Writins of Weakeyes Cody
Talented and witty writings
Epitaph For Winchester @ 2010
You may have missed it. No sirens wailed or whistles blew, not even a lone piper played Flowers Of The Forest, to herald the shut down of the New Haven, Connecticut United States Repeating Arms Company, on January 17th, 2006, but it was a sad day for a grand old American trademark.
Paul Mauser, of Germany undoubtedly designed and produced the most accurate and often copied bolt action rifle the world has seen to date with his Model 1898. But no rifle or carbine is more American than John M. Browning’s design of the lever action Winchester’s that came west with the post civil war pioneer, beginning with the 1866 yellow boy.
It was the 1866, ’72, ’76, ’85 and ’86 that rode in the wagons and saddle boots across the Plaines of this land and helped put food on the table and ward off any adversaries. The name Winchester became synonymous with the cartridge fed shoulder guns of the early western United States.
Most of the pioneering was over by the time the 1892, ’94 and ’95 models came out but Hollywood used the little 1892 .44/40 an awful lot in their films and depicts John Wayne, and a host of other screen idols handily spinning it around.
Personally, I am addicted to my old ’94 Winchester .30/30. I indexed through most of the bolt actions in my day and came full circle back to my very first choice for a deer rifle – the venerable old lever. I will admit, as will most levergunners, that hunting with, or just casual plinking with a lever gun is at least partly due to the gun’s connection with the past. The very name Winchester, to most conjures up thoughts of the old west, even though as many or more of the rifles are used in the south and east for hunting white tail in the deep woods. Still, visions of sitting around the campfire under the stars, the smell of wood smoke, coffee, and dust in the air, with cattle grazing just out yonder drift through the minds of most lever gunners. We are the ones who go to the show to see a new western movie when they seldom appear at the theater. It’s true lever gunners and six gunners are the folks that would much rather watch a gunsmoke rerun than Dr. Phil on the TV. We prefer John Wayne to Brad Pitt and Maureen O’Hara to J-Lo. We like regular coffee instead of a soy latte. If we wear a cap, it’s pointed in the direction that we are looking. If you are a lady, we are the men who open your door. If we shave, we shave clean; if we don’t it’s a real beard, not just three days growth. We like our guns made from walnut and blued steel, and we like our Winchesters to be made in America.
Maybe I should have seen it coming, but the news of the demise of the model ’94 took me by surprise. Oh I know, I’ve been most five years mentioning it but so many old trademarks have vanished over the years it’s no fun to write about them. Still, Winchester’s swan song has been played before, epitaph written and clods thrown in its grave and it has like Lazarus, come forth to be cherished by its owners once again.
Nostalgia, is a strong motivator and the ’94 is a great design. Even now I hear a company in South Carolina, is making it again. Of course it won’t be as easy to raise the money to buy it but it will be available. The guns are light, handy, powerful, and accurate enough. It is the gun that is Winchester. It is the rifle that is America. If we lose the Winchester ’94, we have lost a piece of ourselves. If you aren’t a lever gunner that likely sounds a little foolish; but if you are, you will savvy what I mean.
~ Weakeyes Cody 2010