A weathered, long-hidden Winchester Model 1873, aka "the gun that won the West" (and inspiration for the Anthony Mann film) was found leaning against a tree in Great Basin National Park. Its origins, and how long it's been hanging out in the park, offer an intriguing mystery.

National Parks Traveler quotes Nichole Andler, chief of interpretation at the 120 square mile park, located in east-central Nevada.

Engraved on the rifle is "Model 1873," identifying it distinctly as a Winchester Model 1873 repeating rifle. The serial number on the lower tang corresponds in Winchester records held at the Center for the West at the Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming, with a manufacture and shipping date of 1882. But the detailed history of this rifle is as yet unknown. Winchester records do not indicate who purchased the rifle from the warehouse or where it was shipped.

Mysteries of the rifle's journey through time spur creative and lively discussion: Who left the rifle? When and why it was leaned against the tree? And, why was it never retrieved?

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While the park's cultural resource staff turns detective to try and answer these questions, they will display their prize find for a brief period, then whisk it away for preservation purposes. The plan is to have the rifle back on display in time for the park's 30th anniversary in 2016.

Image via National Parks Traveler.