The accompanying factory letter lists this deluxe Model 1886 rifle with a half octagon barrel in .38-56 caliber, plain trigger, checkered bird’s eye maple pistol grip stock, half magazine, shotgun buttplate and blued frame when received in the warehouse on March 4, 1897. The March 1897 receiving date is followed by “NY Ex 97”, “Returned”, a second receiving date (May 20, 1897) and the first shipping date (May 20, 1897). These first dates are followed by numerous entries for shipping and receiving dates extending until March 23, 1916. A large series of entries is typical for Winchester's well-traveled factory exhibition pieces that were displayed at various World's Fairs, other international exhibitions, American exhibitions, and sometimes at important dealers. Only a limited number of notations were made including a few to the rifle's destinations. These notations include the following: “NY Ex 97”, a recap of the special order features (“24 inches, ½ magazine, checkered stock, pistol grip, maple, blued”) following the March 4, 1898 receiving date, “Buffalo-March 26, 1901,” “charge to WRA Co. of New York, Inc. on September 25, 1912,” “charge to James Dodds of Dayton, Ohio on August 23, 1913,” “charge W.F. Evans sample consignment account on October 17, 1913,” “charge W.A. Myers Sporting Goods Co. of Williamsport, Pennsylvania sample consignment account on August 29, 1914,” “charge Keith Simmons and Co. of Nashville, Tennessee sample consignment account on December 2, 1915,” and several “credits” or “charges” to the “exhibition showcase sample consignment account.” Without a doubt this Model 1886 was a factory exhibition arm! The “NY Ex 97” entry is for the American Institute Fair held annually in New York City and the “Buffalo-March 26, 1901” notation is almost certainly for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. James Dodds was a sporting goods retailer in Dayton, Ohio. W.F. Evans (1890-1949) was a Winchester employee for 32 years as well as a professional trap shooter. His obituary stated “he traveled for” Winchester. Several of the destinations are not recorded in the records, but the dates provide strong evidence of where it went. The May 12 and December 29, 1898, dates closely align with the Trans-Mississippi Exposition held in Omaha from June to November 1898. This is a great piece of Winchester history that was clearly built as a company display piece seen by millions from 1897 through 1916. This Model 1886 shared the spotlight at the American Institute Fair in 1897 and the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 with the John Ulrich engraved Model 1873 Musket no. 173879 that is also featured in this auction in lot [NHJX1-83]. They are both noted as sent to the New York Expo in 1897 and to Buffalo, and they have matching received in warehouse dates for March 4, 1897, May 9, 1898, and December 29, 1898. In addition to its fascinating exhibition history, this Model 1886 has several rare special features. These features include the half magazine, pistol grip stock, shotgun buttplate and checkered bird’s eye maple forearm and buttstock. Per Winchester expert and author George Madis, “Shotgun style buttplates were usually offered in place of the standard crescent buttplates on rifles for no additional charge, but relatively few customers ordered their rifles thus equipped” (“The Winchester Book,” page 603). The bird's eye maple stock is certainly one of the rarest encountered special order features on any model of Winchester. Fancy grain stocks were never a cheap option. The more generally encountered fancy grain walnut cost on average an extra five dollars. In addition to the bird's eye maple, a rarely seen factory rounded pistol grip profile is found on this rifle. It is the same profile that would be seen on a Model 1887 or 1897 shotgun of the period. A nice touch Winchester added to this rifle to perhaps complement their shotgun offerings of the time that were surely exhibited with this rifle. The 24 inch barrel is shorter than the standard 26 inches. The rifle is fitted with a dovetail blade front sight and an elevation adjustable buckhorn rear sight. The top barrel flat is stamped with the two-line legend ahead of the rear sight and “38-56 WCF” at the breech. A Winchester factory oval proof is stamped on the barrel and receiver at the breech. The upper tang is stamped “-MODEL 1886-.” The lower tang has the patent dates and serial number. The forearm and buttstock feature style “H” checkering, one of the most popular of the extra factory decorations.
Very fine, retaining 75% of the factory refurbished blue finish with smooth brown-gray patina on the balance. 60% of the nitre blue remains on the loading gate. The wood is fine with a divot on the forearm (right side), some minor dings and scratches and crisp checkering overall. Mechanically excellent. A rarely encountered factory documented company exhibition Winchester Deluxe Model 1886 Rifle with rare bird's eye maple stock that is a must have for the serious Winchester collector.
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