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Everything You Need to Know About Affordable Winchester Collectibles

Readers of Guncarrier.com might consider the classic antique Winchester Rifle a collectible firearm out of reach of their wallet, but Winchesters can be had for a reasonable price if you know what to look for.

“We see a lot of Winchesters,” said Rick Ruen, Winchester aficionado at LeRoy Merz Antique Firearms located in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The firm is one of the premier vintage Winchester and antique weapons dealers in the country.

Most people have heard of the .44 caliber Winchester rifle, “The gun that won the West,” noted for its rugged dependability and rapid rate of fire. The weapon became a mainstay of U.S. Marshals, western outlaws, ranchers and frontiersmen during the Cowboy Era.

“The Winchester has always had quite a following,” Ruen said. “The price of a Winchester depends on its condition and rarity. We see a lot of carbine saddle guns that during their life have been used hard, so their condition is sometimes poorer.”

The price for a collector can range anywhere from $5,000 and $7,000 on average and up to $50,000 for a rare model.

“Smith & Wesson made the first lever-action rifle with the Volcanic,” Ruen said. “Oliver Winchester was involved in producing the Volcanic Rifle then he took over and paid off the company’s debts. He got together with (Benjamin) Henry and produced the Henry Rifle, another lever-action.”

There were 12,000 Henry Rifles made.

Introduced in 1860, the Henry Repeating Rifle became a sought-after weapon by Union troops in the Civil War, those lucky enough to be able to afford one. Confederate soldiers sourly commented it was a weapon that could be “fired all week long.”

Photo by Andy Carter/Flickr

Refining and development led from the Henry to the Model 1866 Winchester and the renaming of the New Haven Arms Co. to the Winchester Repeating Arms Co.

Volcanic Rifles are rare and a price of $13,000 is average. Henry rifles are more plentiful and can go anywhere from $500 to $150,000, again depending on condition and rarity.

“You can get an entry-level early model 1873 .44 caliber Winchester for in the neighborhood of several hundred dollars,” Ruen said. “They remain very popular.”

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If you’re on a tight budget, there is an alternative. Ruen said collectors wanting a Winchester should consider a .22 caliber model that can often be purchased for less.

“A .22 Winchester can range anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars,” he said.

The .22 was a popular firearm back in the day for “plinking,” target shooting at cans, and hunting small game and birds.

“It’s not a well-known fact, but the company (Winchester) also made guns for children,” Ruen said. “For example, there are models made in 1900 and 1904 that are single-shot, bolt-action weapons less than three feet long.”

The Winchester Model 1903 .22 caliber was the country’s first commercially sold semi-automatic rimfire (means the primer is around the edge of the cartridge base), chambered with a newly developed automatic cartridge.

It had barrels in lengths of 20 and 23 inches and became the “Model 63” when it was reintroduced in 1933. Production of 175,000 of the light weapons took place until 1958. Both the 1903 and the 63 had tube loading through a magazine on the right side of the buttstock. Prices today generally range from $400 to $600.

The Winchester: The Gun That Built an American Dynasty
  • Laura Trevelyan
  • Yale University Press
  • Kindle Edition

Because of the famous Winchester name and depending on the age and condition, one of these lighter weapons can be more affordable and is bound to go up in value.

Featured image by vasse nicolas,antoine/Flickr