Firearms

The Most Famous Rifle of the Old West

The 1873 Winchester made its way into the arms of Buffalo Bill Cody and Belle Starr.

The 1873 Winchester made its way into the arms of Buffalo Bill Cody and Belle Starr.

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Thanks largely to its use on the American frontier, the slab-sided 1873 Winchester lever-action rifle has become an icon of the Wild West.

The 1873 Winchester outsold all its competitors and was the premier choice with gun savvy Westerners like the post-1874 Texas Rangers, Pat Garrett, Butch Cassidy, Belle Starr and Buffalo Bill Cody.

Introduced in 1873 in “.44 Winchester Central Fire” (.44-40—designed for this rifle), it was in fact the first centerfire arm for the New Haven, Connecticut, firm.

A year later, Winchester added the .38 WCF (.38-40) to its line, and in 1882, introduced the .32 WCF (.32-20) and the .22 rimfire. As with the .44-40, Colt and other revolver makers began producing handguns in these chamberings and when paired with a ’73 Winchester, these rifle and six-gun combinations quickly gained popularity, especially out West where...

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