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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

K. Alvinson

Another prime example of an American company adopting the quanity philosophy instead of producing a quality product! More isn't always better.

Dave Worthington

I have owned 870"s(4) and thought they were junk. I have 2 (1300's) and would not trade them for the world. I am sad to hear this news, but all things are changing. Hope the price does not get out of hand for the new comers. Also hope no jobs go over seas. We are too dependent on them already.

Noel

Wow, I must be the best shooter/gunsmith/instructor in the world.

I've only fine tuned the 4 that I own, I've trained my kids and the neighbors kids, I've always gotten 2" and better groups at 100yds with the rifle cartridges, and so have the kids (w/practice from a rest, of course)... All with Winchesters (30-30 / 25-35 /.44 mag / .357mag)

Never had a problem and sure I never will. Too bad people (novices) want the rifle to do all the work nowadays. Sad really. Oh well

Ganjiro

I have a late 60s vintage push feed model 70 (gift handed down from dad-in-law) in 30-06 which will put 165 gn. spbt into 3/4" at 100 yards all day, a mid 80s vintage model 1300 XTR 12 gauge Upland Special with beautiful walnut, and the smoothest most reliable action of all pumpguns i've own (which include R870, BPS, M500), and my Ranger Compact 357 from 2004, all excellent quality, and 100% reliable. Maybe I was lucky with my Winchesters as I have no complaints, all keepers without a doubt.

I just can't help but feel the French parent company getting sadistic pleasure from closing down this American icon company.

Mark Walton

Am I missing something? I thought Herstal was a Belgian company, not a French company. I know they used to build some fine Browning rifles in Belgium so they used to know how to produce a quality rifle. Most of the Browning rifles are made in Japan now.
I own several Winchesters and they will be missed in the firearms community. I'm sure there will be some that are made in Japan or elsewhere that will hit the market, but it just won't be the same without "New Haven. Conn." stamped on the barrel.
Hopefully someone will resurrect Winchester and greath some new life in this American legend.

E. Fleming

I'll bet Teddy Roosevelt would have a tear on his cheek.

Robert

typical of american companie's owned by non american's...get use to it...till american business's realize it's better to make a good product than it is to make a profit and thier CEO's are not worth what they are payed you will see this. I own two winchester's and like them both (270&1300)what I dont like are sale-out's...it's a sad day for america and it will get worse. My advice "wake up america and your consumer's" before you see "made in china" stamped across your backside!!!!

mnmarlin

There biggest problem was that they put all their eggs in the model 70/94 basket. There newer auto shotguns are nice, but obviously not of Winchester manufacture. Where are the inexpensive rimfires? How about a single shot shotgun? Marlin, Ruger and Savage can't make enough .22's and .17's, and Winchester QUITS making the 9422 in volume. They must have had a 100 variations on the model 70, not one that was all that interesting or dare I say romantic? How about one in 257 roberts? or 250 savage? or 358 winchester for crying out loud?

Butch

There has NEVER been a machine that didn't break down and need repairs. Pretty does not make it shoot any better. Winchesters have put their fair share of meat on the table,(just ask the woods hunters), and ask any GI who has taken one to war if he liked his. The Mod.94 is what it is, a fast shooting, high capacity, short range, rifle of average accuracy. The Mod.70 is and has been a top quality turn-bolt. Some I have owned would put 5 shots in a 1/2 inch at 100yds. Those I kept, the others are long gone. I own several Winchesters,some made before the turn of the 20th Century, others much newer. I like mine, I also like my Colts, Rugers, Brownings,Marlins,Savages,etc. The SAD thing is when Winchester closes it's doors, WE ALL LOSE. And I bet I am not the only one who has had to send his brand new (fill in the brand)rifle, shotgun, pistol, back to the factory because "someone" didnt do it right??? Hell Winchester ain't dead, its just taking a nap. Anytime a Legend Falls we ALL feel the pain. Maybe an American Company will do the right thing and bring em' back! Me, I am keeping my Winchesters, ya never know when you might just need one.

John

I disagree with the comments about the Model 70. The Model 70 may not be an action for building bench rest rifles, but it had other qualities that made it great-such as reliabiliy and controlled round feeding. I have shot very accurate versions of both pre and post 64 rifles. My .375 H&H shoots half inch groups. I still think it is the best large scale action ever produced for hunting.

Jack Bohm

I have 2 1300's. They are the next best thing to a Model 12. I honestly insist that they are better than Browning's BPS. They handle better. The only other shotguns I would even consider are the Model 12 and the Remington 870, and maybe- just maybe- an Ithaca 37.

Mark

Robert hit the nail square on the head. Look at their website and you will see way to many variations of the model 70. I knew along time ago that Winchester was in trouble. COMMON SENSE tells you that you can't make that many variations and make money. Who is going to buy them? And just has been said. Where were the interesting old nostalgic calibers. The stupid marketing people will kill you every time. Nobody wants to make a 250 Savage yet the dummies want to make deer bullets for the 22-250. Give me a break. Use some common sense. Make it simple, limit the choices and make it a quality product. I hope someone with a little common sense will buy Winchester and I hope they are USA American!!!! nough said ... pardon the spelling.

Jim Cole III

Sad to see this happen. But I am looking for an 1885 High Wall in 405 Win. Does anyone know where I can get one? Thanks, Jim Cole

Cory

I disagree that the model 94 is long overdue and should be done. If that was true, why would anybody buy a single action pistol? How about a Kentucky .50 smokepole? THe oldies are still the goodies, and I'm sad to see it gone.

Roderick Knox

I have owned and shot pre 1964 Winchesters my whole life. I love them, there just perfect for me. Pre 64 Model 70's, I have 8, my favorite is 300 H&H. Countless lever guns from 30WCF to 45-90, 1886.My favorite is an 1899 94 in 38-55. Also have 8 Model 12's, my Model 12 Trap, with Factory Winchester Rib is my favorite. Always on target, very seldom ever miss.m24,m37, m67,m69A,m1906,
m61,m54, the list goes on. My point is, they are great firearms; with no equal. Sure I've got my Dad's 870, and my Uncle's Mauser, and even 1894 Remington Doubles. The only Guns that rate with my pre 64 Winchesters are my L.C. Smith and A.H.Fox. But when I go hunting I reach for a Winchester. I had a post 64 m70 push-feed; shot good groups but kicked way harder than
my pre 64's. I didn't like it, so I sold it.
It's unfortunate about Winchester
I would like to see Olin Corp.
take it back; with modern tooling
and some real applied American
know-how, it could be done. But
Americans would need to really want it and but it.

Roderick Knox

Correction; But Americans would
need to really want it and BUY IT.
Sorry for my typing.

Robert Hull

I went on my first deer hunt when I was 11-years old. I wasn't old enough to carry a rifle yet, but I had the time of my life. I got to ride horses, sleep with cowboys in a real coyboy bunkhouse, and see a lot of deer shot. I met an old cowboy who had a Winchester 94 in 30-30 with no blueing left on it. He told me that he bought that rifle when he was 16-yrs old. (He looked to be about 70-years old.) He said that on the first afternoon that he bought that rifle he killed 21-head of deer with it. That had been many years ago for him. I bought my own Winchester 94 in 30-30 the following year when I was 12-years old. I saved money from my paper route to buy it. It was in the early 1970's and I sent the money to my dad so he could buy it in Japan on his way home from Viet-Nam. The Navy Exchange in Japan had the "Antique" model with a color case-hardened receiver, some simple scroll work, a brass loading gate and brass saddle ring, for the bargain price of $64. (The wholesale price in the states at the time was $100) The price was so good that dad bought three of them. One was for me and the other two were for my two brothers. We all still have those model 94's and we have all taken game with them. I have killed 3-deer with mine. I went on to get a Winchester Model 70 in 30-06 before I was out of High School. I bought it new for the lofty sum of $194. I have killed 7-deer with that including a 5x4 (not including eye-guards)Blacktail buck. I fell over a cliff one year and broke my leg and the stock of my model 70. Dad re-shaped the nicked-up stock, re-checkered it by hand, carved a new fore-end tip from oak to replace the black one that broke off, cut down the stock to fit me better, added a nice recoil pad, and glass bedded the action. That gun shoots into 3/4 inch on demand. I love both of those guns and will never part with either of them. I have read about and looked at newer and sexier guns, but when it comes to parting with my hard earned cash, my $64 model 94 and $194 model 70 still serve me very well. I would rather put my money into a hunting trip.

Russell

This is a typical jaded magazine rep. You see the same dumb comments in the auto indusry as well. They are so in love with everything not American I wish they would move. Just socialists at heart.
I have owned different guns and have many Winchesters. I have taken Antelope at 400 yards with my sporter 25-06 model 70 with no problems. Just the same as I have taken Elk with my Browning bow. If your so damn smart explain why Model 21 s/s winchester will run you 10 grand. Your a typical canned hunt man. Go back to the outfitters stocked ranch and and write about something you know (which is not hunting or shooting). I put my trusty old Savage 311 s/s against any gun at the sporting clays. It is the man not the gun. Go join the Baldwins in Canada (oops forgot they did not actually have the guts to move when Bush was elected)and eat keish. Outrageous is all I can say about your comments on an american institution.
Oh almost forgot, seems I heard the same idiotic comments from anti Harley boys. Bet they wish they had stock now huh? I will laugh at you when someone like Kimber (toured the plant) buys them and Olin gives them the patents ... moron.

Wade

I don't understand how information can be so available and yet it seems that no one takes advantage of it. Browning by all accounts is a fabulous weapon. His ideas and patents were there in the beginning with the first pump shotgun WINCHESTER made, the first one ever made. Winchester and Browning are both owned my United States Repeating Arms Company and because it costs too much to pay Americans to work they were forced to have them made in Belgium assembled in Portugal. If you don't believe me, call the Winchester customer service in Utah and ask for yourself. It's been that way for a long time. Winchesters were made in Miroku Japan and eventually the Browning was moved from Belgium to Japan. No one wanted a Japanese Browning, but, now a Belgium Winchester is no good? Winchester is not dead, it will never die it has earned it's place in our heritage and our history. We all have this problem of blaming companies for trimming the fat, why? We want to be paid more for our time and effort, but, we expect to pay less for better products. Where did that logic ever start? Winchester is not making three models anymore, the only three models left that were actually Made in America (remember when that actually meant something?
Inventory:
Two Model 97
Two Model 94
One Model 12
Three Model 1300
(Deluxe, XTR, Defender)

John Pudnak

I am in search of 250 savage or 25 35 winchester if anyone know of one of those give information as to how I can get one.

Thank you.

John Pudnak

Greg Russell

You missed it yet again Mr. Petzal-Winchester made a perfectly fine firearm. I was just fortunate enough to purchase a very slightly used model 94 in .44 magnum, and I`m estatic. Remington is the gun maker putting out junk for it`s cheap price. I have a close friend who was thrilled when they came out with the copy of the sweet 16, but after sending it back to the factory at least 3 times, it still doesn`t function properly.

Ah well, I suppose that`s a column for another time, eh?

Barney Poynor

Its funny to read on how bad the latest M70 is. A friend of mine just bought a M70 Featherweight lefthand in WSM300 and has never owned a rifle. I mounted a new Leupold scope on it and he shot a 3/4" group at the range last week! I can not get my old Weatherby MV to shot under a inch!

Doc G

Winchester has gone tits up. Good. I never liked them. The nostalgia that some people have for their stuff is incredible. A Remington 700 is just a good a shooter, period. Those new savages--way better triggers, better built and accurate as hell. Rugers--make good single actions and fun single shots. Winchester pumps--they died with the model 12. The M94--marlin makes a better product, for less, period. I don't/won't/can't lament Winchester's disappearance. They were still riding on the M70 and M94 name with little or not improvements. And if you wanted one that wasn't in 270, 30-06, 223, 22-250, 300mag or one of their short mags, then forget about it. Remington at least had the balls to bring back the 600/660 series AND their chamberings. Every year a "classic" in a "classic" cartridge. What fun. Winchester---uhhhhh, they've got a big red W, how's that for innovative. Whoppee. That's why they're tits up. No imagination, no response to the public. The "It's a M70" mentality FINALLY quit working on the gun buying public.

neil

hello from Canada,
Winchester was also a simble of Canadas wild West when the redcoat mounties carried a 94 in the sadle as a canadian and a north american i am very sad to see winchester die I hope someone brings them back
like Harley . Winchester is a icon of america and all sportsman in the english speaking world.

Neal

It is sad to see the Winchester icon fade away. It is also sad to see another example of Union labor fading away. The 2006 catalog was the first year Winchester offered anything interesting in forever, and now the collector prices are ridiculous for the quality. They are good designs. I own five levers spanning 109 years and three Model-70's. All of these rifles have shot and performed well. I am a big fan, but Winchester just plain stopped competing a long time ago. Gun makers stamp out cheap crap, sell hype, or build quality. Winchester did it all and didn't focus on any of it. They struggled with being a “jack of all trades and master of none”. It is time for Winchester to take a break and regroup. The simple fact is that there are millions of lever guns available, and who needs another one. Levers are nostalgic and fun to shoot, but everyone has one sitting around collecting dust. Honestly, It makes no sense to take the best shots of the year with a lever. As for the Model 70, why would anyone choose a lower class rifle when Kimber and Dakota completely outclass Winchester with very similar designs? Personally, I would like to see the brand revived with updated products and high end American Union quality!




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