Winchester Ammo background
Winchester Ammo
on Targetbarn

An Ammo Legend at the Range and in the Field

Summarizing Winchester’s legacy in anything short of a book is something of a disservice to the company. Forgive us if we omit anything about the American Legend’s contributions to firearms, ammunition, and history itself!

Winchester's Start

Winchester traces their roots back to Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson -- yes, the same Smith and Wesson. In the mid-1800s the business partners acquired the rights to produce an improved version of the commercially unsuccessful Volition Repeating Rifle. They hired Benjamin Tyler Henry to work on the design with them -- yes, the same Henry. Smith and Wesson sought investors for their newfound Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, and found their largest in Oliver Winchester, a politician and clothing manufacturer.

Even with its new improvements, the Volcanic rifle was only moderately successful. The company relocated in 1856 to New Haven, Connecticut -- where they are still headquartered today -- but soon went bankrupt. Oliver Winchester bought up the remaining assets and reorganized Volcanic as the New Haven Arms Company in 1857.

Soured for having not been paid enough, Benjamin Henry pursued legal action to have New Haven Arms’ ownership granted to him in 1866. In response Oliver Winchester reorganized yet again, and definitively named his operation Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Winchester introduced their Model 1866 in that year, and enjoyed even more success with the Model 1873 -- the Gun That Won the West.

Oliver Winchester passed away in December of 1880, followed by his son William a few months later. William’s widow Sarah inherited today’s equivalent of more than half a billion dollars, much of which she used to build a labyrinthine 161 room mansion over the course of the next four decades. She did this because a psychic informed her that she would be haunted by the ghosts of those who died to Winchester rifles if she ever stopped expanding her home. (Perhaps the psychic’s brother was a contractor.)

Winchester's War Effort

During WWI Winchester produced 303 British Pattern 1914 Enfield rifles for Great Britain, as well as 30-06 M1917 Enfield rifles for the United States. Winchester also began designing the 50 BMG during the war, which was needed to address a threatening new military technology called the “airplane.”

Winchester had to borrow a lot of money to keep up with production demand during WWI, which they attempted to pay back by making a variety of non-firearm goods including knives and roller skates. Their debt coupled with the Great Depression proved too much for Winchester to overcome, and they were ultimately purchased by Western Cartridge Company at a bankruptcy auction in 1931. By 1944 Winchester existed as part of Olin Industries’ Winchester-Western Division.

Faced with increasing difficulties and expenses producing their classic rifles and shotguns, Winchester began implementing more modern, cost-effective designs in the 1960s. In the 1970s Winchester attempted to diversify into indoor shooting ranges and camping goods, although both efforts languished.

Continually rising labor costs jeopardized the profitability of Winchester’s New Haven plant during the 1970s, so in 1980 it was sold to its employees, renamed the U.S. Repeating Arms Company, and granted a license to manufacture Winchester firearms. Olin kept the rights to make Winchester ammunition, however, which in retrospect was a wise move given U.S. Repeating Arms bankrupcy in 1989. They ceased production altogether 17 years later, closing  the factory that had produced countless rifles and shotguns over the previous 140 years.

In 2006 Olin partnered with Browning to manufacture new Winchester firearms. Manufacturers including Fabrique Nationale and Miroku Corporation also began producing Winchester brand products for import to the U.S. It has been a long and winding road, but Winchester has demonstrated themselves an inextricable part of the firearm industry.

Winchester Ammo logo
1866; New Haven, Connecticut
Oliver Winchester
East Alton, Illinois and Oxford, Mississippi
Ammo Made
Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, & Rimfire
Popular Lines
Ranger, Silvertip, White Box (USA), Deer Season

Winchester Ammo Today

Which is to say nothing about their contributions to ammunition. A leading ammo designer throughout their existence, Winchester’s initial success was largely attributable to their 44 Henry rimfire cartridge. The American Legend continually set trends while introducing the 44-40 WCF, 30-06 Win, 308 Win, 243 Win, 22 WMR, and 300 Win Magnum, and most recently made waves in the deer hunting world with their straight walled 350 Legend.

Winchester currently offers a line of ammunition to suit every conceivable application. To name only a few:

USA Ready: In addition to accuracy enhancing bullets and match grade primers, every lot of USA Ready ammo is given a number that lets shooters learn its specific ballistic data online.

Super-X: Winchester’s Super-X ammunition has provided unwavering quality coupled with accessible price tags since 1922, and is currently available in more than 80 calibers.

AA: Introduced in 1965, AA label shotshells offer hard shot, tight patterns, and reduced recoil that are of indispensable value for shattering clays.

Ballistic Silvertip: With their polymer tips, contoured jackets, boat tails, and distinctive black oxide coatings, Ballistic Silvertip rifle cartridges provide hunters with unerring accuracy and terminal performance.

Power Max Bonded: Winchester’s proprietary bonding process yields a bullet able to penetrate to exceptional depths within prey -- but without sacrificing wide, rapid expansion in the process.

USA: The bread and butter ammo of ranges nationwide, aptly named USA cartridges are produced right in the country that put Winchester on the map.

Deer Season XP: Featuring Extreme Point bullets with unusually wide polymer tips for greater accuracy and wider terminal expansion, Deer Season XP is Winchester’s first ammo designed exclusively for bagging bucks.

Winchester Ammo Latest Reviews

Browse From The Best Manufacturers