Firearms

The Dalton Death Rifle?

The 1886 Winchester Rifle touched the lives of notable Westerners ranging from the Dalton Gang to Al Sieber.

dalton-death-rifle_winchester

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While many of the American frontier’s most famous arms are well known today, few have had the distinction of becoming a working classic for as long as the Browning-designed 1886 Winchester lever-action rifle.

The big rifle was a favorite of many Old West frontiersmen, including President Theodore Roosevelt, frontier scout Al Sieber, bank robber Henry Starr, a number of peace officers like Oklahoma’s Heck Thomas, as well as numerous American hunters. A Winchester 1886 rifle was pictured with the corpses of the Dalton Gang members who had met their grisly fate during the 1892 bank raid in Coffeyville, Kansas. Reportedly Bob Dalton carried an 1886 model.

Designed by arms inventors John M. Browning and his brother Matthew in 1883, the lever gun was patented the following year. In a business agreement with Winchester, the brothers assigned all manufacturing rights to Winchester. After improvements were made by Winchester’s master mechanic and gun designer, William Mason, production began. According to Winchester records, the first models were delivered to the factory’s warehouse on August 30, 1886. That October, the Model 1886 made its public debut in the Winchester catalog.

Initially, the...

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