WINCHESTER 1873 Found in Nevada

132-Year-Old Winchester Rifle Found Leaning Against a Tree in Nevada

Known as the “Gun that Won the West,” the Winchester Model 1873 was a very popular rifle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. More than 720,610 were manufactured between 1873 and 1916, selling for about $50 when they first came out. The guns reduced in price to $25 in 1882 making them increasingly accessible.

But why was one left leaning against a tree–forgotten, perhaps, for more than a century–in a remote part of Nevada? That’s the question researchers are asking themselves after Eva Jensen, Cultural Resource Program Manager for the Great Basin National Park, discovered one last November as she was working with a park archaeology team.

From the Great Basis National Park Service:

Numerous questions surround the small piece of American heritage in Great Basin National Park. The 132-year-old rifle, exposed 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.

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“Model 1873” distinctively engraved on the mechanism identify the rifle as the Winchester Model 1873 repeating rifle. The serial number on the lower tang corresponds in Winchester records held at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum in Cody, Wyoming, with a manufacture and shipping date of 1882.


Currently, the detailed history of this rifle is unknown. Winchester records do not indicate who purchased the rifle from the warehouse or where it was shipped. The rifle was not loaded when it was found, but would have held .44-40 caliber ammunition when in use.

Images from the Facebook page of the Great Basin National Park. Find more images of the rifle and its discovery in their album for this story.

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7 thoughts on “132-Year-Old Winchester Rifle Found Leaning Against a Tree in Nevada”

  1. Pete’s story (1/14/’24 comment) sounds compelling. Any archaeologist with a metal detector might, somewhat easliy, find those nine spent cartridges. I’d volunteer but I’m in CT. I’d like to contact Pete if possible, please.

  2. Truth be known. That is the spot where I died in 1895. I had purchased the rifle when I headed west in hopes of making my fortune in the Nevada silver mines when I was a 16 yr old adventurer. I got caught in an unexpected snow storm and lost my mule and supplies when a tree cracked and fell during a hard freeze. I broke my led climbing up the cliff to get a better vantage of where I was and was stranded when a pack of wolves found me. I killed a few but ran out of ammo and they ate well. Without much effort you Should be able to recover 9 empty casings. I was reincarted back east in 1947 and now live in Arizona.

  3. It’s hard to believe the tree is 130 some years old. I think the rifle was laying down. The tree grew propped it up like it was found.

  4. Probably just forgotten . And since every tree looks the same could not be found again.

  5. ¿Nadie antes jamás había pasado por este mismo punto durante más de 130 años? ¿Tan inaccesible y escondido está? ¿No lo encuentra cualquier persona sino que lo descubre precisamente una arqueóloga que tiene conocimientos para valorarlo y datarlo?

  6. Wow,
    Could be so many stories. Maybe some sort of conflict, the owner ran out of ammunition. Maybe the owner was fatally wounded, laid the weapon against the tree and expired. The animals would have taken care of the body, but more than likely wouldn’t have bothered the rifle leading against the tree. Were they fighting the natives that were still living in the area?

    Maybe the person was bucked off of their horse, severely injured, they fired rounds in the air hoping someone would hear. Eventually ran out of ammunition and expired, leaning the rifle against the tree next to him or her. The animals would have taken care of the rest.

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