In the days of the Old West, it was almost a given that a citizen on the frontier would have a Winchester rifle sitting across the saddle of his horse or ready to draw from a leather scabbard. Whether it be to put food on the table or protect one's family, it was a Winchester that earned the title of the "Gun that won the West."
It is a part of American history that Winchester collector Alan Siveny of Minot has followed closely.
"With my Winchester collection I try to show the whole span of what Winchester used to be. I've been collecting for 25 to 30 years. Just to try and show the history I've got the original boxes of shells to go with the Winchesters," said Siveny.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN •
Alan Siveny, Minot, shows off the “Gun that won the West,” a Model 1873 Winchester rifle.
Siveny's Winchester display at the annual Minot Gun Show held this past weekend was one of the most impressive and complete presentations at the show. Plenty of onlookers stopped to observe and comment on the unique display, many remembering an old Winchester that their father or grandfather once owned. Understandably, the gun receiving most of the attention was sporting the famed octagonal barrel.
"That's my favorite one, a model 1873 that was made in 1887 in the .38-.40 caliber. It's the old lever action. That's the gun that won the West," remarked Siveny. "It was a very popular gun for its time."
Winchester became famous for reliable firearms prior to 1900 and that reputation probably reached a peak in the late 1990s. Siveny's collection is all pre-1964, ranging from .22 rifles to pump shotguns.
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"I've got some of the discontinued calibers like .401 and .351," remarked Siveny. "There's a lot of .22's and, of course, the Winchester Model 12 pump. They made a zillion of them, and the Model 94's that was probably the most popular deer rifle ever made."
Siveny was able to pick up a couple of new items for his Winchester collection at the gun show, an axe and a pipe wrench stamped with the Winchester logo. Although most people associate the Winchester name exclusively with firearms and ammunition, there was a time when the popular brand extended to hundreds of other items.
"Winchester used to be like an Ace Hardware store in the 1920s," explained Siveny. "I try to show a little bit of what they sold, from tools to fishing equipment. They made a lot of fishing lures, rods and reels. Winchester even made rollerskates, golf clubs, flashlights and paint."
The Winchester shotshells in Siveny's collection range from tiny and rare 9mm to huge 8 gauge.
"Winchester made 8 gauge shells for a while but they did not manufacture a gun for them," said Siveny. "Some of the earliest paper shotgun shells were the number 12 Star loads that started out in 1887 and ended in 1894. The 9 millimeter shotshells were made for a little garden gun."
Garden guns once were used to keep unwanted birds, snakes and gophers out of vegetable and flower gardens. They could also come in handy for ridding a barn of rats and mice.
Winchester recently ceased all manufacturing of firearms but, thanks in part to avid collectors like Alan Siveny, the Winchester name continues to live on.