Firearm Showcase: Winchester’s Forgotten NATO Light Rifle? – at the Cody Firearms Museum – HIGH RES PICS!

    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.

    The gun we’re taking a look at today is a real mystery, and by that I mean, I have no idea what it is. I don’t know its name, or have a date, or any other piece of concrete information about it. However, there are some clues about this gun in its style and construction, so I’ll run through those.

    First, the gun is a multi-lug rotary-bolt locked breech firearm that is probably gas operated. It has a plain barrel with a foresight on the front handguard retainer and a folding backsight at the rear of the receiver. There is a large chute where a magazine would go (the magazine was missing). A straight line fiberglass stock and handguard complete the gun. The diameter of the bolt face and length of the magazine well suggest the 7.62×51 NATO/.308 Winchester caliber. The receiver design suggests semiauto sporting rifles and shotguns of the period, like the Winchester Model 100 and Remington 740. However, its bolt design is unlike that of any sporting rifle or shotgun from that era of which I know.

    These details hint at a military, rather than sporting arm, and in particular the flip up rear sight, large magazine chute and assumed 7.62mm caliber suggest to me that this was an abortive attempt by Winchester to design a rifle that would meet the requirements of the US Army for a NATO “Lightweight Rifle” in the late 1940s and early 1950s, although I must emphasize this is speculation only.

    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!

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]