Model 1873 Winchester Repeating Rifle
Picking up the pieces of Christopher Spencer’s shattered venture was the business mogul, Oliver Winchester. The American entrepreneur purchased the remnants of the Spencer Repeating Rifle Company when it fell into bankruptcy in 1868. Winchester, unlike Spencer, was not an inventor. He had a nose for chance prospects, however, and saw the potential of repeating rifles possibly even before Spencer, who didn’t develop his signature weapon until 1859. Winchester, on the other hand, bought the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company in 1850, helped patent the Henry repeater in 1860, and eventually launched the Winchester Arms Company in 1866.
The first Winchester lever-action repeater was the Model 1866, based on the Henry repeater, colloquially called the “Yellow Boy” because of its brass receiver. A major improvement over the earlier Henry repeater, the Model 1866 featured a loading gate and tubular magazine forward of the trigger (many earlier repeaters were loaded through their butt stocks, which limited ammunition capacity).
The Model 1866 saw worldwide use, with approximately 60,000 units sold to France and the Ottoman Empire from 1866-71. Over the better part of a century, Winchester produced eight additional models of their long gun, with the Model 1873 achieving popularity as “The Gun that Won the West.”
The Model 1873 Winchester was manufactured for fifty years, with more than 700,000 units produced during its run. It was released in four different styles and chambered in three popular calibers, including the immensely successful .44-40 Winchester. The real brilliance of the Winchester was in its ammunition, which consisted of high-powered pistol cartridges that could be used interchangeably between common revolvers of the period. The Model 1873 was favored by lawmen and private citizens, but was also popular with criminals and renegades. Despite its checkered past, the Winchester is still one of the most iconic guns of the West.