Fresh from a century that saw the Winchester Repeating Arms Company find success with its lever-action, repeat-fire rifles, the firm unveiled a new line of semi-automatic rifles beginning with the Model 1903. About 126,000 of these were manufactured under several patents, some of which later extended to the upcoming Model 1905, Model 1907, and Model 1910 semi-automatic rifles. All operated from the same semi-automatic function (which required no pumping of a slide or management of a lever) and blowback action (utilizing the energy resultant from the expended cartridge). In the case of the Model 1907 - which saw combat deployment with France during World War 1 (1914-1918) - the weapon was chambered for the rather unique .351 Winchester Self-Loading cartridge. Design of the rifle was attributed to T.C. Johnson, a gunsmith who joined Winchester in 1885.
The Model 1907 took on largely the same form and function of the preceding Winchester semi-automatic rifle designs. It was given the usual Winchester flat, rectangular, and largely featureless metal receiver with a large ejection port seated along the right side of the body. The 5- or 10-round detachable magazine was fed through the bottom just ahead of the trigger loop with the loop underslung in the usual way, protecting a slim trigger spur. The shoulder stock was ergonomically shaped to serve both the shooting hand and supporting shoulder. The barrel was only partially exposed over some of its length with the rest covered over in a wooden forend. Overall weight was around 8lb with an overall length of 40 inches and barrel length of 20 inches.
When World War came to Europe, all manner of existing weaponry was pressed into service. There proved such shortages of small arms that many of the primary players looked overseas to further bolster limited stocks. Many companies in America jumped at the chance to profit from Europe's new grand war and Winchester managed to sell its Model 1907 in some number to the French Army. The first French batch order obtained during October of 1915 totaled 300 rifles and this was followed by a further 2,200 rifles into 1918 - the last year of the war. French Army models differed from their civilian-minded Winchester offerings in that their internals were now slightly reworked to offer full-automatic fire (up to 700 rounds per minute) - making the Model 1907 something of an early assault rifle/assault carbine design. To offset the high volume of fire, the magazines were lengthened from their original 5-/10-round capacities to 15- and 20-round counts. One of the sticking points of the Model 1907, however, was its use of the unique .351 Winchester cartridge which forced the French to order some 1.5 million cartridges with their new guns. In keeping with small arms long gun design of the period, the Model 1907s were also outfitted with mountings for a field bayonet.
Following the French, the Russian Empire also purchased the Winchester rifle but this only totaled about 500 units or so with a supply of ammunition to boot - ordered May of 1916. The British took on only 120 of the rifle and less than 80,000 rounds of ammunition from late 1914 onwards - seeing service with the air corps. American airmen carried the Model 1907 into action though from a limited stock of the gun - though these only saw service with airmen in the American Southwest.
Production of Winchester Model 1907s ranged from 1907 to 1957 and several variants emerged b the end of the production cycle - usually differing in finish and slight details. A specialized police variant emerged in 1935.