Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1052: Winchester Prototype Revolver 45 LC

Auction Date: December 8, 2013

Magnificent One of A Kind Winchester Prototype Revolver with Winchester Factory Documentation

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $30,000 - $50,000

Magnificent One of A Kind Winchester Prototype Revolver with Winchester Factory Documentation

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: Prototype Revolver
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 45 LC
Barrel: 7 3/8 inch round
Finish: in the white
Grip: walnut
Item Views: 10735
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 32
Class: Antique

This is just a beautiful example of a super rare "One of A Kind" Winchester M1883 prototype revolver. Around 1874/75, Winchester began development work on new revolvers, intended for both commercial and military contracts. Enter two of the most inventive and least known designers at this time Stephen Wood and William Mason. Both had worked in the firearms industry for several different companies for over 10-15 years, and had developed significant patents for both rifles and pistols. Stephen Wood worked for Winchester earlier on and actually held the patent for the solid frame on revolvers along with a rapid ejection design. William Mason was an independent contractor making Springfield type rifle-muskets during the Civil War and worked at both Remington Arms and Colt (1872-1882) before being hired by the Winchester Company. While at Colt, Mason was issued several patent related to the commercially successful 1873 Peacemaker revolver. So when Winchester hired Mason one of his tasks was to developed a revolver that was almost identical to the Colt Single Action revolver, albeit the design would have allowed Winchester to produce a competing revolver at a much lower cost than Colt, which had the possibility to beat out Colt. Supposedly a 1884 meeting between Winchester and Colt, where Winchester showed Colt the new Winchester designed revolver and shortly after that both companies agreed to non-compete with each other, however they reserved the right to design and produced prototypes for patent work development. This "gentleman's agreement" has since been maintained with each company staying out of the other's respective sector of the firearms market. This wonderful example we have here is attributed to William Mason and comes with a letter from the Winchester museum curator (Herbert Houze) dated Nov 2003. In the letter he notes that they have a drawing similar to this revolver (Winchester dwg number 16882) attributed to William Mason, which is identical to this revolver except for the grip shape. This would not be uncommon as most engineers would design several different grip shapes with the same basic frame style, especially in the prototype stage. If you study the design of this revolver, it is almost identical the Colt M1878 revolver in that it employs a the new "double action" mechanism, a solid one-piece frame with the solid top strap, a removable trigger guard and a small removable round side plate. It is also chambered in 45 LC, which was one of the bigger selling point for the Colt revolver in that it used the larger caliber cartridge. The other interesting aspect of this revolver is that it uses a M1875 Remington barrel and ejector system. The rational for this as noted by the Winchester curator was that Winchester used a lot of various revolvers for ammunition testing, hence they may have just used a barrel from a Remington pistol to speed up the prototype/design work of the frame portion. Now I am sure you are wondering why would Winchester design this revolver it you weren't actually going to manufacture it? As you may recall from the earlier agreement, Winchester was still able to produce prototypes for patent developments. So what better a way to make money than to use your lead design engineer, who worked at the Colt factory for almost 10 years, designing pistols to sell to your competitor and or the threat of selling it to one of Colts competitors, i.e. Remington Arms. This could have also been used to glean a royalty payment from your competitor. Regardless of the actual background this revolver is absolutely just stunning, it is exceptionally well made, the internal double action mechanism works perfectly and is as crisp as when it left the factory. There are no Winchester markings on the revolver (other than the barrel markings noted above), except for a script engraved letter "M" on the underside of the trigger, (maybe this is William Mason's way of marking his prototype revolvers) and it is fitted with a set of fancy burl walnut grips. The revolver is completely in the original "in the white" factory finish, and looks like it was never fired, as the bore is excellent with no firing residue anywhere. As noted this revolver comes with the curator letter and copies of the two Winchester drawings; No. 16882 and 16887.

Rating Definition:

Excellent with all the metal surfaces still in the original Winchester factory "in the white" condition with only some very minor corrosion spots on the sides in a couple of places. The grips are in excellent condition with only minor handling marks. What an exceptional "one of a kind" original Winchester Model 1883 prototype revolver.

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