Most Expensive Single Gun Ever Auctioned Draws $1.265 Million

A Model 1886 Winchester rifle presented to Henry Ware Lawton is now the most expensive single firearm ever sold at auction, according to Rock Island Auction Company. Photo courtesy of Rock Island Auction Company.
A Model 1886 Winchester rifle presented to Henry Ware Lawton is now the most expensive single firearm ever sold at auction, according to Rock Island Auction Company. Photo courtesy of Rock Island Auction Company.

A Model 1886 Winchester rifle presented to Henry Ware Lawton, who as a U.S. Army captain is widely credited with capturing Apache leader Geronimo, is now the most expensive single firearm ever sold at auction after drawing $1.26 million at Rock Island Auction Company’s April auction.

According to Rock Island Auction Company (RIAC), other guns have sold higher as a pair, but no other single firearm surpasses this new world record.

U.S. Law Shield has no financial connection to RIAC, and we don’t endorse RIAC’s auctions. We report the sale of this one-of-a-kind rifle solely as an item of general firearms interest.

The Winchester Model 1886 Sporting Rifle (serial number 1) was presented to Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Henry W. Lawton by fellow Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, friend and influential firearms designer and noted friend of the Browning family Lieut. George E. Albee. The rifle and a gold pocket watch were presented to Capt. Lawton by the “Cattlemen of Central New Mexico” as a token of their appreciation for his service in the capture of the Apache Indian Chief Geronimo and his band in 1886.

“It is an honor to be entrusted with an American treasure,” said Rock Island Auction Company President Kevin Hogan. “Being serial number one and possessing such outstanding condition would alone be enough to draw six figures at auction. When you add one of the most famous names in the history of the Old West you have a huge crossover appeal and set the stage for something special to happen.”

In the summer of 1886, a force under the command of Capt. Lawton and Capt. Charles Gatewood pursued Geronimo and other hostile Chiricahua Apaches into Mexico and the Arizona territory. In September 1886, Gatewood and Lawton found Geronimo and negotiated the surrender of the last band of hostile Apaches to the U.S. Army.

Albee, a friend of Lawton’s from the Civil War, worked for Winchester and was able to secure serial number “1” of the company’s newest rifle design in 1886. He presented it to his old war buddy to commemorate Lawton’s remarkable achievement.

Lawton had strong connections with several other Law Shield states, first during his career as a Union soldier in the Civil War and then later in the U.S. Army on several deployments:

Virginia: In April 1861, he signed up for service in Company E of the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and served with this unit in western Virginia, including the July 1861 skirmish at Carrick’s Ford on the Cheat River near Parsons.

Georgia: On August 3, 1864, during the Union forces campaign outside Atlanta, Lawton led Company A against enemy rifle pits and then “stubbornly and successfully” held it against two counterattacks. For these actions in the Civil War, Lawton was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1893.

Texas: Joining the 41st Infantry Regiment under the command of Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie in 1866, Lieutenant Lawton fought in most of the major Indian campaigns in Texas and other parts of the southwest, including the Fourth Cavalry’s victory at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon in 1874.

Colorado: As Inspector General of the Army, he was based in Denver from 1894–1895. In December 1894, he persuaded about 400 Southern Utes to return to their Colorado reservation from eastern Utah, where they had moved for the winter without getting the approval of the U.S. government.

Florida: Based for a time in Tampa, Lawton would participate in several battles in the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898.

Oklahoma: Lawton, Oklahoma, incorporated 1901, was named for General Lawton. The city is near Fort Sill, U.S. Army Field Artillery Center, where Apache Chief Geronimo is buried and where he spent his last years as a prisoner.

Watch the video below for more about this remarkable rifle. Or click on the links below to read a detailed account of the men involved with the rifle. Fighting in The Philippine War, Lawton died on the outskirts of San Mateo on December 19, 1899.

Illinois-based Rock Island Auction Company was founded in 1993 by its current CEO, Patrick Hogan. The 86,000-square-foot facility hosts eight auctions a year. The company actively seeks consignments, be it a single weapon or a collection of hundreds.

Watch the video below for more about this remarkable rifle. Or click on the links below to read a detailed account of the men involved with the rifle.

The Capture of Geronimo, Part I

The Capture of Geronimo, Part II

Illinois-based Rock Island Auction Company was founded in 1993 by its current CEO, Patrick Hogan. The 86,000-square-foot facility hosts eight auctions a year. Though Law Shield doesn’t endorse RIAC, our members might be interested to know that the company actively seeks consignments, be it a single weapon or a collection of hundreds.

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