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April 14, 2017

Winchester Rifles Highly Finished Arms – REBORN!

By Joel R Kolander

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From Winchester’s earliest days, even dating back to when it was the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, it has produced remarkable deluxe arms offering an array of engravings, finishes, and special order features for the most discerning of riflemen. Of course, Winchester was not alone in this. The latter half of the 19th century is often referred to as the “Golden Age of Firearms Engraving,” and competition was fierce among manufacturers to employ the finest craftsmen as a powerful marketing tool of the day. Often a company’s finest arms would be presented as gifts, displayed at world fairs or exhibitions, and used in the company’s marketing materials.

Enter the Winchester catalog of “Highly Finished Arms.” This simple booklet was first published in 1897 and displayed the wide variety of engraving, inlays, and carved stocks available to buyers of fine Winchester rifles. Using a series of highly detailed illustrations, the catalog was produced by Winchester until 1916, and today serves a valuable reference for collectors and students of these rifles.

Fast forward nearly a century. In 2008 Doug Turnbull Restoration produced a booklet of their own for the purpose of “illustrating the variety and styles of engraving, inlay work, checkering and carving done by the craftsmen at Doug Turnbull Restoration” stating that the work showed within was “a tribute to the artisans and craftsmen that practiced their craft during the ‘Golden Age’ of firearms engraving.” What happens on the next 22 pages is an incredible recreation of the gunsmith’s art from the late 19th century. In the following book produced by Turnbull Restoration (now Turnbull Restoration & Manufacturing), the artisans at Turnbull recreated, gun for gun, cut for cut, the guns exhibited by Winchester in their “Highly Finished Arms” catalog. I highly recommend viewing even the first few pages to see the incredible attention paid to detail to replicate these incredible firearms.

Click the image to compare the Winchesters

Each page is divided into two sections: the bottom showing the original black-and-white illustration from the Winchester catalog, and the top showing full profile and close-up photographs of the modern Turnbull recreations. As you can see, the work is remarkable, not only true to the originals, but a near perfect copy of that performed by revered artisans. It is a series of 10 rifles of varying models and calibers that make up the Turnbull Highly Finished Arms, and the complete set will be offered by Rock Island Auction Company in the 2017 May Premiere Firearms Auction. These rifles are absolutely breathtaking to see in person and remain in immaculate condition, as can be easily seen in the following photographs.

Every rifle will be sold separately, so a collector wanting to maintain the integrity of the set had better come prepared to fight for the privilege… 10 lots in a row. This is truly an exceptional set of firearms that shows the talent still present in the industry today, all too often lamented as lost. In the interest of brevity, each rifle will not be covered here, but a photo and link to each will be provided so when you find the one that strikes your fancy, you can readily find it in the online catalog along with additional photos, information, and an easy way to place your bids.

Lot 13: Outstanding Embellished Winchester Model 1886 Lever Action Rifle with Gold Inlaid Game Scenes and Relief Carved Deluxe Walnut Stock and Forend in .45-70 (other side shown in article’s first photo)
Lot 14: Outstanding Beautifully Engraved and Highly Embellished Winchester Model 1894 Lever Action Rifle with Gold Wire Filled Borders and Hand Carved Deluxe Walnut Stock and Forend in Desirable .32 Win. Special
Lot 15: Outstanding Embellished Winchester Model 1892 Lever Action Rifle with Gold Inlaid Borders and Relief Carved Deluxe Walnut Stock and Forend in Desirable .44 WCF
Lot 16: Superb Highly Embellished Winchester Model 1894 Lever Action Rifle
Lot 17: Beautiful Highly Embellished Winchester Model 1895 Lever Action Rifle
Lot 18: Outstanding Signed Embellished Winchester Model 1892 Lever Action Rifle
Lot 19: Superb Signed Embellished Winchester Model 1892 Lever Action Rifle
Lot 20: Highly Embellished Winchester Model 1890 Takedown Slide Action Rifle
Lot 21: Superb Highly Embellished Winchester Model 1892 Lever Action Rifle in Desirable 44 WCF
Lot 22: Superb Embellished Winchester Model 1892 Lever Action Rifle

These Winchesters are only the beginning of an outstanding selection of high condition, deluxe lever guns from the 19th century. There are over 500 total Winchesters in the upcoming firearms auction and all will be sold on May 5 – 7, 2017. Whether you’re looking for the best of the best, something original to shoot, or even a beautiful alternative investment this auction will have a Winchester for you to take home.

Click here to view all Winchester items in our 2017 May Premiere Auction

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