Archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada's Great Basin National Park stumbled across a bit of history when they found a 132-year-old Winchester Model 1873 rifle leaning against a juniper tree.
According to a Washington Post story, the .44-40 Winchester rifle was manufactured in 1882, and park staff are now searching through records and old newspaper articles trying to figure out how the rifle ended up resting against the tree. Officials believe the gun may have been left there undisturbed for more than 100 years. The rifle's wooden furniture had turned gray and the barrel had rusted, which authorities speculate made the firearm more difficult to spot in its surroundings.
Information on the National Park Service's website states that Great Basin was a mining site during the late 19th century, so the rifle's history could be associated with mining settlements. However, the area has also been used for grazing cattle and sheep, or the rifle could've been used for hunting in the region.
Dubbed "The Gun that Won the West," the Winchester Model 1873 featured an iron frame as opposed to the earlier Henry rifle's brass frame. More than 720,000 Model 1873 rifles were produced from 1873 to 1916, making it one of the most popular rifles of the era.
Experts are currently taking care of the rifle to ensure it doesn't further deteriorate. The 132-year-old rifle is scheduled to be returned to Great Basin National Park for the park's 30th birthday, where it will be on display for the public.
Check out this video from KSL-TV for more on the 132-year-old Winchester Model 1873.