This Winchester First Model 1873 Sporting rifle was manufactured c. 1875 and subsequently embellished and retailed by Wilkinson & Son. This rifle has the very desirable First Model receiver with grooved dust cover guides and dust cover with oval, checkered finger grip. The rifle has the early style lever latch with visible threads. The rifle has a blued, 24-inch round barrel with full length magazine. The top of the barrel is flattened and the flat has a file cut matted finish. The barrel has a dove-tail mounted Express front sight with bright bead and Express style rear sight with three folding leaves marked "100, 200" and "500". The top barrel flat is hand-engraved: "WILKINSON & SON GUNMAKERS TO HER MAJESTY & THE PRINCE OF WALES" ahead of the rear sight reading towards the muzzle. A folding leaf peep sight with fifty minute graduations is mounted on the receiver tang. The forearm cap, receiver, dust cover, hammer and lever are nickel silver plated. The loading gate has a fire blue finish. The forearm cap, sides of the receiver, sideplates, lower tang, dust cover, sides of the hammer and bottom of the lever are acid etched with English style scroll-work on a stippled background. The etching is very similar to the etching found on high quality Wilkinson military swords of this period. The right front of the receiver is etched with the Prince of Wales feathers above a banner reading "BY APPOINTMENT". The opposite side of the receiver is etched "WILKINSON/PALL MALL" in two banners surrounded by scrollwork. The color casehardened shotgun style buttplate is checkered and decorated with delicate English style scroll engraving. The stock and forearm are deluxe highly figured walnut with checkered panels and a high polish piano finish, the right side of the stock is stamped with the collection number "58". The London "crown/VP", "crown/GP" and definitive proof marks are stamped on the left side of the barrel near the receiver and a "crown/V" inspection mark is stamped on the left side of the receiver above the chamber. The serial number is marked in script numerals on the lower tang behind the lever latch. A small number of early production Model 1873 Winchesters were imported into Great Britain by The London Armory Company and other British dealers. This rifle, identified as “Serial # 6194, Rifle ‘Prince of Wales’” is listed with the serial numbers of 33 other Model 1873 rifles and carbines with British proof marks on page 553 of "WINCHESTER NEW MODEL OF 1873, VOL. II" by James Gordon. It is not clear if this rifle was engraved and finished by Wilkinson expressly for the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) or whether the marking denotes that Wilkinson & Son were appointed as gunmaker to the Prince of Wales. In any case this is a unique deluxe special order Winchester First Model 1873 Sporting Rifle. A group of 30 Model 1873s (15 rifles and 15 carbines) were shipped from Winchester to James Kerr and the London Armoury in 1875, the same year this rifle was manufactured. These special order Model 1873s had casehardened receivers and some had deluxe walnut stocks. On several of these guns Kerr engraved a Prince of Wales presentation inscription and inlaid silver plaques featuring the Order of the Star of India. These ‘73s were presented by the Prince of Wales to Indian officials while traveling through India in 1875. On page 43 of “Winchester: An American Legend,” author R.L. Wilson lists 6 serial numbers of Prince of Wales presentation Model 1873s. These rifles included numbers 6597, 6604, and 6618 which are only a few hundred numbers away from this rifle (6194).
Extremely fine. This rare rifle is all original and retains 85% of the blue and plated finish applied by Wilkinson. The barrel and magazine have 90% plus blue finish with a few minor scratches and handling marks with some finish loss at the muzzle and magazine tip. The hand engraved barrel legend is clear. The forearm cap, receiver, dust cover, hammer and lever have 90% plus plated finish. The loading gate retains 85% of the nitre blue finish. The delicate English scroll engraving and Wilkinson markings are sharp. At least 85% of the blue finish remains on the folding leaf rear sight. The shotgun buttplate shows typical handling wear; the case colors have faded to a dark patina with scattered age spotting. The fine engraving on the buttplate is clear and the checkering is sharp. The highly figured walnut stock and forearm remain in very good condition with scattered handling and storage marks. The checkering on the stock and forearm is sharp. The stock and forearm retain nearly 90% of the piano finish. This is both an attractive and stunning example of a Winchester First Model 1873 Sporting Rifle that may have been made especially for the Prince of Wales.
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