Of all the names in the world of firearms, Winchester Repeating Arms is among the most recognizable and beloved. There’s little wonder why.
The legendary rifles and shotguns that have poured out of the company in its more than 150 years of existence helped tame the wild west, win America’s wars and put meat on the table. This pedigree — not to mention top-notch designs — has made Winchesters among the most collectable firearms around.
With the release of the Standard Catalog of Winchester Firearms 3rd Edition, Gun Digest went to the source to dig a little deeper into the company and its wares. We sat down with Winchester Repeating Arms Product Manager Glenn Hatt for a quick Q & A about the past, present and future of this renowned company and its guns.
Gun Digest: We’ll pitch you a softball to start off: What’s it like to work for one of the world’s most historic gun brands? Were you a Winchester enthusiast before working for them?
Hatt: I’ve been with Winchester for 18 years, and it is easy to say it has been a very humbling and cool experience, something I’m very proud. Winchester has been around for more than 150 years, so it’s something special when you say you work for company that historic. People know its name and have a very positive feeling towards it. And of course I was a Winchester fan before coming here. I had an old (Model) 94 and Model 70 before coming on board.
Gun Digest: Given the release of the new edition of the Standard Catalog of Winchester Firearms, we’re particularly interested in the collecting end of things concerning Winchester. With that said, there are so many variables regarding old Winchesters that dramatically affect their value. Where does one begin to decipher these idiosyncrasies?
Hatt: Gun Digest does a good job and would be a good starting point.
Gun Digest: We’ll take that. Anywhere else?
Hatt: Really, it’s difficult to say, but it is one of the questions I get asked the most. Everybody wants to know what their Dad’s or Granddad’s old Winchester is worth. But there are so many variables to each gun it’s difficult to say which would be the most important. A firearm’s wood, steel and history all play a role in its value. In addition to this, the company has also produced numerous commemorative firearms, which also influences value.
I suppose if there is an area of interest to a collector — hunting, military, film — that would be a good starting point. From there, the best advice I could give is to research the Winchesters you are interested in, learn about them and their history. Then go online; see what they’re selling for at retailers and at auctions. If you can’t find your exact model, look for something close and work from there. This will give a collector an idea about what Winchesters are going for in the present market.
The great thing about the company is if there is an era in history a collector is interested in, there is most likely a Winchester that fits into it. Speaking of recent military history alone, Winchester produced both the M1 Garand and M14. Also, Winchester's guns have been in a lot of movies, which can drive interest. Some people just have to have one of the models of Winchester that John Wayne shot or was featured in Open Range.
Again, the variables are so broad, it’s difficult to nail it down to one thing.
Gun Digest: Those are a lot of factors. How about this, what has maintained Winchester’s desirability over all these years?
Hatt: I believe it comes down to — when people think of Winchester, they think of a generational firearm. They’re firearms people expect to hand down to their children and grandchildren. This comes down to the legendary performance and quality of Winchester. We’ve had bad times, such as the post-64 era. But overall, the company has offered incredible quality, materials and craftsmanship in their firearms. And people know the company has been around for 150 years and that we’ll likely be around for another 150.
Gun Digest: Getting a bit more specific, we’ve noticed ‘94s and similar models going for up to twice their estimated value at auction. What's going on here?
Hatt: Concerning the late models, Winchester is making the 94 better than anything before. Since 2006, when we moved the 94’s manufacturing operation from South Carolina to Japan, we’ve improved a number of aspects of the rifle. They’re fully machined, with precise headspacing, tighter tolerance and greater accuracy. It’s a better rifle than ever, in function, material and manufacturing process.
Gun Digest: There’s been a bit of an opposite trend with pre-64 Model 70s, the market seems to have cooled as of late. Same question, what’s happening?
Hatt: Part of it was we resumed manufacturing the Model 70, with the controlled feed and other features that were popular on the pre-64 models. We didn’t make the rifle from 2005-08, as part of the union deal when we moved out of South Carolina. When we stopped making the rifle, the prices spiked. Everyone wanted to get one before they were gone. Even though for some, the new Model 70s may not be as cool as the old ones (pre-64), they’re as good as the old ones. It is a design that has lasted 80 years.
Gun Digest: Is Winchester ever going to reintroduce a Model 70 Target?
Hatt: I’d love to; there are a lot of 70 variants that we’d love to add and need to bring back. Don’t say never, but there is no plans to bring back the 70 Target in the immediate future.
Gun Digest: One of the big stories recently in the firearms world is the Model 1873 discovered sitting under a tree in the Great Basin National Monument. Has it kindled more interest in Winchester’s firearms?
Hatt: It absolutely has. The 73 has always been popular with cowboy shooters. But the one found at the Great Basin added some mystery to the rifle. Who knows how long it was there and how it got there in the first place? I’ve been honored enough to see it up close at both the Cody Firearms Museum and also at the SHOT Show. We had it in our booth. It’s a very cool rifle.
Gun Digest: How about we wrap things up with another give-me question. We have to imagine you have a couple Winchesters in your gun case. What’s your personal favorite?
Hatt: The sad part, this is tough to answer. If I’m elk hunting, I have my Model 70 Extreme (Weather). I have a heavy-barreled varminter if I’m going out for prairie dogs. An SX3 for ducks. And I have a new Model 86, in .45-70 Govt. It’s a 12-pound rifle and makes me feel like a little kid when I take it out shooting. But honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Each has its place.