» Latest Post: November 07, 2015 June 23, 2017 

Abandoned Winchester 1873 Sparks Research
Posted By: Scott Weber 01/20/2015 @ 02:00 PM

Abandoned Winchester Model 1873 Found In Nevada Leaning Against Tree

LAS VEGAS — There it was, abandoned for the ages, propped up against a juniper tree in far-eastern Nevada's Snake Mountains, a Winchester Model 1873 repeating rifle: the gun, as legend goes, that won the American West.

     For archaeologist Eva Jensen, it's something much more — a mystery that continues to baffle the staff at Great Basin National Park: Who owned it? A luckless hunter or miner? Maybe an outlaw on the run?

     And how on earth did it get there?

     The search for answers has taken the 57-year-old veteran scientist out of the field and into tiny research libraries — scouting out old newspapers, 130-year-old bills of sale, family histories and yellowed letters in several Western states.

     Everyone, Jensen said, has a different theory about what happened. "That's the lure of this find," she said.

     Her quest began in early November when Jensen and a team of archaeologists were walking a remote hillside in the massive park four hours northeast of Las Vegas. The group was on unexplored terrain searching for Native American artifacts or petroglyphs prior to a scheduled burning of vegetation.

     Suddenly, something caught Jensen's eye.

     It was the rifle — its wooden butt jammed into the ground and supported by a few rocks, so weathered and gnarled it looked like part of the terrain. The barrel was propped against the tree and, chameleon-like, blended in, covered with juniper debris.

     "It was an 'Oh, my gosh!' moment. I sort of let out this exclamation — then I couldn't say anything," Jensen said. "At first the staff thought I'd fallen off a cliff. It was just so unexpected that it took a little time for my mind to catch up."

     She circled the tree several times. There was no mistake about it. This was a Winchester. And there had to be a story behind it. Speculation started right there in the high-desert wilds.

     "One thing we all assumed was that someone here had a very bad day," Jensen said. "One of the staff said, 'Why do you set your gun down and forget where you put it? That just doesn't happen.'"

     There was more conjecture. Maybe a cowboy or shepherd had been out looking for a lost steer or sheep. Or some prospector got flustered when he thought he'd struck the mother lode.

     The gun's location — on a wooded, craggy hillside with a commanding view of the valley to the east — suggested a good strategic spot for a gun battle. Maybe the gun jammed and was abandoned. The .44-caliber rifle wasn't loaded.

     Nobody knew.  But Jensen was set on finding out.

     The Winchester company, based in New Haven, Conn., produced 720,000 of the model from 1873 to 1916. The original often featured an oil-finished walnut stock, blued-steel crescent butt plate and a 20-inch-long octagon barrel.

     Every gun was stamped with its own serial number. So Jensen consulted the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo., and determined that the gun in her possession was made in 1882 — an eventful year in the Old West and beyond.

     That's when outlaw Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, when gunfighter Billy Claiborne, who survived the showdown at the OK Corral, was shot dead in the streets of Tombstone, Ariz. It's the year Congress outlawed polygamy and John D. Rockefeller created the Standard Oil Trust. Charles Darwin, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Mary Todd Lincoln all died in 1882.

     Jensen even found the weapon's order number. She knew the rifle was shipped from the Connecticut warehouse that year. But she couldn't locate who ordered the gun or where it went.

     The case went cold.

     So Jensen consulted newspapers of the day — the Ward Reflex and White Pine County Record — that chronicled the then-thriving mining industry in northern Nevada. She found tantalizing tidbits, including ads from dry goods stores selling Winchester rifles, even the name of a gunsmith in the area.

     But there were no stories of any gun battle or outlaw search that might have put a history to the gun. She found a picture of a member of a prominent family holding a Winchester, but it was the wrong model.

     In 1873, the Winchester originally sold for $50, but the price dropped in half during a subsequent recession, Jensen said. Sales remained brisk because the weapon was a Western trendsetter: the lever action meant it could fire 15 shots without reloading. Think of actor Chuck Connors, with that steely eyed glare, quickly pumping his Winchester in the opening of the old TV series "The Rifleman."   (Editor's Note:  The Winchester 1873 standard rifle never held 15 rds.  Actor Chuck Connors did not use an 1873.)

     The gun is now part of the park's public collection. For now, Jensen said, it's being kept in climate-controlled storage. Park officials are keeping the location of the gun's discovery a secret.

     "It would have been wonderful to just leave it as we found it," Jensen said. "But once people hear about this thing, they will go looking for the spot."

     Even if the mystery is never solved, Jensen feels lucky to be on the case.

     "In archaeology, things happen when you have the right light," she said. "We found the gun right after lunch, in the early afternoon. If the sun had been in a different spot, it might have been shaded and we would have never seen it."


Latest Headlines
11/07 - Grizzly. Delist. Hunt.
10/11 - A Black Man Reflects On Gun Ownership
07/09 - Obuma STILL Best Guns Salesman!
06/04 - Rural Idaho School Arms Up
06/03 - USA Olympic Shooters Earn 4 Medals
06/02 - Movie Star Expounds on 2nd Amendment
05/28 - Pilot Receives Fine For Elk Hazing
05/28 - U.S. Senate: 'Global Whining' NOT Real
05/27 - A Lesson On The Origin of Left & Right
05/25 - CA Coyote Attacks 3-Year Old In Park
05/06 - Colorado Prom Photo Is A Classic!
04/29 - Traveling Aboard With Hunting Firearms
04/24 - Bill Proposes To Alter 4473 Form Questions
04/22 - Chicago Uber Driver Defends With Concealed Carry
04/22 - First Shots: Overcoming the Fear Factor
04/22 - Earth Day 1970 'Predictions' - Ha!
04/22 - U.S. Congressman In Hot Water Over AR-15
03/30 - SCI Reports Trophy Import Rules
03/26 - Avian Influenza Detected In Wyo Geese
03/26 - Chicken Liberal's Weather Report
03/24 - Wal-Mart's Gun Rack: Military Style Rifles
03/22 - Tough NJ Gun Laws Snare Legal Gunners
03/22 - Sheriff Mack: Guns Up, U.S. Safer
03/21 - Hunt For Testosterone and Love!
03/18 - SCI's Lobby Day Is May 7
03/17 - Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act Moving
03/14 - Anti-Gun Dems Push For Ammo Ban
03/11 - U.S. Senator Letter To ATF
03/11 - ATF Pulls Proposed .223 Ammo Ban
02/28 - .223 cal. Ammo Sales Surge!
02/28 - NRA: Wyo HB 114 Gutted - No Go
02/26 - My Insurance Went Up From $189-$403
02/26 - So Very True...
02/26 - Yes Liberals, Yes...
02/26 - Author John Lott Testifys on HB114
02/18 - Concealed Carry On College Campuses
02/18 - PA Town Packin' Heat Signs!
02/16 - Animal Planet Follows Wyo Game & Fish
02/16 - NSSF - Latest Firearms News
02/15 - ATF Rules on Firearm Mfg.
02/15 - Banks Can No Longer Deny Gun Dealers
02/15 - ATF May Ban Common AR-15 Ammo
02/15 - Wyo: Repeal Gun Free Zones Act
02/15 - NRA Supports S. 498
02/05 - Crime Down In 2014 Despite Record Gun Sales
02/05 - Jan. 2015 NICS 2nd Highest In History!
02/01 - Armed Teachers Defend Schools
01/29 - DEA Had Planned Car Plate Data Base
01/28 - Fun Facts You Don't Know!
01/27 - Court Rules with SCI On Lead Ammo
01/27 - Lawsuit To Repeal I-594
01/26 - SHOT Show 2nd Largest EVER!
01/26 - Canada's Top List of USA Stupidity
01/25 - As Always, Women Big Gun Buyers
01/25 - Oh That Obuma... Yet Again So Foolish...
01/24 - Oregon Gun Buyback Big Joke
01/23 - The Girl, Glock and Gunny
01/23 - 'Elephant and the Pauper' Video
01/21 - Kid Rock Scores on nice Mt. Lion
01/20 - Abandoned Winchester 1873 Sparks Research
01/19 - New Book Sheds Light on School Murderers
01/19 - Liberal Dopes: 'Gun Ban'
01/18 - Wyoming 4th Safest State - We're Armed!
01/15 - NRA/SCI Elephant Ivory Litigation Update
01/15 - The Endangered Species Act
01/15 - Safari Club International's Litigation Roster
01/14 - No More Sean Penn Movies For Me!
01/11 - Here We Come Obuma! Sign it!
01/06 - NICS Checks 2nd Highest In December 2014
01/06 - Quick Gun & Ammo News
12/31 - Happy New Year From The Gunrunner!
12/31 - Liberal Anti-Gun Maryland - Watch Out!
12/31 - A Concealed Carry Handgun Lesson
12/31 - Fight Against WA I-594
12/31 - One More 2014 Gun-Related Joke
12/30 - NRA & SCI Ivory Ban Update
12/30 - 2015 Good Year For Wyo Hunting/Fishing
12/30 - Doormat of the Year: See ya!
12/29 - Cody Wolf Shot In Utah
12/26 - Wayne LaPierre: 'When The Glass Breaks'
12/25 - Today's Kids: Lost In Videoland
12/24 - SCI Lawyer Team Fighting For YOU!
12/24 - SCI Files A Motion For Park Elk Hunt
12/24 - Dec. Appeals Filed In Wyo Wolf Delisting
12/22 - MT Self-Defense Verdict: MURDER
12/19 - 200 Lawmakers Band Together Against 2nd Amd
12/19 - 14-Year Old NC Boy Shoots Home Invader
12/17 - Liberal VA Gov Wants More 'Gun Control'
12/17 - Banks Refusing Business With Gun Dealers
12/16 - Liberal Idiots: Blame The Gun!
12/16 - When FREE Stuff From The Gov Is Not Enough...
12/16 - Get your X-Mas Presents FREE In Ferguson!
12/16 - Solution To Ferguson's Rioting
12/15 - Control Dogs Around Wintering Wildlife
12/15 - Ohio Concealed Carry Wish List Passes
12/15 - Texas Lawmakers Move To Open Carry
12/13 - World Murder Stats- Where NOT To Visit!
12/07 - New International Bunkers Propel Team To Victory
12/01 - USA National Shooting Teams On Fire!
11/30 - Florida 'Stand Your Ground' - A Court Test