“It’s unfired,” the seller said. He wasn’t exaggerating – it couldn’t be loaded. Here’s the case of the traveling Uberti 1873 rifle.
by Brian R. Smith
Every now and then a firearm will land on a gunsmith’s bench that makes one stop and think. The traveling, unfired Uberti 1873 rifle here is one such firearm. “Traveling” because for the better part of a year I saw this particular rifle in the racks of first one, then a second vendor at several western Pennsylvania gun shows.
The Uberti is a replica of the 1873 Winchester, itself the third iteration of the Henry/Winchester rifle progression of improvements in early Winchester leverguns. The 1860 Henry was revolutionary as a practical, high-capacity metallic cartridge repeater in an age of paper, black powder, non-metallic cartridge-fed single shot rifles. The brass-receivered 1866 Winchester was a direct improvement on the 1860 Henry, incorporating for the first time Nelson King’s patented loading gate in the right sideplate and protection for the weak hand in the form of a wooden forend as opposed to the Henry’s bare steel magazine tube and barrel. 1860 Henry shooters always wore leather gloves for a very good reason.
The 1873 Winchester saw a switch from brass to an iron receiver and the sideplates were “proud” of the metal of the receiver, instead of fitted and blended in with the receiver as was the case with its two brass-receiver predecessors. The ‘73 also incorporated a sliding dust cover actuated by the retracting bolt head. It kept the cartridge lifter relatively free of dirt and debris and would stay open to the rear by the friction of a spring loaded steel ball until manually pushed forward.
The subject of this story is an attractive piece, a short rifle chambered in…
Read more in the October 2018 issue.