Annie Oakely's Rifle

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Annie OakleyThere is nobody alive today who saw Annie Oakley perform in person, but almost a hundred years after her death people are still talking about her.
Annie Oakley was a crack shot and competed in shooting exhibitions but exhibition shooting was a man's sport. It was a big event for a woman to outshoot the men. She encouraged young women to take up hunting and shooting and made some incredible shots with Wild Bill's Wild West Show. She was a star in the true sense of the word and her interesting story has stuck with people.
In the 1880s, exhibition was extremely popular similar to football and baseball today. A well known exhibition shooter, Frank Butler, stayed in a Cincinnati hotel owned by Jack Frost. At the time Annie Oakley was known as Phoebe Ann Moses and was providing game meat for the restaurant at Frost's hotel. Annie's reputation as a crack shot was widely known and Frost arranged a shooting event. Mosses beat Butler by one shot and a romance began that culminated in marriage in 1882.
In 1885, one of Buffalo Bill Cody exhibition shooters fell ill and Butler and Mosses applied for the position. The combination of beauty and incredible shot made her a star.
A Stevens model 44.25-20 single shot rifle given to Annie Oakley 
Soon after joining Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1885, she changed her name to Annie Oakley. The reason for the change of name is unknown, but it was popular for performers to have stage names. There may also have been influence from Cody for her to do so. There is much conjecture about how she chose her stage name. Her sisters called her Annie when they were growing up, and Oakley is believed to be the name of the town close to where she grew up.
Annie Oakley obviously, had incredible hand-eye coordination. In her autobiography, she said she had an inherent love of firearms and hunting. It was unusual for a lady, but it developed out of necessity. She was seven when her father died. In the book, she says, “I remember how I struggled to master the family’s 40-inch cap and ball Kentucky rifle, which I finally did much to my pride, I was eight years old at the time.” The rifle was 40 inches long, almost as long as her own body when she learned how to use it.
Stevens was developing the model 44 rifle in 1893, and Annie and Frank Butler moved into their first home together in Nutley, New Jersey in 1893. Those dates coincide. Stevens gave the gun to Annie Oakley as a Christmas gift or a housewarming present. That would explain the “Nutley, N.J.” inscription on the left side of the gun’s frame. The Stevens records are not complete for that period.
Annie Oakley rifle
Nutley, N.J.’ is engraved inscription on the side of the gun’s frame
In 1893 Annie Oakley was at the height of her career, she had toured Europe eight times with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and done hundreds of shows in America and gave performances for royalty and the elite. There is a story that Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany challenged her to shoot the ashes off his cigarette. She took the challenge. There are all kinds of different accounts–some say he had the cigarette in his hand, some say it was in his mouth–but she shot the ashes off his cigarette. When World War I began, she is noted as having written Kaiser Wilhelm II a letter saying she wanted another shot. She was a daring woman who had a sense of humour.
Every firearms manufacturer in the U.S. gave Annie Oakley firearms, it was no different than Nike sending Michael Jordan shoes he could wear. Everybody wanted to go to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show because it was a huge event. Wether it was her intellect or her desire to shoot different weapons, Annie Oakley never settled on one type of gun. She used a wide variety of firearms, and if she had heard about, for example, a new type of Winchester rifle, she would write to the manufacturer saying she would like to have one, and of course they sent her one.

Annie Oakley was the 1800s version of an influencer. The Stevens company was developing the model 44, gun and gave it to Annie Oakley. It was one of their very first ones they produced, and ater on the model 44 became Stevens’s most famous and best-selling firearm. Stevens’s claim to fame as a manufacturer was for very accurate single-shot rifles and pistols and they would have wanted to promote that.

Annie Oakley's rifle is a very desirable and collectable weapon. If you find an early Stevens model 44, in near mint condition, it would be worth $15,000 to $20,000, but the connection with Annie Oakley increases her gun by tenfold or more.
It is likely the gun was special to Annie because it commemorates her and Frank’s first home together, so it was probably hung on the wall and never used, but all this is only speculation.
Annie Oakley Rifle
The Stevens Model 44 .25-20 single-shot rifle is described as being in ‘near mint’ condition, tTypically, what it means is it has 97 to 98 percent of its original finish. In this case, it means the bluing on the barrel and the gold on the frame has no more than 2 to 3 percent loss on any part of the gun. For a vintage firearm to survive in such good condition, the gun was well-cared for. They knew how to handle a firearm, and they kept it dry and clean and never used it.
From the condition, it is unlikely the rifle has had very much use. It would have been test-fired at the Stevens factory, but it is impossible to say if Annie Oakley ever shot this gun. It is most likely she took it to her backyard and shot an apple off the head of her dog, Dave, but there’s no record of it. There is no photographs or illustrations of her shooting the rifle.
The Annie Oakley gun still functions and you can take this gun out and fire it today. The action can be operated and you can pull the trigger and it fires the firing pin.
On most engraved guns, the engraving isn’t that deep, but the Annie Oakley gunhas very deeply engraving that has an almost 3-D look to it. The finishes are so vivid, and the wood is incredibly well-figured – beautiful, beautiful wood, and it is very rare to find a gun of this age in near mint condition. It is a work of art, and the canvas here is wood and steel.
There are three or four guns with Annie Oakley provenance that we are aware of, by L.C. Smith, Parker and Marlin. Most of these guns are in museums and this is one of the few with an Annie Oakley provenance that’s in private hands.

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