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1882 Winchester rifle found in Great Basin National Park

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GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK — Great Basin National Park employees are trying to solve the mystery of an 132-year-old Winchester rifle found in the park.

The rifle was found and recovered by park archaeologists in November, according to the Great Basin National Park Facebook page. The firearm was found leaning against a tree in a remote rocky outcrop. Park officials believe the rifle hadn’t been located sooner because the weathered, cracked wood stock and brown rusted barrel blended into the juniper tree.

The rifle was identified as a model 1873 Winchester repeating rifle because of the distinct engraving on the mechanism of “Model 1873,” according to the national park. The serial number on the firearm corresponds with manufacture and shipping records dating to 1882, held at the Center for the West Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming. However, the records don’t indicate who purchased the rifle or where it was shipped to, the national park said.

Between 1873 and 1916, 720,610 model 1873 rifles were manufactured and in 1882 alone, more than 25,000 were made, according to the national park. The rifles sold for around $50 when they were first produced, then sold for $25 in 1882 when they became more popular. The model 1873 Winchester became known as “everyman’s” rifle, the national park said.

Great Basin National Park officials are researching newspaper archives and family histories to learn more about the rifle they discovered. The rifle was transported to a conservatory so the wood can be stabilized and to prevent further deterioration. When it is returned to the park, it will be displayed as part of the Great Basin National Park 30th birthday celebration and the National Park Service centennial celebration.

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Faith Heaton Jolley


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