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The Winchester 1873 lever-action centerfire repeating rifle had 12-round, 15-round and 17-round versions. You could get it chambered for .32-20, .38-40 and .44-40 (all by Winchester). The 1873 is famous as “The Gun that Won the…” West. That’s right. You knew how to end that phrase. It’s a fair bet that just about every gun enthusiast or history buff knows how to end the phrase, and for good reason. It was Remington marketing tag in the days before tag lines were common.

Winchester made over 700,000 of these rifles in a production run that lasted 50 years from 1873 to 1923. It recaptures that golden era with another 10+ models that it makes currently or ended recently. Two examples are the Model 1873 Trapper Grade I Limited Series and the Model 1873 150th Commemorative.

The Model 1873 Trapper Grade I Limited Series had a 16” steel sporter barrel and 35” overall, shot .357-38 from a 10-round full-length tube magazine and weighed 7.0 pounds. The barrel, bolt, trigger guard and trigger (also all steel) had a brushed polish, the steel receiver a color case finish while the affordable Grade I black walnut had a smooth oil finish.

The Model 1873 150th Commemorative cost a little over twice as much brand new as the Model 1873 Trapper Grade I Limited Series. Winchester chambered this fancy piece for .44-40 Winchester. Like its aforementioned but less expensive sibling, this had a steel barrel, trigger guard, trigger and bolt. However, the barrel was 24” long and a high-gloss finish octagonal cross-section exterior. Winchester also applied a high gloss finish to the trigger guard and bolt. Overall length was 43”, which meant a longer magazine tube good for 13 rounds.

Naturally, with a longer gun, the weight increased, so weight came in at 7 pounds 5 ounces. The oil-finished black walnut was a much fancier, rich and elegant Grade V/VI with a 24 LPI (lines-per-inch) checkering. And the receiver’s finish was silver nitride. There was beautiful leafy scrollwork deep engraving with gold highlights on the trigger guard, buttplate, receiver, forend cap, etc. There’s even a gold band near the muzzle. The overall effect is simply stunning. You’d be not only forgiven but commended by many for straight away mounting this more recent 1873 to your wall.

But let’s travel back to the year 1873. Winchester made three different sizes of the original 1873, which, by the way, was the first Winchester to have an official model year designation. The smallest size was the carbine. It had a 20” barrel. The magazine tube ran parallel underneath, and its front ended under the muzzle. This meant room for 12 rounds. Next up was the longer 24” barrel that permitted a longer magazine tube good for 15 rounds. The big boy was the 27” barrel “musket” (that had little to do with say a musket of the American Revolution). This last choice had an even longer tube that could handle 17 rounds.

The 1873 put some real firepower in the hands of its users because it was one of the first guns to produce reliable continued firepower without requiring a reload between shots. In fact, a trained Winchester 1873 rifle user could fire off all 15 rounds in about minute. In comparison, someone firing a standard powder and ramrod non-repeating Springfield musket might fire three rounds per minute. Not only was this significantly slower, but reloading quickly required standing up, very vulnerably exposed to enemy fire.

The guns had an oil-finished walnut stock. Other components were blued steel: the receiver, trigger, trigger guard, iron sights, and the buttplate at the back of the stock.

The Winchester 1873s could be had in either round barrels or, rather interestingly, fancy octagonal ones. Rear tangs were drilled and tapped for optional tang-mounted rear-sights.

For years, Winchester also made more modern versions. They were as much as possible like the originals. Winchester had steel loading gates, brass cartridge lifters and traditional dust covers on them. Some had beautifully engraved receivers.

The Winchester 1873 was developed for the .44-40 cartridge and later also had .32-20 and .38-40 versions.

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