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Early Winchester Model 1866 Rifle

This is an early example of the Winchester Model 1866 rifle in .44 Rimfire.  This was Winchester's first rifle and like its predecessor, the Henry Rifle, continued to earn the reputation as the world's best repeating rifle throughout the world.  This rifle is in the 27,000 serial range...an early 3rd Model built in the year 1868.  It has a standard 24" octagon barrel, full magazine, with crescent brass buttplate and forend cap.  True to most early 66 rifles, it also has those rotating sling swivels. 

One interesting aspect of this rifle isn't a special order feature or some rare variation but more simply where it was manufactured.  Until just last year when the New Haven plant closed its doors, the name Winchester had always been tied to the city of New Haven, Connecticut.  However that isn't entirely true.  This rifle was actually made in Bridgeport, CT. Oliver Winchester had a big problem facing him in 1866...the demand for his repeating rifles had outgrown his manufacturing capabilites as well as the size of his plant in New Haven.  He needed a bigger plant but to keep up with orders, he needed it Fast so he moved his manufacturing facilities to a larger building 16 miles away in Bridgeport, CT.  According to the Madis Book, Winchester still kept his offices and warehouses back in New Haven.  As you will note on the barrel stampings, even the Bridgeport-made 66's are always marked with a New Haven, CT address.  Having a plant 16 miles away in another town obviously presented logistics and communications problem between the two operations.  Chances are, this was only a temporary arrangement. Winchester's Bridgeport plant operated for only 3 years dating from March of 1867 to August 1870.  This was just long enough for Winchester to build a new plant and move operations back to New Haven, CT where it remained for the next 135 years. 

Like most 1866s's, this rifle shows lots and lots of wear and use. If you're looking for a cream-puff, this probably isn't the gun for you....in terms of condition, 1866's and early 1873's are a different breed of guns that served in a much more uncertain times than later guns built by Winchester.  In terms of the use we see today on these guns, its not difficult to surmise there probably wasn't a harder working gun on the planet during the 1860's and 1870's than the Model 1866 repeater.  These rifles went to the lawless American West, were used against Custer at the Battle of LIttle Bighorn, the Mexican Revolutions and found their way to wars in South America.  Thousands of 66's were used by the Turkish Army against the Russians at Plevna in 1877.  Stanley, the American reporter even took a Model 1866 Rifle with him, believed to be in the 38,000 range with him to Africa in search of Dr. Livingstone.  There were even 1866's still in use during the South African Boer Wars at the turn of the 20th century.  Chances are a lot higher that this rifle spent many a day in some working fellow's hands than in some wealthy New Englander's closet.  Just look at the wear on the bottom of the frame in front of the loading block and take a guess at how many times over the years it must have been pulled from that man's saddle scabbard. 

Overall condition is NRA Antique Good nice looking aged brass frame and furniture. The barrel and magazine tube turned to a soft grey patina with a somewhat worn but completely legible barrel address.  Good screws throughout.  The hammer has the early style knurling like the Henry rifle and trapdoor is located in the buttplate.  Correct original all matching assembly numbers on the lower tang, the stock and buttplate (see photos).  The action is in Fair+ working order but a tad loose.  Bore is Fair+ to Good.  The wood is solid with good wood to metal fit and much better than most 66's we've seen over the years.  One small chip repair next to the rear swivel.  A good strong example of a nearly 140 year old Winchester "Yellowboy" Rifle.

Item# 8101




Antique Arms, Inc. | P.O. Box 2313 | Loganville, Georgia 30052-1947 | 770-466-1662 (W)