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 sale.
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.
Texas and U.S. Law Shield have 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.”
Lawton had strong Texas connections during his career. 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 the southwest, including the Fourth Cavalry’s victory at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon in 1874.
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. Lawton and Gatewood escorted the Apaches to San Antonio for holding before the band was transferred to Florida.
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 and lifelong friend to commemorate Lawton’s remarkable achievement.
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.
Illinois-based Rock Island Auction Company was founded in 1993 by 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.