Oct 27, 2015

Buffalo Bill Center of the West selling rifle replicas as fundraiser

The famed Model 1873 Winchester rifle has played many roles across the Western United States over the decades: an accessory for outlaws, a peacekeeper for lawmen and now, a fundraiser for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

In partnership with Navy Arms and Winchester Firearms, the Center of the West has created and is now selling a new “Centennial” edition of the historic rifle. All proceeds from the replicas’ sales will benefit the non-profit museum as it celebrates its 100-year anniversary in 2017.

The Centennial Model 1873 Winchester. Photo courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Winchester introduced the original version of the lever-action rifle in 1873, at a price of $50. By 1891, they were selling for $19.50 (or around $500 in today’s dollars).

Many frontiersmen bought the rifle — more than 720,000 were produced — and it became a firearms legacy, according to the Center of the West.

“It’s easy to see why the Model 1873 Winchester is widely known as the ‘Gun That Won the West.’ Its production run was so high that it became the everyman rifle of choice,” Ashley Hlebinsky, curator of the Center of the West’s Cody Firearms Museum, said in a statement. “Factor in its reputation expressed in movies and literature, this was one popular firearm.”

“To replicate the Model 1873 as our Centennial Rifle here at the Center of the West is incredibly special,” Hlebinsky added.

While the original Winchester was used by outlaws like Billy the Kid, cowboys and everyone in between, the new centennial replicas will have a much more limited customer base.

The Center of the West is producing just 200 “Exhibition Models” (they’ll sell for a not-so-everyman price of $7,995) and 1,000 “Presentation Models” (listed at $3,499.95). Center officials say the ornate rifles follow in the tradition of the museums’ namesake — William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody — who gave highly embellished Winchester rifles to his friends and business associates.

One side of the rifle depicts Buffalo Bill Cody on horseback. Photo courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West
The new replicas include some unique local touches: the rifles’ buttplates, receivers, and nose caps are being completed at Wyoming Armory in Cody, the left sideplate is engraved with the iconic bison that graces Wyoming’s flag and the right sideplate features a rendering of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s iconic sculpture “The Scout,” which depicts Buffalo Bill Cody on horseback.

The Center of the West began in 1917 as “a quest to preserve the legacy and legend” of Buffalo Bill. It’s grown from one small building to five museums that house more than 50,000 artifacts and many books, manuscripts and photographs.

The Centennial Model 1873 Winchester rifles are expected to be ready for delivery in January 2017.

To learn more, visit www.codygun.com.

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