View Full Version : Winchester may close

John Gearing
01-18-2006, 10:03 PM
Saw an item in tonight's paper that said Winchester may shut its doors for good unless a buyer is found. An American icon, but the story said the firearms market has been way down for too long. Anyone out there with gigabucks wanna step in? Seems like it wouldn't be too big a stretch from loving "holes in the water into which you throw money"! ;)

01-18-2006, 10:17 PM
I used to work in an "office park" that started life as Winchester's production complex. I was fortunate enough to walk through a few of the more idiosynchratic structures as part of an adaptive re-use study.
They're time capsules. Much of the machinery is still there, largely untouched since it was shut down decades ago. Huge boilers, belt-drive systems, assembly lines still largely intact. Lockers with namecards still in the slots. Timecards with dates from the 50's stamped. From the ones I saw, the last day of work was a Tuesday.
Lots of graffiti in odd little places.
One of the more memorable bits was at a station in what I think was a barrel finishing line.
"Bob McCarthy USMC 1942"
"Kilroy is coming!"

After you kick aside some of the dead pigeons, it's better than any museum.

01-18-2006, 10:24 PM
Winchester hasn't been "Winchester" for a long time.

U.S. Repeating Arms, is owned by the Herstal Group, a Belgium company.

The Winchester name is owned by Missouri-based Olin Corp., which had sold U.S. Repeating Arms the right to use the name until next year.
IIRC, their classic reproductions (1888, 1895, etc.) have been made by Miroku, which makes a decent gun, but isn't a Winchester. Which is probably a good thing, since Winchesters in the 70's and 80's weren't much better than stamped junk.

- Kevin

01-18-2006, 10:24 PM
(Kevin beat me to it)...
Anyway, my point is that the Winchester that was worth crying about actually died long long ago. The current scuffle is only newsworthy because Winchester is a New Haven icon and the New Haven mayor is running for Governor.

The union will kick up some dust over the loss of 180 jobs, but that dust will settle quickly in light of the fact that these 180 are the last drops in a bucket that used to hold THOUSANDS of jobs. It's amazing that they held out this long.

[ 01-18-2006, 10:26 PM: Message edited by: Figment ]

Bob Smalser
01-18-2006, 10:35 PM
With the zillions of pre-94's out there in every model worthwhile to own, I don't much care that they're gonna quit casting and painting pot metal.

True, some are spendy...but the badly altered ones the collectors don't want generally aren't. FG Model 12's, for example, are still cheaper than their materials are worth....and if you can build a boat, you can restore or upgrade a fine old firearm.

John Gearing
01-18-2006, 11:17 PM
Guys, you're not telling me anything I don't already know. Herstal is also FN, or Fabrique National, the outfit that prospered by buying the rights to John Browning's designs. As did Winchester (hi and low walls, and the principles that gave rise to the M1886 [first hi power lever gun])buy Browning designs. Of course Oliver Winchester was not a gunsmith at all, but the head of a syndicate that bought out a gun company (hmm, methinks it was Henry) and at one time employed Smith and Wesson before they set up shop on their own. By the way, FN Herstal makes the M16, 4, 249 for the US military, IIRC.

And yeah, Winchester went through some bad times and bad designs. But you have to understand, after WWII it became increasingly impossible for gunmakers to stick with labor-intensive methods. There were some UGLY bolt actions that came from several manufacturers when they simplified their design/manufacturing but they were generally extremely accurate.

Yeah, there are stil a lot of Model 12s around, but the point is that it is a pity that such a sweet-pointing shotgun will go out of production.

You guys are funny....kinda....on the one hand you are down on Winchester for outsourcing production, but on the other hand I sense the feeling that they were a stodgy elephant that deserved to die for lack of innovation.

Bob, if you can buy clean, used model 12 shotguns for less than the price of 8 lbs of scrap steel and 2 lbs of walnut, please tell me where so I can go get a few. ;)

Bob Smalser
01-18-2006, 11:30 PM
Around 200 bucks in this vicinity for a FG M12. Less with a Cutts, and there's a good market for shorties. That barely buys an original replacement stock from the gun dismantlers.

Old Marlins were just as good...and those go even cheaper, as Marlin has been owned by the same folks since 1924, and for liability reasons issued a "don't shoot" order on the oldies.


I co-authored a pamphlet on gunsmithing the best of these, the Marlin 42, if you ever acquire one.


[ 01-18-2006, 11:36 PM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

01-18-2006, 11:46 PM

IIRC Winchester bought out the Volcanic company, which had the prototype of what became the "Henry" rifle. Winchester's head of development was B. Tyler Henry, whose name was given to the Henry rifle.

I'm not sure what FN is making these days, but IIRC the M16 contract is with Bushmaster, nowadays, but I could be wrong about that.

If Winchester deserved to die, it was for lack of quality, not lack of innovation. The post-'64 guns are considered inferior to the pre-'64. (Of course, S&W also went through a period of building trash). The recent replicas marketed under the Winchester name are pretty good, but were limited runs, and will still be available through someone else (the patents having run out long ago). I own a few, and they are worth it as shooters. They tend to have more safety do-dads (why a Hi-Wall needs a safety is beyond me), and they are heavier and less graceful than the originals. Of course, they are cheaper too. Their bolt action rifles are decent, but Remington builds better actions and Ruger has both lower costs and more variety.

I am a real fan of Winchester, and own about a half-dozen or so, IIRC, but I don't think of the company that it closing as the same company that made the guns I treasure.

- Kevin

P.S. I looked it up, and you are right about S&W's involvement. Volcanic Repeating Arms Co. was a joint venture of Horace Smith, Daniel Wesson, and Courtlandt Palmer in 1855. Benjamin Tyler Henry was their foreman (and co-developer of the toggle link mechanism with Horace Smith), and Oliver Winchester was one of their stockholders.

[ 01-19-2006, 04:54 AM: Message edited by: Jagermeister ]

01-18-2006, 11:48 PM
This is bad news, as I'm sort of a Winchester slut. smile.gif But, it's almost impossible to find a left-handed stainless M70 these days. I figure my next rifle will be built on one of these actions...


...from Montana Rifles (http://www.montanarifleman.com/actions.htm).

They have all the best Winchester features, such as controlled round feeding, three position safety, and claw extractor. They are investment cast at the same place Ruger casts their actions.

Another company which manufactures extractors and some of the better floor plates for Winchester is planning on bringing out a new action, again based on the Winny M70/Mauser design. Here's the link...

Williams Firearms (http://www.williamsfirearms.com/testimonial.html)

01-19-2006, 12:02 AM
They did produce the 30 cal. round for the m-1 carbine designed by carbine williams.
none of there 270 rounds ever fed right in my steyr , hornady rounds do great.

but yes an american icon, gone is always sad.

martin schulz
01-19-2006, 03:49 AM
Oh what a shame!