Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Winchester Model 1873

An over one-hundred-year-old gun in my safe is a Winchester Model 1873 that left the factory in 1891.  I consider it a companion to my 1884 vintage Colt Frontier Six Shooter Model 1873 revolver; both are chambered for the .44 Winchester Centerfire, AKA .44-40., AKA .44 WCF. Since the same cartridge fed both that model rifle and that model revolver, the load became very popular with frontier American shooters as a matter of convenience.

My old Winchester ’73 holds 14 cartridges in the magazine, 4 rounds over the “assault weapons ban” benchmark magazine capacity of 10.
The Battle of Little Bighorn was in 1876 and the Cavalry was using the single-shot Springfield Model 1873 .45-70 carbines. During the same period, having more foresight than the military, many civilians had armed themselves with the high-capacity Winchester repeating rifles, the 1873 being so common it was called “The gun that won the west.” The .45-70 load was not replaced until the military adopted the 5-round capacity .30-40 Krag Jorgensen in 1894, which was replaced in 1903 by the 5-round capacity Springfield Model 1903, which was replaced by the 8-round capacity semi-automatic M1 Garand in 1936, which was replaced by the 20-round capacity select fire M14 rifle in 1957.

The significance of this short thesis is that high-capacity rifles did not become universally popular with the military until long after civilians began commonly using them back in the frontier days.

James A. Zachary Jr.


Anonymous said...

Awesome 1873! I have an 1873 SRC that is in average condition (125 years old). I would like to be able to shoot it, but I don't believe it's in firing condition. I don't want it restored, just repaired so that I can shoot it every now and then. Do you know of a gunsmith in either or Wisconsin that would be able to do this?

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Try giving the guys below a call; they may be able to help you or steer you to a smith near you.

R.G.S. Restorations, Inc.
6441 South U.S. Hwy. 45
Oshkosh, WI 54902