Winchester Firearms have been a prominent fixture in our hunting and shooting history. We associate it with the cowboy and the wild west. Every kid dreamed of having one of their very own. No one can talk about guns in America, without the word ” Winchester firearms”, as part of the conversation. The Winchester lever action rifle was king.
My main focus in writing these articles will be the years from the 1940s, till the mid-1960s. By this time the Winchester lever action was well-established as an American classic, and rightfully so. But the focus started to shift when gun manufacturers, moved into new areas of firearms thinking.
World War II made rifles a reality too many men who otherwise would never have shot a rifle. Many of those who returned from that war would continue to shoot in clubs throughout the country. The national rifle association would become very popular at this time.
Hunting clubs would also become a big part of our hunting traditions. Many of our states would also start acquiring large tracts of land for the public to hunt on. Winchester would start production in earnest by the 1950s. And the bolt actions and newly designed levers would start to appear. The focus would be toward a sleeker and more appealing look. These new rifles would incorporate the newer cartridges being developed, like the 308 Winchester cartridge in 1954.
The 30-06 would remain a very popular cartridge in this period. But most of the early guns made for this cartridge were heavy and bulky, and patterned after the military guns of World War I. By the mid-1930s, Winchester firearms had come up with a more modern bolt action rifle that was chambered in the 30-06 and other cartridges. The age of the modern bolt rifle had begun, and Winchester would be at the forefront. This would be the Winchester model 70, and it would be the king of the 1950s.
Winchester firearms would also start production of the lever action Winchester model 88. One of the finest Winchester lever guns ever made. The new cartridges in the 243 and 308 Winchester would be developed. They would also make the model 64 in 30-30 or 32 special, and the model 71 in the 348 caliber.
Winchester 22 rifles would also impact the late 40s, and 50s with some of the finest 22 rifles ever made. The model 52 sporter and 75 sporter are a couple of the best 22 bolt rifles ever made. These are true classics. The model 52 and 75 were also excellent target 22 long rifles. Their other bolt guns in model 67 and 69, rounded out a very impressive line of 22 bolt action rifles. I will talk more about these and other 22 caliber guns in future articles.
Another one of the Winchester classics of that era is the model 43, in the 218 bee and the 22 hornet. Just impossible to knock Winchester in the 1950s.
Winchester rifles of that time are great collector items. Having any of these guns mentioned, would be great in any collection. But some are becoming hard to find and quite expensive. You need to also know what can hurt the guns value, especially if things have been altered, and changed. How does this affect the value of your Winchester firearm? I hope to answer some of these questions in more detail in future articles.
Many of these guns are a solid investment for your money and you have something of value that you can actually hold in your hand. In a lot of ways, they are like old coins, and every once in a while a good one pops up. And they are not going to be made again.
Which brings me to my next point? The manufacturing process of the Winchester guns at that time, involved a lot of hands-on work. Yes, they were on an assembly line, but the guns had a lot of hand fitting. The stocks were hand rubbed and a great amount of hand fitting was incorporated in the guns assembly.
Most of the gun manufacturers of that time period made quality guns that required a lot of hands on work. We could say that most everything of that time period were of a higher quality. Winchester Arms Company and other firearms companies would start to do what many of the car manufactures started to do at that time. Mass production with less quality control. Yes you could make more money and give the customer a better price. This could work if not to drastic and over an extended time frame. Winchester would do neither. But it did make those older firearms a lot more desirable for the collectors of today.
One has to wonder why the Winchester gun company, so radically changed the way they manufactured their guns in the post 64 period. I would think that doing things over a longer period of time would have softened the effect of those changes. But I would guess money was the main factor.
Some of their guns such as the Winchester rifle in the model 88 did not change that much and that was good. But the Winchester model 94 was changed considerably, and you could easily see the difference in a pre-64 and a post 64 model. To some people, the outside appearance did not look that different. But for those of us who worked on them, the difference was substantial. Winchester firearms would never recover from that shift in manufacturing and design of the mid-60s.
Maybe you are someone who does not hunt anymore, or maybe you do not own a firearm at this time. But I am going to encourage those of you like this, to consider investing in these classic guns, like the Winchester firearm. Owning something that is not only a good investment, but is something you can use and hold in your hands. This is the better way and a good way to diversify your investments. Winchester Firearms are a great addition to any investment strategy.
Check out my Gun Value page on rating the classic firearm. It will go into more detail on what makes a good collectible Winchester firearm.