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William Frank “Doc” Carver was one of the great bullshit artists of his day. But the man could shoot—both on and off the field. The late nineteenth century New York Times called the ex-dentist “as fine a specimen of fully developed manhood as ever walked on Manhattan Island. More than six feet high, every part of his body is built to correspond. His chest is so deep that it would take a powerful rifle to send a bullet through it.” Doc performed unparalleled acts of marksmanship IN NEW YORK CITY. Carver continued his ballistic feats IN ENGLAND. When Doc returned stateside he set up a Wild West Show with his arch rival that increased both his fame and fortune. The above Winchester was a present to one of Dod’c ballistic BFFs. I reckon a Winchester in this condition that wasn’t one of Doc’s long guns is . . . meh. Still good to see the Carver name get a little free publicity. Again. Still. Press release from auction house after the jump . . .

Press release:

LONDON – A rifle that encapsulates the magic of the Wild West will be included in Gavin Gardiner Ltd’s final auction of 2012, of Fine Modern and Vintage Sporting Guns and Rifles, which will take place on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond Street, London. Belonging to “Doc” Carver, “Champion Shot of the World”, who was a well known sharpshooter and contemporary of Buffalo Bill Cody, the major parts are from a .44 wcf model 1873 lever action rifle and are estimated at £800-1,200 . . .

It is inscribed “Presented to My Friend Charles A. Gillig by Dr Wm F. Carver, Dec 14 1880”. “Doc” Carver trained as a dentist, however it was his career as a showman and champion rifle shot for which he is remembered.

As a friend of Cody’s he acquired considerable notoriety as a rifle shot. Following his success he toured extensively and arrived in Europe in 1879 shooting at matches and exhibitions in front of Nobility and Royalty. He had a significant engagement in London at the Crystal Palace at around the time that this rifle was presented.

Upon his return from Europe he entered in to partnership with Buffalo Bill to produce a Wild West show, “Wild West”. After the first season they parted ways, and the show now known as “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” went on to achieve international recognition.

Carver continued to tour on a smaller scale for the rest of his life, famously incorporating a Diver Horse act in to the show. This element was continued by members of his family until the 1970s.

Gavin Gardiner commented: “Although the gun is on poor condition and incomplete, it comes from a period when the traveling wild west show captured the imagination of the world. Doc Carver was a business partner of Buffalo Bill as well as being renowned as a marksman and “Champion rifle shot of the world”. He toured Europe extensively from 1879 to 1881, including a long engagement at Crystal Palace where he shot and performed in front of Royalty. It is believed that this rifle was presented during this engagement.”

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  1. “Although the gun is on poor condition and incomplete, it comes from a period when the traveling wild west show captured the imagination of the world.”

    It’s still a thoroughly busted-ass rifle. I’m not feelin’ it.

  2. “It is inscribed “Presented to My Friend Charles A. Gillig by Dr Wm F. Carver, Dec 14 1880″.

    — A gift from Doc Carver to another man makes the Winchester Doc’s gun? I think it is Charles Gillig’s gun for sale.

  3. The poor thing. It looks like some child used it as a toy gun.
    We must pass a law banning cruelties and mistreatment of guns. The liberals blame guns and less so people. Therefore, guns are human too and deserve special hate crime protection from abusive owners.

  4. I don’t know why a London auction house is even handling that remains of an American gun such as that. It isn’t just that it’s missing the side plates and lockwork… someone tried to fit a shotgun buttstock to that rifle and did a really poor job of it. Between the rust, the missing parts and the botched furniture… I dunno. Maybe a couple hundred bucks if the provenance bears out?

    But I highly recommend that people go to the auctioneer’s site:

    Click on the picture of the double gun… and flip through their auction book. There’s some stuff in there like the Winchester above… but there’s also some very fine guns. For TTAG readers who have never seen “London best guns,” I highly recommend that you peruse the auction book. You will see some Very Nice Guns, from name houses like Purdey, Westley Richards, Boss & Co., F. Beesley… a Scottish gunmaker, Dickson has several very nice pieces in there. There’s also a small number of custom rifles built on Mauser actions and a couple of very interesting Lugers.

    • Lots 248 & 249, on pages 75 & 76, by John Dickson & Son… The Damascus barrels on those guns are absolutely gorgeous. I’ve dated girls that weren’t as pretty as those barrels. Is that a weird thing to say?

      • No, it isn’t.

        There’s a silent film available out there from 1923 or so, shot in the last remains of Belgium’s damascus barrel industry that showed how damascus barrels were made and some of the artistry that the old men (then) could accomplish.

        The pinnacle of the film shows the name of Zénobe Gramme, a Belgian electrical engineer who discovered the first practical DC electric motor, forged into the barrel steel of a damascus barrel. Absolutely stunning work. If you thought chain damascus was nice to look at… wait until you see someone’s name (in cursive, no less) show up when a pair of barrels is etched.

        A true gun aficionado who had an Israeli model in his lap would jump to his feet and dump her to the ground if some of the very best Liege damascus barreled shotguns were waved in front of him. They’re that jaw-droppingly stunning… and sadly, the art is quite nearly completely lost to us today.

        • Why is that? I imagine it’s that it was so labor-intensive as to be cost-prohibitive, leading to low enough demand that the people who did it stopped, and then died off, without training new people? And I’m guessing this was before manufacturing processes were documented to the degree they are now, but were simply passed down person to person?

        • It was highly labor intensive, and skilled labor at that.

          The other reason what that when smokeless powder came out, damascus barrels started acquiring a rep as “too weak,” even tho WW Greener took it upon himself to prove that well constructed damascus barrels could handle more or hotter proof loads than fluid steel barrels.

          Ultimately, it was about cost of production. Fluid steel barrels are pud-easy to make compared to even wire twist damascus barrels.

          Most of the damascus barrel production leading up to WWI had been cut back to Liege, Belgium, and after WWI, the rapid industrialization of the armaments industry during the war revolutionized the civilian arms manufacturing sector – and, IMO, not for the better.

  5. That rifle, a gift from a famous American to an Englishman, we can still see the contempt the English held America and Americans. I think it should be sent to a living relative of Doc’s at no charge. Imagine what it will look like in another under years of sitting in the corner holding the door closed and filling with water. They could at the very least put the poor thing out of its misery and humiliation.

  6. Interesting catalog. Some lovely arms in there, but also some real crap. A Pflueger Medalist fly reel? GMAFB.

    • Yes, right you are. I do not understand why any auction house would want such stuff taking up their time and reputation.

  7. It looks like something that was turned in at one of those “no questions asked” gun buybacks. Does it come with a grocery card?

  8. Only in England would that be considered a gun. Yeah, I know the receiver is what the BATF defines as a gun, but that poor mistreated Winchester is barely suitable as a lamp base. Makes me wonder what in the world happened to this poor rifle? I mean, usually a firearm enscribed and given as a gift from a famous person becomes a treasured family heirloom. Something that is owned with pride and well taken care of. Seems this mangled mess of metal was misused as a rug beater, roach smasher, club, hammer and pry bar….. everything except for shooting. Makes me sad to even look at it. I have my great-great-grandfather’s shotgun hanging on the wall. It’s a clunky early breach loading 12 ga. from the later 1800’s of little actual value and has had the stock cut down, and then relengthened by nailing a piece of wood to the butt end for when the kid that cut it down grew into a man. But there is no rust on it, the bore is clean and bright, even though the last person to fire it died in 1952, because I take it down periodically and clean and oil it. I do this because it has value to me as a tie back 5 generations before me. I’d never EVER let it fall into the neglected state of this rifle. SAD, SAD thing to look at.

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