Historic Winchester Rifles Still Available Today

Ron Spomer |

Bolt-action rifles might be the ultimate hunting tools, but lever actions might be the ultimate “excitement” rifles. Open sights and short to medium range bullets like 44-40 Winchester, 30-30 Winchester and 45-70 Govt. put the hunt back in hunting, something Winchester’s been doing for 150 years.

Winchester changed the world of hunting way back in 1866 when it introduced the first commercially successful repeating rifle, the Model 1866 Yellow Boy. Never before were hunters able to fill a magazine with multiple rounds and cycle them through a rifle with a mere flick of the wrist. Lever and shoot, lever and shoot again and again. Hunters fell in the love with the Winchester lever-action repeaters — and they’re still going strong. Here’s a quick look at some of the most famous Winchester lever-actions, all of which are still manufactured and — with today’s superior ammunition — better than ever.

Model 1866

Initially produced for the 44 Henry Flat rimfire cartridge, this brass/bronze lever action is currently offered in the famous 44-40 Winchester centerfire. This famous cowboy round throws a 200-grain flat nose slug about 1,200 fps. In three different centuries it has proven deadly on everything from bunnies to bears, but is most effective on coyotes, hogs, whitetails, mule deer and pronghorns inside of 100 yards. The recoil is next to nothing, enhancing accuracy for nearly all shooters. The distinctive look of the Yellow Boy sets this lever-action apart like no other.

Model 1873

This is the Gun That Won the West. Essentially it’s a steel framed, hardier version of the ’66 with a sliding dust cover over the bolt. Back in 1873 it was the first rifle chambered for the then revolutionary centerfire 44-40 Winchester. Revolvers were soon chambered for the same round, making this the natural choice for anyone riding the range far from civilization. The same system works just as well today.

Model 1886 

This was the powerhouse Winchester lever action of its day. A new bolt locking system that incorporated dual locking bars connecting the bolt body to the receiver secured high pressure cartridges, making the ’86 the first repeating rifle that could handle the 45-70 Govt. and, later, the 348 Winchester. Today in either chambering the M1886 remains a hard hitting big bore for elk, moose and bears. There’s no reason you can’t use it for deer, either.

Model 1894

Winchester’s M94 mated with the 30-30 cartridge has made this the most successful hunting rifle in American history. Close to 8 million of these compact, handy, fast-handling rifles have been sold. The lever-action in 30-30 Winchester is said to have accounted for more deer than any other. The 30-30 Winchester was the first commercial sporting cartridge loaded with smokeless powder. With today’s powders and bullets its faster and deadlier than ever, suitable out to 250 yards.

Pick your poison and challenge yourself to the kind of hunt your grandpa, great grandpa and great great grandpa enjoyed. Shoot a Winchester lever action and put the hunt back in hunting.