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.
For our showcase today we have something very special, a weapon which made possible an iconic piece of American history, and which itself is a fascinating mechanical contraption. This weapon is a rifle made by Winchester’s T.C. Johnson in 1895, based on English Patent 2205, filed in 1866 by one William Krutzsch. Krutzsch is probably the first person to invent the breech-loading pump-action firearm, but his design went un-manufactured and forgotten until, in the 1890s, Winchester came under assault from the Francis Bannerman & Son firm from New York. Bannerman had purchased the patent Christopher Spencer‘s innovative 1882 pump-action shotgun design, and begun production in 1890. When Winchester began production of Browning’s Model 1893 shotgun, Bannerman took the New Haven company to court. Winchester claimed that Krutzsch’s patent – by then expired – was prior art for the pump-action concept therefore invalidating that portion of the Spencer patent, but Bannerman claimed that the Krutzsch shotgun was inoperable as designed. Therefore, to prove the validity of the Krutzsch patent, Winchester had their own example of the Krutzsch made which demonstrated that the design did, in fact, work. This allowed production of the Winchester shotgun design – resurrected as the 1897 – to continue. The 1897 went on to be produced for another fifty years, and became one of the most iconic American firearms of the early 20th Century.
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!