The Gun That Won the West


Rifling is the process of cutting spiral grooves on the inside of a rifle barrel. The grooves within the firearm cause the bullets to spin as they pass through it. A bullet is an oblong object and must spin during flight to be accurate, like a football that is thrown.

Repeating rifles have only one barrel, which contain many bullets or rounds. Ammunition is usually loaded into the firearm from a reservoir chamber (magazine) by using an automatic or manual mechanism.

Brief History

Oliver Winchester was an American businessman who was known for the manufacturing and marketing of the Winchester repeating rifle. Winchester and his namesake company have made a number of notable contributions to the fire arms community and created a legacy of quality and excellence in firearms manufacturing.

Winchester was assigned US patent number 5501, which also protected improvements that were made to the Henry rifle. His first gun was an improved version of the famous Henry rifle. It had a loading gate on the right side of the receiver, an enclosed magazine tube, and a wooden forearm. The gun kept its brass frame and butt plate, as well as the wooden stock that had been seen on the Henry. Winchester’s first firearm became known as the Model 1866.

The original Winchester firearm introduced new technology, as it allowed the rifleman to fire a certain number of rounds before the gun had to be reloaded. This is where the term, “repeating rifle”, got its name. Model 1866 were first manufactured in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1867. In 1871, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company moved to New Haven. Winchester’s company also manufactured and licensed the M1 Carbine to the US government. This 30 caliber firearm was used in World War II by the Allied forces.

The US Repeating Arms Company is owned by Herstal Group, a gun-maker and Belgian conglomerate who also owns Browning Arms Company. In January of 2006, the US Repeating Arms Company announced that it would be closing the Winchester plant located in New Haven on March 31 of that year. The closing of the Winchester plant ended the production of a celebrated line of rifles and shotguns, commonly known as “the gun that won the West.”

Online Resources


Winchester: An American Legend. R.L. Wilson. Book Sales, Inc. c2008

The Rifleman’s Rifle: Winchester Model 70, 1936-1963. Roger C. Rule. AuthorHouse. C2009

Winchester Repeating Arms Company: It’s History & Development from 1865 to 1981. Herbert G. Houze. Krause Publications. C2004

Winchester Lever Action Repeating Firearms: The Models of 1866, 1873 & 1876. Arthur Pirkle. North Cape Pubns. C1995.

Winchester Rifles (Famous Guns). Dean Boorman. Salamander. C2001