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Winchester Rifles: The Gun That Won the West

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The History of Winchester Arms

Winchester Repeating Company, a legendary institution in the history of American firearms production and innovation, was founded in 1866 in response to an attempted takeover of a predecessor company know as the New Haven Arms Company. Benjamin Henry, the inventor of the first reliable lever action repeating rifle, disgruntled over what he perceived to be insufficient compensation for his work, lobbied the Connecticut State legislature to grant him ownership of the company. In response, New Haven Arms’ largest stockholder, Oliver Winchester, blocked the attempted takeover by reorganizing New Haven Arms into the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Winchester Arms quickly made a name for itself by introducing the Model 1866, which was an improved version of Benjamin Henry’s signature rifle (a loading gate on the side of the receiver and a wooden forend were added).

In the years that followed, Winchester Repeating Arms was responsible for the development of groundbreaking firearms designs that would become symbolic of America’s westward expansion. Such models included the lever-action Model 1873 (later known as “the gun that won the west”), the John Moses Browning designed Model 1892 (a lever action rifle of stronger design than the 1873), and the Model 1894 lever action rifle that is still popular among thick woods deer hunters almost 130 years after its introduction.

During the Second World War, Winchester Repeating Arms was responsible for the development of the M1 Carbine, a short, light, compact, and portable semi-automatic rifle designed to meet the needs of support troops who found the standard issue rifle of the time, the M1 Garand, unnecessarily heavy and bulky. The M1 Carbine (and its fully automatic capable cousin the M2) also saw use in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

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Popular Winchester Rifles and Shotguns

While Winchester is perhaps best known for its lever action rifles, the company also birthed a number of other historically significant firearm models including the pump action Model 1897 shotgun (which in its “trench gun” configuration was employed by some U.S. troops in WWI, WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam War), the Model 70 bolt action rifle, and the Model 12 pump action shotgun.

Following a bankruptcy in 1989, Winchester Repeating Arms was acquired by the Belgian owned Herstal Group. In 2006, Winchester closed its historic New Haven, Connecticut factory, temporarily ending production of popular firearms such as the Model 1894, Model 70, and Model 1300.

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Model 94

The lever-action Winchester Model 1894 was the first rifle to be chambered in the now classic .30 Winchester Centerfire, or .30-30 Win. as it is more commonly known. Current production Winchester ’94 rifles feature classic style walnut stocks and blued steel barrels and receivers, round locking bolt trunnions to increase cycling speed, and radiused edges of the finger lever to increase operator comfort. Unlike their 19th century ancestors, modern Winchester ‘94s have drilled and tapped receivers to allow the mounting of a scope or other optic. Model ‘94s of all vintages are still commonly seen at deer camps around North America and beyond.

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Model 70

Considered by some to be the Cadillac of bolt action hunting rifles, the Winchester Model 70 was introduced in 1936 and quickly gained a reputation for accuracy and reliability. Prior to 1964, Model 70s featured a Mauser style controlled round feed action in which the bolt’s claw extractor grips the rim of the cartridge as it’s being fed from the magazine into the chamber, thus improving the rifle’s overall reliability. From 1964 onward, several changes were made to the design to reduce production costs. These changes included a forged receiver, stamped trigger guards and floor plates, and push feed action (the bolt pushes the round into the chamber without gripping it). Modern 70s have reincorporated a controlled round feed action.

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Model 12 

Introduced in 1912 and discontinued in 1964 to make way for the less costly Model 1200, the Model 12 was an internal hammer pump action shotgun. The gun’s tube magazine held up to four rounds. The 12 was favored among American hunters and military versions of the gun were employed by US armed forces in all American conflicts from World War I to the Vietnam War. Ultimately, the Model 12’s forged steel parts were deemed too costly to make the gun competitively priced, so production ceased in 1964 when the Model 1200 was ushered in. Special runs of the Model 12 were sporadically produced until the closure of Winchester’s Connecticut plant in 2006.

Upgrading the Stocks for your Winchester Rifle

While the Winchester Model 94 and Model 70 have beautiful stocks out of the box, Boyds offers custom hardwood stocks that are sure to improve the look, feel, accuracy and durability of these American classics. For the model 1894, we offer buttstocks and forends for both post-1964 and pre-1964 (buttstock only) rifles in more than a dozen color patterns. These stocks will dress up any ’94 and are sure to breathe eye-popping new life into that old workhorse deer rifle that has had its original stock dinged, cracked, and dented by all those seasons in the woods.

A durable Boyds replacement stock would also be just the ticket for sprucing up that ancient and beat up model 12 you found collecting dust in the back of a pawn shop.

For the Model 70 we offer quality hardwood stocks for rifles old and new, short action and long action, blind magazines and hinged floorplates. If you have a Model 70, chances are we have stocks that will make it shine. Our Model 70 stocks run the gamut from the Sporter style Classic Lightweight Thumbhole, and Monte Carlo style Prairie Hunter.  An exciting new addition to our line of Model 70 stocks is the fully adjustable At-One Stock that allows the shooter to customize length of pull and comb height in mere seconds, allowing for a perfect, accuracy maximizing, fit.


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