How to Make a Non-Firing Replica Winchester Model 1866 Short Rifle for Display
A Brief History
The short rifle could be carried easily in a sling mounted on a horse. Since it was shorter, it could be drawn while riding and more easily fired. Its longer barreled relatives may have been a little more accurate, but other attributes made it a favorite nevertheless. The magazine held 15 rounds, and it provided a cool surface for a cowboy to hold, an advantage over earlier Henry's.
The Winchester 1873 was known as "The gun that won the West." The Winchester '73, as well as the Winchester Model 1866, were prized by the cowman, outlaw, peace officer, and soldier. Indians who had an opportunity to obtain a Winchester would not scruple over paying dearly for it.
As the Apache in Arizona said, "It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand."
You Will Need
- Computer and printer
- A photo to replicate
- 8 1/2" x 11" typing paper or graph paper
- Pen or pencil
- Brown or white wrapping paper
- Wood slab
- Walnut wood stain
- Mounting supplies
Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Non-Firing Replica Model
1. Find a photo to replicate. The first step in making your replica is to find a photo of a Winchester rifle that you like. Copy the photo to your computer, and import it to a paint or photo program. You need a print out of the gun that is as close as you can make it to 10" long. Then, print the photo in landscape.
2. Cut it out. Once your Winchester is printed out, cut it out carefully along the perimeter of the gun. This is the rifle tracing that will be used later as your pattern to make a larger image for tracing to wood.
Shrinking, Expanding - Use Grid Lines
3. Draw the grid. Now you need to make a larger image. Make a piece of graph paper using white 8 1/2" x 11" typing paper. Draw the grid so that all of the squares are 3/4" x 3/4". You will need 14 vertical columns and nine horizontal rows. The extra might be of use if you want to start drawing again because of all miscalculations. I make adjustments to the smaller graph paper by whiting out lines I don't want. This can sometimes happen if your squares are not perfectly drawn. Small errors in your little sketch are magnified; it's not a problem.
Note: You can copy any photo of any version of the Winchester carbine—some folks may prefer a later model. Just make sure your cutout for transfer is 10" long.
4. Make another graph. On a piece of brown or white wrapping paper (butcher paper), make another graph with squares that are 1 3/8" x 1 3/8" in dimension. Your paper should be 24" x 24"—a standard size to buy. If you are using scrap, make sure it is at least these dimensions. Of course, you can mend pieces of scrap together and use that.
5. Transfer the small sketch to the larger graph paper. Draw segments of the rifle in the corresponding squares. That is, if the first square over and fourth square down has a piece of the stock, draw the piece the same way in that cell. Continue to draw each part of the rifle in corresponding squares. If your squares are not perfectly drawn, and result in distortions, you can make adjustments on the paper as you go. They are usually small ones and easy.
6. Cut your replica-sized copy along the perimeter. It should be close to 22" long.
7. Once traced and cut, reproduce by outline the carbine to your wood. With a scroll saw, cut along your outline. You will need to drill a hole near the outline big enough to slip your scroll saw blade through for cutting. I used a 3/32" bit. Cut the whole carbine out. You will be left with a scrap piece(s) of wood. Save it. You now have the wood carbine cutout that will be mounted on a separate piece of wood.
If you don't have a scroll saw, you can use a saber saw, but at corners, you will have to use a hand coping saw. You can probably buy one for $6 at Walmart if necessary. I imagine a small band saw would work well, also.
A Famous Repeater Rifle: Winchester 1866
Reconciling Small Mistakes
Any irregularities in cutting can be ameliorated by using a grinder to smooth out high and low cut spots. The grinding wheel in the photo works very well because you can turn it to attack any angle. Pretty much any small grinding wheel will work. Of course, you can use sandpaper to accomplish the same thing.
Another way to hide any sins is to use paper—it works great to cover up. Simply cover any minor wounds with paper and glue. Super Tacky Glue or Aleene's Original Tacky Glue works great. Any white glue or wood glue will work. The tacky glues are nice because the paper sticks, you can work with a different area of the model without the paper releasing, and it is fast drying.
Cutting the Right and Left Side: Mounting on a Separate Board
Backed With a Separate Section of Wood
Another Method of Mounting
Varied Back Panel
Cut the short rifle out as already described above. The leftover portion can be made stronger by using Popsicle sticks on the back. For even more strength and to allow the rifle to be glued for a three-dimensional look, cut four stays to fit, then glue. Your carbine will be glued to the stays and centered about the cutout. Since when hanging, the wall paint will show through the edges of the cutout, I glue brown paper to the backboard. After the backboard is stained, the brown paper will block the color of the paint on the wall from coming through. It works reasonably well.
Edges and front face were stained with leftover walnut wood stain. In addition, the inside edges were stained. When it's hung up high on a wall, white wood might peep out...
After you have painted your model, glue the carbine to the stays. I used Gorilla glue—remember, both wood surfaces must be moistened with water before gluing.
Two screw eyes and picture hanging wire work great for suspension.
A Few Famous 19th-Century Lever-Action Repeaters
Marlin 1895, Savage Model 99, Winchester 1894, Winchester 1886, Winchester 1873, Henry Model 1860 Rifle, Winchester 1866, and the Spencer.
A Working Repeater Long Rifle Dates All the Way to the 17th Century
The idea of a repeating rifle began early on. In the 17th century, the Cookson repeater was invented and built, but it was a very expensive weapon.
Repeating rifles were first manufactured in large numbers toward the end of the American Civil War. One of those iconic repeaters with lever action was the Winchester Model 1866. The short rifle, or carbine, was a favorite in the West, particularly among cowboys and military personnel. Repeating rifles played an important part in the development of my home state of Arizona, particularly with Arizona Rangers, hence the reason for my interest.
The most popular Winchester was the carbine with 127,000 manufactured. The Winchester 1866 was originally manufactured for .44 caliber ammunition. This ammunition was rimfire, and later examples became centerfire. Rimfire allowed an individual to use it in a pistol and a long gun. This was convenient and also economical.
Not only is the exterior of the Winchester 1866 elegant, but also the inside workings are ingenious. Add the Winchester Model 1866 to your list of beautiful things from the Old West.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 John R Wilsdon