Category Archives: Firearm Industry News

Coverage of events for Fear and Loading by Guy J. Sagi and breaking news of interest to firearm owners.

History of Winchester

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

When Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders scaled the heights of San Juan Hill in 1898 the feat captured the entire nation’s imagination. Diplomatic relations were a “mite” strained during his trip, and his officers armed themselves with the best guns available at the time—Winchester Model 1895s. Teddy would have been holding his rifle for that famous summit picture, were it not for the fact he loaned it to another soldier for the assault, and the "endorsement" helped launch a 150-year history of Winchester.

Three years later Roosevelt was in the White House, safely under the newly formed Secret Service presidential security blanket, but still proudly telling the world, “The Winchester…is by all odds the best weapon I ever had, and now I use it almost exclusively…” The statement leaves little doubt as to what would have happened to home invaders who managed to get into his Pennsylvania Avenue address in D.C.

History of Winchester

For 150 years, Winchester Repeating Arms has been an integral part of America’s history. The name oozes frontier spirit and wears a hard-earned reputation for reliability, a legacy that began long before Roosevelt’s.

On May 22, 1866, barely 12 months after the Civil War ended, Oliver F. Winchester established Winchester Repeating Arms in New Haven, CT. The first firearm to wear the company name—the lever-action Model 1866 “Yellow Boy”—rolled out of the factory the same year.

Then came the lever-action Winchester Model 1873 that “Won the West” with fast follow-up shots, flawless action and .44-40 WCF (Winchester Centerfire) chambering. The company’s first bolt-action rifle was produced the same year John Moses Browning began work at the company, 1883, and it wasn’t long until the firm’s cumulative engineering genius was churning out classics like models 1887, 1890, 1894 and 1895. Unfortunately, Winchester died three years before Browning’s arrival and never witnessed his company’s prolific production.

Post World War I Trouble

When World War I began, Winchester Repeating Arms geared up and manufactured a half million U.S. Model 1917 Enfields chambered in .30 ’06 Sprg., 47,000 BARs (which Browning was working on while at the company) and 870 million cartridges. After the war, though, paying back the loans required for expansion proved to be an unsurmountable hurdle, despite efforts to press machinery into service by making knives, refrigerators and roller skates, among other items.

Then the Great Depression hit, the company wound up in receivership and was purchased by Western Cartridge Company—owned by the Olin family—in 1931. In 1935, the firms merged to form Winchester-Western and later became a division of Olin Industries. The introduction of the first Model 70 and its legendary controlled-round feeding in 1936 highlights the fact that the new management didn’t hamper innovation.

World War II stuck shortly after, and again production had to answer the call. During hostilities, the company cranked out more than 15 billion cartridges, 800,000 M1 Carbines, and 1/2 million M1 Garands, a firearm Gen. George S. Patton would claim is “…the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

Employee Ownership and Beyond

A bitter strike at the New Haven, CT, plant began in 1979. In the early 1980s the company became employee owned—for the first time in the history of Winchester—under the U.S. Repeating Arms to continue manufacturing firearms under a license with Olin. Ultimately, financial difficulties resulted in FNH taking over the helm in 1989.

Despite the changes, the more than 150-year history of Winchester still lives and thrives. The .300 Win. Mag. cartridge Winchester Ammunition designed in 1963 continues to make long-distance connections in the Sandbox. To date, the company has manufactured more than two billion rounds of ammunition for our nation’s warfighters to combat terrorism and big-game hunters still rely on the company’s older products, including the flat-shooting .270 Win. (introduced in 1925) and the lobbier .30-30 Win. (1895).

“Winchester is a brand at the very core of the shooting sports and hunting heritage and it’s humbling to know we have helped write history,” said Brett Flaugher, Winchester Ammunition vice president of marketing, sales and strategy. “Our brand is built on integrity, hard work and a deep focus on its most loyal customers. With a deep emphasis on innovative products, the Winchester brand remains one of the most recognized and respected brands around the world.”

*Here's a close look at another legend, Remington, a familiar name with enthusiasts for more than 200 years.

 

200 Years—Unofficial History of Remington

Photos by Guy J. Sagi, logo courtesy of Remington

Eliphalet Remington and the trio of sons who helped pour the foundation for two centuries of firearms bearing their name probably wouldn’t recognize the M40 and M24 families of sniper-rifles that have performed so well in the hands of the United States Marine Corps and U.S. Army. The R-15 and R-25 would add to the confusion, although the barrels would the tip-off them off, partly because that’s where the history of Remington begins.

Memories get fuzzy in 200 years, so there are more legends as to how the company started in the Mohawk River Valley than Model 700 flavors available today. One version has it Eliphalet senior—a blacksmith—sent junior to order a barrel for a flintlock he was building, but told him to learn how it’s done before he returned. The pair mastered the process, the youngster took second place in a shooting competition with one of their early rifles and came home with a bunch of orders.

Another popular history of Remington claims Eliphalet II somehow managed to forge his own barrel, had it rifled by someone else, completed the flintlock and, naturally, those figurative cash registers started to ring. “The History of Manufacturers in the United States,” by J. Leander Bishop, cites an 1820 census, though, that indicates no complete guns were coming out of the firm at the time. Barrels, however, were.

Different Names

The company name and management has been through quite a few “iterations” in the 200 year history of Remington. It began as E. Remington in 1816, then E. Remington & Son and finally E. Remington & Sons as his three boys joined the firm. Then the company sold to owners who controlled United Metallic Cartridge (U.M.C.) in 1888—taking the family out of the business—and operated as Remington Arms. Operations consolidated 1912 with the change to Remington U.M.C. Chemical giant DuPont owned the company for a while, then an investment firm, and finally Cerberus Capitol Management purchased it in 2007 and moved it into its Freedom Group.

Regardless of iteration, though, the Remington name has always been prominent with firearm enthusiasts. Part of the family’s early success in the history of Remington was an undying dedication to quality and innovation. The management style, according to Roy Marcot in his book “The History of Remington Firearms,” featured, “….organizational principles anticipated by more than 100 years of the ‘quality team’ concepts so familiar to us today.” New ideas were encouraged from anyone within or outside the company. During this time, the firm introduced cast steel barrels, enhanced the interchangeable-parts concept of manufacturing, produced the first typewriters (more than 2,500 a year at one point), made sewing machines and somehow still managed to crank out 144,000 revolvers, 12,500 rifles, 20,000 carbines and 40,000 muskets during the Civil War.

Remington filed more than 1,000 patents between 1914 and 1948.

There’s no doubt that attitude, and long-term approach, is one of the primary reasons the Remington Model 700 became the “foundation” for many of nation’s sniper rifle systems. Rather than join the chorus praises, we’ll leave it to an expert like Chris Kyle. His comments on the .300 Win. Mag. in his book, “American Sniper” explains, “Other services fire the round from different (or slightly different) guns; arguably the most famous is the Army’s M-24 Sniper Weapon System, which is based on the Remington 700 rifle. In our case, we started out with McMillan stocks, customized the barrels, and used 700 action. These were nice rifles.”

Handguns

Some enthusiasts were shocked when Remington rolled out its 1911 R1 handgun in 2010, but the firearm wasn’t new to the company. In fact, it produced 21,677 for the United States during World War I. The government’s total order was for half a million pistols, but the Armistice intervened.

The company also manufactured the R51 semi-automatic handgun to mixed and sometimes caustic reviews. The new model is based on a John. D. Pederson design made available to the public in 1919. In the seven years that model remained in production 64,796 were made.

Most recently, tough, Remington rolled out the RM380, a pocket-pistol-sized .380 ACP-chambered handgun for carry. Reviews have been solid.

The company isn't immune to today's challenging business climate, though. In early 2017 it was forced to lay off 126 union workers and 16 supervisory staff at its New York and Kentucky plants.

Eliphalet’s legacy, whether the guns are coming from Remington Arms, Remington Law Enforcement or Remington Defense, is still alive and well—even the more than 200 years in the history of Remington.

 

History of Remington

1816—Company founded as E. Remington

1873—Company begins producing typewriters

1886—Typewriter business sold

1888—Company sold to investors who also own United Metallic Cartridge, and operates as Remington Arms

1912—Companies consolidated operating as Remington U.M.C.

1933—DuPont purchases 60% share in company

1934—Company purchases Peters Cartridge

1950—Model 870 pump-action shotgun introduced

1960—Remington introduced plastic-hulled shotshells

1962—Model 700 bolt-action rifle introduced

1963—Remington purchases 55% of Brewer Pharmical

1980—DuPont purchases remaining shares in the company

1993—Purchased from DuPont by RACI Acquisitions

1996—New corporate headquarters in North Carolina built

2007—Acquired by Cerberus Capitol Management

2010—Made part of Freedom Group, under the same ownership

Stockholder-Mandated Gun Reports Issued

Ruger and American Outdoor Brands (AOB)—parent corporation of Smith & Wesson—have issued stockholder-mandated gun reports on safety. Resolutions passed at their respective annual meetings in 2018 required they be released early this year. (Here's our story on one of the groups spearheading the effort.)

Ruger’s document spans 34 pages, 11 of them filled with detailed references and footnotes, while the American Outdoor Brands version comes in at 26. Both tomes are single-spaced distillates of each manufacturer’s efforts for decades, as well as a look forward at industry developments, including the contentious subject of “smart guns.”

Limits to Technology

“When it comes to ‘smart guns,’ it is an area of great confusion outside of the firearm manufacturing industry,” the AOB report states. “It is subject to the same ‘CSI Effect’ that has been recognized in criminal justice —the idea that science and technology provide easy answers.”

Ruger explains, “Proponents of ‘smart guns’ often ask, ‘If my smart phone can lock for anyone other than me, why can’t a gun? This question reflects a misunderstanding of how a conventional firearm operates and oversimplifies a complex issue. In fact, the private sector and federal government have been struggling for over two decades to determine whether modern technology can be integrated into firearms without sacrificing the reliability and durability that owners demand from them. To that end, the federal government has provided private sector manufacturers over $12 million in funding for UAF [user-authenticated firearm] development] without production of a marketable solution.”

“Despite blanket assertions to the contrary,” Ruger states, “no proven UAF technology exists. Thus far, those devices advanced as ‘smart’ have proven unreliable, easily defeated, or both.”

Gloves and Dirt

The challenges, according to the stockholder-mandated gun reports issued by the manufacturers, start with the simple fact that law enforcement and military often wear gloves. So do civilians in cold weather caught in a self-defense situation—precluding the use of finger or palm prints.

Software lags, dirt, dust and grime are also factors. “No technology is even close to providing activation in less than ideal conditions, the very conditions when a defensive weapon often is most needed,” AOB wrote.” Beyond normal delay in recognition, sweat, dirt, blood, and other foreign matter will prevent even the best biometric technology from functioning.

RFID

The alternative isn’t much better. Ruger explains, “’Proximity devices’ are accessories the user must wear which, when in close proximity to the firearm, allow it to operate. Devices can include rings, wrist bands, watches, and other RFID-equipped items. Traditional proximity devices do not authenticate a particular user, as anyone with or near the device immediately becomes ‘authorized.’” And home defenders could lose precious seconds locating that sending device during a nighttime invasion.

The Unsolvable Dilemma

Electronics also have a habit of dying under the physical force a gun is subjected to under recoil. But, there’s a seemingly unsolvable “smart gun” question in the reports.

Ruger explains, “One of the great dichotomies involved with UAF development involves the selected failure mode. UAF developers must decide how the gun should ‘fail’ if the battery dies or the technology otherwise malfunctions. The developer is faced with a difficult decision: when the battery/technology fails, should the gun be operable or not? When outlining the baseline specifications for law enforcement’s use of ‘smart guns,’ the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense concluded that a ‘smart gun’ used for law enforcement purposes should fail in an operable condition. This specification recognizes that a firearm that fails ‘safe’ will leave its owner defenseless if the battery dies or the technology malfunctions, with potentially life-threatening results. In effect, this ‘safe’ failure mode could defeat the purpose of having a firearm at all.”

Both reports include each company’s efforts to improve safety, with details on transfer bars, striker and firing pin blocks, magazine disconnects, industry initiatives, safety brochures in packaging, retailer efforts and more. To download the Ruger report visit here [PDF] and the AOB version can be accessed on this website (select the “Shareholder Requested Report, Feb. 8, 2019”).