A lone, rusted rifle has piqued the interest of the entire world. While conducting a routine survey in one of Nevada’s national parks, last November, a group of archaeologists came across a 132-year-old Winchester rifle, resting against the trunk of a juniper tree. Famously called “the gun that won the West”, the firearm is one of the several models designed by New Haven-based Winchester Repeating Arms Company, between 1873 and 1916. Given the mysterious nature of the find, park officials are planning to carry out a thorough investigation as to how the gun ended up at its present location.
Retrieved from the Great Basin National park, the object was spotted by a employee in one of the park‘s remote corners. Exposed to nature’s elements for over 100 hundreds, the rifle’s steel barrel has rusted to a dark shade of brown, closely resembling the earthy colors of the juniper tree. Additionally the wood stock, faded to a grey hue, features a deep crack running along its length. The park’s spokesperson said:
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.
Established in the year 1986, the Great Basin National Park shelters some of the world’s oldest pine trees. Additionally, it is home to a wide variety of animals, along with 238 species of birds. The extremely dry area, located near the Nevada-Utah border, was mainly used for ranching during the time when the gun was originally sold. According to the officials, the markings on the rifle confirms it as the famed Winchester Model 1873. One of the most popular guns of the period, the company manufactured as many as 720,610 rifles, until production was stopped in 1916. In the year 1882, alone, over 25,000 of these were sold. Speaking about the significance of the discovery, Nichole Andler, the park’s chief of interpretation said:
The rifle, exposed for all those years to sun, wind, snow and rain, was found leaning against a tree in the park… Right now there are more questions than answers. We know it has been out there awhile because the stock was buried in dirt. But we do not know for how exactly how long. What we do know is the ‘Model 1873′ distinctively engraved on the mechanism identify the rifle as the Winchester Model 1873 repeating rifle.
Using the serial number engraved on the lower tang, Andler traced the history of the abandoned rifle. Upon matching the collected data with the records preserved by the Cody Firearms Museum, the team was able to confirm the manufacturing and shipping date as 1882. The 1873 models were initially available for $50, but were later marketed as “everyman’s rifle” with a price of only $25. The rifle, recovered from the park, is currently being stabilized and fixed to prevent the cracked portion from further damage. Following that, it will be exhibited as part of the celebrations of the park’s 30th birthday. Andler said:
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. Our staff is currently doing research to try to figure out who owned the gun.
Meanwhile, people continue to speculate as to how the rifle could remain hidden for so many years. For some, however, the discovery is not quite the big mystery as other believe it to be. Kenneth Larson said:
No big mystery… A hunter left it. Set it against the tree, took care of the deer, drug it or packed it out on a horse. Got to the bottom and realized he’d left the rifle and said screw it. Or went back and couldn’t find it.
Via: Fox News