7 March 2005
History of the Repeating Rifle
The invention; the Henry Rifle. It was Mr. Henry whom first conceived the lever action repeating rifle. It was patented in 1860 and gave one man the single power of a dozen marksmen. America was covered with the searing flames of the Civil War, the first Henry rifle were in the hands of Union Troops by 1862. The Henry found popularity both with troops and with Native Americans.
Custard and his troops used the single shot Springfield rifle. The Native Americans were the ones who used the repeating rifle and totally outgunned Custard in battle. The Henry produced a rapid and highly accurate fire and reports of the successful use of the Henry rifles in the Civil War were numerous. The fire power the Henry produced is evident in Major Ludlow’s Battle at Altoona Pass.
The confederate soldiers credited the Henry rifle, saying “It’s a rifle you could load on Sunday and shoot all week”. The Henry went on to become one of the most legendary, respected, and sought after in the history of the fire arms. Most of the early models employed a revolving cylinder magazine which held six in the clip and one in the chamber.
In every field of human endeavor there is a select group of individuals who are given credit for making such major contributions that they become synonymous with there achievements. Mr. Benjamin Tyler Henry is one of such people to leave his mark in history. Another popular firearm was the Winchester rifle model 1873. Evolution of this rifle started in1848 when the concept of a repeating firearm was developed by Walter Hunt who designed and manufactured the “rocket ball and volition repeater.”
The 1873 was not the first bearing the Winchester name, but because of it’s popularity it was nicknamed “The Gun That Won The West”. The model 1876 was introduced to answer the need for a longer bore, more powerful rifle. There were a couple of models between 1873 and 1894. The next and probably most important development was the .44 caliber rimfire cartridge. This made a repeating rifles power equivalent to the current single shot rifles.
All rifles were made in various versions and types. The model 73 had three versions, all identified by the mounting of the dust cover. Walter Hunt and his partner George Arrowsmith and a machinist named Louis Jennings improved on the original design and were granted a U.S. patent in1849. Smith, Wesson, and Henry formed the Volcanic Arms Company to produce and market the final design in 1855.
In 186 the name was officially changed to Winchester Repeating Arms Company and was entirely owned by Winchester. The major change from the old gun was the incorporation of a totally round magazine tube. The 1894 model remains as the current Lever action rifle. First introduced in 1894, it was from a patented design by John Browning.
By World War I Winchester was the leading domestic producer of firearms. The L. Romano Rifle Company stood alone as the only company to successfully reproduce a flawless 1860 Spencer repeating firearm with superb quality and accuracy. The Spencer Rifle was first introduced in late 1862, which was first carried by the Union Calvary before the 1860 Spencer Carbine was issued.
Custards Michigan troop at Gettysburg carried the Spencer 1860. In 1867, Christopher Spencer sold all his patented rights and signed an agreement with Oliver Winchester. Since 1867, when the Spencer Repeating Firearms Company was sold to the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company, some 50 other manufacturers from around the world have unsuccessfully attempted to reproduce this firearm.
With its seven round capacity, this proved to be very effective on horseback. The invention of the six-tube Blakeslee Box offered the Calvarymen greater ease in loading their weapons. In 1872, Spencer designed and built a single shot cartage rifle. He then entered his rifle design along with 92 other single shot rifles from different firearms companys in the military trails for evaluation.
The repeating rifle offered two different types of mechanisms, manual, and automatic. Manual mechanisms included revolver action, bolt action, and lever action. Automatic mechanisms included gas operated and recoil operated. The repeating rifle had four different clip and magazine types, stripper clip, En bloc, box magazine, and drum magazine.
Without special sealing the revolver mechanism produced a gas discharge close to the face when used in a long rifle. The Mauser Rifle of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the most famous of the bolt action types. In the lever action, the rounds are individually loaded into a tubular chamber parallel to the barrel, there a bolt is held in place with an over center toggle action.
This toggle action is operated by a hand grip that forms part of the trigger guard. When operated, a spring in the tubular magazine pushes a fresh round into position. Thanks to Mr. Benjamin Tyler Henry the repeating rifle is the most used and most sought after gun in the world.