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Winchester rifle From Wikipedia

The term Winchester rifle is frequently used to describe any of the lever-action rifles manufactured in the United States by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, although the name is usually more specifically used in reference to the Winchester Model 1873 or the Winchester Model 1894 rifles.

Winchester rifles were among the earliest repeating rifles, and as such the Winchester name has become synonymous with lever-action firearms. The gun is colloquially known as "The Gun that Won the West", though public perception of its role in the Western Expansion is exaggerated due to the Winchester's prominence in 20th Century fictionalized accounts of that period.

The ancestor of the Winchester rifles was the Volcanic rifle and pistol 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 Benjamin Tyler Henry.

Henry also supervised the redesign of the rifle to use this new rimfire ammunition, retaining only the general form of the breech mechanism and the tubular magazine of the Volcanic. 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 American Civil War. 

Volcanic Pistol .41 cal

Henry 1860, Winchester Musket 1866

After the war, Oliver Winchester continued to exercise control of the New Haven Arms Company, renaming it the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. This company modified and improved the basic design of the Henry rifle, creating the first Winchester rifle: the Model 1866. It retained the .44 Henry rimfire cartridge, was built on a brass frame, and had an improved magazine and a wooden forearm. In 1873 Winchester introduced the steel-framed Model 1873 chambering the more potent .44-40 centerfire cartridge. In 1876, in a bid to compete with the powerful single-shot rifles of the time, Winchester brought out the Model 1876 (Centennial Model).

While it chambered more powerful cartridges than the 1866 and 1873 models, the toggle link action was not strong enough for the popular rounds used in Sharps or Remington single-shot rifles.

From 1883, John Moses Browning worked in partnership with Winchester, designing a series of rifles and shotguns, most notably the lever-action Winchester Model 1886, Winchester Model 1892, Winchester Model 1894, and Winchester Model 1895 rifles, along with the lever-action Winchester Model 1887 shotgun and the pump-action Winchester Model 1893 and Winchester Model 1897 shotguns.

Winchester 73 toggle-link action

Winchester Lever-Action Repeating Rifles

Winchester Model 1866

The original Winchester rifle- the Winchester Model 1866- was famous for its rugged construction and lever-action mechanism that allowed the rifleman to fire a number of shots before having to reload: hence the term, "repeating rifle." Chambered only in the rimfire .44 Henry, the Model 1866 was nicknamed the "Yellowboy" because of its "brass" receiver. In reality the receiver was made of a bronze-alloy called "Gunmetal".

Winchester Model 1866
Winchester Model 1873
One of the most successful, and certainly one of the most famous Winchester rifles was the Winchester Model 1873, originally chambered for the .44-40 cartridge, although it was later produced in .38-40 and .32-20, all of which also became popular handgun cartridges of the day. Having a common centerfire cartridge in both revolvers and rifles allowed the owner to carry two firearms, but only one type of ammunition. Interestingly, the original Model 1873 was never offered in the military standard .45 Colt cartridge; although a number of modern reproductions of the rifle are chambered for the round. There was a limited number (approximately 19,000) of 1873 Winchesters manufactured in .22 rimfire caliber, which lacked the loading gate on the right side of the receiver. The Winchester Model 1873 was produced in such quantities that they became a common sight in the American West, leading to the rifle being nicknamed "The Gun that Won the West" on account of its prevalence and versatility.

Winchester Model 1876

The Winchester Model 1876 was a heavier-framed rifle than the Model 1866 or Model 1873, and was the first to be chambered for full-powered centerfire rifle cartridges, as opposed to rimfire cartridges or handgun-sized centerfire rounds. It was introduced to celebrate the American Centennial, and earned a reputation as a durable and powerful hunting rifle. Originally chambered for the new .45-75 WCF cartridge (designed to replicate the .45-70 Gov't ballistics in a shorter case), versions in .40-60, .45-60 and .50-90 Express followed: the '76 in the latter chambering is the only repeater known to have been used in any numbers by the professional buffalo hunters. The Canadian Mounties also used the '76 as a standard long arm for many years. Theodore Roosevelt used an engraved, pistol-gripped half-magazine '76 during his early hunting expeditions in the West and praised it.

Left to right Carbines two 1873/1894/92/Trapper 92
Winchester Model 1886
The Model 1886 continued the trend towards chambering heavier rounds, and had a considerably stronger action than the toggle-link Model 1876. It was designed by John Moses Browning, who had a long and profitable relationship with Winchester from the 1880s to the early 1900s. In many respects the Model 1886 was a true American express rifle, as it could be chambered in the more powerful black powder cartridges of the day, such as the .45-70 Government (chambering a rifle for the popular .45-70 had been a goal of Winchester for some time). The 1886 proved capable of handling not merely the .45 Gov't but also the huge .45-90 and .50-110 Express "buffalo" cartridges, and in 1903 was chambered for the smokeless .33 WCF. In 1935 Winchester introduced a slightly modified M1886 as the Model 71, chambered for the very powerful .348 Winchester cartridge.
Winchester Rifles, top: Rifle 73/86/92
Take-down/05 Self Loading

Winchester Model 1892

Winchester returned to its roots with the Model 1892, which, like the first lever-action guns, was primarily chambered for shorter, lower-pressure handgun rounds. The Model 1892, however, incorporates a much stronger Browning action (based on the larger M1886) than the earlier Henry-derived arms of the 1860s and 1870s. 1,004,675 Model 1892 rifles were made by Winchester, and although the company phased them out in the 1930s, they are still being made under the Puma label by the Brazilian arms maker, Rossi, and by Chiappa Firearms, an Italian factory. In its modern form, using updated materials and production techniques, the Model 1892's action is strong enough to chamber high pressure handgun rounds, such as .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and the high-powered .454 Casull round.

The 1892 was designed as a replacement for the 1873. While earlier rifles and shotguns actually "won the West," the majority of lever action rifles seen in classic Hollywood Westerns are Winchester '92 carbines chambered in .44-40 and .38-40 (to utilize the "5-in-1" blank cartridge). John Wayne famously carried these rifles in dozens of films set between the 1830s and the 1880s.

Winchester Model 1892

Winchester Model 1894

Browning's Winchester Model 1894 is perhaps the best known of the Winchester repeating rifles, chambered for the newly introduced smokeless .30-30 Winchester cartridge, and later, a variety of calibres such as .25-35 WCF, .32-40 WCF, .32 Winchester Special, and the .38-55. Winchester were the first company to manufacture a civilian rifle chambered for the new smokeless propellants, and although delays prevented the .30-30 cartridge from appearing on the shelves until 1895, it remained the first commercially available smokeless powder round for the North American consumer market. Though initially it was too expensive for most shooters, the Model 1894 went on to become one of the best-selling hunting rifles of all time -- it has the distinction of being the first sporting/hunting rifle to sell over one million units, ultimately selling over seven million -- and US production was not discontinued until 2006. The Winchester 94/.30-30 combination was for many years practically synonymous with "deer rifle."

Winchester Model 1895

The Winchester Model 1895 has the distinction of being the first Winchester lever-action rifle to load from a box magazine instead of a tube under the barrel. This allowed the Model 1895 to be chambered for military cartridges with spitzer (pointed) projectiles, and the rifle was used by the armed forces of a number of nations including the US, Great Britain, and Imperial Russia. Calibers included .30-40 Krag (30 us), .303 British, .30-03 , .30-06 Springfield, 7.62mm Russian, and the mighty .405 Winchester. Teddy Roosevelt used a Model 1895 .405 on African safari, and called it his "Medicine Gun" for lions. The Russian production models could also be loaded using charger clips, a feature not found on any other lever-action rifle.

Winchester Model 88

Introduced in 1955, the Model 88 was unlike any previous lever action; it was really a lever-bolt hybrid. A short-throw underlever operated a three-lug rotating bolt, and rounds were fed vertically from a detachable box magazine. These bolt-action features in a "lever-action" permitted the use of high-powered modern cartridges with spitzer bullets: .243, .284, .308 (7.62mm NATO) and .358 Winchester. The 88 did not prove to be especially popular, although it has its share of devoted enthusiasts, and was discontinued in 1973. The later Sako Finnwolf and Browning BLR have similar actions.

Winchester's Model 9422 was introduced in 1972 and was rapidly recognized for high quality. It was designed to capture the image of the traditional lever-actions with exposed hammer, straight grip, tube magazine and barrel bands. Unlike older Winchester lever actions it came grooved for scope mounting. It was offered in .22 Long Rifle and .22 WRM, and was priced at the high-quality end of the .22 sporting rifle market.

The 9422 action design was original and extremely reliable. The feed system handled the cartridge from the magazine to the breech face by its rim, and the slide cammed the rear of the breechblock up into the locking recess. A concealed polymer buffer above the breech gave a firm-feeling lockup and a very positive unlocking motion.

The 9422 had worldwide appeal to customers raised on 'westerns' and to those looking for a fun and historic way to introduce their children to shooting. Over the course of production a higher finished model called the 9422 XTR, a .17 rimfire model, and several commemorative models were offered. Production ended in 2005. 

Winchester Model 1885 Single Shot Rifle

In 1885 Winchester entered the single-shot market with the Model 1885 rifle, which John Browning had designed in 1878 (the beginning of the fruitful 20-year Winchester-Browning collaboration). The Winchester Single Shot, known to most shooters as either the "Low-wall" or "High-wall" depending on model, but officially marketed by Winchester as the Single Shot Rifle, was produced to satisfy the demands of the growing sport of "Match Shooting", which opened at Creedmoor, New York, on June 21, 1872. Target/Match shooting was extremely popular in the US from about 1871 until about 1917, enjoying a status similar to golf today, and the Winchester company, which had built its reputation on repeating firearms, had in 1885 challenged the single shot giants of Sharps, Remington, Stevens, Maynard, Ballard et al, not only entering the competition, but excelling at it, with Major Ned H. Roberts (inventor of the .257 Roberts cartridge) describing the Model 1885 Single Shot as "...the most reliable, strongest, and altogether best single shot rifle ever produced." Winchester produced nearly 140,000 Single Shot rifles from 1885 to 1920, and it was found that the Model 1885 had been built with one of the strongest falling block actions known at that time. To satisfy the needs of the shooting and hunting public, the Model 1885 Single Shot was eventually produced in more calibers than any other Winchester rifle. Winchester also produced a large number of Single Shots in .22 Short for the US Army as a marksmanship training rifle, the "Winder musket." In 2005, after a break of 85 years, the Winchester Company reproduced a "Limited Series" of their Winchester Single shot rifles, in both 19th and 20th century calibers. The 21st century Winchester Single Shot rifles are built with the latest technology and modern steels, enabling them to fire modern smokeless cartridges.

Winchester Bolt Action Rifles

Winchester lever action rifles remained the most popular in the US through WWI and the interwar period. However, advances in the development of bolt action rifles made them increasingly desirable. These new rifles, such as the Mauser Gewehr 98 and M1903 Springfield, could chamber pointed "Spitzer" bullets, which lever action rifles with a tube magazine could not. Bolt actions as developed by Mauser and other military manufacturers had front locking lugs which stabilized the cartridge head very well, and allowed for unprecedented accuracy. Bolt actions were simpler and cheaper to manufacture than high-power leverguns like Winchester's 1886 and 1895 models.

In response to the increasing competition from these bolt-action rifles, Winchester introduced the Winchester Model 54 in 1925. This was not Winchester's first bolt rifle (that distinction belonged to the Winchester-Hotchkiss rifle of 1878), but it was by far their most successful. It was based on the Mauser Gewehr 98 design, but with modifications and popular North American chamberings such as .30-06 which made it more appealing to American hunters than were the European imports or sporterised military rifles. The famed Model 70 was developed from the Model 54, which it replaced in 1936. The Model 70, often dubbed the "rifleman's rifle," was produced continuously at New Haven (except during WWII) until 2006, and production has resumed at FN Herstal's plant in Columbia, South Carolina.

In 1920, Winchester introduced a non-Mauser bolt-action design, the .22-caliber Model 52 target rifle, which from its inception and for years thereafter was the world's reference standard smallbore match rifle.

Winchester Self-Loading Rifles

Winchester Models 1903 and 63

The Winchester Model 1903 was the first commercially available self-loading .22 rimfire caliber in the US. Designed by T.C. Johnson, the Model 1903 was chambered for the unique .22 Winchester Automatic cartridge. In later years, the Model 1903 moniker was shortened to Model 03, and following a partial redesign in the 1930's, was renamed the Model 63.

Winchester Models 1905, 1907, and 1910

The early centerfire Winchester self-loading series of rifles began with the Model 1905, chambered for the .32SL and .35SL cartridges. Following a demand for a higher-powered self-loading rifle, the Models 1907 and 1910 were introduced along with their respective cartridges, the .351SL and .401SL.


Winchester Model 1887/1901

The Winchester Model 1887 was the first successful repeating shotgun design, developed by John Browning and produced by Winchester from 1887-1920. Browning felt that a pump-action would be much more appropriate for a repeating shotgun, but as Winchester was primarily a lever-action firearms company they felt that their new shotgun must also be a lever-action for reasons of brand recognition. The M1887 was chambered for 12ga black powder shotshells, and after the switch to smokeless powder at the end of the 19th Century, the M1901 was introduced, being chambered for 10ga smokeless shells. Although a technically sound gun design, the market for lever-action shotguns waned considerably after the introduction of the Winchester 1897 and other contemporary pump-action shotguns; modern reproductions of the gun have been manufactured by Norinco in China, ADI Ltd. in Australia and Chiappa Firearms in Italy.

Winchester Model 1893/1897

Another Browning design, the Winchester Model 1893 (and later Model 1897) was one of the first successful pump-action shotgun designs, being introduced in 1893 and remaining in production until the mid 1950s. Unusual for a repeating shotgun, the Model 1897 could be taken apart for easier carriage/storage, and was available in a variety of barrel lengths from 20in to 36in. During World War I it was issued as a trench gun, with short barrel, heat shield and M1917 bayonet.

Winchester Model 1912

Designed by T.C. Johnson as a hammerless modification of the Model 1897, the Model 1912 (later re dubbed the Model 12) was one of the most successful pump shotguns ever made, with nearly 2 million produced before its cancellation in 1963. Like the Model 1897 it came in take-down form, and likewise was issued in trench gun and combat versions during both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam. The Model 12 was popular with the military, law enforcement, hunters, and sporting clay competitors, the latter regarding it as having superior balance and "point" among pump-actions.

1964 Changes

In the mid-to late 1950's, Winchester saw a management change which led to an extensive and extremely controversial  redesign of their firearms in 1964. This is regarded by many[10] as the year the "real" Winchester ceased to be, and consequently "pre-'64" rifles command higher prices than those made afterwards. Winchester itself went on to have a troubled future as competition from both the US and abroad began to decrease its sales. Although in the 1970's the company attempted to recover its reputation by bringing out the well-received SuperX-1 semiautomatic shotgun, produced along pre-1964 lines, the cost of manufacture again proved unsustainable. In 1980, the company was split into parts and sold off. The name "Winchester" remained with the ammunition making side of the company, and this branch continues to be profitable. The arms making side and New Haven facilities went to U.S. Repeating Arms, which struggled to keep the company going under a variety of owners and management teams. It finally announced plans to close the New Haven facility, the producers of the Model 1894, in 2006.

On August 15, 2006, Olin Corporation, owner of the Winchester trademarks, announced that it had entered into a new license agreement with Browning to make Winchester brand rifles and shotguns, though not at the closed Winchester plant in New Haven. Browning, based in Morgan, Utah, and the former licensee, U.S. Repeating Arms Company, are both subsidiaries of FN Herstal. In 2008 FN Herstal announced plans to produce Model 70 rifles at its plant in Columbia, SC.

Never know what you will get when asking for permission to use someone's articles.

While looking for articles I came across one I thought everyone might like to read. In requesting permission, Mr. Rob Kassab the author called me and gave permission to use his article or any others I liked as long as I provided a link. When I went to his web site there was so much more information, I decided to just provide the link here to his web site. Thank You, Mr. Bob Kassab and  C.Michael Hager for forwarding my request to you.   The Winchester Collectors .org

Another nice article on the 1876 Winchester 
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