Published: June 9, 2020
By Greg Smith
DENVER, PENN. – Annie Oakley’s custom-made Stevens Model 44 .24-20 single-shot rifle sold for $528,900 in Morphy Auctions’ $6.4 million Extraordinary Firearms sale May 28-29.
“Little Miss Sure Shot’s” rifle was custom engraved by Stevens, a firm that became known for their accurate rifles. Morphy Auctions described the detail as: “Left side of frame features the name ‘Annie Oakley’ and the right side ‘Nutley N.J.’ . . . The rifle has a 28-inch octagon to round barrel and is chambered in .25-20 caliber. Top barrel flat is marked in two lines at the breech ‘J. Stevens A.& T. CO./Chicopee Falls Mass. U.S.A. PAT. APR. 17.94.’ Left side barrel flat is marked at breech: ‘25.20.’ Large German silver blade front sight and ‘Rocky Mountain’ style rear barrel sight. Gold plated frame and lever. The barrel, hammer, trigger, screws and falling breech block are richly blued. Full figured deluxe walnut stock and forearm is finely checkered with ribbons and fleur-de-lis. Schnabel forearm tip. Beautifully detailed checkered hard rubber buttplate featuring a large stag and marked in banners: ‘Stevens, Chicopee*Falls Mass. U.S.A.'”
Morphy Auctions’ firearms expert Michael Salisbury said this is the second highest result for an Annie Oakley firearm at auction.
“It is without a doubt the highest condition example in existence,” Salisbury said. “The gun is near mint. The fact that her name, Annie Oakley, is factory engraved on the side, that’s sort of unique. There are some others known that have that, but just a couple of them.”
The engraved locale, Nutley Farm, N.J., also bears significance, as it was the town of Oakley and her husband Frank Butler’s first home. They designed it themselves and moved for Christmas of 1893, the same year Stevens designed the present firearm.
“The model 44 action – it changed over a period of time – but that absolutely was the genesis of Stevens’ most successful firearm,” Salisbury said. “All of their single shot accurate rifles were the result of this particular style gun.”
Firearms companies clamored to give Annie Oakley one of their guns, mainly for publicity and prestige purposes. Salisbury said there are pictures of Oakley as she toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show where she lined the entire perimeter of her tent with her firearms collection.
“She had a lot of guns that she shot, but very few guns that she coveted,” Salisbury said. “She must have adored this gun, because she didn’t shoot it. It stayed home in Nutley.”
For additional information, www.morphyauctions.com or 877-968-8880.
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