View Full Version : 1873 Winchester w/28" octagon barrel

February 6, 2010, 12:52 AM
Hi All,

One of the few firearms left in my father's collection when he died was an 1873 Winchester in 44-40. It didn't seem out of the ordinary, however at a gun show a guy noticed that the barrel was longer than normal, and he was right. From what I understand, octagon barrels were mainly made in 24" lengths, so this one is definitely different. Possibly a custom order.

Anyone else ever see a 28" octagon barrel on one of these?

The serial number indicates it was manufactured around 1881, 2nd model.


February 6, 2010, 12:43 PM
Yes, they were available in some long lengths, perhaps even 30" or more. From a ballistics perspective not the best because the round runs out of steam and actually starts to slow down a bit due to friction in those long barrels but the advantage is a longer sight radius for more steady and perhaps more accurate shooting.

I'm sure someone here can point you to an on-line gun value blue book site but there's also a very good site and forum dedicated to lever guns at leverguns.com where you will find a great deal of info regarding the Winchester 1873.


February 6, 2010, 08:03 PM
You gun was (is) called a musket. Although 28" is not as common as 30" on the musket, there were different lengths made. And the barrels could have been full octagon, half-octagon-half-round, or full round. And the wood forearm covered nearly all the magazine and went nearly to the end of the barrel. It's possible that your gun was a 30" which has been cut down, which is not uncommon. Muskets were not made in nearly the numbers as the more popular carbine with a 20" barrel.

Muskets also had three bands holding the forearm to the barrel, while rifles had none (usually), and carbines had one.

By the way, are you measuring your barrel length all the way back to the front of the breech opening? That might account for the missing 2".

February 6, 2010, 10:57 PM
Muskets were round barrel military style rifles, with long forend wood, as you noted. His is an octagon barrel rifle.

Your rifle is definately a special order item. The value will be higher than a standard gun, possibly much more, depending on condition, and if it letters. For a factory letter to confirm it's original configuration, contact the Winchester Mueum in Cody Wy at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (bbhc.org).

You may be able to get a better idea of its value by posting it on leveguns forum. Pictures will help a lot.

February 7, 2010, 12:04 AM
Thanks for the comments.

I agree that it is NOT a musket. There are no bands, and it's an octagon barrel.

I have just joined the BBHC so that I can do a check on my two Winchesters (1890 & 1873) & get a factory letter.

February 7, 2010, 04:13 PM
Good choice.

You'll like the stuff they send you in the mail also. If you are able to make it to see the museum, they have an unbelieveble amount of guns and frontier stuff, original artwork, and Indian and wildlife sections.

February 7, 2010, 04:43 PM
A quick scan of Madis book on the Winchester showed 24" was standard barrel length but also available in 2" increments up to 36". There were 2 weights of octagon barrels with the "Buffalo " Barrel being considerbly heavier than the standard. One barrel band up to 32" and 2 bands on longer barrels.
Eight out ten rifles were 44-40.only 600 rifles had longer than standard barrels. They made up until 1923. Post the sn # using x's for the last 3 didgits and I'll tell you what year it was made.
It sounds like you have a great family heirloom. Find yourself a Winchester collector and find out more about this rifle.

February 7, 2010, 09:43 PM
The date listed on the web-based SN searches all return 1881 as the production date. SN is 76xxx.

A Winchester guy was looking the gun over at a gun show and said it looked to be 28" and it must have been a special order. He was the first to notice this out of a bunch of people who looked at it. He then left & got a tape measure and measured it and sure enough, 28". I measured it later at home and got the same measurement.

I'm not sure where my dad got the rifle. He was a HUGE collector of militaria, at one time owning >200 military rifles & handguns, mostly rifles. He was also an FFL up until 1968 when they changed the rules a bit.

When he died, he had already sold almost all of the guns. There were a few left over, and two of those were an 1890 & 1873 Winchester. I have to think that he bought these Winchesters at garage sales or pawn shops while looking for other militaria, or an acquaintence gave them to him. He was always getting good deals.

I only know of one time where he went out and shot any of his guns, and that was in the early 70's. He was mainly a collector.


February 10, 2010, 11:20 PM
An update.

I had a serial number search done on my 1873 by the Cody Firearms Museum and it didn't really have any more information than I already had. I have a question in regarding if a Factory Letter would include the original barrel configuration.

According to their information, the SN search "may" contain information such as barrel length. Same as the Factory Letter. So since my SN search didn't turn up anything special about barrel length, I'm not optimistic...