IMPORTANT AND HISTORIC ONE OF A KIND WINCHESTER 1873 MODEL ROOM PROTOTYPE RIMFIRE LEVER ACTION RIFLE WITH EXTENSIVE RESEARCH DOCUMENTATION INCLUDING CORRESPONDENCE WITH KNOWN FIREARMS AUTHORITY & AUTHOR, HERBERT HOUZE.
Cal. 22 Long
This rifle exhibits features consistent with other prototype arms produced in the Winchester Model room circa 1875, 8 years prior to the start of Winchester 1873 22 Rimfire production. Prototype receiver is a cast iron modification of the original 4 side plate 1873 brass prototype receiver design in possession of the Winchester Arms Museum, which was the first 1873 prototype 44-40 rifle. Receiver modifications are as follows: dust cover flanges have been removed, dust cover stop screw has been plugged, rear edge contours have been altered & the safety sear hole has been plugged with a threaded pin. As is the case with this example, no Winchester prototype receivers were fabricated to accept the wood forearms found on production guns.
As noted in letter from Herbert Houze, former Cody Firearms Museum Curator, to previous owner (see more below) “the design of the loading tube suggests that it is a precursor of the design patented by William W. Wetmore”. On December 30th, 1884, Winchester employee William W. Wetmore was issued patent no. 310,103 for “MAGAZINE FOR FIREARMS”. Mag. Tube appears to be one of Wetmore’s original tube designs which he modified from patent 57,508 wherein he added a stop ring. This was later improved upon by Jason L, Randall’s patent 343,492 on June 8, 1886. While the muzzle end of this mag tube is identical to the patent application drawings, the receiver end of the tube is actually very flimsy in design & construction. In notation from prior owner, it was Mr. Houze’s opinion that this design predated the patent application. Magazine tube appears to be fastened in place by a Flobert type barrel Band.
Barrel is 21 7/8” round, steel, unblued & slightly tapered (7/8” at receiver to 3/4” at muzzle). This conforms to the barrel taper of the model 1866s produced at this time. Herbert Houze states in correspondence to prior owner that “The barrel markings are of the type found on the Model 1875 Winchester revolver”. Tangs are unmarked and show no appearance metal removal. Lifter is marked “22 Cal Long” and appears handmade to accept 22 cal. cartridges. Toggles are also handmade & fitted to more exacting specifications than standard production rifles. Light bluing appears on the toggle surfaces of the correct type for Model Room work for the time.
“THE WINCHESTER BOOK” on page 95 indicates that all levers on Winchester rifles were cast with the spur in place. This lever has no spur yet shows no grinding or milling to remove the spur. According to Herbert Houze this would indicate this being a standard Henry lever as they were not cast with the spur in place. Top of oil finished walnut stock has a contour befitting the 1st model 1873 while the bottom contour matches that on the 1866 3rd model giving it a distinct appearance. Stock is fitted with a crescent steel iron buttplate rather than brass. UNATTACHED ACCESSORIES: 2 large binders of information including research file compiled by previous owner along with photocopies of various patents and letters from George Madis & Norm Flayderman (SEE WEBSITE FOR SCANS). Correspondance from known Winchester authority Herbert Houze as follows:
March 7, 1990 Dear Mr. ____: Your letter of February 25 addressed to the U.S. Repeating Arms Company has been forwarded to me for reply. The Winchester Model 1873 in your possession appears to be a prototype .22 caliber rifle utilizing a magazine of the type patented by William W. Wetmore on December 30, 1884 (no. 310,103) and improved by Jason L. Randall (Patent No. 343,492 of June 8, 1886). From the photographs you supplied, the rifle exhibits worksmanship similar to other experimental Winchesters of the period. However, I would not be able to definitively state that is was, without personally examining the arm. Enclosed are photocopies of the patents mentioned above. I hope this information will be of some assistance to you. Yours Truly, Herbert G. Houze Curator Cody Firearms Museum.
July 12, 1990 Dear Mr. ____. With respect to our conversation Saturday last, I am of the opinion that the 22 caliber Winchester rifle I examined is a prototype built upon a modified Model 1873 receiver using Model 1866 components. The receiver exhibits evidence of the following modifications…the dust cover flanges have been removed; the dust cover stop screw hole has been plugged; the rear edge contours have been altered; the safety sear hole has been plugged with a threaded pin. The barrel is of M1866 type but the barrel markings are of the type found on the Model 1875 Winchester Revolver. The finger lever appears to be from a Henry Rifle. The buttstock is of Model 1866 type. The work found in this firearm is consistent with that encountered on prototype arms made in the Winchester Company’s Model Room circa 1875. In addition the design of the loading tube suggest that is was a precursor of the design patented by William W. Wetmore. I hope this information will be of some assistance to you. Yours Truly, Herbert G. Houze Curator Cody Firearms Museum.
Also included are the items used for display including an engraved hard copy of a letter from Herbert G. Houze, curator of Cody Firearms Museum along w/ a copy of the patent & patent drawing displayed in 4 glass-fronted frames. Another glass fronted frame has a drawing of an Indian & buffalo hunting scene on a Winchester rifle receiver. The rifle is displayed w/ mag. removed in a 47 3/4″ by 24″ oak case w/ glass lid. Rifle lays against a beige cloth interior that also displays a leather fronted Winchester belt buckle.