20 – A Scarce Box Of Model 1866 Ammunition

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

This definitely isn’t something you see every day: an original, full box of .44 Henry cartridges for the Winchester Model 1866.
The .44 Henry ammunition is one of the more significant cartridges in firearm history. It was invented by Benjamin Tyler Henry in the late 1850s to be used in the Henry repeating rifle – the first reliable lever action that set the standard for lever actions. The .44 Henry cartridge is significant because it was one of the first metallic, fully-contained (primer, powder, bullet), large caliber cartridges. It is nearly the same style of ammunition commonly used today.
The Henry rifle, also invented by Benjamin Henry, began manufacturing in 1860 by the New Haven Arms Company with Henry as the plant superintendent. In 1864, disgruntled over compensation, Henry began an unsuccessful attempt to acquire ownership of New Haven Arms. Instead, the company was reorganized in 1866 and renamed after its owner, Oliver Winchester. Henry quit the company and became an independent gunsmith until his death in 1898.
The first Winchester rifle was the Model 1866 – “Yellowboy”. It was essentially an update to the Henry rifle and fired the same .44 Henry rim fire ammunition. The Model 1866 was a major success and saw production all the way until 1899.
This full box of Model 1866, .44 flat (the shape of the top of the lead bullet) ammunition is a scarce artifact. It is believed to have been manufactured somewhere between 1900 and 1905 due to the “Registered in the U.S.A.” (which appeared after 1899), a corrected “Stetson’s Patent” date (which appeared in early 1900s), and the lack of a red “W” on the side of the box (began appearing around 1906). Though hundreds of thousands of boxes of ammunition were manufactured for the Model 1866, relatively few survive today.
*A special thanks to Ray Giles for his vast knowledge and invaluable insight on antique ammunition – rtgammo.com