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GUNS Magazine December 2010 - Page 30
™ • Holt Bodinson • RiFlE OF THE SCARlET RidERS Cimarron’s .45-75 Model 1876 NWMP Carbine. link-Clunk, Clink-Clunk, that’s the sound of a Winchester “C Model 1876. It and other fine antique and modern guns can be found at Tucson’s Frontier Gun Shop.” That’s a paraphrased version of the radio ad of the decade produced by Charles Heller on his Liberty Watch Radio program in Arizona. The actual sound of that big old levergun being cycled over-and-over instantly riveted your attention when it came growling across the airwaves on Sunday afternoons. It was as distinctive a sound as the racking “clack-clack” of a pump gun, and I bet those “clink-clunks” sent more curious customers through the front door of the Frontier Gun Shop than any other promotion they could have run. Introduced in 1876 at the great Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, the Model 1876 was forever thereafter labeled the “Centennial” model. It was at the end of a long line of togglelink-action leverguns—the Henry, the Model 1866 and the Model 1873. Often described as just an enlarged version of the Model 1873, recent research indicates its pedigree precedes that of the Model 1873. NelsonKing’sinventionoftheside-loading port fortheearlier1866revolutionizedthe Winchesterleverline. Military Models As early as 1866, following Nelson King’s invention of a hinged, sideloading port for the Henry rifle, Oliver Winchester submitted an iron-framed, rifle musket to the Swiss for military trials and hopefully for adoption. Two aspects of the submission are intriguing. First, European military intelligence analysts were amazed at the number of self-contained cartridge and repeating firearms fielded during the brief American Civil War. Second, recognizing the military effectiveness of the Henry rifle, Oliver Winchester in 1866 seized a business opportunity and forged ahead with the development of a large-framed, lever action musket chambered for a centerfire (!) 44-caliber cartridge AspicturedinthebookShooting lever Guns of the Old WestbyDukeVenturino,this MountieisarmedwiththeM1876Winchester Carbine.photocourtesyHerbpeckJr. collection. with an overall length of 2.05", firing a 367-grain bullet, propelled by 50 grains of powder. The Model 1866 musket was followed by the Model 1867/68 musket and carbine chambered for large proprietary cartridges in .44, .45 and .46. Supplied to the Swiss and the British for official trials which proved the superiority of the design, neither country adopted the new Winchester, deciding instead to stick with their conservative Vetterli and Martini models. The fact remains the Model 1866/67/68 large-framed muskets were the true precursors to the much later Model 1875/1876. Although Winchester would continue to pursue the fleeting dream of large military contracts with every model they introduced, the civilian market for the Models 1866 and 1873 At8-1/2pounds,the1876Carbine handlesandbalancesextremelywell. 30 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • DECEMBER 2010