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Colt 1883 Burgess

Burgess Rifle: Greatness Short Lived
Andrew Burgess’s lever-action rifle produced by Colt may have had too short a lifespan.

One hundred twenty-seven years ago, Colt introduced a lever-action rifle that shook the foundation at the Winchester facility. The Colt model 1883 Burgess rifle featured several improvements to the Winchester 1873, and since the quality of Colt products rivaled that of Winchester, the threat to its bread-and-butter lever action was profound and very real. In previous years, Winchester simply bought out any patents or improvements to its line, but Colt was simply too big to takeover. Legend has it that representatives from Winchester paid a social visit to Colt and brought along a pair of prototype revolvers, informing the brass at Colt that the New Haven folks were looking at getting into the revolver market. However, if Colt discontinued its lever action, Winchester might reconsider such a costly investment. Colt relented, and Winchester discontinued the revolver project.

A lever action .44-40 caliber magazine rifle with a 25 ½” octagon barrel. A grand total of 6,403 Colt-Burgess rifles were produced making them quite rare. If more were made and it was given time to catch-on and make a name for itself it was thought that the Colt would have given the famous Winchester ’73 a run for its money.
The Burgess had another distinctive physical feature: Instead of a loading gate, the rifle had a spring-loaded sliding cover with a slight lip. Cartridges were pushed straight ahead, then down into the tubular magazine, rather than pressed down and forward as with the Winchester. Additionally, unlike the Winchester ’73, the Burgess did not have the additional trigger safety that was released by fully closing the lever. The result was a more graceful lever, somewhat akin to future Winchester models 1886 and 1892.

The Burgess rifle debuted in 1882 as Colt’s New Magazine Rifle. Two models were offered: a 12-shot carbine with a 20-inch barrel and a 15-shot rifle available in 251⁄2-inch round, octagon and half-octagon barrel. The guns were blued, with case-hardened lever and hammer, and the blued barrels bore a two-line stamped Colt manufacturing legend. The Burgess name was stamped on the lower tang, underneath the lever. Some rifles had a sliding trapdoor in the buttstock for storing a four-piece cleaning rod.


Manufacturer: Uberti (540) 722-2017
Importer: Taylor & Co.
Model: Model 1883 Burgess
Action: Lever-action rifle
Caliber: .45 Colt (tested), .44-40 WCF
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Magazine Capacity: 10+1
Rifling: 1:16” RH
Sights: Front dovetail post; rear buckhorn adjustable for windage and elevation
Safety: Trigger block
Stock: Walnut
Drop at comb/heel: 1 inch/1 7/8 inches
Length: 37 1/4 inches
Weight: 6 lbs., 12 oz.

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