In January, just before the 2017 SHOT Show, I got the opportunity to travel to Cody Wyoming to visit the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, to see some of their rare firearms and bring photos of them to our readers.
Today we’ll be looking at not one, but two guns. These green retrofuturistic rifles are in fact two very rare Winchester “soft-recoil” SPIW prototypes. The SPIW program was Springfield Armory’s last gasp attempt to provide the US Army with a follow-on to the M14 rifle, a too-ambitious program that combined high capacity flechette-firing rifles with multishot underbarrel 40mm grenade launchers. Winchester’s entrant was an extraordinarily lightweight rifle sporting a 60-round drum magazine and a quasi-hyperburst action that stored the recoil in a spring in the chassis until the end of a burst had been completed. Unlike rifles that employ a similar idea, such as the AN-94, the Winchester SPIW had a very modest cyclic rate of about 700 rounds/min.
Although the individual rifles themselves were quite light (my guess is about 6 pounds or so, with the drum), the fully loaded SPIWs with bipod, grenade launcher, and other accessories were supposed to be about 12 pounds!
I can say that I never have held a military rifle that felt as cheap and disposable as these Winchester prototypes. At the time, I was overwhelmed by a feeling that in some alternate universe, soldiers fought in an atomic World War III with weapons like these, lifespans of men and rifles alike measured in just hours or even minutes. It’s not so hard to imagine, either, that Winchester’s Liberator shotgun from about the same time was perhaps designed to fight the next war after that!
If you’re interested in seeing more of the Cody Firearms Museum, I highly recommend taking a trip out to Cody, Wyoming to see their awesome and extensive collection. They have over 7,000 firearms, about 4,000 of which are on display. In particular, if you have an interest in Winchester firearms and their history, Cody is the place to be. If just a visit isn’t enough for you, then check out the museum’s 79-page book, which highlights some of the finest pieces in their collection!