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1045: The Rarest of All Winchester Firearms, Extensivel

Lot 1045 View Catalog

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Offered here is not only one of the most advanced rarities in American firearms collecting, this pistol is also a tangible historical artifact that is a testament to the important and renowned American manufacturing power of the 19th and 20th century. This pistol transcends a single collectable genre be it; Winchesters, Colts, Smith & Wesson’s and carries with it a fascinating tale that encompasses; advancements in firearms design, company rivalry, and the purest of all American capitalistic beliefs, competition. The most famous and recognizable manufacturers of firearms in the 19th and 20th century is Colt and Winchester. Colt is known for its revolvers and Winchester for their lever action rifles. However, there was an interesting period between the late 1870s and 1880's when they went head to head with one another. Although to fully understand these events you must look a few decades into the past. When the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company purchased Smith & Wesson's patent rights for their "lever action magazine pistols" they continued working with the pistol design first conceived under the leadership of Smith & Wesson. The manufacturing output of Volcanic Arms and later New Haven Arms included pistols, carbines and eventually the Henry rifle. Smith & Wesson in the meantime developed and owned the exclusive rights for manufacturing revolvers with a bored through cylinder held under the Rollin White patent. The results of the Rollin White patent were that Smith & Wesson was the only game in town manufacturing a pistol with a bored through cylinder that could fire the self contained metallic cartridge. With the expiration of the patent in 1869 many other firearms firms threw their hat in the ring and started to produce revolvers with bored through cylinders and the revolver market exploded with competition. The most immortalized revolver of all time is the Colt Single Action Army which had an initial production run from 1872 until the outbreak of WWII. Colt emerged as the big winner in the revolver market winning a series of highly competitive U.S. Army contracts and also a large share of the civilian market. The New Haven Arms Company had enjoyed initial success with the Henry rifle in the years of the American Civil War but folded when the war ended and was reorganized as Winchester Arms Company. It was the Winchester Arms Company goal to improve the design of the Henry rifle and did so with the Model 1866. This is how Winchester and Colt became the dominate manufacturers of rifles and revolvers. It is also important to note that the competition in the revolver market was slightly more competitive as Smith & Wesson also won a few U.S. contracts and had a large civilian following. In the early 1870's it was announced that the U.S. government as well as the Russian government were on the market for a new side arm. Smith & Wesson as well as Colt competed for these contracts but what many people do not realize, so did Winchester. "Winchester submitted a number of pistols for trial to the Russian representatives but the Smith & Wesson design was awarded the contract for 140,000 guns. Winchesters design was similar to Smith & Wesson's except the Winchester ejected spent cartridges individually while the Smith & Wesson ejected all six at once". The failure to gain the contract did not put an end to Winchesters plans for developing a revolver to put on the market. Winchester's plan was to make a splash in the market and planned on doing so at the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876. “Winchester invested a great deal of money and time in the "Centennial model 76" (see Madis pg 562). This pistol designed by Hugo Borchardt and S.W. Wood is the patent model revolver for the Winchester “Centennial” revolver series. It is the only patent model known and one of only a handful of Winchester revolvers in private hands. It is the only 32 caliber manufactured. It is the only pocket model manufactured. It is the only spur trigger manufactured and most importantly the only fully functional swing-out cylinder manufactured. "The three major designs developed in the Wood and Borchardt revolvers; A) a double action mechanism, B) fixed thumb and cylinder extractor, and C) swing-out cylinder and simultaneous extractor" (see Wilson, pg 319). This was the first and only successful swing-out cylinder design of its time. Accompanying this revolver is a 14 page letter written by R.L. Wilson. In the letter Mr. Wilson writes about the discovery; "this patent model was discovered circa 1970 and was in the Washington D.C. area in which the United States Patent Office has been since 1802." In the letter Mr. Wilson compares 9 known Winchester revolvers most of them still held by the Winchester Museum in Cody Wyoming to the patent model and lists similarities and difference in each. The swing-out cylinder and push rod ejector system made this revolver the most innovative of its time. In 1883 Colt began manufacturing the Lever Action Burgess Rifle. And so the story goes that "two representatives from Winchester met with the President of Colt to discuss a new product they had developed and planned to put on the market. The men brought with them two pistols to be evaluated of which the "ace in the hole" was the certain desirable features on the revolvers that had not yet been incorporated into their own line. While no formal agreement was made it is widely believed the men had come to a “Gentleman’s agreement” where Colt would discontinue the burgess rifle, which it did in early 1885 and Winchester would cease to develop revolvers." (for further reading on the "gentleman’s agreement see Williamson, pg 111). This revolver features a 4 inch round barrel. Nickel plated barrel, cylinder and frame. The "push rod" ejector in blue. No visible markings can be observed. The revolver is complete with smooth two piece walnut grips. Accompanying this revolver is a series of documentation which include; copies of two letters sign by "Armory Edward" to Commodore Wm. N. Jeffers Chief Ordinance Bureau Department of the Navy. The first letter "Agreeable to your request I have sent you by Adams Express one Winchester pistol Cal. 44 with 50 Cartridges." The letter continues to describe how to operate the pistol. The second letter discussed the cost to produce the pistols and credits the invention of the pistols to S.W. Woods. Other documentation; the R.L. Wilson letter, Copies of pages from references books. For further reading see: Winchester by R.L. Wilson. The Colt Book of Firearms, by Wilson. Winchester The Gun That one the West, Harold Williamson, The Winchester Book,
BBL: 4 1/2 round inch
Gauge: 32
Finish: nickel
Grips: walnut
Serial Number: NSN


Excellent. The revolver retains 98% plus original nickel finish. Overall the revolver exhibits only minor wear from storage and some scattered collector type handling marks. The grips are excellent with a few minor pressure marks from storage. An extremely historical and rare revolver worthy of only the most advanced arms collection.
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Estimate $90,000 – $150,000
Starting Bid $45,000

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8:00 AM - Apr 21, 2012
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