With the arrival of evermore powerful centerfire cartridges appearing on the firearms front, it was only natural for the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company of New Haven, Connecticut to develop a new rifle based on the proven Winchester function. Up to this point, the Winchester concern had worked on guns competing to fire the established rimfire and centerfire cartridge types. The Winchester Model 1876, therefore, became their "full-power" answer - and also went under the name of "Centennial Model" due to it appearing in time for American's 100-year birthday celebration. A total of 63,872 Model 1876s are believed to have been produced beginning in 1876 and spanning through to 1898.
The Model 1876 looked every bit the part of a Winchester lever-action firearm - more akin in appearance to the Model 1873 before it - complete with its squared receiver design, integrated lever system under the grip, full stock, integral magazine tube under the barrel and wood furniture to round things out. Despite its outward similarities to the Model 1873, the Model 1876 actually held origins in an 1868 Winchester design that was never produced for the open market. The main difference in the Model 1876 over preceding Winchester designs was its enlarged receiver section designed specifically to utilized the aforementioned full-power cartridges - thusly the receiver was also of greater strength to contend with the greater power inherent in these rounds. The loading gate was still set to the lower right side of the receiver with the ejection port along the top. The hammer was naturally set to the rear of the receiver with the trigger below it. The forend was well-rounded and used in two-handed firing for both support (in aiming) and to protect the operator from a hot barrel (something the preceding Henry rifles lacked). Aiming was aided by a front fixed-post and a rear graduated sight. The shoulder stock was capped by a brass buttplate. The tube magazine could hold 15 rounds of ammunition. The barrel could be octagonal or rounded in shape depending on the model type and overall metal construction and trim work was completed in nickel, silver and gold finishes.
Like other Winchester rifles, the Model 1876 appeared in two distinct forms beyond the basic rifle - a shortened carbine model suitable for when on horseback and the lengthier "musket" type of longer range. To go along with the changes to the receiver, each version featured longer barrels - 22 inches for the carbine version and 32 inches for the musket version (these seen with rounded barrels). The standard Model 1876 rifle barrel was between 26 to 28 inches in length though there were 23 inch and as long as 36 inch lengths available with varying lengths in between. The first production Model 1876s were chambered to fire the .45-75 WCF cartridge but other variations in the family line eventually allowed firing of the .40-60, .45-60 and .50-95 Express cartridges within time.
In practice, the Model 1876 proved its worth as a Winchester product. She was a powerful firearm with great stopping capabilities and her in-the-field reliability was well respected by frontiermen. More notable names to have utilized the Model 1876 included the Texas Rangers, Canadian Mounted Police (stamped with "NWMP" on the stock), Chiricahua Apache war chief Geronimo and avid hunter Teddy Roosevelt.
Manufacturing Winchester Repeating Arms Company - USA
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