Museum Minute: Jennings Rifle

Jun 7, 2018

The earliest known reference to the Winchester Arms Collection is a letter from Oliver Winchester to R.S. Lawrence in 1871. Oliver Winchester asked to have the Jennings rifle for his collection because it was a link to the development of the Winchester lever action.

The Jennings' rifle original design started as the Hunt Volitional rifle designed by Walter Hunt. But it was realized pretty quickly that this original design was far from perfect. An American gunsmith, Lewis Jennings, took Hunt’s rifle and improved on the repeating rifle mechanism and created the Jennings Rifle. This is the rifle Winchester got from R.S. Lawrence.

The Jennings rifle is one of the earliest predecessors to the design lineage of the Winchester lever action. And as such has been referred to as the grandfather of the Winchester lever action. 

Letter reads: 

R.S. Lawrence Esquire Hartford, CT

 Dear Sir, the Jennings gun came to hand this morning and it's a connecting link in the history of our gun. I should like to keep it in my collection and for this reason will accept your proposition. And give you one of our best sporting guns for it. We’ll leave the selection when you are here again or I will send it to you. If you have a few of the balls used in that gun I should be pleased to have them.

Yours truly,

O.F. Winchester