January 28, 2021
By Mike Burns
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From ancient fire lances to state-of-the-art sniper rifles, the long gun has undergone one of the most dramatic transformations in all human weaponry. Today, rifles dominate hunting grounds and are popular methods of defense for millions of homes across the United States. It seems that the need for this reliable and powerful method of self-protection is still just as much in demand as it was upon its invention.
For many people, a rifle can be more than just a means of protection or a useful hunting tool. Collectors and enthusiasts find great appreciation for the long and winding history that these items possess, especially older models of rifles and ones carried by pioneers across the American Frontier. A symbol of the power of human engineering and the traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, a rifle can serve a utilitarian role in society as well as a sentimental one.
This February, a large assortment of beautiful and historic long guns and rifles will be available during Rock Island Auction Company’s first Sporting & Collector Auction of 2021. To help find a good place to start looking, here is a brief list of a few of the highlights found during the event. Besides these treasures and icons of their time, plenty of modern, sporting, and collector rifles will be available as well.
The Preview Hall opens for exhibition starting February 2nd and all COVID-19 provisions and guidelines will be adhered to so be sure to make your arrangements as soon as possible. With thousands of lots from hundreds of the most prominent manufacturers in the industry, this event is promising to be yet another exciting event from the world’s largest firearms auction house.
You would have to travel thousands of miles to find someone unfamiliar with the Winchester brand. At least in the United States, Winchester played a pivotal role in developing some of the most successful rifles of the mid to late-19th century, such as the gun the won the west, the Winchester 1873 lever action.
However, like most stories of American entrepreneurship, Winchester began with humble roots, ambition, and brilliance. Before the Henry rifle would become a nation-wide sensation, Oliver Winchester bought the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, a firearms manufacturer known as to produce pistols and rifles that incorporated the revolutionary volcanic cartridge technology developed by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson. The company would be restructured under a new name, the New Haven Arms Company while Smith & Wesson departed to create their own firm. While the New Haven Arms Company would be short lived, its offshoots, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and Smith & Wesson, would become household names in the decades to come.
The New Haven Arms Co. Volcanic pistols and carbines manufactured in 1857-1860 are important pieces in the evolution of Winchester firearms. Only an estimated 1,000 of these carbines were produced in total making them exceedingly desirable to collectors. This particular New Havens Arms Co. “Volcanic” lever action carbine found in the February Sporting & Collector Auction features an alluring volcanic-style buttstock crafted from gorgeous high-quality wood. An interesting combination of preceding designs and the foreshadowing of future ones, this rifle is estimated at $14,000-$22,500 and can be found at Rock Island Auction Company from the esteemed Dr. Gerald Klaz Collection.
One of the most renowned families ever known to engrave firearms would be the Ulrich’s. During the 19th century, the Ulrich dynasty of master engravers were among the most sought after in all the known world, and for good reason. Taking one look at even the most modest of their work is sure to amaze and inspire. Gold is alluring on its own, but these engravings are works of pure art that create masterpieces out of firearms. The Ulrich family designed weapons for some of the most influential figures in the entire world during their careers and their works have become highly sought after by collectors.
The master engraved and gold-plated Winchester Model 1866 lever action rifle found during the February S&C Auction features elaborate patterns, intricate geometric designs, and dazzling wildlife depictions created by John Ulrich. The illustrations carved into the gold-plated receiver are captivating because of their interconnection and relationships with each other and the space around them. Sweeping floral and scroll arrangements seem to drift across the receiver of the gun while even smaller floral and scroll engravings envelope around their edges like vines wrapping around the trunk of a tree. A wolf’s head can be seen emerging from one of these floral and scroll engravings that has its jaws hyperextended to reveal a wavering tongue that is simple yet menacing.
This beautiful Third Model rifle was manufactured in 1870 and features a combination globe and blade front sight as well as a high grade deluxe walnut stock and the four-piece cleaning rod. Estimated at $16,000-$25,000, this gorgeous rifle and the rich engravings found on its illustrious gold-plated receiver can be found during the February 3-6 Sporting & Collector Auction.
As mentioned earlier, the New Haven Arms Company represents an interesting time in the history of firearms development. With new technologies expediting labor processes at a rate never seen, mass production of items like weapons became easier and cheaper to produce. The market was ready for leaders to start emerging. The New Havens Arms Company would eventually become the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Besides this, the company would also produce some of the most popular rifles to emerge from the mid-19th century.
The Henry rifle was the culmination of numerous failed models of pistols and carbines. However, this rifle, and its improvements, would be produced at just the right time when the United States was rapidly expanding west into unchartered territories and also beginnings of its Civil War. Proving to be an extremely durable and robust firearm, the Henry rifle exploded in popularity across the American Frontier during the mid-1800s.
The Henry rifle was never issued on a large-scale, however its development would directly evolve into the Model 1866 lever action rifle and the premiere of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. A combination of the low total production number and the historical significance it holds, it is no wonder why many Henry rifles are valued so highly by collectors. A deluxe model of the rifle would be even more rare to come across as it would require even more funds to purchase the extravagant additions such as engravings, sights, and barrel configurations found on these versions.
Manufactured by the New Haven Arms Co. in 1863, this factory engraved Henry deluxe lever action rifle is estimated at $18,000-$27,500 and features an assortment of beautiful engravings that engulf the entire receiver of the gun. Further adding to its allure and appeal is the fact that the style of engraving found on the rifle is believed to have been executed by Samuel Hoggson who did most of the factory engraving for the New Haven Arms Company. Do not miss this opportunity to acquire a genuine factory engraved Henry lever action rifle without breaking the bank during Rock Island Auction Company’s February 3-6 S&C Event.
For soldiers during the American Civil War, owning a Henry rifle was a point of pride as many soldiers had to purchase them at their own expense. In total, approximately 14,000 were produced by the New Haven Arms Company and their success would lead to the development of the famous Winchester Model 1866 lever action rifle.
The Henry was the most advanced rifle manufactured during the Civil War and many experts believe that most manufactured before 1865, were purchased by individual Federal soldiers who appreciated the Henry's fire power. Especially popular with soldiers from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky in the Federal Army of the Cumberland, Henry rifles represent an interesting contrast in resources between the North and the South during the Civil War, and the disparages among soldiers in general.
This early production Henry rifle manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company in 1862 can be found during the February S&C Auction at RIAC and is estimated at $18,000-$27,500. The beautiful rifle features an array of engravings that stretch the length of the receiver that consist of flowing scroll and floral arrangements that are encased in delicate wreaths of intricate patterns, shapes, and lines. Certainly beautiful, this rifle holds significant historical weight and is currently awaiting bids. See it for yourself when the Preview Hall opens for exhibition on February 2nd.
The Henry rifle saw a boom in popularity during the American Civil War, as was explored previously, but it had devastating effects on the battlefield. For Confederate troops who faced it, the Henry rifle was a frustrating obstacle that constantly exposed the gaps in the weaponry of the southern army. For many of the soldiers in grey, muskets left over from the revolutionary war almost 100 years prior were issued and used on the front lines. The competition between repeating rifles and cumbersome muzzle loader rifles was blatantly clear during confrontations like the Battle of Franklin when Union troops were successfully able to withhold attacks from opposing Confederate attacks from regiments nearly double their size.
Some historians estimate that one Union soldier equipped with a single Henry rifle was equivalent to 10-15 opposing Confederate troops carrying single-shot rifles. The difference was glaring and the results on the battlefield only confirmed this. While Confederate soldiers did have access to the rifle, and many times would take them from fallen Union forces, they lacked the resources to maintain the firearms as well as the methods to reproduce the ammunition. Often, Confederate soldiers were left with high-quality rifles that were essentially useless to them without any ammo.
This exquisite and highly desirable, martially inspected U.S. Civil War Henry rifle manufactured in 1863 by the New Haven Arms Company can be found during the February Sporting & Collector Auction and is estimated at $27,500-$37,500. The iconic rifle also comes with a 4-piece wooden cleaning rod set and features a gorgeous walnut stock. The marking found on the rifle confirms its authenticity as a U.S. martially inspected Henry rifle as the markings and indications found throughout the rifle match historical records and specifics.
This “dammed Yankee rifle that can be loaded on Sunday and fire all week” is not only extremely rare but is also a stark reminder of the differences in weaponry between the North and South during the Civil War. A remarkable rifle and a spectacular headline to the February Sporting & Collector Auction, make this Henry rifle the latest and greatest addition to your collection.
This last addition to the list is a bit of a youngster compared to the models listed earlier. Manufactured in 1904, this rare U.S. Springfield Armory rod bayonet Model 1903 30-03 rifle was just too awesome not to include. This rifle is so interesting in fact, that we devoted an entire video to it and its distinctive rod bayonet so famously detested by Theodore Roosevelt.
This rifle is astonishing and features a dark walnut wood stock. Estimated at $10,000-$16,000, it is not only an interesting departure from some of the more traditional bayonets found during the time but also remains an important evolutionary step in the development of the .30–06 cartridge. Much like many of the long guns discussed throughout this article, this Springfield 1903 rifle also represents an integral transitional step in the production and emergence of immensely significant weapons developed in the decades that followed. Like the lever action repeating rifles and carbines used on the plains of the American Frontier, rifles like this would make waves later on in the trenches of World War I.
Springfield Armory manufactured approximately 74,500 Model 1903 rod bayonet rifles from November 1903 to January 1905. Nearly all of the completed rod bayonet M1903 rifles were subsequently altered to accept the Model 1905 bayonet and had the barrel, stock, handguard, and sights altered for the newly adopted .30-06 cartridge, yet this rifle somehow escaped that aforementioned fate. Experts estimate fewer than 100 original configuration rod bayonet Model 1903 rifles exist in museums and private collections today. Make it yours during the February 3-6 Sporting & Collector Auction at Rock Island Auction Company.
This list is only a small sample of the total lots that will be offered during the massive February 3-6 Sporting & Collector Auction. The Preview Hall at Rock Island Auction Company will be stuffed with some of the most impressive and powerful weapons that are both attractive and desirable to collectors, hunters, and enthusiasts alike.
Hopefully, this brief list of some of the more historic long guns and rifles found in the sale have sparked interest and curiosity into this amazing auction. If so, please look through the extensive digital catalog that is available now and start placing your bids today. This will be the first Sporting & Collector Auction of 2021 and there is already much excitement surrounding the event so be sure to make your arrangements as soon as possible to come visit, if you have not done so already. Of course, all COVID-19 regulations and guidelines will be adhered to with mask and sanitary stations readily available across our location. History comes alive at Rock Island Auction Company, so be there to greet it when the February 2021 Sporting & Collector Auction begins. We cannot wait to see you here!
As always, of there are any questions regarding consignment, registration, or future auctions, please contact Rock Island Auction Company. This year is promising to be another exciting year for the company with the first Premier Auction of 2021 scheduled for May 14-16 with plenty of Arms and Accessories Day Auctions in between.
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