Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1013: Winchester Model 1873 "One of One Hundred" Lever Action Rifle

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

Extremely Rare Documented Winchester Model 1873 "One of One Hundred" Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $300,000 - $500,000

Extremely Rare Documented Winchester Model 1873 "One of One Hundred" Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1873
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44-40
Barrel: 24 inch octagon
Finish: blue/nickel
Stock: deluxe fancy walnut check
Item Views: 3280
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 16
Class: Antique

The Winchester "One of One Thousand" and "One of One Hundred" Model 1873 and Model 1876 rifles are among the most desirable of all antique American firearms and have held a legendary status among collectors for generations. The program was announced in 1873 and more fully explained in Winchester’s 1875 catalog under the headline “Variety of Arms.” The program was short lived and was terminated quietly in 1877. Only around 132 "One of One Thousand" Model 1873s and just eight "One of One Hundred" rifles were manufactured out of over 720,000 Model 1873s in total. According to Winchester's 1875 catalog, the factory tested batches of one hundred barrels. The best of each batch was to be set aside until they had tested one thousand barrels. Then, the best performing barrel of the batch of 1,000 would be used to build a "One of One Thousand" rifle costing $80-$100, and the other nine would be used to build "One of One Hundred Rifles" for $60-$75. Under this system, there should have been nine "One of One Hundred" rifles for every "One of One Thousand," but there was evidently not much demand for the "One of One Hundred" rifles, so they are actually considerably rarer. Men willing to pay a premium for the best rifles likely would not accept a "One of One Hundred" instead of a "One of One Thousand" even if a "One of One Hundred" rifles should still have been more accurate than 99% of Winchester's rifles. Only six of these "One of One Hundred" Model 1873s are known today, and this is certainly among the rarest and finest. It is one of just two documented with nickel finish and is the only known example with its combination of features. In addition, Phil Schreier, Director of the NRA Museums, confirmed that this rifle was displayed by Dr. Ray House as part of the Ohio Gun Collectors Association display at the NRA Annual Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2001 and won the coveted "Ten Best Arms Award" (medal #388, not currently with the rifle). This rifle is documented as an authentic "One of One Hundred" Model 1873 rifle by the included factory letter which lists it as a "1 of 100" rifle with an octagon barrel, set trigger, XXX stock, "Peep and Beach" sights, casehardened and nickel finish, and as received in the warehouse and shipped on June 1, 1876, in order 6112. This rifle is also pictured and discussed in multiple prominent publications relating to these extremely rare and historic Winchester rifles. It is pictured in "Winchester's New Model of 1873 Volume II" by James D. Gordon on page 397 and is also listed with the other seven "One of One Hundreds" on page 395. In the book "Winchester: The Golden Age of American Gunmaking and the Winchester 1 of 1000" by R.L. Wilson on page 55, it lists and shows this rifle's features and also says "In condition one of the finest of known 1 of 100 or 1 of 1000 Winchesters." The book also indicates it was in the famous Robert Howard Collection. It is also featured on page 115 of "The Story of Winchester 1 of 1000 and 1 of 100 Rifles" by Edmund E. Lewis where it is shown with the only other "One of One Hundred" rifle with a nickel plated finish. This rifle has a nickel plated forend cap and frame and casehardened buttplate, while the other rifle has a nickel plated forend cap, frame, buttplate. Lewis also provides provenance for this rifle. He indicates: "Dr. Fred Shurtleff purchased this rifle from the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. in 1876. The doctor was originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and later migrated West as a young man. At one time, he became both the sheriff and the coroner of a small frontier town. He died in 1944 at age 92. Prior to his death, Dr. Shurtleff gave the rifle to Howard J. Silberstein, a USN Commander from Chincoteague, Virginia. Silberstein later sold the rifle in 1958 to Robert Abels, a well-known gun dealer in New York City. The rifle was formerly in the collection of Robert Howard." It was in the Ray House Collection when Lewis's book was published in 2009. This rifle has all the correct "One of One Hundred" features such as: the fine scroll engraving on both ends of the barrel on the exposed flats, engraved "barrel bands" on each end (but not inlaid with precious metal like the "One of One Thousand" rifles), the "One of One Hundred" markings engraved in a script pattern on the top barrel flat in front of the receiver, and an adjustable single set trigger. This rifle also has a nickel plated receiver, gold washed Beach combination front sight, an adjustable sporting rear sight, nickel plated Vernier tang peep sight (adjustable for elevation only, showing graduations on the side of the staff from 0-50 indicating 0-500 yards), and a XXX fancy grade stock and forearm. Since this is such an early production rifle, it has the First Model features such as: a dust cover with 5/8 inch fine checkered oval thumb print on top riding in integral slots in the top of the frame, the first pattern markings on the tang of just "Model 1873," and the early style script serial numbering on the lower tang. The barrel has the markings of "WINCHESTER'S-REPEATING ARMS. NEW HAVEN. CT./KING'S-IMPROVEMENT-PATENTED MARCH 29. 1866. OCT. 16. 1860." In addition, it has the special features of a nickel plated receiver and forend cap. The lever, hammer, and buttplate are color casehardened. The barrel and magazine tube are blued, and many small parts are niter blued. The stock and forend are XXX deluxe walnut, certainly of exceptional quality, with fine line checkering. An original five-piece cleaning rod is stored in the stock compartment. Provenance: The Dr. Fred Shurtleff Collection; The Howard J. Silberstein Collection; The Robert Ables Collection; The Robert Howard Collection; The Dr. Ray House Collection; Property of a Gentleman

Rating Definition:

Very fine, showing 85% of the original nickel plated finish on the receiver with numerous areas of fine pin-prick pitting through the finish. The barrel and magazine tube have traces of faded blue mostly in the protected areas. The balance of metal is turning a mostly brown patina, and some bright metal is visible on the magazine tube and center portion of the once polished barrel. The stock and forend are both very fine and show only minor handling marks as well as well-defined checkering with nice diamonds and only a few minor pressure dings. Mechanically functions fine apart from the set trigger. This is an extremely rare and well-publicized example of a much sought after Winchester Model 1873 "One of One Hundred" rifle. This would be a centerpiece of any advanced or high end Winchester collection.

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