Special Guns

Together Again!
; .

These Winchester Model 1886 .45-70s were shipped from their
warehouse on the same day and are again reunited. At least
one was likely shipped to Hawaii.

For many gun buyers, the lure of getting guns with special stories or pairs with consecutive serial numbers is irresistible. My good friend, Kirk Stovall of Bozeman, Mont., has four sets of such special firearms. Two pairs are of modern manufacture and two pairs date from the late 19th century with interesting histories.

Contemporary Colts

Let’s start with more modern pairs. One set commemorates the 100th anniversary of Montana becoming a territory. These are gussied-up Colt SAA .45s with 7 ½” barrels wearing the serial numbers of 75MA and 76MA. The second pair I had something to do with as I was the original owner of one. Back in the late 1980s, Sako of Finland brought out a special run of bolt-action single shots chambered for the .22 PPC and 6mm PPC. They have reputations for extreme accuracy. I owned the 6mm but in a time of financial need early in my gun ’riting career, sold it to Kirk. Its serial number was 20. After many years Kirk happened on a Sako .22 PPC with a serial number of 21. He quickly nabbed it.

These above two sets of guns with consecutive serial numbers would be nice to have but the next two pairs will knock the socks off historically minded gun folk. One set has consecutive serial numbers complete with factory letters indicating the guns went somewhere historical. The other pair came from the same lot and sent out on the same day. What makes my mind fantasize is these rifles/carbines from the 19th century were shipped on the same day, then were separated for who knows how many years. And now, Kirk was able to reunite them in the 21st century.

A special destination for Sharps Model 1874 rifles in the collecting world was Walter Cooper’s gunsmithing and retail store located on the main street of Bozeman, Montana Territory in the 1870s. His store not only furnished firearms for bison hunters heading for eastern Montana but also supplied other paraphernalia needed for extended trips into wilderness areas. Mr. Cooper was noted for stamping the firearms passing through his shop with WALTER COOPER, BOZEMAN M.T.

Early on, the Sharps Rifle Company shipped directly to Mr. Cooper but things eventually took a turn. Mr. Cooper got behind on payments to the Sharps Company and was forced to stock his shop with Sharps rifles initially shipped to a large distributor in Cincinnati, Ohio named B.
Kittridge & Co. On August 20, 1877, Kittridge received a shipment of Sharps Model 1874s direct from the factory. We will return to that shipment shortly.

Evidently, Walter Cooper had definite ideas as to what configuration of Sharps Model 1874s was ideal for use in the wilds of Montana. Both of these “Cooper Sharps” are chambered for the .40-90 Sharps Bottleneck cartridge, have 30″ full octagon barrels and weigh about 13 lbs. with plain walnut stocks and forearms. These .40-90s don’t just sit in Kirk’s gun safes, he shoots them and has hunted with them.


Duke’s friend Kirk Stovall not only collects historical
guns but shoots and hunts with them.

Different Roads

Here’s where these two rifles’ historical trail forks. Among the B. Kittridge & Co. Sharps rifles received on August 20, 1877 were serial numbers 160707 and 160680. They factory-letter as Business Rifles, which were a special configuration of Sharps Model 1894s, with 28″ round barrels. Number 1606680 was shipped as .45 caliber and the other was shipped as a .40 caliber.

Evidently Cooper bought several of those August 20, 1877 Kittridge-shipped Sharps rifles including the two we’re talking about. He discarded their 28″ round barrels and replaced them with barrels made by a company or gunsmith named Davenport. Of course the replacement barrels were chambered for .40-90 Sharps Bottleneck. He then stamped his business name on the top barrel flat. After he sold them from his Bozeman shop, it’s anyone’s guess as to their travels for the next century or so.


Island Bound

The tale of this next set with consecutive numbers is rather convoluted. On August 8, 1890, two identical Winchester Model 1886 saddle ring .45-70 carbines were logged into the Winchester warehouse. They stayed there until January 19, 1891 when shipped on order #25470. Unfortunately, Winchester factory letters do not list destinations.

Here’s where matters get confusing. The letters say carbine #45538 was returned to WinchesterWinchester on January 22, 1893 by “S.H. Company.” However the letter for carbine # 45539 says it was returned on June 22, 1893 by the same company. Both were received in the warehouse on July 8, 1893. Then, both carbines were shipped from the warehouse again on August 7, 1893 on order #18398.

Personally speaking, I don’t think one of these carbines was shipped back in January, the other not until June, yet both arrived at the warehouse on the same day. My feeling is someone confused the two months when writing the records or typing the letters as all information in the two Winchester letters is totally identical except for the two months being different and of course one digit in the serial number.

Regardless, it’s possible or even probable both Winchester carbines have been in Hawaii because #45539 has carved rather neatly into the buttstock “CVE Dove.” Who was Mr. Dove? His descendants have a photo of him on a horse in a military-style uniform with a Winchester Model 1886 carbine. On the photo is inscribed “Honolulu Revolution 1893, Citizens Guard Cavalry Corps.” The Honolulu Revolution was a fracas over rule of the islands with complicated details too lengthy for here.

Were the Winchesters bought and shipped to Hawaii for arming a paramilitary organization? Is the one hanging on Mr. Dove the same one with his name carved into its buttstock? No one can positively answer those questions. Regardless, somewhere along the way these two carbines were separated. Now they are together again due to the efforts of Kirk Stovall.

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