Properly named Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Winchester is a popular shotgun and rifle manufacturer since late 19th century. Before the establishment of the company, Oliver Winchester used to be part of New Haven Arms Company wherein it controlled the first Smith & Wesson handgun called the Volcanic Rifle. When S&W broke up with the New Haven, Oliver Winchester established the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. By 1866, Winchester is already producing high quality rifles. Their success continues as the company gained the assistance of John Browning in 1883. John Browning developed series of shotguns and rifles which became popular during that time.
Unfortunately, as soon as John Browning left Winchester, the company started to have problems with competition as John Browning came out with powerful guns for the military. World War I and World War II saw the efficient use of John Browning guns without the aid of Winchester. The company, on the other hand, came out with different rifles which include a civilian version of M14 rifles.
The current trademarks and designs of Winchester are owned by its latest owner Olin Corporation. However, the manufacturer of Winchester rifles and shotguns is currently owned by FN Herstal, a Belgian firearms manufacturer. Called US Repeating Arms Company, the company is mainly composed of former Winchester Employees who has the skills to build original Winchester rifles and shotguns.
The Winchester Rifles are often referred to as the “gun that saved the west” although this term was originally used in the 1873 rifle of Winchester. The most popular Winchester rifles were mostly built before the 20th century. These rifles are all collector’s item because of the legacy and these rifles were designed by the John Browning, arguably the most recognized person in the gun industry.
The most popular Winchester rifle is the Single Shot Rifle produced in 1885. This is the first rifle designed by John Browning for Winchester. This type of gun was specifically built for shooting competitions. The rifle became a huge commercial success because of its performance during different competitions, easily defeating then popular models. Variations were made on the 1885 rifles for different hunting purposes.
Winchester is also credited to produce the first commercially successful shotguns. John Browning designed the 1887 series of shotguns. The first variation uses smokeless powder which later moved to shot shells. The chambered shotgun only came with the M1901 shotgun which has the basic features of the original 1887 shotgun. Early on, the shotguns of John Browning were pump-action shotguns which proved to be powerful especially when they are used in cartridges.
One of the most popular and unique shotgun developed by Winchester is the Model 21 shotgun. It’s a double barrel shotgun that first came out in 1931. Its unique feature is in the required hinge action to load the cartridges. Instead of the more popular and conventional pump action; the user is required to lift the barrel a little bit. Only 30,000 of this type of shotgun were made. Each of them is custom designed and hand made.