The Complete History of Winchester Repeating Arms

CELEBRATING 150 YEARS, 1866-2016

Take a Tour On The Winchester Timeline.


Innovation and a solid business sense. Oliver Fisher Winchester was an innovative and driven man who saw the future of firearms and built an industrial empire around the lever-action rifle. Born in Boston in 1810, Winchester’s initial foray into business was as a maker of men’s shirts. Seeing the economic potential of the fast-growing firearms industry, Winchester began to assemble investors and secure venture capital, and in 1857 bought a controlling interest in the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company from two inventive gentlemen named Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson. 

Winchester continued to refine firearm designs with inventors Benjamin Tyler Henry and Nelson King, and on May 22, 1866, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was born.

Oliver Fisher Winchester, founder of Winchester Repeating Arms Company

For the next 14 years, Winchester aggressively sought new markets, created new products and explored new opportunities for his lever-action rifles. With the opening of the American West to settlement, Winchester prospered, eventually becoming the iconic company it is today. Over time the history of Winchester evolved into two parallel histories: the history of Winchester firearms and the equally complex history of Winchester Ammunition.

We hope you enjoy studying this historical timeline of the Winchester brand and the company that made it all happen. Use the four time periods below to aid you as you search out the historical facts and exciting stories behind the 150-year history of Winchester.  Click on the time periods below to explore the historical timeline for each time period. 

Background on the Winchester Historical Timeline

This Catalog Timeline is for educational and informational purposes only. The mention or depiction of any individual, entity, product or service herein does not constitute endorsement and is considered fair usage for such educational and informational purposes.

Many of the images used to illustrate this historic timeline are considered to be in the public domain. Other historic images used are courtesy of Winchester Repeating Arms, Olin Corporation, the Browning Arms Company, Glen Jensen, Winfield Brands, LLC, the National Rifle Association, the Library of Congress, the Cody Firearms Museum, the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, NASA, Great Basin National Park-National Park Service, Wikimedia, and Wikimedia Commons, and are used with permission. Chuck Connors photos courtesy of Levy-Gardner-Laven Productions. Logos of the various shooting, historical and wildlife conservation organizations are also used by permission. For image sources and attributions, please revisit www.winchesterguns refer to the attribution with each photo or illustration. 

DISCLAIMER: Over its 150-year history, the Winchester brand name has been used by several different corporations in their manufacture and sale of Winchester brand firearms. Each of these parties operated separately from the other, and each contributed its own innovations and changes to firearms bearing the Winchester brand — nothing in the foregoing Timeline is intended to represent or imply anything inconsistent with that fact. Except as otherwise expressly agreed between them or adjudicated by a court, each of the entities manufacturing Winchester brand firearms takes sole responsibility for the firearm products it manufactured or sold. The language in this disclaimer supersedes any inconsistent language in the above Timeline.