Original U.S. Winchester Model 1873 .38-40 Special Order Rifle - Half-Octagon Barrel and Factory Letter - made in 1894

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. "The gun that won the west!" Well this just came to us amongst a Collection of just TEN very choice items all purchased by a collector in the 1980's. This example is definitely special, and has a very interesting history apparently.

This item comes with a Winchester Factory Letter dated September 4, 1981, confirming its age and origin. The letter states is in "38 caliber" (.38 WCF) with a special order "1/2 octagon barrel." However, there were apparently additional notes added in the margin, which included the date "November 6, 1895" in the left margin, and "Rec'd Thorsen & Cassady Co August 25, 1896." There is no explanation for these markings, however it seems that this rifle was sent back to the factory, and at that point may be when it was fitted with the highly figured walnut stocks that it now has. Definitely an opportunity for further research!

This fine rifle is in .38-40 caliber (marked 38 W.C.F. on chamber) with a 24" half-octagon barrel and full-length magazine tube. It also still has the 38 CAL. marking on the feed block. Features a nice "Flat-top" rear sight, with a standard front sight as well. The Serial number on the lower receiver tang 468528B denotes year of manufacture as 1894. The engraving on top of the barrel is clearly legible:


The walnut stocks are simply great, with lots of figuring and minimal wear or denting. Crisp tight action in fully functional condition with the original dust cover. The metal work is a nice faded blue, with just a trace of peppering in places. The bore shows clear lands and grooves, with a mostly bright finish. There is just a bit of oxidation in the grooves, so this is probably an 8.5 out of 10.

A truly lovely weapon with some great options. Ready to display along with it's original factory letter!

History of the Winchester Model 1873

The Model 1873 was one of the most successful Winchester rifles of its day, gaining the reputation as "The Gun that Won the West". Still an icon almost a century and a half later, it was manufactured between 1873 and 1919. Originally chambered for the .44-40 cartridge, it was later produced in .38-40 and .32-20, all of which were also popular handgun cartridges of the day, allowing users to conveniently carry just one type of ammunition. The Model 1873 was produced in three variations: a 24" barrel rifle, 20" barrel carbine, and a musket. The easy to transport and handle carbine was the most popular, while the musket accounted for less than 5-10 percent of total production.

Due to feeding problems, the original Model 1873 was never offered in the military standard .45 Colt cartridge, although a number of modern reproductions are chambered for the round. The popularity of the original Model 1873 led Colt to manufacture .44-40 a version of the Single Action Army revolver called the "Frontier Model".

To both celebrate and enhance the Model 1873's prestige, Winchester established a coveted One of One Thousand grade in 1875. Barrels producing unusually small groupings during test-firing were fitted to rifles with set triggers and a special finish. Marked One of One Thousand, they sold for a then princely $100. A popular 1950 Western starring Jimmy Stewart, Winchester '73, was based on the coveted gun. Promotions included a search for One of One Thousand rifles by Universal Studios, with advertisements in sporting magazines and posters in sporting goods stores.

A second grade of Model 1873 barrels producing above average accuracy were fitted to rifles marked One of One Hundred, and sold for $20 over list. Approximately 136 One of One Thousand Model 1873s were sold, and only eight One of One Hundreds. In all, over 720,000 Model 1873s were produced.

The .38-40 Winchester round is actually a .40 caliber cartridge shooting .401 caliber bullets. The cartridge was introduced by Winchester in 1874 and is derived from their .44-40 Winchester. This cartridge was introduced for rifles, but in its reintroduction for Cowboy Action Shooting it has seen some popularity as a pistol cartridge. It is not particularly well suited to hunting larger game, but it was popular when it was introduced, along with the previous .44-40 Winchester, for deer hunting. It can be used successfully on smaller game animals, and for self-defense.


Year of Manufacture: 1894
Caliber: .38-40 Winchester
Cartridge Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 24 Inches
Overall Length: 43 Inches

Action type: Lever Action Repeater
Feed System: 15-round tube magazine

NOTE: Note: This gun is NOT considered obsolete calibre, so we are no able to ship to the United Kingdom. International orders of antique firearms MUST be shipped using UPS WW Services (courier). USPS Priority Mail international will not accept these.

  • This product is not available for shipping in US state(s): New Jersey

    This product is available for international shipping.
  • Not eligible for payment with Paypal or Amazon


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