Rock Island Auction Company
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Auction Date: December 4, 2015

Lot 84: Browning Arms - 1878

Sold for Browning Arms - 1878
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Historically Significant John M. Browning Deluxe Single Shot Rifle Previously Owned by the Browning Family with Research
Estimated Price: $20,000 - $40,000
Item Views 253 Bid Activity Average
Serial #Browning Arms - 1878 ManufacturerBrowning Arms Model1878
TypeRifle Gauge40-70 Catalog Page43
Barrel34 1/4 Inch Octagon FinishBlue/casehardened Grip
Stockwalnut ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionThe included binder contains a history of the Browning family starting back in 1588 written in Old English script on faux aged paper and also contains information on Idaho gunsmith and collector John C. Kontes and his acquisition of Browning family firearms. Jonathan Browning's harmonica rifle is also in this auction and was purchased by Kontes in the same period. He had seen the rifles in the office of a Buick dealership owned by J. Ed Browning, a John M. Browning descendant, who told him the rifles had been passed down from father to son for generations. When the man died without any children of his own, he gave the rifles to his younger brother who had twin sons: Ed and Merwyn. Ed received the harmonica rifle, and Merwin received this deluxe single shot. Kontes purchased the harmonica rifle directly from Ed, and purchased this rifle from his friend who had purchased it directly from Merwyn. As detailed in the family history, the Browning family can trace its history back to Captain John Browning who arrived in the colony of Virginia in 1622. In 1852, John M. Browning's father, Jonathan, was among the thousands of Mormons who fled to the West due to violence and persecution. He established a gunsmith shop in Ogden that year. John Moses worked in the shop as young as the age of seven and quickly learned the trade. His father encouraged him to explore new ideas. Upon developing his falling block action design at the age of just 23, he started his own shop in partnership with his younger brother Matthew. Between 1878 and 1883 they manufactured an estimated 600 or less of these rifles. The highest serial number known is 542. They were protected by his first firearms patent which was later refined and manufactured by Winchester as the famous Model 1885. These early rifles mark the beginning of Browning's long and highly influential career and the beginning of the relationship between Browning and Winchester that led to the iconic lever action models 1886, 1892, 1894, and 1895 rifles and carbines as well as the Winchester Model 1887 and the Model 1897 pump shotguns. He then went on to produce a number of designs manufactured by other companies including the famous Colt Model 1911, Browning Hi-Power, Browning Auto- 5 shotgun, Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and .50 caliber Browning machine gun. The rifle has a blade front sight and semi-buckhorn sporting rear sight. Ahead of the rear sight it is marked "BROWNING BROS OGDEN UTAH. U.S.A." Behind the rear sight it is marked "PAT. OCT. 7. 79," "40 70," and "476." The top of the receiver has three ribs and there are some slight differences in the dimensions and contours, but otherwise, the rifle very closely resembles the later thick side, high wall Model 1885s. The trigger and hammer spur are checkered. It is mounted with a deluxe checkered walnut forearm with horn forend tip and a beautifully figured, pistol grip stock with diamond pattern checkering, thin horn inlay on the bottom of the grip, a low cheekpiece, and a Swiss buttplate.

ConditionFair. The rifle primarily displays an artificial gray patina with some streaks of finish, some small spots of slight pitting, and a few minor marks. The buttplate has a varnished yellow tone. The refinished wood is good. There is a small repaired crack at the upper tang, some slivers absent from the forearm edges and cap, some chips on the right side of the wrist at the junction with the receiver, crisp checkering on the grip aside from a bruise on the left, and mostly smoothed checkering on the forearm. The action functions very well, and the markings are distinct.
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