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Lot 1035: Scarce Retailer Marked Winchester 1886 "50 Express" Rifle with P. Orr & Sons Madras Marking
by Rock Island Auction Company
December 1, 2012
Rock Island, IL, USALive Auction
Estimate: $7500 - 9500
This desirable Winchester 1886 lever action rifle is chambered in the rare and desirable big "50 EX" cartridge. This specific rifle also carries the very desirable British proofmarks and is engraved on the barrel "Made For P. Orr & Sons. Madras." Now here is a rifle that if it could talk, could probably tell some real stories of "Big Game" hunting in the early 1900s in Madras India, now renamed Chennai. This city is actually located on the lower East side of India, about 200 km from the Sri-Venkateswarna National Park which was probably a major hunting area 120 years ago when this rifle arrived there. The 50 Express cartridge was touted by Winchester as an early Big Game, Lion and Elephant hunting cartridge and this rifle was clearly ordered by the Orr Company, probably intended to be used as their own personal hunting rifle in the early 1900s. The "P. Orr Company" was probably the most famous of all the watch and silver smiths working in India over the last 130 years. The brothers Peter and Alexander Orr emigrated from Scotland to India in 1843; Alexander, a lawyer set up his shop and flourished in his trade, while Peter, a well known watch and Chronometer maker also formally established his company in 1847 in Madras India. His business remained in continuous operation until 1967 when the company was sold to a private Silversmith Group in India. They were known as the "Timekeepers to Madras" for their operation of a large clock tower in the center of the city that housed their business. They were well know for the sale of the fine timepieces, and exquisite silver jewelry as well as for a brief time, firearms to wealthy and royal patrons throughout Southern India. The late 1800s and early 1900s was the heyday of Big Game hunting in India by many wealth British land owners and Aristocrats. This rare rifle has the standard two-line Winchester factory markings on top of the barrel in front of the rear sight and as noted is marked on the left rear flat "Made For P. Orr & Sons. Madras. The "50 EX" markings are on top of the barrel directly in front of the receiver. The rear left side of the barrel carries the British proofmarks of ".50 2.40" "110 GRS BLACKPOWDER 300 GRS BULLET", followed by the British Cross-scepters proofmark. The left side of the receiver and top of the breech bolt also carry the British "Crown/BP" proof marks as used by the Birmingham Proof house. It has the later one-line Winchester "MODEL 1886" model marking on the upper tang with the serial number "125485" stamped on the lower tang. It is fitted with a straight grip walnut stock with crescent steel buttplate with a recurve toe and walnut forend with a special order button magazine. It has the standard half-nickel sporting blade front sight with adjustable sporting rear sight.
BBL: 26 inch octagon
Gauge: 50 express
Serial Number: 125485
Condition: Very good as period refurbished with most of the typical British blue finish on all the metal parts, which has dulled and darkened over time. The British were renowned for refurbishing American guns as they felt our blue finish was rather fragile for the time and it was. The reoiled stock and forend are both fine with handling marks and light pressure dents in various places from actual hunting use. The markings and proofmarks are very sharp and distinct. Mechanically excellent.