RARE 1ST PRODUCTION WINCHESTER MODEL 1873 RIFLE, SERIAL NUMBER 19, INSCRIBED TO “THOMAS LYONS”
inv # 01-19485
Cal. .44 WCF (44-40).
Bbl. 24″ octagon.
Rare first production run of the Model 1873 rifle. Barrel with 2 line address, full magazine, German silver Rocky Mountain front sight and original reverse mounted, short sporting rear sight with checkered edges and reverse cut sighting notch. Early forged iron receiver is blue finish and features mortised dust cover with 1/2″ raised fine-checkered thumb print panel. Casehardened lever and hammer. Set trigger without safety block. Bolt is the early type with a removable firing pin bushing. Top tang is unmarked and has the rare early feature of two threaded holes for tang sight. Left receiver plate is period engraved “THOMAS LYONS” in script. Mounted with nicely figured American walnut with crescent buttplate and trap. Original single sling swivel of the period is mounted on the toe line. Assembly number “16” was observed on left side of lower tang under the wood, on top tang channel of buttstock and inside toe of buttplate. Serial number “19” and “Model 1873” on bottom tang are hand engraved in script and lever latch threaded through tang which is correct for the earliest First Models.
Accompanied by a 1992 Cody Firearms Museum letter and 2020 Research Sheet which lists this rifle as found with Set trigger, Blued finish, Long stock and Target 2-3/4 inch. Received in warehouse Feb. 27, 1874 and shipped March 28, 1874 to order #1182. The entry “Long stock” most likely refers to the use of Model 1866 wood on the first run of early ’73s. It measures 13-1/4″ from trigger to center of buttplate which is longer than the standard ’73 production specification but the same length as the ’66. Occurrence of the single sling swivel likely a ’66 remnant and thus not mentioned in records. The notation “Target 2-3/4 inch” is presumed to be test firing prior to being received at the warehouse, resulting in a 2-3/4” group. Target notations are seen in early 1873 records. Only 18 of the first run of 50 guns were received in 1873, and 108 the following year, due largely to issues with production and development of the new centerfire .44-40 cartridge. The Model of 1873 was first listed in the 1875 catalog and began advertising to the public in the highly regarded Army and Navy Journal and other periodicals the same year.
The sideplate inscription ID is believed to be that of noted Silver City, NM mining magnate and cattle baron, Thomas Lyons, of the 1.5 million acre Lyons & Campbell Ranch. Lyons was a talented machinist and self-taught mining engineer who headed west with a group of investors from Kenosha Wisconsin to exploit the rich copper and silver deposits of rough and tumble Grant County, NM the early 1870s. A successful businessman, Lyons sold his mining and foundry interests and began to buy up all of the best grazing land in the Gila River Valley with partner Angus Campbell in the 1880s. This partnership began their almost 40 year endeavor that would overshadow all other ranching operations in the southwest. In 1917 Tom Lyons was mysteriously murdered in El Paso, TX by a hired assassin. He had been a controversial figure in the region from the onset and likely had many enemies. Several interesting books and various articles outline his legacy. One such book, Triumph and Tragedy: A History of Thomas Lyons and the LCs, authored by Lyons’ direct descendants accompanies this lot.
PROVENANCE: Ex Felix Bedlan Collection; pictured: “WINCHESTER’S NEW MODEL OF 1873 A TRIBUTE” by James Gordon on pages 134, 173, 211, 351 & 461 and described on page 337; estate collection of Western gentleman