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American Firearms and Their Makers: A Research Guide


[Theodore Roosevelt, full-length portrait, standing, facing right, in deer skin hunting suit, holding rifle]
George Grantham Bain, photographer. [Theodore Roosevelt, full-length portrait, standing, facing right, in deer skin hunting suit, holding rifle. 1885. Bain Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Oliver Winchester and John M. Davies purchased the bankrupt original company of Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson in 1856, and reorganized it as the New Haven Arms Company in April 1857.  As its plant superintendent, Benjamin Henry continued with development of a new rifle, known as the Henry rifle. In 1866 Oliver Winchester reorganized the company as 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.  In 1873 Winchester introduced the Model 1873 that used .44-40 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) cartridges, which became known as the gun that won the West. From 1883 John Moses Browning worked with the Winchester company to design a number of rifles and shotguns. Later the company developed weapons to compete with Browning's designs for other manufacturers, particularly in the area of commercial self-loading arms. Winchester contributed during both World Wars. During World War I, it was a major producer of the .303 Pattern 1914 Enfield rifle for the British and the similar .30-06 M1917 Enfield rifle for the United States. Winchester designed the United States M1 carbine and produced the M1 Garand Rifle used during World War II. In December 1980, Olin Corporation retained Winchester's ammunition business, but sold the New Haven plant to its employees who then incorporated it as the U.S. Repeating Arms Company with a license to make Winchester Arms. After its 1989 bankruptcy, the company was acquired by the Belgian arms maker, FN Herstal, which also owns Browning. The privately owned company continues to manufacture under the Winchester Repeating Arms brand.

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to online resources are included when available. For additional information, see Winchester Rifle: A Resource Guide.