September 15, 2006
Winslow Arms: Wildly Impractical, Yet Works of Art
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
From 1963 until 1996, Winslow Arms (first based in Florida, then in South Carolina) produced bolt-action sporting rifles the likes of which were never seen before, and will never be seen again. They were bolt-action centerfires, all based on commercial FN Mauser actions. All had blind magazines, and all were heavy rifles. Not many were made, and photos of them are extremely rare, so you’ll have to use your imagination. In fact, the only photos I know of are on p. 108 of the 1966 Gun Digest. [Editor’s Note: We searched the Internet after Dave wrote this and lucked into the picture above.]
Winslows were made in three stock styles, and in six grades. The Bushmaster was the basic stock, a slimmed-down version of the Weatherby Mark V stock. The Powermaster was a Bushmaster with a fluted, rollover comb and a flared recoil pad. The Plainsmaster was the Powermaster to the 10th power; all lines swooped, flared, dipped, and dived. It looked like a prop from a Buck Rogers movie.
Grades ran from Commander (plainest) to Imperial. Regardless of grade, all Winslows shone like mirrors. The stocks were finished in some kind of synthetic that was polished like glass, and the metalwork was polished and blued by a secret process that involved a cyanide hardening bath, and resulted in a brilliant black finish that I’ve never seen duplicated.
But what really set Winslows apart was the checkering, carving, and inlay work you could have lavished upon them. This was done by a fellow named Nils O. Hultgren who was, simply, a master. You could get basketweave checkering or oak leaf carving in place of standard checking, contrasting-wood-and-ivory inlays, metal engraving and a choice of walnut, myrtle, or maple for your stock wood.
But this scarcely conveys the effect of seeing an all-out Winslow in person. It was like a Christmas tree gone berserk, or a laser light show. As a hunting rifle, it was as wildly impractical as you could get. And yet…in their own overdone way, they were fine guns, works of art, even. And if you can find one of the high grades today, it will fetch over $6,000, which is nearly five time what it cost in 1966. So someone must appreciate them. Can Pamela Anderson act? Who cares?