View Full Version : 132 y/o Win 1873 Found Leaning Against Tree

01-14-2015, 18:16
Bet there's an interesting story behind the rifle. Who left it leaning against the tree, and why?

National Park Service finds an original Winchester Model 1873 in the wilds of Great Basin National Park

Many of us harbor pipe dreams of running across an original Winchester Model 1873 rifle in the rafters of a dusty attic or tucked in the dark corner of old barn.

Recently employees of the National Park Service found an original Winchester Model 1873 rifle leaning against a gnarled juniper tree in a remote part of the sprawling Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

According to Nichole Andler, Chief of Interpretation at Great Basin National Park, “The rifle, exposed for all those years to sun, wind, snow and rain, was found leaning against a tree in the park. The cracked wood stock, weathered to grey, and the brown rusted barrel blended into the colors of the old juniper tree in a remote rocky outcrop, keeping the rifle hidden for many years.”

“Engraved on the rifle is “Model 1873,” identifying it distinctly as a Winchester Model 1873 repeating rifle,” continued Andler. “The serial number on the lower tang corresponds in Winchester records held at the Center for the West at the Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming, with a manufacture and shipping date of 1882. But the detailed history of this rifle is as yet unknown.”

While the specific history of the aged Winchester rifle is as yet unknown, the opportunities for speculation are rich. Perhaps it belonged to a lone cowboy riding the high range. Perhaps it was set aside by a sourdough prospector in his search for a vein of rich ore. Whatever the actual story, it has the makings of a great campfire tale.

After museum conservation to prevent further deterioration, the rifle will be returned to the park and displayed as part of the park’s 30th birthday and the NPS centennial celebration.

It’s doubtful this unique Winchester Model 1873 will ever come up for sale.

You can learn more about the Model 1873 found in the Great Basin National Park at https://www.facebook.com/GreatBasinNPS source. (http://www.winchesterguns.com/library/articles/detail.asp?id=652)


01-14-2015, 18:27
What a cool find - prolly belonged to Hatchet Jack.

01-14-2015, 18:34
I bet that's Dusty's!

01-14-2015, 20:34
Neat find. I wonder what caliber it is (they had 3 offered by 1882).

Reminds me of that line in Conagher, "Anything coulda happened to him. How many men have you known that just 'go off' and ya never see 'em again...?"

01-14-2015, 20:57
So the tree was dead over 100 years ago and never grew around the rifle... or they cut it out.

01-14-2015, 21:13
Simply put...that story is very cool.

I wonder how many times someone was within arms reach of it and never saw it.

01-14-2015, 21:40
What a cool find - prolly belonged to Hatchet Jack.

No. He had a .50 cal. Hawkins, and he used it to kill the bare that kilet him. :lifter

The Reaper
01-14-2015, 21:46
What a cool find - prolly belonged to Hatchet Jack.

That was my first thought as well.

You wouldn't believe how many trees look the same in the dark. Especially pine trees. :D

Every SFAS class has someone lose one like that. Get tired, hungry, and stop for a quick map check, lean it against a tree, and be several hundred meters away when they realize they are not carrying a rifle any more. Instant non-select.

That is why they issue rubber rifles to candidates instead of real ones.

And the cadre tell them to dummy cord their rifles to their gear, but many do not heed the warnings.


01-15-2015, 03:57
Probably a skeleton not too far from that tree.

01-15-2015, 13:10
I bet that's Dusty's!


01-15-2015, 13:52
So the tree was dead over 100 years ago and never grew around the rifle... or they cut it out.

Some types of juniper live hundreds of years, grow slowly, and never get very big. Perhaps this is one of them.

Probably a skeleton not too far from that tree.

Maybe with an arrowhead in it. Or perhaps there's an old campfire, supplies, etc? Would be interesting to know if any more research is being done on the site.


The Reaper
01-15-2015, 14:15
I wonder if it was loaded when they found it?

That, and a metal detecting sweep of the area for shell casings might indicate whether the owner lost the rifle, or was killed.


01-17-2015, 09:46
I wonder if it was loaded when they found it?

I was thinking the same thing when I stumbled upon the story this morning in my local online newspaper. After reading a couple of lines down I found the answer - it was not loaded.

Given the the time it was lost my next thought was whether there were any shell casings or as previously mentioned a skeleton nearby. This one was not answered.


Here is my source:


01-17-2015, 10:15
If only that rifle could talk and tell its story...

I am certainly no Zane Grey, Louis Lamour, Robert B. Parker, or Ray Bradbury, but that picture would make a great cover for a book which begins with something like:

The aged Winchester Model 1873 .45 caliber rifle leaned patiently against the gnarled Juniper tree in the desolate Nevada desert, shivering in the waning light from a slightly dampened breeze which told it another season was passing and yet another winter was coming. The cracked wood stock, weathered to grey, and the brown rusted barrel blended well into the natural colors of the old juniper tree atop the rocky desert outcrop, keeping the rifle hidden from everyone but nature's all-seeing gaze for so many years.

The Juniper creaked with a soft moaning as it swayed slightly in the chill breeze, but the rifle, known famously as "the gun that won the West," remained unyielding and quiet while standing its silent watch.


01-17-2015, 11:36
It's been done: The Twilight Zone: A Hundred Yards Over the Rim. (http://www.hulu.com/watch/440886) ;)


Team Sergeant
07-18-2015, 11:11
Richard, I could not keep it close hold any longer, I sent an email informing them to contact you. I told them you already suffered as a statement of charges was in your records for losing your rifle that day......

Mystery deepens: Who left 130-year-old rifle in NV desert?

By Matt Finn
·Published July 18, 2015
A 130-year-old rifle found in the Nevada desert last year is fully loaded with mystery—and some of the questions surrounding it might never be answered.

The Winchester 1873 rifle was discovered in the Great Basin National Park leaning against a juniper tree in November. But the strange discovery has triggered more questions than answers.

“You have this gun that no one really knows what happened to it and it gets so much attention because of that,” said Ashley Hlebinsky, curator at the Cody Firearms Museum, in Wyoming.


07-18-2015, 11:13
Good one, TS.

07-19-2015, 07:51
Many of the questions here are answered on the park's FB page:

"Great Basin National Park has been thrill [sic] with all the interest in the discovery of the Winchester Model 1873 rifle in the park. Everyone has a lot of good questions. Here are some answers to some of the most common questions asked. Keep scrolling!

1. What caliber is the gun? .44-40

2. Was it loaded? No

3. Were there any shells nearby? No

4. Will we use metal detectors to look for shells or other clues to the gun's history? Yes, probably.

5. Were human remains found with the gun? No nothing was visible near the gun. Surveys will continue in the area in the spring when the snow melts.

6. Why didn't the tree grow around the gun, this has happened to other guns and objects? The tree is a juniper tree and they are very slow growing. The gun was not left in the crotch of a tree where it might have been grown around. Also the bark on the tree is dead and the rifle was not in contact with anything other than the bark, if it were leaning against a spot on the tree where a living branch broke or had been cut the tree might have grown around the rifle.

7. The orange tape around the stock of the gun, what does it do? The orange tape is flagging that has been wrapped and woven around the stock to keep it from further damage and degradation. There is no adhesive on the flagging, adhesive could cause damage to the stock.

8. How many inches was the stock buried? Between 4 and 5 inches.

9.How often do we have discoveries like this in the park? This is an unusual artifact. We identify many artifacts in the Park, some are much older than this rifle. This is the first time a rifle or anything of this type has been documented by park employees.

10. Have we had a significant discovery like this in the park before? This is one of many significant artifacts found in the park. Not all are as glamorous or exciting. Artifacts tell a story that helps us understand how people used the area now protected in the park. It is unusual to find something of this type in this circumstance and condition.

11. If it wasn't loaded could it be a burial marker? We do not have any evidence of a burial or death associated with this artifact. We are continuing research."

07-19-2015, 08:11
...and the lifter was removed, making it single shot.

07-19-2015, 11:41
Speaking of... a guy that works at our local coffee get together showed me some pics of two weapons he found while 4 wheeling some washes out near Forpaugh.
A Japanese Nambu pistol and a Stirling Submachine gun...the pics show rusty but not pitting...he's going to bring me the stirling to check out.
Looks like a collection got flooded out or something...time for a metal detector in that wash.

Team Sergeant
07-19-2015, 12:57
...and the lifter was removed, making it single shot.

That is strange.

My guess, fella ran out of bullets and needed to lighten his load. Also figured he'd purchase a better rifle at a later date cause some idiot removed the lifter lever anyway......

He deliberately left it resting on the tree hoping someone, someday in the future would find it and start all sorts of crazy internet threads about why he left it there.

Smart man.