The Model 1873 Winchester lever-action rifle was introduced as an improvement to the Model 1866 Winchester. Manufactured until 1919, over 720,000 1873’s were produced. The 1873 had the King’s patent loading gate on the side of the frame as on the Model 1866. The 1873 was the first Winchester with a steel frame, rather than the bronze frame found on the 1866. While the 1866 was in .44 rimfire caliber, the 1873 was introduced in the new .44 WCF centerfire caliber—a great improvement over the rimfire cartridge. In addition to the steel frame, the 1873 Model had a sliding dustcover and a trapdoor buttplate.
While the original 1873 Winchester was available as a standard 24-inch barrel rifle or as a 20-inch barrel carbine, any barrel length within reason was available on special order. Those with barrels shorter than the 20-inch carbine, such as a 15-inch barrel .44 WCF 1873 manufactured in 1887, were known as “Trappers.” And the model 1892 Winchester large loop lever-action that we first saw John “Duke” Wayne use in the classic Western movie Stagecoach had a 15-inch barrel, making it easier for him to spin cock.
I have been fascinated by short-barrel lever-action rifles since seeing a photograph of an authenticated Overland Mail and Express Company stagecoach guard custom 1866 Winchester in the Nov/Dec 1961 issue of Gun World magazine. This professional gunfighter’s rifle had a 12-inch barrel, no forend or sights. And then there was Hollywood’s version, the Mare’s Laig 1892 Winchester with its barrel cut back to the forearm, as used by future superstar Steve McQueen in TV’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” So when I needed a lever-action rifle, I wanted the shortest barrel available, which in Cimarron’s catalog is 16 inches.
Let me make something clear—Cimarron Firearms is a firearm importer, not a manufacturer. The 1873 Trapper
rifle is manufactured to their specifications by A. Uberti of Italy. Internally it is the same as any A. Uberti 1873 model, except for the magazine follower and magazine spring. These are patented by Cimarron Firearms, and allow one to load 10 cartridges in the short magazine. My vintage Rossi 1892 with 16-inch barrel would only hold nine .38 Special. Cartridges. I tried my new Trapper with both .357 Mag and .38 Special. Winchester CAS loads and was able to load 10 rounds of either in the short magazine tube, and functioning was perfect with either cartridge. This allows one to use .38 Special light loads for CAS competition and .357 Mag for hunting.
The barrel is marked on top “CIMARRON’S REPEATING ARMS, FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS, U.S.A.” and “-KING’S IMPROVEMENT PATENTED MARCH 29 1866, OCTOBER 16 1860-” in two lines. The upper stock tang is marked in script “ MODEL 1873,” and the lower tang is marked “ A. UBERTI – ITALY” and the serial number.
The front blade sight is integral with the front barrel band, and the rear sight is an adjustable ladder sight. The mortised dustcover, which slides in two grooves, makes this a copy of the first variation 1873 Winchester. The Trapper is finished in a deep blue with all external screws being an attractive fire-blue finish, while the lever and hammer are color casehardened.
As mentioned previously, this trapper is finished to Cimarron Firearms’ specifications. The wood-to-metal fit is exceptionally fine, and the fire-blue screws are an attractive plus. The buttstock and forend are walnut with considerable fancy grain. Like an 1873 Winchester carbine, the Trapper has a crescent buttplate. The catalog weight is 7.35 pounds. The Cimarron Firearms 1873 Trapper is a beautiful example of the Italian-made Winchester clone.
I had successfully used my new 1873 Trapper in two local CAS matches before I had the opportunity to shoot it on paper. My favorite casual sport shooting is plinking at targets of opportunity such as fired shotgun shells, empty .22 rimfire cartridge boxes and aluminum soda cans. But for this “target” session, I shot offhand standing rapid fire at traditional paper bulls-eye targets at 15 yards. This distance is indicative of most rifle shots in CAS matches.
The ammunition used was Black Hills .357 Mag CAS load with a 158-grain semi-wad cutter lead bullet and Winchester .38 Special CAS load with lead 158-grain round nose flat tip bullet. Both loads shot high at this distance, with the .38s hitting 1.5 inches above point of aim and the .357s hitting 2.5 inches high. My best five-shot group measured 1.63 inches center-to-center of the farthest shots. This was supposed to be a 10-shot group, but my target holder fell over and rotated the target 90 degrees. My best ten shots with .357 Mag grouped in 2.75 inches. Windage for both loads was perfect. While far from minute of angle accuracy, this is easily minute of SASS bad guy target accuracy. And the bonus is this beautiful Cimarron 1873 Trapper short barrel rifle will serve double duty as an excellent home defense gun. I like it. Find out more by calling 830-997-9090 or by visiting cimarron-firearms.com.