Winchester 1886 Called Most Expensive Single Gun Ever Auctioned

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For a rifle of its age, Lawton’s Winchester 1886 #1 was in “Excellent” condition at the time of its sale in April. The barrel and magazine retained 95% of the original blue finish. The receiver shown here retained 90% of the original case colors. Photo courtesy of Rock Island Auction Company.
For a rifle of its age, Lawton’s Winchester 1886 #1 was in “Excellent” condition at the time of its sale in April. The barrel and magazine retained 95% of the original blue finish. The receiver shown here retained 90% of the original case colors. Photo courtesy of Rock Island Auction Company.

A Model 1886 Winchester rifle presented to Henry Ware Lawton, a U.S. Army captain widely credited with capturing Apache leader Geronimo, is now the most expensive single firearm ever sold at auction after drawing $1.26 million at Rock Island Auction Company’s April sale.

According to Rock Island Auction Company (RIAC), other guns have sold higher as a pair, but no other single firearm surpasses this new world record.

The Winchester Model 1886 Sporting Rifle (serial number 1) was presented to Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Henry W. Lawton by fellow Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, friend and influential firearms designer and noted friend of the Browning family Lieut. George E. Albee. The rifle and a gold pocket watch were presented to Capt. Lawton by the “Cattlemen of Central New Mexico” as a token of their appreciation for his service in the capture of the Apache Indian Chief Geronimo and his band in 1886.

“It is an honor to be entrusted with an American treasure,” said Rock Island Auction Company President Kevin Hogan. “Being serial number one and possessing such outstanding condition would alone be enough to draw six figures at auction. When you add one of the most famous names in the history of the Old West you have a huge crossover appeal and set the stage for something special to happen.”

In the summer of 1886, a force under the command of Capt. Lawton and Capt. Charles Gatewood pursued Geronimo and other hostile Chiricahua Apaches into Mexico and the Arizona territory. In September 1886, Gatewood and Lawton found Geronimo and negotiated the surrender of the last band of hostile Apaches to the U.S. Army. Lawton and Gatewood escorted the Apaches to San Antonio for holding before the band was transferred to Florida.

Albee, a friend of Lawton’s from the Civil War, worked for Winchester and was able to secure serial number “1” of the company’s newest rifle design in 1886. He presented it to his old war buddy and lifelong friend to commemorate Lawton’s remarkable achievement.

Watch the video below for more about this remarkable rifle. Or click on the links below to read a detailed account of the men involved with the rifle.

The Capture of Geronimo, Part I

The Capture of Geronimo, Part II

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