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Winchester Rifles Part 1; History, Yellow Boy, Centennial, 44 40 Rifle Effective Range & More

Winchester produced some interesting rifles over the years, but when the Winchester name is mentioned, it is the vision of Winchester’s lever action rifles that pops to one’s mind view of a Winchester. They made single shot falling blocks and of course the iconic Model 70 bolt action still being produced today. One of the first was the Henry rifle firing the Henry 44. Rimfire cartridge. It was produced from the early 1860’s through 1866. In 1866 Oliver Winchester changed the name of the company to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company from the New Haven Arms Company.

Winchester Yellow Boy

The 1866 Winchester “Yellow Boy” was introduced in .44 Henry rimfire. It was called this because of its polished brass/bronze alloy receiver. Two improvements that was previously the Achilles heel of the Henry was loading and an extended forearm that protected the vulnerable tubular magazine. The Henry loaded from the front, you would compress the spring, swivel the magazine cover and drop the rounds down the like many tube loaded .22’s, swivel the cover and release the spring. Time consuming, however in the day dominated by muzzle loaders the 16-shot magazine capacity represented considerable fire power. The advantage of the 1866 was the ability to load through side loading gate. Faster and or reliable. The mechanism of the rifle was improved over the Henry as well. This gun was manufactured up to 1899 and served in the Franco-Prussian war.

44 40 Rifle Effective Range

Come 1873 centerfire cartridges advantages, like higher chamber pressure and the ability to be reloaded, came on the scene chambered in 44-40. The saying is that “the .44-40 killed more men, good and bad than any other cartridge.” That same year saw the Colt Peacemaker introduced and a few years later it two was chambered in .44-40 allowing a single cartridge for both rifle and sidearm. Never had in .45 Colt because of its proprietary nature, the 1873 was had in .44-40, 38-40 and 32-20 all of which migrated to handguns as well. It came as a 24” rifle, 20” carbine, very popular, and the musket for military contracts. Musket was the term used to describe the preference for full length stocks favored by the military, bayonet drills and all that. 750,000 made into the hands of hunters and shooters and was produced up until 1929.

Winchester Centennial Model

The 1876 or the “Centennial Model”, was a heavy framed model in .45-75 a bottleneck round that duplicated the ballistics of the popular 45-70 Government round adopted by the Army in 1873. The short throw action of the 1876 prohibited cartridges like the 45-70 being to long. It came in .40-60, 45-60 Winchester and the 50-95 Express. The only repeater used by buffalo hunters who generally preferred Sharps and other single shots fire massive cartridges. The Canadian Mounties where issued the gun in 45-75 for many years. Used by the Texas Rangers and companion to Theodore Roosevelt one was found in the possession of Geronimo at his surrender in 1886. The 1976 was a major departure from the short “pistol” style rounds of the 1866 and ’73. The 1876 Hotchkiss bolt-action was intended for the Army and Navy. A few were in Army stocks until the 1873 Trap-Door was decided on and in the Navy until the introduction of M1895 Lee Navy.

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