This is a prototype bottom feed, centerfire, lever action rifle similar in design to the early production flat sided Model 1895 found in the first 5,000 rifles manufactured from 1895 to 1896. The solid lever is also a similar feature to the flat sided Model 1895 design. The Model 1895 was based on John Browning's U.S. Patent number 549,345 that was granted to him on November 5, 1895. Browning's original patent model had a flat sided receiver, and Winchester produced the flat sided variation before introducing the contoured or fluted receiver that was made for most of the production run. Winchester's partnership with John Browning began in 1883 and lasted 16 years. Browning's legacy at Winchester is marked by the company's most notable late 19th century firearms such as the Model 1885 single shot rifle, Model 1887 lever action shotgun, Model 1897 slide action shotgun and lever action Models 1886, 1892, 1894 and 1895. Of course, not every Browning patent Winchester purchased made it to the factory production line. The trail leading to even the most successful designs is often steeped in documented and undocumented trials and errors. This Winchester prototype had a barrel fitted by the factory with dovetail blade and elevation adjustable sights and is marked "MANUFACTURED BY THE/-WINCHESTER REPEATING ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN CONN U.S.A.-" ahead of the rear sight and "40-72 WCF" at the breech. The barrel address is indicative of the type of marking used on early Model 1895s. Later production Model 1895s eliminated the small dashes before the entire marking was omitted. The Winchester factory oval proof that began to be used in 1905 is stamped on the barrel and receiver at the breech. The underside of the barrel under the forearm is marked with a "VP" proof. The rifle lacks a serial number. The upper tang and receiver are unmarked. The lever and buttplate are casehardened, and the remaining surfaces are blue. Mounted on a smooth schnabel forearm with ebony insert and pistol grip stock with crescent buttplate.
Fine as factory rebarreled. The barrel retains 85% thinned original blue finish and the receiver, bolt and magazine retain 30% original blue finish with the overall balance a smooth brown patina. The lever and buttplate retain 80% vivid original case colors. The wood is very fine with some minor handling markings. Mechanically excellent. This is truly a historic representative example of a prototype of one of John Browning's most innovative lever action rifles!
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