Winchester’s New Model 1866 Short Rifle

Winchester Model 1866

Winchester Repeating Arms introduced a new Model 1866 Short Rifle for 2017. This lever action gun is dubbed the “genuine Yellow Boy” by Winchester and is quite pretty in my estimation.

The Model 1866 Short Rifle is available in two calibers: .44-40 Win and .38 Special. Other than the caliber markings, the guns look nearly identical. Both share the same suggested retail price: $1,299.99.

Winchester Model 1866

Details:

  • stock: The stock is made of Grade I American walnut with a straight grip. It has a satin oil finish. The forearm is also made of walnut with the same finish and has a brass cap. At the back of the stock is a crescent shaped brass buttplate. Both the forearm cap and buttplate are polished.
  • barrel: The sporter profile barrel is 20″ in length and is blued. A full-length tube magazine rides under it. For the .44-40 gun, the twist rate is 1:26″. The .38 Special is slightly faster at 1:18.75″.
  • receiver: The receive is made of brass and shares the same high polish applied to the buttplate and forearm cap. The loading gate is blued steel. The ejection port is an open top design.

Winchester Model 1866

  • size:  Overall, the guns are 39″ long with a 13″ length of pull. Unloaded the guns weigh 7.0 pounds.
  • sights: Winchester uses a ladder-style sight on the rifle. The gun is not drilled & tapped for a scope.


Richard Johnson

An advocate of gun proliferation zones, Richard is a long time shooter, former cop and internet entrepreneur. Among the many places he calls home is http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/.


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  • armed bear

    Prefer my old Marlin in .357/.38 and my .45-70

    • Anonymoose

      This is more for reenactors and collectors who don’t want to shoot 150-year-old originals.

  • M.M.D.C.

    “The stock is made of Grade I American walnut… has a satin oil finish.”

    Yes! Those sprayed on high gloss finishes you see on so many reproductions look so phoney.

    The receiver seems sharper and more authentic than the Henry version, too.

    • Joshua Knott

      What? I mean the Henry rifle is hands down gorgeous,I bout my dad one for a retirement present .

      • M.M.D.C.

        Sorry, Ima wood snob. It’s really just a preference of mine.

        To each his own (but should be mine).

        • Joshua Knott

          Haha noooooooooooo. Have you handled their rifles ? I guess I’m just a proud Missourian and belive our walnut is superior. Plus ….who’s winchester headed by ? I think it’s a fairly greedy executive board. I’m sure once it’s produced ,it will more than likely be produced in Japan. The sole reason why I didn’t purchase a s.x.p shotgun from winchester. And why I bought a mossberg

          • M.M.D.C.

            No disrespect meant to Henry rifles. It’s the rubbed oil finish that I was commenting on.

          • GaryOlson

            Missouri black walnut is vastly more attractive; and weighs more also. Would you happen to know a stock maker in MO who can make a black walnut stock for a Winchester 94?

          • Joshua Knott

            Honestly off hand I don’t know of someone that makes that particular stock, but on my big toe I could get you the amount you needed to have one turned out . It’s a very dark grain .

          • jimmyjet

            Who took over Fajen when they went out of business. Bishop? Out of business too?

  • Mitch

    To go with .38 and not .357 just flabbergasts me… Anyone know if it actually is chambered in .357, or if there is a logical reason to go with .38 instead? One other thing- I was under the impression that Winchester stopped producing rifles a good while ago (I could be mistaken). One would think their return to market would be BIG news. What in tarnation is going on here?

    • Bucho4Prez

      FN Has been making them for the last few years, if I am not mistaken.

      • J.T.

        Miroku in Japan is the one that has been making the Model 94s.

        • Bucho4Prez

          I stand corrected! Looks like FN even has the Model 70s built in Portugal. So, I will repeat my request for Henry to add a loading gate to their rifles.

        • Marcus D.

          And the 92s as well.

    • gunsandrockets

      Why? Perhaps better reliability for SASS competition shooting?

      • Dan

        My guess is Cowboy action shooting as well. However i cannot see that market being big enough to influence that decision.

    • John

      Possibly international sales. I know Mexico outlaws civilian ownership of “military-grade” firearms, and the .357 Magnum is classified as military-grade there.

      But the .38 Special, interestingly, is not. Which means Mexico has a lot of cowboy revolvers around. So this rifle would fit well there.

      • John Micheal Stacey

        I thought it was the other way around. I hunted with a 30/06 when I was there

      • supergun

        .357 is not listed as military grade in America.

    • LAMan

      Just a SWAG, but I suspect it’s due to action strength vs. the chamber pressure of the cartridge.

      The .38 Special was originally a blackpowder cartridge, and its modern chamber pressures run c. 15-18,500 psi (or perhaps CUP–I’ve always hated that random distinction in load data!!) The .357 Magnum ranges around 35,000, and the design of the old 1866 Winchester bolt and the metallurgy of the brass receiver may not be up to the strain.

      Like I said, though, that’s just my guess.

      • ostiariusalpha

        It’s the toggle-link action. If you make the toggle-link out of tool steel to resist deformation, then it will just start deforming the brass receiver instead; a basic design flaw that doesn’t deal well with higher pressure rounds. The 1892 with the locking-block action designed by John M. Browning can handle the .357 Magnum like a champ, and was often factory converted to chamber that cartridge back in the 50’s.

        • iksnilol

          What if the toggle link and the receiver are out of steel?

          • Marcus D.

            Then it would not be a Yellow Boy, now would it? Then it would be a Model 1873, “The Gun that Won The West.” (TM) But if you want a strong action, John Moses Browning did several rifle designs, starting with the 1886 (as I recall) through the 1894. “The Winchester Model 1886 was a lever-action repeating rifle designed by John Browning to handle some of the more powerful cartridges of the period. Originally chambered in .45-70, .45-90 WCF and .40-82 WCF, it was later offered in a half dozen other large cartridges, including the .50-110 Winchester.[2] Despite being originally designed for use with black powder, the action was strong enough to make the jump to smokeless powder with only minor modifications, and was subsequently chambered in the smokeless .33 WCF cartridge beginning in 1903.” (per Wiki.) The 1892 was a down-sized ’86 for use with pistol cartridges.

          • iksnilol

            Of course I don’t want a yellow boy, I AIN’T NO YELLOW BELLY!

          • ostiariusalpha

            “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

    • LGonDISQUS

      Since .38 short colt is no longer a relevant cartridge, they’re staying as close to it as possible despite .38SC coming about in 1865/6, and .38Sp in the ¿late teens?, and lastly .357mag in the mid ’30s.

      Likely a historical reference collector’s piece/safe queen for most.

      • Marcus D.

        I think cowboy action shooting.

        • Swarf

          ^pretty sure these are the answers.

          This rifle is for history buffs and SASS shooters (who are often one in the same, yes, I know) and historically, 38 special is as close as you’re going to get and still be shooting regularly.

          Also, cowboy action folks are shooting loaded down rounds at targets 25′ away, so they don’t really want or need the versatility of the .357.

          I didn’t know about the inherent weakness of the design, though, thanks for posting that, ostiariusalpha.

    • Marcus D.

      It may be because the .44 Winchester (aka .44-40) is as close as they can get to the original .44 Henry rimfire cartridge. Note that the ad states that this is the “original Yellow Boy.” The .44-40, was introduced with the Winchester Model 1873 (catching Colt off guard with its introduction of the SAA in .45 Colt, and due to the .44 being so popular, eventually leading (forcing) Colt to offer its pistol in this caliber).
      Further, the two main calibers in the Civil War and post war eras were .36 and .44; the .38, as you probably know, is actually .357 in diameter. Keith’s .357 Magnum did not come along until the 1930s. Many 1851 Colt Navies were converted to .38 Short Colt after the war, followed by the .38 Long Colt in 1875. Both of those calibers are hard to find, and both were black powder loadings.
      Last but not least, these can be but are not likely designed for hunters but for cowboy action shooting, where the .357 is less common than the .38.

      • retrocon

        Excellent history, and I can understand their reasoning… cowboy action shooting and history enthusiasts… only problem? They must have expected Hillary to win, else why create a firearm for so few when the market is adjusting to the loss of their number one and two sales people.

    • richard kluesek

      Yes Mitch, like Colt seems to have slipped with the new Cobra revolver being a .38 rather than a .357, like their Magnum Carry which was introduced and dropped in 1999. Alas, the possibilities lost.

  • Uniform223

    I wanna see a “tactical” lever action just for S&Gs.

  • Steven White

    Question the caliber decision. I’d like to have one in 44 Mag, .450 Marlin, S&W .500, or even 10mm but those chosen seem very weak for a game rifle.

    • M.M.D.C.

      This is an action designed for weaker cartridges, if I’m not mistaken. Later designs were introduced for the more potent rounds.

    • Nashvone

      Big Horn Armory has you covered on the S&W 500.

    • Marcus D.

      Anything that powerful needs a John Browning action. I think his first design for Winchester was the 1887. And this is really not a game rifle.

      • mazkact

        Close, JMB’s first design was also His first sold to Winchester, the 1885 falling block single shot rifle. Agreed on JMB’s lever gun designs, 1886 and it’s little brother the 1892 are my favorites.

      • Steven White

        Then I’m definitely not interested and wonder who the target-market is. Since the 38 Spl. was not developed until 1898 (to replace the 38 Long Colt which was proven inadequate in fighting Muslims in the Philippines)

        it’s not even historically correct.

        • Marcus D.

          there are .38 Long colt cartridges available, but obviously the Special is cheaper and more abundant. For readily available ammo, you need .38 Special.
          The problem with the .38 Long Colt was probably not the mythical “lack of stopping power” but the fact that it did not make a big enough hole, and the Moro tribesmen were totally stoned, hyped on adrenaline, and feeling no pain. They only stopped fighting when they bled out. Pistols do not have the stopping power of a rifle anyway.
          The other factor was not the cartridge loading itself, but the fact that it used a hollow based bullet that was supposed to expand to engage the rifling; the barrels were over .360, but I don’t know the exact measurement, while the bullets were .358 With black powder, it ran about 750 fps, which is pretty much what everything else ran back then. Don’t forget that there were lots of men felled with .36 pistols over 20 grains of black powder. Obviously. .44 and .45 were better, but it cannot be denied that the rounds were very popular in their day.

    • Rimfire

      1892 handles the .44 mag needs, and
      model 94 is available in >450 Marlin too.

  • Blake

    This is really nice lookin’ & I doubt they’re making much margin on it at this price.

    There’s more .44-40 ammo on Ammoseek than I thought there would be…

  • A masterpiece of the Old American West! Proudly made in Japan!

    • Mr. C

      Insinuating?

      • codfilet

        is it really a Winchester, or a foreign-made firearm with an historic American name just tacked on to it? I look at these the same way I look at those new “Indian” motorcycles-the name is the same, but there’s nothing linking the old company with the new-it’s just a name….

        • GaryOlson

          the Winchester 94 made in 2012 is every bit a Winchester as far as I can tell. I completely disassembled a new rifle from the factory. Quality work and I could not tell different from an earlier model. Well, except the main spring was a coil instead of the two piece spring. But I approve of the change.

          • iksnilol

            Yeah, but is it really Winchester when it’s made in Japan is what we’re saying. No issue about the quality.

          • Marcus D.

            Yes and no. Just like the Italian Colt and Remington clones, these are likely made to the same spec as the original, but with better materials and more exacting machining.

          • GaryOlson

            Is a Toyota truck really a Toyota when it is assembled in Texas?

          • iksnilol

            Again, I’ve no idea, that’s why I am asking. It wasn’t a rhetorical question for once.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Sam Colt had a U.K. factory in Pimlico, London. Are those genuine Colt revolvers?

          • iksnilol

            I DON’T KNOW, THAT’S WHY I AM ASKING.

          • Swarf

            Was that a rhetorical statement?

          • nadnerbus

            How many Lowes would Rob Lowe rob if Rob Lowe could rob Lowes?

            Who’s on first?

          • Tassiebush

            Where do goldfish go when they die?

          • Rimfire

            Is it really a Marlin when it’s make at Remington?

          • Rimfire

            Iksnilol, is it really a Weatherby if it is sourced from Japan or Turkey? See what I mean?

          • iksnilol

            AGAIN, FOR F###S SAKE, IT WASN’T A RHETORICAL QUESTION.

            I GENUINELY AM WONDERING ABOUT IT.

          • Tassiebush

            What’s more awesome? The elephant scene in Grimsby or the end scene in Dod Snow 2?

          • RMP52

            A Japanese made gun with Winchester stamped on it is NOT a Winchester. It died years ago.

          • Marcus D.

            What about the comb safety?

          • GaryOlson

            Did someone sneak a safety onto my comb!? Is that to stop me from parting my hair dangerously?

          • Rimfire

            No comb safety on the 1866

    • ostiariusalpha

      Miroku has every reason to be proud of their firearms, they do excellent work. I wish they didn’t have to import their stuff behind the facade of Winchester, but they do more pride for the name than U.S. Repeating Arms ever did.

      • Marcus D.

        I have a US Repeating Arms 1892. It was made in Japan. Says so right on the barrel.

  • Goosey

    The originals didn’t use brass for the receiver, they used gunmetal bronze. So what kind of alloy are they using to make these new Winchesters? Probably regular old soft brass, in which case I’m not interested.

  • Nashvone

    I’m sure most of these will find a happy home over the mantels of trust fund rednecks. In forty years, you’ll be able to pick them up on Gun Broker for less than the price of a tank of gas.

    • Swarf

      In fourty years, gasoline is either going to be a quaint niche product batch produced by bespoke artisans and sold to hobbyists for their weekend “car” shows that we all go to in our hoverpods, or a Mad Mad type blood fuel worth as much as food and children, which are sometimes the same thing.

      So…

  • Will

    Probably made to cater to the Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) crowd. The calibers are both Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) legal. The .38 special mimics the performance of the 38-40 cartridge.
    It’s a great idea.

  • Rimfire

    why was my post deleted here?

  • jamezb

    All you need is a polished brass 4-rail handguard
    Ulp… I threw up a little picturing that..

    Seriously though, I like it, but shouldn’t it have a hexagonal barrel?

  • Fox Hunter

    They should make versions in 45 acp ,40s&w and .50 GI.

  • James Kelly

    Does this rifle have Winchester’s later (than 1866) refinements to prevent firing out of battery? One being a little disconnect button activated by the lever, so the gun won’t fire until the lever is completely closed. In the other the firing pin is positively retracted, rather than just relying on a spring, so it does not get stuck protruding from the bolt face if dirty or rusted. These were incorporated, one at a time, in the model 1873. The Italian replicas do not have these features, one reason I sold mine.

  • GR Arnold

    Nice but if it isn’t USA-made I can do without it.

  • James Kelly

    Goosey – Gun metal is a nominal 88% copper 10% tin and 2% zinc. My own Henry’s-Patent King’s-Patent ’66 rifle is 86.7% copper, 9.9%tin, 2.6%zinc, and a dash of lead, by X-ray fluoroscope.
    The Italian 1866 is said to use some “brass” side plated of 56% copper 44% zinc. On mine the side plates had a reddish tint, appropriate for this chemistry, but the frame color was different, more like common cartridge brass 70% copper 30%zinc. I never had the opportunity to use an X-ray fluoroscope on it.
    jamezb – the original carbines had round barrels, the rifles usually octagonal.

  • Paul

    I just cannot get myself to purchase a Winchester lever action with “made in Japan” on it.

  • dltaylor51

    If they would have made this in an original style saddle ring carbine I’d be all over it but a short rifle is not nearly as practical.I have a Ubertie in rifle and carbine and the carbine is the only way to go it you’re planning on really using it,44WCF is the only caliber to have if you dont want to keep barrel weight down.

  • jonp

    No 45LC?????

  • BeoBear

    I don’t know where this particular Winchester was built but as far as I’m concerned if it’s not stamped “Made In USA” it’s not a real Winchester. At least companies like Henry are building quality lever guns in America and refusing to outsource to save money. If the folks running Winchester really cared about their own history and the importance of keeping of it American they could find a way. Instead they took the easiest way out, they don’t deserve to be the caretakers of such an iconic brand.