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Winchester Rifle: A Resource Guide

Oliver Winchester realized the idea of a repeating rifle in 1866. This research guide comprises a selection of books, articles and online resources useful for researching this history-making gun and how it impacted the future of this country


Buffalo Bill Cody, full-length portrait, seated on rocks, facing right, holding rifle with right hand, left hand resting on knee. 1903. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In the 1800s the idea of a repeating rifle was finally realized by Oliver Winchester, the largest stockholder of the New Haven Arms Company of Connecticut. He was assigned U.S. patent No. 5501, which protected improvements to the Henry Rifle. The new technology included a spring-closed loading port on the right-hand side of the frame, directly at the rear of the magazine tube, and resulted in the first reliable lever-action repeating rifle, produced as the first Winchester, Model 1866.

Manufacturing of the Model 1866 started in Bridgeport, Connecticut. in 1867; the Winchester Repeating Arms Company moved to New Haven in 1871. The Company also manufactured and licensed to the U.S. government the M1 Carbine, the standard 30 caliber weapon used by Allied forces in World War II.

The U.S. Repeating Arms Company (owned by Herstal Group, a Belgian gun-making conglomerate that also owns Browning Arms Company) Winchester plant in New Haven closed on March 31, 2006. With the plant's closure, the production of a celebrated line of rifles and shotguns known collectively as "the gun that won the West' officially ended.

For more information on the history of American firearms manufacturers and their guns, including Colt, Winchester, Remington, Parker, Smith & Wesson, Deringer, Savage, and Whitney, as well as to gun collecting and gun appraisal see:

About the Science Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Science Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of science, medicine and engineering. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of science and engineering  assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of science, medicine, and engineering materials.