As majority investor, clothing businessman Oliver Winchester purchased the bankrupt assets of the Volcanic Repeating Arms - a firm founded in part by gunsmith's Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson to produce their limited-success Volcanic lever-action pistols and rifles. With complete ownership, Winchester moved the production plant to New Haven, Connecticut, and changed the operating name to the New Haven Arms Company. The firm continued production of the Henry Model 1860 repeating rifle for a time - the rifle named after its shop foreman - Benjamin Tyler Henry. Smith & Wesson eventually left NHAC to begin their own revolver manufacturing company. The Henry Rifle saw some action in the latter years of the American Civil War as well as in the Indian Wars, being produced in approximately 14,000 examples and generally thought of as an excellent rifle for its time. Henry gave the Union soldier lucky enough to acquire it (it was not officially accepted into Union Army use) a hefty 15-round ammunition supply before reloading occurred.
The New Haven Arms Company became the Winchester Repeating Arms Company after the Civil War. One of the first orders was in revising and improving the Henry Rifle. Despite its revolutionary approach to repeating fire, the Henry Rifle was not without limitations. A new rifle was envisioned and became the lever-action repeating Winchester Model 1866, developed as an improved form of the Henry Rifle. The Model 1866 introduced a wooden forestock over the magazine tube as well as a revised sealed magazine chamber and a more robust bronze gunmetal frame. The identifiable Winchester-style loading gate was fitted to the side right side of the frame, easing the process of reloading the weapon. In fact, it was this loading gate that favorably distinguished the Model 1866 over the Henry. The new frame, yellow in appearance, granted the Model 1866 the nickname of "Yellow Boy".
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