38 WCF (38-40) was introduced, followed by the 32 WCF (32-20) in 1882 and the 22 caliber in 1883. No caliber markings were used until the 38 WCF was made. Both the barrel and bottom of the elevator were marked.

Information in these pages is not without error. Overlapping will be seen in the serial ranges listed. In many cases older parts were used on later guns. I will welcome any report of additional information or corrections to this 'material.

Tommy Rholes



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