July 08, 2015
By Evan Brune
After more than a century outdoors, the Model 1873 Winchester found at Great Basin National Park last fall will finally have a permanent home indoors.
The rifle, which is currently housed at the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, will return to the park this fall in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the park's establishment.
Since the rifle's discovery in November 2014, experts at the firearms museum have worked to stop its deterioration. Before preservation work began, though, the rifle was X-rayed to see whether or not it was loaded. Only one round was found stored in the butt of the rifle, which was identified as a Union Metallic Cartridge Company .44 WCF cartridge, dated 1887 — 1911.
After ensuring that it was unloaded, curators coated the flaking wood with a mixture of adhesive, distilled water and ethanol to prevent its further decay.
The Model 1873 Winchester was one of the iconic guns of the American frontier in the latter half of the 19th century, along with such guns as the Colt Single Action Army or the Smith & Wesson Model 3. Its popularity earned it the moniker, "The Gun that Won the West."
"The Winchester Model 1873 alone may be the most iconic western firearm of all time," said Firearms Museum Curator Ashley Hlebinsky. "This is especially true of its marketing slogan, 'The Gun that Won the West." With all it's been through, this particular gun has certainly carried on that legend."
Between 1873-1919, Winchester produced more than 720,000 Model 1873 rifles, including the famous "One of One Thousand" models or the lesser-known "One of One Hundred" models. Winchester made only 132 rifles with the "One of One Thousand" engraving, while only eight "One of One Hundred" models were made. In 2012, a Model 1873 "One of One Thousand" with a factory letter held an estimated auction price of $100,000.