American Rifleman - July 2019 - 88

I HAVE THIS OLD GUN ...

WINCHESTER MODEL 1866
CENTER-FIRE CARBINE
GUN: MODEL 1866 WINCHESTER CARBINE-THIRD MODEL
CHAMBERING: .44 HENRY CENTER-FIRE (FLAT)
SERIAL NO: 118XXX F
MANUFACTURED: 1874
CONDITION: NRA VERY GOOD (ANTIQUE GUN STANDARDS)
VALUE: $8,500 TO $10,000
NOTE: VALUE REFLECTS AN ORIGINAL WINCHESTER FACTORY CENTER-FIRE CHAMBERING. IN .44 RIMFIRE,
OR RE-CHAMBERED BY A NON-FACTORY GUNSMITH, A THIRD MODEL IN THIS CONDITION WOULD BE
VALUED AT $4,500 TO $5,500.

I

n 1857, when Oliver Winchester formed the New Haven Arms Co., he inherited
the misfire-prone Volcanic lever-action. By 1860, though, plant superintendent
Benjamin Tyler Henry had re-designed the Volcanic into the Henry Rifle, a
reliable repeater that fired a specially developed .44 Henry (Flat) rimfire cartridge.
Although its 28-gr. blackpowder charge and 200-gr. bullet only provided energy
similar to the Colt 1860 Army revolver, the Henry had firepower, boasting "sixty
shots a minute" (even though its magazine held only 15 rounds).
The Henry had loading and jamming issues, though. Thus, in 1866, Winchester
introduced the "Improved Henry." When his company became the Winchester
Repeating Arms Co., that rifle became the first to be stamped "Winchester." In 1873,
it was renamed the Model 1866, because, as the late George Madis pointed out in
The Winchester Book, "Until the introduction of the Model 1873, the Model 1866 was
the Winchester; there were no others."
Like the Henry, the Model 1866 was chambered in .44 Henry rimfire. Thus, it-and
not the Model 1873 in .44-40 Win., as widely postulated-was the first rifle to offer
cartridge interchangeability with revolvers, as some Smith & Wesson No. 3s and Colt
1871-72 Open Tops were also chambered in .44 Henry rimfire. Another erroneous
belief is that the Model 1866 was chambered only in .44 rimfire. After the emergence
of the .44-40 Win. cartridge, some gunsmiths converted Model 1866s to .44 centerfires (but not .44-40, which wouldn't feed in 1866 actions). Additionally, a few guns
were factory-chambered in .44 Henry Center-fire (Flat). As Madis notes, "Model 1866s
originally made as [center-fire] or factory converted to [center-fire] are rare." With
a total of 170,101 Model 1866s produced, fewer than 2,000 (including 1,020 sent to
Brazil in 1891) were factory-chambered in .44 Henry Center-fire, beginning in 1873
and ending when the last Model '66s were shipped in 1898.
This Third Model 1866 carbine in .44 Henry Center-fire was made in 1874, shortly
after the introduction of the 1873 Winchester in .44-40 Win., as it made marketing
sense for Winchester to "modernize" some of its unsold 1866s to .44 Henry Center-fire.
This gun exhibits one of three factory techniques-threading a center-fire collar
onto the rimfire bolt. Even in its 60 percent condition, showing much use but still
retaining one section of its original three-piece cleaning rod in the butt, it is easily
worth $8,500 to $10,000 due to its factory center-fire configuration.
-RICK HACKER, FIELD EDITOR
American Rifleman does NOT accept submissions for the I Have This Old Gun column. Topics are assigned to
Field Editors in advance. Due to the volume of mail received, our writers are not able to answer individual
questions. Please consider instead sending your correspondence and questions through our Dope Bag/Q&A
service, which is available to all NRA members in good standing. Details appear in the Q&A section.

88

JULY 2019

AMERICAN RIFLEMAN

Photos by author



American Rifleman - July 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - July 2019

Contents
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover1
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover2
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 1
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Contents
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 3
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 4
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American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover3
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