Winchester rifle

Winchester Rifle refers to an early family of repeating rifles manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company that was used widely in the United States during the latter half of the 19th century.



The original Winchester rifle was famous for its rugged construction and lever-action breech mechanism that allowed the rifleman to fire a number of shots before having to reload: hence the term, "repeating rifle."

The first model, the Model 1866, was nicknamed Yellow Boy because of its brass receiver. The model 1873 was Winchester's next design. The model 73 was much more popular than the 66 because of the steel frame which allowed it to take the newly designed and more potent center-fire 44 WCF (44-40) catridge. The 1873 is often referred to as The Gun That Won The West,.

The 1866 was only available in Henry's 44 rimfire cartridge at first, and the more modern center fire cartridges were added to the production line later. The model 73 was available 44 WCF (44-40), 38 WCF (38-40), and 32 WCF (32-20) calibers, most of which were also available in Colt, Remington and other revolvers. WCF simply denotes "Winchester Center Fire", to distinguish a cartridge from the earlier rimfire cartridge. Having a common center fire cartridge used in both revolvers and rifles allowed the owner to carry two firearms, both using the same ammunition. It is worth noting that the original model 73 was never offered in the military standard 45 Colt cartridge; only modern reproductions are offered in that caliber.


The idea of a repeating rifle had been the subject of many inventions since the use of firearms began, but few of these had proven to be practical, mainly because the modern cartridge, which made repeating arms practical, had not yet been developed.

Repeating revolvers were popular in the mid 19th century. One of these revolving pistols, the Colt, was very successful, and a rifle version was produced, but it was not widely popular. The more successful Spencer rifles and carbines of the American Civil War were a notable step forward, but were not completely satisfactory in various respects.

The ancestor of the Winchester rifles was the Volcanic lever action rifle of Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson. It was originally manufactured by the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, which was later reorganized into the New Haven Arms Company, its largest stockholder being Oliver Winchester.

The Volcanic rifle used a form of "caseless" ammunition and had only limited success. Wesson had also designed an early form of rimfire cartridge which was subsequently perfected by B. Tyler Henry. Henry also supervised the redesign of the rifle to use the new ammunition, retaining only the general form of the breech mechanism and the tubular magazine. This became the Henry rifle of 1860, which was manufactured by the New Haven Arms Company and was used in considerable numbers by certain Union army units in the civil war,


After the war Oliver Winchester continued to exercise control of the company, renaming it the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and had the basic design of the Henry rifle completely modified and improved to become the first Winchester rifle, the Model 1866, which fired centerfire cartridges and had an improved magazine and, for the first time, a wooden forearm.

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