Review text and images by Mark "Blondie" Ormerod.

The Winchester 1873 was introduced as a steel-framed replacement for the earlier .44 under-powered Rimfire based 1866 rifle. The 1873 was a phenomenal success - ensuring that Oliver Winchester's name would forever be synonymous with this icon of the old west. The steel frame replaced the weaker bronze receiver and the centrally located firing pin permitted quick reloading. Coupled with the ability to reload the new .44 WCF cartridge with simple hand tools (a real boon in the "old west") the new rifle was an runaway success, promopting one plaudit to quip : "The .44-40 has killed more game, large and small, and more men, good and bad, than any other cartridge in history." One knock on effect of the success of 1873 was that by 1878, Colt started offering the .44-40 as a chambering for its single-action revolvers - the idea being that you would only need to worry about 1 grade of ammunition in your saddlebags for both your revolver and your rifle.

A 45/55 metallic cartridge was made available for army use (dubbed the "Cavalry") with an effective killing range of 1000 yards - or 600 in the shorter version - as opposed to the "Civillian"'s - still impressive for the period - 200 yard range. Like that other classic of the old west - the S.A.A. - the 1873 remains in production today. The modern 1873 is manufactured under license by the Italian company Uberti and their subsidury - Uberti U.S.A. Sadly, despite their success in supplying arms during World War I, Winchester fell foul of the subsequent Depression.

KTW Winchester 1873 Carbine

With the growing popularity of "Cowboy Sports Shooting" in Japan and the endearing legacy of the Western genre worldwide, as well as rise in "themed" gaming - the lack of an Airsoft replica of the Winchester 1873 Carbine ("The Gun That Won the West") has been a prominent gap in the market for some time.

Marushin recently had a stab with their gas powered 1873 Maxi Carbine - which although it looked the part, was sadly, a technical failure with little power in the unlikely event of it working. A great pity - as after the excellent M1 Carbine we had high hopes. Maybe they'll finally hit the winning formula when they update to an 8mm version.

So to 2004 and a new release from KTW - the Korean firm previously with a reputation for some unusual (the Ithaca Masterkey comes to mind) but not particularly powerful or high quality shotgun releases. At the other end of the scale KTW are also known for some gorgeous looking but astronomically expensive items - such as the Lee Enfield reproduction

Inside the box are the barrel plug, a manual (with English translations that actually rate around 8/10 - compared to the usual japlish gibberish), a spare 37 round clip in addition to the one provided already in place and of course, the 1873 itself. There is very little ABS or plastic in the 1873 itself - aside from (sadly, but more of this later) the spring guide. The wood effect stock and grip desppite being ABS are excellent - in fact one of the best wood effects I've seen on a piece (better than TM's AK47 for example). Aside from a couple of seam marks on the metal casting of the receiver - it certainly looks and feels the part and its best to let the pictures tell the story here.

Only one trademark is present - on the receiver base is clearly visible "Winchester 1873" - and there is no reference anywhere on the piece to either KTW or ASGK except for a small logo and the words "Don Sang Model" on the metal butt plate.

So onto firing the piece. First off, the magazine is similar to that found in KTW's shotguns - in that it is a hollow tube holding 37 rounds in sequence - its easy enough to load by hand although I missed having another awful loading tool to moan about. Inserting and removing the magazine is an easy enough process - push the cap which forms the end of the lower "barrel" in - twist 45 degrees clockwise and out it comes. The process is reversed, somewhat obviously, to load it.

The cocking action replicates the real thing - and anyone who has seen Lee Van Cleef on screen will instantly recognise the distinctive forward and backwards movement which cocks the pieces' bolt. There is a fair bit of resistance - but its feels (and sounds) authentic, smooth and responsive - and can be done one handed. Its an absolute pleasure to cock this weapon. The sites are identical to the "real steel" equivalent - even to the extent that the rear sight can be raised vertically to allow for long range markmanship and the "dropping" of the bullet - a nice touch even if surperfluous for Airsoft.

They are easy to use and whilst the trigger pull is quite stiff with a definite break point, thanks to the size and weight of the piece (2 kilos) I didn't see any issues with my target aquisition being adversely affected. Firing isn't particualrly loud but there's a good feel and satisfying crack. Despite the lack of reference in the manual or in fact any successful attempt on our part to locate it, the 1873 suprises in that it has a fixed hop. This initally sent 0.2's vertical but thankfully seemed to settle down after roughly a magazine to send them perfectly horizontal - with 0.25's dropping sightly - just short of a normal stock AEG range.

There is also one other feature of operating the 1873. The ability to cock it twice and fire 2 BB's at once - dropping range by around a third. This is obviously a throwback to their shotguns and not something I suspect you'll be using a lot. Its perfectly possible to cock the 1873 without losing your bead on the target. Accuracy is good and as you would expect with a long barrel and fixed hop the piece is consistent delivering 260FPS with a 0.2g BB.

An interesting feature of the 1873 is in terms of its limited upgradability. I'm not going to talk about real steel parts - being that they're simply too expensive to source - either from antiques and (real 1873's are eminently collectable) or the expensive modern Uberti iteration. According to KTW, Crab Apple Works will be producing "oil stained" wood replacements soon - but as to their availability or pricing there is no news yet. The 1873 takes a standard AEG spring - so before you get excited (yes, its theoretically possible to get a 500 FPS sniper piece ...) I wouldn't recommend pushing it higher than an M100 or PDI120 - giving 310-320. Why ?

That plastic spring guide I mentioned earlier plus you'll be putting too much resistant on the already strong cocking action - something that I doubt either yourself (or the rifle!) will be happy to take on.

KTW have delivered a weighty, lovely looking piece - the ABS grips are forgivable because they simply look so nice - that is an accurate mid range rifle and eminently skirmishable for those who want to inject a bit of style into their play. The ability to increase the power slightly is a boon and this is certainly recommended as both a collector's and a skirmisher's answer to their 1873 needs.

Mark "Blondie" Ormerod.

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