First Model 1866 Winchester rifles and carbines fall in the 12000-15500 serial number range and are directly commingled within New Haven Arms Company Henry rifle's production serial range, which is purported to be approximately 15,000. Very little is known about the late serial number blocks of Henry rifles and many believe the actual production figures are more like 12,000 but were serialized in batches or "blocks". The theory is substantiated by reported, known numbers, and large chunks of the number block are still unaccounted for today, particularly in the later series. According to Les Quick's book "The Henry Rifle", the highest reported serial number of a Henry rifle is 14,312, which is 675 apart from this first model 1866 rifle. The highest serialized Henry rifle this writer could find was number 14,338 sold by our firm, Rock Island Auction Company, in September 2015 as lot 17. Likewise, very little information is known about these early first model 1866 rifles. The earliest according to author George Madis in "The Winchester Book" and confirmed by Winchester dates of manufacture bears the serial number 12476. The lowest flatside this writer could find published is a carbine, serial number 12979, sold by our firm, Rock Island Auction Company, in December of 2015 as lot number 1013. The lowest known flatside rifle this writer could find published is serial number 13821, also sold by our firm in May 2019 as lot 3010. Furthermore, of the twelve flatside 1866s (carbine or rifle) we have sold, only two were rifles, all had a channeled loading gates and saddle rings. Original examples of the First Model 1866 Winchester are rare and extremely desirable. This Winchester First Model 1866 lever action rifle was manufactured at the beginning of 1867. This rifle has the rare first style "flatside" receiver with two upper tang screws, Henry buttplate with hinged trap door and 24-inch, non-tapered, octagon barrel. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped with the first style legend: "HENRY'S PATENT-OCT.16. 1860/ KING'S-PATENT-MARCH 29. 1866" in two lines ahead of the rear sight. The barrel has a dove-tail mounted iron front sight blade and Henry folding leaf rear sight with 900 yard center notch, square end elevator bar and elevator bar stop screw. The magazine has the first style, screw fastened band. The distinctive, un-capped forearm is secured by a single screw. The left side of the receiver is fitted with a staple-fastened saddle ring. The right side of the receiver has a loading gate with indented cover. The hammer has borderless knurling. The butt trap contains a four-piece, jointed, steel cleaning rod with brass tip. The left side of the lower receiver tang is stamped with the serial number and a small assembly number "1647". The serial number is also stamped in the upper tang inlet of the stock and on the inside of the buttplate toe. All of the visible serial numbers match. The barrel and magazine are blued, the hammer, lever and trigger are casehardened, and the receiver and crescent buttplate have the natural brass finish. The loading gate is niter blue. The original stock and forearm are highly figured, deluxe quality burl walnut with a varnished piano finish.
Exceptionally fine overall. The barrel has 60% of the original deep blue finish. The magazine tube blue has slightly faded to a plum-colored patina. The barrel legend is crisp. The loading gate has 50% plus of the original nitre blue finish. The hammer, lever and trigger retain 40% of the silvered case colors. The brass receiver and buttplate are excellent with a very attractive, untouched patina. The receiver side-plate joints are nearly perfect. The receiver and buttplate show only very insignificant handling wear. The well-figured burl walnut stock and forearm remain in exceptionally fine condition and retain 85% of the original piano finish varnish with a few scattered and very insignificant handling marks. This is a truly exceptional and extremely rare First Winchester Model 1866 "flatside" lever action rifle, no doubt a "hole" in even the most advanced collections.
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