Some of the most visually and culturally iconic lever-action rifles in American history sprang from the New Haven, Connecticut, company established in 1866 through the leadership of savvy entrepreneur Oliver Winchester. But unless you’re a lifelong student of Winchester Repeating Arms Company, it can be hard to understand how the various rifles differ. What follows in the gallery above is an effort to help identify different models so you can tell them apart visually and learn some of the history behind each one. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it’ll ensure you don’t confuse a Winchester lever-action Model 1876 with a Model 1894, or a Model 1873 with a Model 1886.

There are far more variations in barrel lengths, shapes, calibers, metal finishes and wood grades than could be covered here. Despite the many differences between the models, there is one feature that they all share: Carbines have barrel bands while rifles and muskets have caps.

While this article was not intended to be the definitive source on Winchester lever-action rifles, I hope it provides enough information to pique your interest so that you’ll seek out one of the many weighty tomes about Oliver Winchester and his ubiquitous rifles. But a word of caution: A bite from the collector bug leads to a lifelong affliction.

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This article was originally published in “The Complete Book of Guns” 2018 #200. To get a copy, visit

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