Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 2008: Extremely Rare Documented Experimental Briggs Patent Henry

Auction Date: December 1, 2018

Extremely Rare Documented Experimental Briggs Patent Henry Lever Action Rifle

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $125,000 - $225,000

Extremely Rare Documented Experimental Briggs Patent Henry Lever Action Rifle

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1866
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 Henry RF
Barrel: 24 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: highly figured varnished
Item Views: 3414
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 18
Class: Antique

This is an extremely rare example of a Briggs Patent Henry Rifle that was manufactured c. 1866. The Briggs patent was one of several experimental loading devices designed to improve the Henry rifle. George F. Briggs designed and patented several variations of a sliding magazine tube for the Henry rifle which permitted cartridges to be loaded into the magazine immediately ahead of the receiver. Briggs patented his design in October 1866 and subsequently assigned the rights to manufacture the device to Oliver Winchester. Nelson King patented the hinged receiver loading gate and spring loaded magazine tube in March 1866 and had already assigned the rights to Winchester when Briggs patented his magazine. "King's Improvement" formed the basis for the Winchester Model 1866 rifle. Winchester probably purchased the Briggs patent to eliminate potential competition with the Model 1866 rifle. Several variations of the Briggs Patent Henry rifle were manufactured, but the rifle was never placed in production. This unique rifle utilizes a Henry receiver, stock and buttplate combined with a 24-inch round barrel and 24-inch fixed magazine secured by two barrel bands. The base of the magazine has a checkered loading gate which can be turned to the left to expose the loading port and load the rifle. The barrel has a dovetail mounted front sight with nickel-silver blade and three-leaf carbine style rear sight with "100 YDS, 250 YDS" and "500 YDS" markings and heart-shaped piercing in the center. A folding peep sight is mounted on the receiver tang. The receiver has a dovetail and circular indent with threaded hole for what appears to be a Volcanic rear style sight. The hammer has border-less knurling on the spur. The stock has a late style Henry brass buttplate with sharp heel and a hinged brass trap. The butt trap contains a four-piece, jointed, steel cleaning rod with brass tip. The barrel, magazine and barrel bands are blued, and the hammer, trigger and lever are color casehardened. The stock is a deluxe, highly figured, fancy grade walnut with a piano finish. "026-09-8226" is lightly electro-penciled on the bottom of the buttplate. This is a modern marking; the rifle has no visible serial numbers or factory markings. At least three other distinct variations of the Briggs Patent Henry rifle were manufactured, but the rifle was never placed in to production. Surviving examples of Briggs Patent rifles are extremely rare. The Briggs Patent Henry rifle is a direct predecessor to the Winchester Model 1866 rifles and carbines and a key piece in an advanced collection of Winchester lever action rifles.

Rating Definition:

Very fine. The original blue on the barrel and magazine tube remains 40% intact with the balance heavily faded to a smooth plum-blue patina. The barrel bands show contact wear. Significant amounts of blue finish are present on the bolt. The hammer, trigger and lever retain 60% of the subdued case colors. The attractively aged receiver is in excellent condition with minimal handling wear and perfect side plate joints. The buttplate is also in excellent condition with minimal wear. The highly figured, fancy grade walnut stock is in excellent condition and retains close to 90% of the original high polish piano finish. Wear is limited to a few scattered and very minor handling marks. This is a splendid example of an extremely rare and historically significant experimental Briggs Patent Henry Lever Action Rifle. Provenance: Warren Anderson Collection; The Robert M. Lee Collection.

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