39. Extremely Rare Serial Number 1 Winchester Model 51 Imperial Bolt Action Rifle

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serial #1, .27 cal. (became the 270 Win), 22'' barrel with a bright excellent, likely unfired, bore. This is the very first of a series of very rare rifles, only 24 total having been produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The father of this rifle was Winchester's P14/M1917 production military rifle, some forward-thinking individuals in the company anticipating the day when the military contracts would cease and the buying public would need sporting arms. This example is in takedown configuration, a Thomas Johnson design patented in 1921. The barrel retains about 97% original blue, the only real loss being a number of very light, short radial scratches left and right side of barrel ahead of the forend (likely someone's attempt to take the rifle barrel down some years ago when they were unfamiliar with the mechanism). The heavy action and bottom metal retain a similar amount of original blue, the high edges and contact points showing only light wear with the knob of the handle showing some toning to pewter. These fine rifles were assembled one-at-a-time and hand-built, the first four or so in the factory's model shop, the next 20 in the actual gunsmithing shop. The large ungainly sight protecting ears were done away with and the rear sight bridge was milled for a wide dovetail which was fitted with a long-range windage and elevation adjustable aperture sight, or could accommodate a rear scope base which would be used in conjunction with the factory drilled and tapped holes atop the front ring. The dog leg bolt handle was retained, however a very nice sporting shroud was designed and milled for the bolt which featured a pivoting thumb safety, not unlike Springfield rifle safeties of the Krag and '03. The triggerguard was lengthened and a hinged floorplate fitted and plans were even drawn up for double set trigger versions. The buttstock is classic style with a lovely checkered pistolgrip with bordered panels, the forend with a very graceful schnabel style with a wrap-around bordered pattern. The wood on this example rates excellent showing only the very sparsely scattered very light dings or handling marks from the years, the butt areas showing some shimmering grain figure. Additionally the rifle is fitted with sling eyes and there is a banded sporting front ramp which has a simple square-top blade sight. The rear of the barrel has a two-leaf express-style v-notch rear sight in place and the aforementioned aperture sight is on the rear receiver ring. The aperture sight itself is quality through-and-through and must've been very costly to make. The mechanism is very simple, there is a single screw in the center of the takedown boss at the front of the receiver, it is withdrawn and the barrel screws off clockwise (counterclockwise if viewed from the front). The barrel on this example is marked above the chamber ''27 Cal.'' and both barrel and receiver are of course Winchester proofed; this chambering would become the venerable 270 Winchester, and would be officially introduced by Winchester in 1925. The arms as-mentioned were extremely well made and were designed to court an affluent buyer and represent the first modern commercial high power bolt action sporting rifle ever produced by a major American manufacturer. Unfortunately Frank Drew, one of Winchester's vice presidents during this period, was a huge proponent of lever action rifles and deemed bolt action sporting rifles to be unsalable. He and his supporters finally curried favor with the Board of Directors and in February 1920 the Model 51 project was canceled after being very short-lived. (Drew would become president of Winchester in 1924 and after seeing the commercial success of the Remington Model 30 would put the company's efforts and money into the development of the Winchester Model 54 bolt action centerfire sporting rifle). The serial number ''1'' is stamped on many component parts of this rifle, and the arm is wonderful not only in condition but in workmanship and quality of materials. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the advanced Winchester collector to obtain one of the rarest, and arguably one of the finest, of the Winchester bolt action sporting rifles ever to leave New Haven. (38865-40) {C&R} (10,000/20,000) Sold For 24150.00

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