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January 24, 2006

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So long (at least partly) to the Big Red W

On January 17, Herstal of Belgium, who owns U.S. Repeating Arms, pulled the plug on its New Haven factory, thus ending 140 years of Winchester rifle and shotgun manufacture in this Connecticut city.  At its peak during World War II, Winchester had employed 19,000 workers in an immense series of depressing brick buildings. That number has since declined to 200 workers, all of whom will lose their jobs when the plant closes its doors on March 31.

While other Winchester rifles and shotguns will be produced elsewhere, this spells the end for the iconic Model 70 (the Rifleman’s Rifle), the legendary Model 94 (the classic lever-action deer gun), and the completely undistinguished Model 1300 shotgun. Sad? Yes, but nothing lasts forever. Just ask the 30,000 workers to whom Ford is about give the green weenie.

So, here are some points to ponder:

  • Winchester/New Haven started dying in 1964 when it brought out a complete new line of lousy guns, nearly all of which failed. Shooters never forgive and never forget, and the damage that this junk did to the name helped to drive it into the grave.
  • A few weeks ago, I shot a brand-new Model 70 that was the most inaccurate big-game rifle I’ve fired since I got into this business. It was a piece of junk. How much other junk did they send out the factory door?
  • There is a glut of guns on the market because the number of hunters is declining, and guns never wear out. In order to be competitive, gunmakers have to be either very good or very cheap, and Winchester was neither.
  • Savage came back from the dead because it was able to build very good rifles at competitive prices. That’s because its president knew something about guns and showed some leadership when it counted most. Other countries seem to be able to build very good factory guns that don’t cost a fortune. Look at any firearm built by the Japanese firm of Howa, or Finland’s Tikka, or Italy’s Benelli. The U.S. seems to be losing that ability, just as it can no longer make competitive automobiles.
  • The Model 70 is 70 years old. It was a great rifle, but there are better rifles now. The Model 94 is 112. It is an antique whose time has long, long past. Let the dead rest. The Model 1300 began as a lousy gun and improved into an undistinguished gun. Enough already. They had their day, and now they are done.

Comments

steve

I think the poster earlier got it right. Garbage in - garbage out. I have one fine M70 Featherweight XTR .257 Roberts that will shoot the lights out anytime, under 1 MOA. It is a beautiful rifle made in 1982. But the recent models looked like crap and shoot like crap, hence sales in the tube. If you make a fine rifle, folks will buy them. Trust me, plenty of $1200 Weatherby's fly off the racks at my local gun store. Browning A-Bolts are top sellers, too. Although it will be a cold day in hell before I buy a Japanese made gun. I waited years for my two Weatherby's to proudly bear the U.S.A. roll stanp. Too bad the only thing left of Winchester is mediocre ammo and cheap knives and cheaper spotting scopes at discount stores. I do like Winchester rifle primers. Never had one fail to go bang! I guess it is still a sad farewell to an American icon. Maybe they will rebuild and if not, oh well.

ICU/CCU

It is sad that another American firearm manufacturer has gone by the wayside. I have to agree with many of the posts though in that for the last few years many of their products have been sub-standard.
I too support American made products and the American worker whenever possible; but the fact remains, Winchester has gone downhill over the years.
I have owned several Winchesters and have had problems with the majority; 2 model 1300's, one model 1400, and one model 70 all needed to be repaired out of the box.
I still have 2 Winchesters; a 1300 deer gun that needed help from the box and an old model 55 single shot .22 that was a gift for my children from my father. I have no idea how long he has owned it. Suffice to say decades.
Along with my Browning BPS and my Ruger .44 blackhawk I currently have 2 Savage model 110/111 and 2 mossbergs a 500 20 gauge and a 935. If Winchester could have continued to make reliable products with competitive price tags I would have purchased those instead, for the nostalgia is very powerful.
And don't let national origin fool you, any company is out for profit; American or otherwise. Without profit in substantial amounts, all will close their doors and shun their customers.
If Winchester was still profitable then they would still be open. After all, how long can you contiue to pay your bills with less coming in than goes out?

ICU/CCU

I forgot to list the rest of my current American firearms:

H&R Ultra with 3 barrel sets
(.223 & .243, waiting on a 50 cal Muzzleloader barrel set)

Marlin-glenfield model 25 (2)

Knight disc rifle

Smith & Wesson 686

Stevens model 311

mark

I own a pre-64 model 94 30-30 and i couldn't ask for a better rifle. Winchester should've closed it's doors 20 years ago instead of disgracing it's name with the garbage it's been sending of it's line.

It hurts especially for the fact that 200 workers lost their jobs,down from 19 grand in the heyday. I give them the apology that winchester in Europe probably didn't. damn free trade, damn the european union,and damn you winchester. Marlin makes a better rifle anyways. I own a customized whitworth mark x .300 mag., and plan on adding a 45-70 guide gun soon.

glenn

I bought a 9422 in .22 Magnum brand new and it was so innacurate I sold it in 3 months. My cousin is a very good shot and he thought it was a load of rubbish, too.

I still own a M70 in .243, goodness knows why. I can not put a group inside a dinner plate at 100 meters, Give me a CZ BRNO anyday. Good bye Winchester and good ridance.

carg

Around local shooters here in Southern Australia (Tassy Devil Country), Winchester has an awful reputation, for quality and accuracy. The big (and trusted) brands are Sako, Tikka, Remington and BRNO. You get what you pay for. Winchester really let themselves down in the quality department and lets face it, the Japs do it much better (quality wise) with cars than the USA too.

The time for the bigger is better notion has to be relegated to the past and the realisation is that the USA economy is being swallowed by people and countries that simply "do it better". I mean George Bush (really)....He is the laughing stock of the world. The USA had the world in total support after 9-11 and with all their technology they stuffed it up... and two countries in the process. Why do the USA think other countries should take on democracy, arrogance I call it. Democracy doesn't seem to be working very well for the USA. Freedom of speech... ha ha what a joke, see what happens when anyone supports the ideaolgy of Osama. Free trade ... what a joke...one rule for the USA one rule for the rest of the world. No wonder the USA is "off side" with every country in the world. The USA's world power status is decending exponentially down wards and China will be No 1 soon. Might have to swallow a bit of pride, YANKS. The Winchester demise is part of this whole process.

Terry

Here, Here, I agree. Colin Powell couldn't get it right, George Bush is a dumbclutz and Condalisa Rice is a puppet. Its a shame someone with a few brains couldn't have been at the top (Al Gore would have been great).... The USA might have still had a few friends.

Winchester demise is a part of system failure....dive, dive dive.

john of sparta

things live and die.
Winchester is just one.
The Roman Empire didn't last;
neither will Australia nor Austria
nor America. blame whoever is your
choice. blame whatever you find.
one of these days, Toyota will
turn "tits-up" as well.

kat

Hello. I have a 1876 Smith & Wesson rifle. Does this have much value?
Also I have a hand carved Miroku gun butt & pump from the early 60's. My Grandfather bought it when he was in Japan. It has been in the original box ever sense.
Any idea. I want to sell the items but I have no idea what to ask.
Thank you.

Russell Pugh

I have 4 Winchesters: A 94 in 30-30 from 1982, a 1300, an SX2 and my Dad's old model 37. All are fine guns. Winchesters are not the finest guns in the world but they have an indefinable something that makes them special to shoot and own. The closing of the New Haven plant is a sad, sad affair. A world w/o 94's and 70's ...

Wes Bodine

Winchester model 70's are BACK and they're being made in The United States at the FN plant located in South Carolina!!!

To the "gentleman" from Australia: Why don't you try to weld back together the semi-automatic rifles your "enlightened" government saw fit to take from you and destroy!! I suggest you rectify the actions of your own pathtic government rather than spewing rhetoric about the U.S.A!! If you are incapapble of doing this, perhaps you should return to buggering kangeroos,an activity which appears more important to people in your country than standing up for your individual rights!!

John Corden

Winchester has really been slipping in the quality department including the SUPER-X and POWER-POINT.22 ammo that's been recalled. No wonder they're in trouble.I think Norinco is crap too. For the above posters that recommend Brno be aware that they're now out of business too.
There's lot's of better guns then Winchester anyway. Most notably CZ, Tikka/Sako, Ruger, Benelli, Remington.

Barney Poynor

I have had many Winchester 94's over the years and never liked how they shot until I bought a 94 made the same year as me. (1952) It is a tack driver! I can not wait till I get a chance to try the new Hornaday Lever stuff in about 160 gr. I will say that my '52 94 shoots 160 grain better then the light stuff.

Mr. Smith

It seems here that we have two types of people, logical mined people vs. emotional people. Or put another way, the Winchester will never die, Granddaddy shot his first whatever vs. the Companies are in the business to make and sell products at a sustainable profit. Obviously Winchester could no longer do that at their New Haven plant so it was closed.

In the closing agreement it was stated that models couldn't be made until a certain future date (I don't remember the exact date) That explains the gap in production of '94's etc. This doesn't mean that Winchester is dead...Blah, blah, blah. Frankly I wasn't very impressed with all the Short action, SuperShort etc. BS. I think they should have put their time into making better firearms. Savage is a textbook example of how to turn a company around, nice job Ron Colburn.

Dr. Ralph

That big red W is alive and well and coming to a store near you. Unfortunately it's the same crap they've been peddling for years...

Greg

The Model 70 is a beautiful gun. My grandpa got one back in the 80's when my uncle worked for Winchester. Winchester used to make some of the best guns. John Wayne and his 92 are overseas now. Sad, but the rest of America is, too.




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