Extraordinarily Rare and Important, Fully Documented Briggs Patent Henry Rifle Formerly of the Winch
Estimate: $180000 - $275000
One of less than 10 Briggs patent Henrys held in private hands. This is an extremely rare opportunity, possibly once in a lifetime to own what is essentially the first real Winchester rifle produced. This extremely important rifle represents a critical transition period from 1864-1865 where the New Haven Arms Company was dissolved and the Winchester Arms Company was established. From the beginning of the Civil War when the first shots were fired on Fort Sumpter until its conclusion in April of 1865 the technology and designs of firearms changed drastically. Reliable and effective repeating arms were among the foremost significant improvements that had come out of the Civil War. No other repeating firearm of the period is more famous than the Henry lever action rifle. Invented by Benjamin Tyler Henry and manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company, approximately 14,000 Henry rifles were manufactured during their production run. The Henry Rifle was advertised to shoot "sixty shots per minute" and was the gun Confederate troops joked; that it could be shot for days at a time before needing to be reloaded. While widely recognized and famous the Henry rifle had its flaws. In fact it is widely agreed by many firearms experts and historians that Spencer rifles and carbines were a far superior repeating weapon than the Henry. The main reason for this belief was the "exposed magazine" found on Henry rifle which was known to jam and fill with dirt while the Spencer had an enclosed magazine in the buttstock. Fast forward to the end of the Civil War which also coincides with the end of the New Haven Arms Company. It was precisely at this time when Benjamin Tyler Henry left the New Haven Arms Company which was subsequently dissolved and reorganized into the Winchester Arms Company under Oliver F. Winchester. It was Winchester's first priority to improve the design of the Henry rifle. The most noteworthy problems of the Henry Rifle were the previously mentioned "slotted" or "exposed" magazine which among other problems required heavier steel, leading to weight and balancing issues. The second problem was the sensitive loading gate which was known to be unstable, leading to loading malfunctions, breaking the magazine spring and others. This particular rifle, represents Winchesters first attempt to improve the design of the Henry Rifle making this the first real rifle manufactured under the Winchester banner. The Improved design was the work of George W. Briggs for which he was issued a patent on October 16, 1866. Brigg's patent was comprised of a sliding magazine tube which allowed cartridges to be loaded and held in an enclosed magazine tube. The magazine tube that Briggs built eliminated the "slot" and was a self contained magazine. The sliding loading gate was much more sturdy and while the sliding forearm acted to protect the loading mechanism from damage. In the mean time however, Nelson King, whom was hired as the factory superintendent who replaced Henry, was also working on a new design. King's design altered the receiver and called for a "loading port" or "loading gate" on the right side of the receiver. King's design was an improvement on a number of levels even on the Briggs design. King's design put an end to an exposed magazine of any kind. Even the Briggs Henry had to be pushed forward allowing the tube to be exposed. King's design also called for less steps when loading the weapon. King's design was the breakthrough Mr. Winchester was looking for which would immortalize the Winchester for decades to come. This rifle features a 24 inch round barrel secured by two barrel bands. The front sight is a Beeches folding globe sight. There is a rear dove tail cut out in the rear of the receiver. The tang is mounted with a Henry/1866 long range folding peep sight. The sliding iron forearm measures 6 inches. The forearm loading release button is on the right side of the forearm. The stock is a semi-deluxe walnut. No barrel address or serial numbers are visible on any exterior parts or components and no barrel address was ever stamped. One of the most intriguing features on the rifle are the Winchester proofs which are stamped on the barrel and the receiver. It is unclear how many of these Briggs patent Henry rifles were manufactured but it is in our belief that this example sat in the Winchester shop in the white as their factory example specimen. It was subsequently finished for preservation sometime after the turn of the century when it was mandated that anything that was passed through the shop would be proofed. This rifle was kept by the factory museum collection until it was sold in June of 1991 in the Musser Auction in Cody Wyoming which liquidated part of the museum collection. And so this rifle has sat for 20 years with its original owner. This particular rifle is extensively documented and photographed on pages 215-218 in the book "The Story of Benjamin Tyler Henry and His Famed
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