In 1866, Oliver Winchester, reorganized his New Haven Arms company into Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Winchester had the Henry rifle completely modified and improved to become the first Winchester rifle, the Model 1866, which fired the same .44 caliber rimfire cartridges as the Henry. The 1866 Winchester used a unique double firing pin which struck the head of the rimfire cartridge in two places which increased the chances that it would fire reliably.
The next Winchester model was rolled out in 1873. The Winchester Model 1873 introduced the first Winchester center fire cartridge, the .44-40 WCF (Winchester Center Fire).
These Winchester lever action rifle families are commonly known as
"The Gun That Won the West."
The Winchester Model 1873 was followed by the Winchester Model 1876 (or "Centennial Model"), a larger version of the '73,. It was chambered for longer, more powerful cartridges such as .45-60 WCF, .45-75 WCF, and .50-95 WCF.
Oliver Winchester died in December 1880; his son and successor, William Wirt Winchester, died of tuberculosis four months later.
From 1883, John Browning worked in partnership with the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and designed a series of rifles and shotguns, most notably the
Winchester Model 1885 Single Shot Rifle,
Winchester Model 1886 Lever-Action Rifle,
Winchester Model 1887 Lever-Action Shotgun,
Winchester Model 1897 Pump-Action Shotgun,
Winchester Model 1892 Lever-Action Rifle,
Winchester Model 1894 Lever-Action Rifle, and
Winchester Model 1895 Lever-Action Rifle.
Winchester introduced the first commercial self-loading rifle, the .22 rimfire Winchester Model 1903 and later centerfire Model 1905, Model 1907, and Model 1910 rifles.
Winchester engineers, after ten years of work, designed the Model 1911 shotgun. The Winchester Model 1911 SL Shotgun was a self-loading, recoil-operated shotgun produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms from 1911 to 1925.
Model 1912 - The Winchester Model 1912 (known as the Model 12,) is a hammerless pump-action, shotgun with an external tube magazine. From 1912 until 1963, nearly two million Model 12 shotguns were produced in various grades and barrel lengths.
Model 52 - The Winchester Model 52 was a bolt-action .22-caliber target rifle introduced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1920. For many years it was the premier smallbore match rifle in the United States. Over 110,000 were produced from 1920 until discontinued in 1980.
Model 54 - The Winchester Model 54 is a bolt action rifle manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Model 54 Used a Mauser 98 type action. The Model 54 was produced until 1936 when, with some modifications, it was reintroduced as the Winchester Model 70.
Winchester and Browning engineers developed the Browning .50 caliber machine gun during world war one. The caliber .50 BMG (12.7 x 99 mm) ammunition for it was designed by the Winchester ballistic engineers.
The Great Depression put an end to Winchester Repeating Arms Company and they went into receivership in 1931. On December 22, 1931 Winchester Repeating Arms Company was bought at bankruptcy auction by the Olin family's Western Cartridge Company.
In 1935 Western Cartridge merged with its subsidiary to form Winchester-Western Company.
In 1944 the firearms and ammunition operations would be reorganized as the Winchester-Western Division of Olin Industries.
Another Winchester Legend:
Known as "The Rifleman's Rifle", The Pre-64 Winchester Model 70 is a bolt action sporting rifle that was introduced in 1936 and ended production in 1964.
In the 1960's the cost of skilled labor made it difficult to produce Winchester's classic and legendary designs profitably. In particular, Winchester's flagship Model 12 pump shotgun and Model 70 bolt-action rifle with their hand machined forgings could no longer compete in price with Remington's cast-and-stamped 870 and 700. The result was a new line of lower quality guns that replaced most of the older high quality products in 1963-64.
Labor costs continued to rise, and in 1980 Olin decided that Winchester firearms could no longer be produced profitably in New Haven. Therefore in December 1980 the plant was sold to its employees, and was incorporated as the U.S. Repeating Arms Company, together with a licence to make Winchester arms.
Olin retained the Winchester ammunition business.
From 1981 until 2006, Winchester guns were made by the U.S. Repeating Arms Company.
On January 16, 2006 U.S. Repeating Arms announced it was closing the New Haven, Connecticut, plant where Winchester rifles and shotguns were produced for 140 years. Along with the closing of the plant, the Model 94 rifle, Model 70 rifle and Model 1300 shotgun would be discontinued.
On August 15, 2006, Olin Corporation, owner of the Winchester trademarks, announced that it had entered into a new license agreement with Browning to make Winchester brand rifles and shotguns, Browning, based in Morgan, Utah, and the former licensee, U.S. Repeating Arms Company, are both subsidiaries of FN Herstal.
In 2008 FN Herstal announced that it would produce Model 70 rifles at its plant in Columbia, South Carolina, several improvements to the Model 70 bolt action rifles are more than apparent in the 2010 rifles.
Fabrique Nationale d'Herstal — identified as FN Herstal and often referred to as Fabrique Nationale or simply FN — is a Belgian manufacturer of firearms. FN is a subsidiary of the Herstal Group, which also owns U.S. Repeating Arms Company (Winchester) and Browning Arms Company.
The .308 Winchester, the commercial version of the military 7.62x51mm NATO, is the most popular hunting cartridge in the world.
Olin Corporation continues to manufacture Winchester ammunition in several lines including Super-X, Supreme and Supreme Elite, AA and Super Target shotshells, and Winchester Cowboy Loads revolver cartridges.