Back in 1866, the first Winchester rifle was introduced. For the next century and a half, the company has continued to revolutionize guns, ammunition, and the shooting sports

1855

Oliver F. Winchester, a shirtmaker, invests in the Volcanic Repeating Arms Co. of New Haven, Conn. Volcanic produces the Volitional Repeater, a lever-action rifle that fires rimfire cartridges.

Oliver F. Winchester
Oliver F. Winchester.F&S

1860

The Henry rifle appears. It's a .44 rimfire that holds 16 rounds in a tubular magazine. It's fragile, but it shoots very, very fast.

The Henry rifle
The Henry rifle.F&S

1866

The Henry morphs into the Winchester Model 1866. In the same year, Volcanic’s name is changed to Winchester Repeating Arms.

1873

The Model 1873 lever action, “The Gun That Won the West,” is born. Iron-framed and stronger than its predecessor, it’s chambered for the center­fire .44/40 cartridge. It is Winchester’s first iconic gun.

The Model 1873 lever action.
The Model 1873 lever action.F&S

1887

The Model 1887, John M. Browning’s lever-action shotgun, becomes the first successful repeating shotgun design. Browning wanted to design a pump, but Winchester insisted on a lever action.

John M. Browning
John M. Browning.F&S

1912

Winchester introduces the Model 1912, a.k.a. the Perfect Repeater. It dominates clay-­target competitions and duck blinds for years.

1922

Super-X shotshells hit the market. Subsequently, the line becomes renowned for its excellent patterns, thanks to progressive powders and hard, high-antimony pellets.

Super-X shotshells
Super-X shotshells.F&S

1929

Moonshiner David “Carbine” Williams, who, while in prison, invented the floating chamber at the heart of the M1 carbine action, is released and later hired by Winchester as a designer.

BY THE NUMBERS

A few of the many milestones in Winchester's storied history: 15 billion: Number of rounds of ammunition Winchester supplied to the military during WWII ○ 15: Number of crates of brand-new Winchester rifles, ammunition, and spare parts that former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt brought on a yearlong African safari ○ 700,000: Number of Model 1873 lever actions produced ○ $1,265,000: Amount paid for the Winchester 1886, Serial No. 1—the most expensive firearm ever sold at auction ○ 7 million: Number of Model 94s sold before the gun was discontinued in 2006 ○ 47,000: Number of Model 1918 Browning Automatic Rifles produced by Winchester during WWI ○ 54: Pellet holes in a 3-inch target from one load of Long Beard XR, fired from a 12-gauge at 40 yards at the 2014 NWTF Still Target Competition—a new world record. —Charlotte Carroll

1931

Winchester, “Damn the Depression, full speed ahead,” debuts the high-grade Model 21, a double gun that becomes a favorite of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and others.

Winchester Model 21
A poster for the Winchester Model 21.F&S

1931

Teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, Winchester is purchased by the Western Cartridge Co. and saved.

1935

Say hello to the .220 Swift. Designed for varmints, the Swift is one of the most controversial cartridges ever, but this is incontrovertible: A few rounds can equal its speed, but none surpass it.

varmint rifle
Groundhog.Alamy

1940

Winchester wins a contract to become the only private manufacturer to build the M1 Garand. Winchester produces 513,800 M1s by the end of World War II.

M1 Garand
A soldier with the M1 Garand.F&S

1958

Chuck Connors carries a modified Model 1892 on The ­Rifleman, a TV show that takes place in the early 1880s…a decade before John Browning ­actually designs the gun.

the rifleman
The Rifleman.F&S

1960

The Model 59 shotgun, a 6-pound, 12-gauge semiauto, is released. It uses Carbine Williams’s floating chamber and features interchangeable screw-on chokes, a precursor to choke tubes.

1969

Winchester becomes one of the first manufacturers to offer internal choke tubes. For a time, Winchoke is synonymous with “choke tube” in the way Kleenex means “tissue.”

1974

Made for just seven years, the soft-shooting, well-machined, all-steel X1 retains a cult following who consider it the best semiauto shotgun ever.

Winchester x1
The X1.F&S

1981

Blast off! NASA chooses the Winchester 209 shotgun primer to ignite the separation and parachute recovery systems on the Space Shuttle’s solid rocket booster engines.

1991

Arnold Schwarze­negger comes back from the future in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, wielding an 1887.

Terminator shotgun 1887
Arnold Schwarze­negger with an 1887.Alamy

1998

The Winchester Super X2 appears. A Winchester-ized version of the Browning Gold with lines reminiscent of the X1, it is an excellent semiauto in its own right.

Winchester Super X2
Winchester Super X2.F&S

2000

The Supreme o/u is introduced. After several fits and starts—first as the Supreme, then as the 1001, and finally as the new 101—the Belgian-made o/u becomes a very good break-action shotgun.

2008

The new Model 70 debuts. It is a better rifle than any of its ancestors.

Winchester Model 70
The new Model 70.F&S

2006

In an act of mercy, the New Haven plant is closed forever. Herstal, which took over the company in 1989, retools its military production line in South Carolina to produce new Model 70s.

2014

Long Beard XR is released. By encasing the payload in epoxy resin that shatters on ignition to form a protective buffer around each pellet, Winchester invents a lead turkey load that outperforms anything else and makes 60-yard shots a reality.

Long Beard XR
Long Beard XR.F&S

2016

Shooting AA ammunition, Kim Rhode takes the bronze in skeet at the Rio Games, becoming the first person to win individual medals in six consecutive Summer Olympics.

Winchester Kim Rhode
Kim Rhode.Sean M. Haffey/Getty

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Dwight Eisenhower photo by Alamy.