Museum Minute: The .50 Caliber Bolt Action

Feb 3, 2020

Credit Cody Firearms Museum

During World War I, while John Browning was working on a heavy machine gun that would use a .50 caliber cartridge, Cody Firearms Museum Assistant Curator Danny Michael said Winchester got the Army contract to create that cartridge.

“So as they were developing this, they obviously needed a gun to use as a testbed to fire the cartridge so they could see what it would do,” said Michael. “And they had this, I think in their back of their minds, the idea that the Allies were looking for a rifle to kind of mimic the German Mauser T-Gewehr.”

So Winchester created the bolt action rifle. Michael said it looks like it’s from outer space or it could be in a science fiction movie.

“The legacy of the testing and [of] this rifle is that that cartridge [and] the .50 Browning machine gun would go on to serve the U.S. military from then on, really,” said Michael. “It's still in use as the heavy machine gun cartridge for the U.S. military.”