Repeating rifles represented a huge advance in 19th-century-firearms technology. The Henry Repeating Rifle could fire several rounds after a single ammunition reload. Before the repeating rifle, muzzle-loading and breech-loading rifles required reloading after every shot. Winchester’s New Haven Arms Company’s manufacturing and marketing strategies revolved around the Henry, which quickly became the company’s best seller and propelled the firm to unprecedented profitability.
During the Civil War, the Henry rifle found plenty of use among troops in the Union Army. Confederates allegedly described the Model 1860 Henry Repeating Rifle as “that damned Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week.”
After the Civil War, Winchester renamed his phenomenally successful firearms company after himself. The New Haven Arms Company became the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Winchester’s lever-action rifles became internationally famous for their speed, ease of use, accuracy, and affordability, the last of which was aided by the company’s use of proprietary, mass-manufactured, interchangeable parts. Sales were also propelled by Winchester’s widespread use of romanticized images of the American west in its marketing. Between the paintings of rugged cowboys, frontiersmen, and sportsmen, and enthusiastic endorsements by larger-than-life celebrities like “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Teddy Roosevelt, the Winchester repeating rifle earned an international reputation as “The Gun that Won the West.”
For over 100 years, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company operated factories in both New Haven and Bridgeport, Connecticut. By the early 20th century, the company had expanded to include a prominent ammunition-manufacturing division as well, and its light military carbine — the M1 — became the staple firearm for Allied forces during World War II. While Winchester moved its manufacturing operations out of state in 2006, the company that made the “Gun that won the West” got its start, today in Connecticut history.
Pamela Haag, “How Connecticut-Made Guns Won the West,” Connecticut Explored
“The Complete History of Winchester Repeating Arms,” Winchester Repeating Arms company website