Historical Timeline 1860-1899


1860s

1861-1865. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, a bitterly divided America engages in civil war. Early models of the lever-action repeating rifle prove highly effective in battle and set the stage for further post-war development.

- Image source: National Archives, www.archives.gov

1866. On May 22, 1866, Oliver Winchester establishes the Winchester Repeating Arms Company to build the finest guns and ammunition possible.

- Image source: Olin Corporation    


1866. With its polished brass receiver the Model 1866 “Yellow Boy” lever-action rifle is the first gun to bear the Winchester name. 

- Image source: Winchester Repeating Arms 

1868. Engraving by L.D. Nimschke and the Ulrich Brothers elevate a utilitarian Winchester into a work of art.  

- Image source: Cody Museum Archive, Winchester Collector's Association


 

1869. The transcontinental railroad is completed, opening the American West to settlement. This westward expansion will fuel decades of demand for Winchester firearms.

- Image source:  Wikipedia https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Golden_Spike_ceremony,_Promontory,_Utah,_May_10,_1869.jpg


1870s

1871. The National Rifle Association is founded in New York with U.S. Army General Ambrose Burnside as the organization’s first president.

- Image source: National Rifle Association  

 

1873. The Model 1873 lever-action rifle is introduced in 44-40 WCF. Known as the “Gun That Won the West,” more than 700,000 are produced.

- Image source: Winchester Repeating Arms  

1875. Premium quality Model 1873s are marked “One of One Hundred” and “One of One Thousand,” making them among the most sought after by Winchester collectors.  

- Image source: Cody Firearms Museum    

1875. In the 1875 Winchester catalog William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody offers a personal testimonial, “…for hunting…I pronounce your improved Winchester the boss.”

- Image source: Cody Firearms Museum    

1876. The Centennial Model 1876 lever-action rifle is introduced. It becomes a favorite of Dakota rancher Theodore Roosevelt who writes, “The Winchester…is by all odds the best weapon I ever had, and now I use it almost exclusively...” 

-- Image source: Olin Corporation. 

1876. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, along with 267 soldiers and scouts under his command are killed near the Little Bighorn River. The troopers are mostly armed with single-shot carbines, while many of the Indians are armed with Winchester repeating rifles.

 - Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Custer_Bvt_MG_Geo_A_1865_LC-BH831-365-crop.jpg    

1877. Winchester introduces the Rival line of shotshell components for reloaders.

 


1880s

1880. Oliver F. Winchester dies at age 70 in New Haven, Connecticut.

1880. Armed with an 1873 Winchester rifle, teenager William H. Bonney (better known as Billy the Kid) poses for a tintype photo in New Mexico. The Kid will be slain in a shoot-out with Sheriff Pat Garrett only a year later. 

- Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c4/
Billy_the_Kid_tintype,_Fort_Sumner,_1879-80.png  
 

1883. The company’s first bolt-action rifle, the Model 1883 Winchester Third Model Hotchkiss Magazine Gun is introduced.

1883. After Winchester begins experimenting with revolvers, an informal  “Gentlemen’s Agreement” is reached - Colt will stick to making revolvers and Winchester will stick to making lever-action rifles.

1883. T.G. Bennett of Winchester purchases the manufacturing rights for a new single-shot rifle designed by John M. Browning.

 - Image source: Browning  

 


 

1883. Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody begins his traveling “Wild West Show” which includes cowboys, Indians and spectacular trick shooting by Cody, and soon, by Annie Oakley. Cody personally favors a smoothbore Model 1873 rifle for his trick shots.   

- Image source, both: Cody Firearms Museum

  

1885. The Winchester Model 1885 Single Shot is introduced. Adapted to tiny rimfires and the largest and most powerful ammunition, it remains in production today.

- Image source: Winchester Repeating Arms 

 

1886. The Model 1886 lever-action rifle is introduced to handle the large cartridges like the potent 45-70 Government.    

- Image source: Winchester Repeating Arms 

1886. Winchester enters the loaded shotshell market with Rival shells in 10, 12, 14, 16 and 20 gauge.

1887. The Model 1887 lever-action repeating shotgun and Model 1887 pump-action repeating shotgun are introduced.

- Image source: Winchester Repeating Arms 

1887. Theodore Roosevelt helps found the Boone and Crockett Club to encourage wildlife conservation and fair-chase hunting practices.    

- Image source: Boone and Crocket Club     


1890s

1890. The Model 1890 pump-action .22 rimfire rifle is introduced, along with a new cartridge, the .22 Winchester Rim Fire.

- Image source: Winchester Collectors Association / Winchester Repeating Arms 

1892. The Model 1892 lever-action rifle is introduced, chambered for popular pistol-class cartridges.

- Image Source: Winchester Repeating Arms 

1893. Winchester begins loading sporting cartridges with the latest thing in ammunition - smokeless powder. 

- Image Source: Olin Corporation

 

 

1894. The Model 1894 lever-action rifle is introduced, becoming the best selling centerfire rifle in U.S. history.

- Image Source: Winchester Repeating Arms

1894. Winchester introduces the first gilding-metal jacketed bullets.

 

1895. Model 1895 centerfire rifle is introduced with an internal box magazine to safely handle modern pointed bullets. It’s a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt.

 

 

1895. Winchester introduces its first commercial smokeless centerfire cartridges including the 30-30 Winchester. When paired with the Model 1894 it’s most famous deer rifle and ammo combination ever.

- Image Source: Winchester Repeating Arms

1895. Winchester manufactures the 6mm Lee Straight Pull musket rifle for the U.S. Navy.

 

1897. The Winchester Model 1897 is introduced and becomes the best-selling pump-action shotgun on the market.

- Image Source: Winchester Repeating Arms

 

 

1897. Winchester produces its first custom-engraving catalog “Highly Finished Arms.” It remains a source of inspiration for today’s firearm engravers.

- Image Source: Cody Firearms Museum

1897. Winchester introduces New Rival factory loaded shotshells.

- Image Source: Olin Corporation

 

 

1898. The United States goes to war with Spain and gains control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt becomes a national hero leading his “Rough Rider” volunteer unit at San Juan Heights. Roosevelt reportedly loans his personal Winchester Model 1895 rifle to another soldier during the attack.

- Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22Teddy%27s_
colts,%22_at_the_top_of_the_hill_which_they_captured_in_the_
battle_of_San_Juan.%22_Colonel_Theodore_Roosevelt_and_h_-_NARA_-_542082.tif