Beginning in 1883, fabled American gunsmith John Moses Browning lent his talents - through a partnership - to the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company owned by businessman Oliver Winchester. Winchester had taken note of Browning's work on a single-shot rifle design and his company eventually purchased the rifle and marketed it as the Winchester Model 1885 Single Shot Rifle. Browning then proceeded to work on several more future Winchester designs and produced a series of shotguns and lever-action rifles. Browning's work was attributed in the Model 1886 and would also be included in the upcoming Model 1892.
Winchester sought a new addition to its successful lever-action rifle line, the new rifle intended to fire a pistol caliber cartridge. Browning then set to work and, within two weeks, produced a developmental rifle form for review based on the preceding Model 1886. The rifle was evaluated and eventually set for serial production to the mass market to which Winchester Repeating Arms Company produced upwards of 1,000,000 Model 1892 rifles from a period spanning from 1892 to 1938 out of their New Haven, Connecticut location. Carbine forms of the rifle were said to see production well into 1941. The Model 1892 first appeared in 1892 chambered for the .32-20, .38-40 and .44-40 cartridges while, in 1895, a .25-20 capable form emerged. In 1936, the .218 Bee version was released.
Design of the Model 1892 was wholly Winchester and featured a solid wooden walnut stock and matching forend. The receiver was metal and contained all of the major internal working components of the rifle. The hammer was set to the rear and identified by its visible spur with the trigger group below the receiver. The trigger was protected over in a rounded ring that connected to the all-important lever loop handle. It was this lever handle action that made Winchester rifles so popular - moving it downward cleared the firing chamber of any spent shell casings (ejecting them from the top of the receiver) and introduced a new shell from the tubular magazine held underneath the barrel. A loading gate cut out along the right side of the receiver easily allowed the operator access to reloading the spring-loaded magazine. The barrel was set within the body, above the tubular magazine. There was a rear graduated sight ahead of the receiver and a forward post just aft of the muzzle.
The Model 1892 appeared in different guises, each designed to fire either the .218 Bee, .25-20, .32-20, .38-40 or .44-40 cartridges. Additionally, each rifle featured varying barrel lengths (even rounded or octagonal) to match the corresponding cartridge to be fired. Magazine counts naturally varied somewhat between each models though the most basic Model 1892 form fitted up to 15 rounds. Many operators favored Winchester rifles for their ability to fire the same ammunition as their pistols - meaning that a cowboy, trapper or stagecoach defender could take along his trusty rifle and pistol sidearm with only one supply of ammunition. In practice, the rifle proved a success thanks to her noted lightweight and manageable recoil as well as her robustness when in-the-field. The rifle proved just as easy-to-handle and equally easy-to-maintain with her highly regarded smooth lever-action.
Winchester went on to produce the Model 1892 in five distinct production forms, each given a detailed descriptive moniker. These included the "Sporting Rifle", "Fancy Sporting Rifle", "Carbine", "Trapper's Carbine" and "Musket". Both the Carbine and Trapper's Carbine forms were visibly shorter than the basic rifle and fitted with applicably short barrels. Today, Winchester markets the Model 1892 in a "Trapper Takedown" form, a "Carbine", a "Case Hardened Sporter", a "Large Loop Carbine", a "Trapper" and a "Short" form.
The Model 1892, like other Winchester rifles, made something of a splash in many notable Hollywood productions. She served as the firearm of choice to "The Rifleman" with lead actor Chuck Connors and was held in high regard by characters as portrayed by Western star John Wayne. Winchester developed a 100th Anniversary John Wayne Commemorative Winchester Model 1892 Carbine as a collectible piece to discerning buyers.
Its use in The Rifleman bears note for the character utilized a modified Model 1892 made to fire directly from the movement of the lever-action - a set screw within the lever loop designed to come into contact with the trigger. This gave the character an amazingly fast rate-of-fire many times quicker than that of the quickest gunfighter on a draw (the cocking action and firing action were all, in essence, one action). To facilitate the action, the lever loop was decidedly enlarged for easier handling.
The Winchester Model 1892 has proven so popular that it still sees production today in other parts of the world such as Brazil, Japan and Italy.