Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Winchester by any other name

In 1848 American small arms designer Walter Hunt developed the concept of the first repeating rifle, giving it the grand name of "Rocket Ball and Volition Repeater." A lever-action, tube-loading repeater, it eventually evolved into the Winchester Model 1873. A US patent was granted in 1849 for an improved design by a machinist named Lewis Jennings and Hunt's partner George Arrowsmith.

A large number of people were involved in improving on the original design, among them Benjamin Tyler Henry and Courtland Palmer. Henry later teamed up with two men whose names would become legendary - Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson of handgun fame - and together they further refined the design. The Volcanic Arms Company was iormed in 1855 by Smith, Wesson and Henry to market the rifle. Among their investors was Oliver F. Winchester. He had no knowledge of firearms and was more of an expert on sewing machines. Yet he was a shrewd investor; two years after buying stock he owned the majority holding in Volcanic Arms. So in 1866 the name was officially changed to Winchester Repeating Arms Company and thus Winchester gave his name to "The Gun that Won The West".

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