Museum Minute: The Gentlemen's Agreement

May 29, 2018

During the 19th century, Winchester Repeating Arms Company and Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company frequently played with each other’s markets. One would manufacture double barrel shotguns another would then import double barrel shotguns. But Colt always had the lever while Winchester had the revolver.

But the cordial friendship went rocky when Colt bought the Andrew Burges Lever Action patent. This proved that Colt wanted to get into the lever action market, which was always Winchester's market.

Winchester didn’t sit quietly but acted quickly. In 1883, the arms company hired a former Colt employee, William Mason. He was hired specifically to make a revolver that looked eerily similar to the single action that Colt was selling. 

Pretty quickly, Colt and Winchester executives were sitting together in a room. The story goes after discussing normal business, one of the top executives at Winchester said, “hey, there’s one more thing. What do you think of this revolver that we’re working on?”

Shortly after the meeting, Colt stopped making their lever action rifles and Winchester never started building the revolver. Truly a gentleman’s agreement to stay out of each other's way.