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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Couldn't decide whether to put this here or the Winchester forum but you folks can see what decision won out. I've been looking for a 32-20 rifle casually since I acquired a Ruger convertible in the caliber. Monday a good buddy/fellow MO'r, and really the guy that gave me the Marlin-itis, sent me a text with a link featuring yours truly. Fella picked it up cheap at an estate sale and wasn't interested in keeping it. I gave $450 for it and get to pick it up next weekend.

Joe said the bore is dark but rifling is sharp. Mostly whole but missing the rear site and front blade - so my first order of business is sights. The foreend is missing a triangular chunk out of it but other than wear and tear it is mostly there. As is apparent most of the finish is gone but kind of like that myself. He mentioned that the action felt good considering the age. The serial number #3833XX seems to date it to 1890/1891. This is my first dash cal and first vintage lever rifle, but I just didn't think I could go wrong at the price and a few friends encouraged that line of thinking.





 

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You will have fun with that. I always wanted to find a 1873 in 32-20, I have one in 44-40. I think after some TLC on that 1873 you'll be posting some cool photos of it with your leather work. They are easy to work on, and wear on the extractor can cause issues, but new replacement ones are available. Looking forward to some photos.
 

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Great find. Please keep us posted on your progress with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
most 73s go for three times that
While I don't keep up with prices - figured even if it ended up being a parts gun it would be a nice wall hanger.

You will have fun with that. I always wanted to find a 1873 in 32-20, I have one in 44-40. I think after some TLC on that 1873 you'll be posting some cool photos of it with your leather work. They are easy to work on, and wear on the extractor can cause issues, but new replacement ones are available. Looking forward to some photos.
David, I'd love one in 44-40 but was hunting for a 32-20 rifle so it worked out. A friend has a 44-40 '73 factory carbine with a short barrel. Great little gun! This one is going to take a bunch of scrubbing (inside) to get it tip top, but will still look a bit out of place parked next to my high polished Ruger. Worse issues to have in life. Need sights - then I need some reloading components and a proper powder for it.
 

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That is a nice rifle for the money. Winchester sights won't be cheap but it would be worth it to put original sights back on IMHO. I am still working on my 25-20 barrel, 119 years of gunk there.
 
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I wonder if you should try Swiss black powder and some 120 gr or 115 gr RNFP bullets for starters. I have a Winchester 92 from 1908 that is in 32-20 and I use .313" diameter bullets for that one. I have used Swiss and A2400. But the 92 model being stronger and newer than your 1873 I'd research the load information. In my 44-40 1873 Winchester I also use A2400, but keep velocities to 1300 fps max. I'd love to find a 32-20 1873 and for the price you found I would be happy as can be. Some 32-20 reloading.

32-20+reloads+Easter+2014+013.JPG

And 44-40 rifle and SRC.

Winchester+1873+44-40+073.JPG photo.jpg 1873+44-40+Winchester+rifle+dw+026.JPG photo.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That is a nice rifle for the money. Winchester sights won't be cheap but it would be worth it to put original sights back on IMHO. I am still working on my 25-20 barrel, 119 years of gunk there.
Even with sight prices the rifle was/is still a bargain to me. My problem is that I don't know what the 'correct' rear sight is. They have several different styles depending on configuration and length so I'm trying to decide what is 'right.'

Sweet!!! Happy for you!!
Thanks!

I wonder if you should try Swiss black powder and some 120 gr or 115 gr RNFP bullets for starters. I have a Winchester 92 from 1908 that is in 32-20 and I use .313" diameter bullets for that one. I have used Swiss and A2400. But the 92 model being stronger and newer than your 1873 I'd research the load information. In my 44-40 1873 Winchester I also use A2400, but keep velocities to 1300 fps max. I'd love to find a 32-20 1873 and for the price you found I would be happy as can be. Some 32-20 reloading.



And 44-40 rifle and SRC.
That SRC.... I'm not a reloader but will not have a choice with this one but to fire up grandads single stage!

I'll take it!:)
You and me both. I'd buy another!

Very nice rifle, even if it isn't a Marlin......really a great find for you.
Thank you!
 

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Hey Robert, you didn't buy that rifle, you stole it ! Congratulations on a great find. I have a Winchester 1873, 38WCF (aka 38-40), made in 1881, in Excellent shape that I haven't fired yet. I plan on shooting it this summer but I want to use smokeless powder so I am going to try Trail Boss. A Hodgdon rep at the NRA show in Houston a couple years ago told me that would be the smokeless powder to use in that weak action.

Jack
 

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Robert,
Normally I would tell a fellow MO what to do with his property. But a parts gun? Surely you jest.:vollkommenauf:

Even if you threw a $400 reline in it, if the bore is really bad, you will have an incredible (brand new) gun for not a lot of money. Would make a great present for the grandkids or as a reward for getting through college or trade school!

John
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hey Robert, you didn't buy that rifle, you stole it ! Congratulations on a great find. I have a Winchester 1873, 38WCF (aka 38-40), made in 1881, in Excellent shape that I haven't fired yet. I plan on shooting it this summer but I want to use smokeless powder so I am going to try Trail Boss. A Hodgdon rep at the NRA show in Houston a couple years ago told me that would be the smokeless powder to use in that weak action.

Jack
Morning Jack, he bought to sell and set the price - so must have made some money off it is the worst part about it. I'm not completely sure what all will be safe to shoot in this so more reading is in order. Really just happy to own this one and shooting it will be gravy.
Robert,
Normally I would tell a fellow MO what to do with his property. But a parts gun? Surely you jest.:vollkommenauf:

Even if you threw a $400 reline in it, if the bore is really bad, you will have an incredible (brand new) gun for not a lot of money. Would make a great present for the grandkids or as a reward for getting through college or trade school!

John
Hey John, great thing about expecting worst case is your usually pleasantly surprised. When I've had higher hopes I've gotten burned but I usually come out happier. Should be able to get her running no matter condition - the misses is already asking to shoot it :)
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Got some more pictures and by a stroke of luck thing I have a ride for it home tomorrow (friend is about 200 miles away). She's not a beauty queen by a long shot, not sure what to do one those boogered screws just yet.







 

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Hey there Robert -- Those two screws on the bottom of the receiver hold your lever springs. They need to be tight when the rifle is in use, and loosened to disassemble. Those don't look to be original, so replacements could likely be more original.

View attachment 104015

Will black powder era rifles do have "strength" issues when compared to modern smokeless guns and ammunition - neither of which was available in their day - calling them weak is absurd. Here is what Oliver Winchester had to say back in the day. While these tests were on an 1876 rifle, the actions are the same design...

"The strength of the Model 1876 rifle and the .45-75 W.C.F. cartridge was tested by Winchester in the late 1870s. These tests astound collectors and shooters who have stated the Model 1876's toggle link action is "weak". The factory conducted tests on the strength and reliability of the action to answer concerns by customers. In response to a letter sent to the company by Charles Hallock, Esquire, of Forest & Stream magazine, Oliver Winchester responded by telling about the tests the factory accomplished on the 1876 rifle.

He indicated that engineers first started the tests by removing one of the toggle links and fired 20 rounds (this was with .45-75 W.C.F. cartridge with 350 grain bullet) with no effect. They restored the missing link then went through 6 more trials starting with a charge of 105 grains of black powder, behind a 700 grain bullet! The comment "worked well" is noted.

They then increased the charge of powder to 165 grains behind 3 bullets (1,150 grains) and that "worked well." From there, they increased the powder charge to 203 grains and added more bullets until they reached 1,750 grains of lead (five 350 grain bullets). This also "worked well."

Finally, they added one more bullet, bringing the total weight to 2,100 grains, and things began to happen. The comment was, "Breech pin slightly bent. Arm working stiff."

The seventh and final test was again 203 grains of powder but this time six Martini bullets weighing 480 grains each (2,880 grains) were used. "The charge bent the breech pin, blew out the side plates, split the frame and otherwise disabled the arm," was the comment. Oliver Winchester noted that in this seventh trial, the shell had burst into fragments and the escape of gas at the breech did the damage".

I for one have a hard time considering that series of tests showing the action is "weak". I would still use your rifle in the spectrum for which it was designed however.

Hope this helps. Best regards. Wind
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Wind, thank you very much for the informative post. I've already ordered replacement screw for that location as I was worried about the one whose head looks mostly gone, glad you feel that they are replacements as well! The strength test is very impressive. From what I'm ready with the low pressures of this caliber smokeless powder isn't uncommon in loading.

Found a photo of the correct style of rear sight so now the hunt begins!
 

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Start by removing the wood.

Next get something big enough to soak the rest of it for a week or so in something that penetrates.

Get some example pics of good screws vs the ones that are damaged on your rifle.

You may wind up doing a lot of work to get original screws to work properly if anything has been tapped to a different thread. However you can make a new screw with a head cloned to look like the original.

That front sight I'm sure you can get a replacement but may be able to make a blade to replace what you need to look original.

I'm sure around here you can get someone to post pics of what is original.

Numrich has a few parts including wood.

1873 Accessories | Numrich Gun Parts
 

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Great historic rifle that you can still shoot (with some knowledge of it's limitations) and enjoy. Don't you just wish she could talk? Actually, I would prefer the 32-20 chambering as it is a "fun gun" or plinking gun to enjoy ( and respect) drilling pop cans or squirrels. Enjoy it!
 
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