Winchester Model 1866 Review and Price

A Comprehensive Guide

Winchester Model 1866 Review and Price 4

Technical Data

Winchester Model 1866 Review

Specification Comparison and Reviews

In this comprehensive Winchester Model 1866 review,   we’ll be discussing the history of this iconic western rifle and how it stacks up against modern bolt-action rifles. The Winchester Model 1866 is considered by some to be the pinnacle of early cartridge repeating rifles. When it was first introduced, its powerful cartridge gave shooters a huge advantage over muzzleloaders and single-shot rifles at the time. It remains an iconic rifle today, with collectors clamoring to own one if they can find one that hasn’t been drilled and tapped for scope mounts.

Table of Contents

The Winchester Model 1866 is a lever-action, repeating rifle produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1866. The model was also known as the “Yellow Boy” due to its receiver of a bronze/brass alloy called gunmetal. The Model 1866 was initially produced in two variants, a rifle, and a carbine. The gunmetal alloy receiver was covered in brass plating to prevent corrosion, especially after caliber 44 Win rimfire cartridges were introduced later that year. It’s still used by cowboy action shooters today due to the power of its cartridge.  The Model 1866 was noted by contemporary users for its “smoothness and grace”. The Model 1866 was one of the first successful lever-action firearms to use brass cartridges, significantly reducing the overall weight.


Its rifle round gave shooters a huge advantage over muzzleloaders and single-shot rifles at the time. The original Model 1866 required a shooter to manually eject a spent cartridge and load in a new one after every shot. Later models would have a spring-loaded magazine follower to automate this process partially. However, the rifle still needed to be cocked via the operating lever for each manual extraction of the previous round’s fired case. Therefore, it wasn’t until the 1884 Winchester Model 1894 rifle that an actual semiautomatic action would be invented.

Price of Winchester Model 1866

The Winchester Model 1866 was the first firearm manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company (WRAC).  The manufacturing of this model began in early 1866.  It was introduced to the public in a two-page press advertisement in February of that year after it started being sold with a one hundred dollar price tag. As a result, the Winchester Model 1866 was produced in limited quantities.  Most went to well-heeled sportsmen, one of which was the co-founder of the WRAC Oliver Winchester. Others were purchased by various state militias.

Features of Winchester Model 1866

The Winchester Model 1866 was the first rifle to use the rimfire metallic cartridge in any large-scale manner. Prior attempts at implementing self-contained metallic cartridges in lever-action rifles had largely failed, which made this model an industry game-changer when it came out. Here are some of the  features of this iconic lever-action rifle: 

Stock and Grip

The Winchester Model 1866 acquired its distinct look due to the stock and grip, among other things. The rifle came with an American walnut stock featuring a crescent butt plate, steel furniture, and a steel trigger guard forward of the large lever loop. The rifle also features 1-piece wooden grip panels that curve toward the rear. Model 1866 also had a unique stock design that allowed the rifle to be carried while shouldered, with its butt suspended above the ground. This was made possible by the lack of an internal magazine tube that generally would have run under the barrel. The receiver/magazine system on this model consists of two flat-sided tubular steel bars that form the magazine and house cartridges under the barrel.


The stock and grip were made so that the shooter could grasp the rifle at the balance point. This allowed for easy maneuverability in addition to storage in limited spaces. The butt-plate on Winchester Model 1866 was made of steel and contoured to the curvature of the stock. No toe plate would have been affixed to the tip at the receiver end of the stock. This feature makes this model stand out from other rifles because it has a smooth surface that prevents snagging when it’s being carried in confined spaces. 

Winchester Model 1866 Review and Price Stock and Grip

Size and Weight

One of the most noticeable features of the Winchester Model 1866 is its size. It was made smaller and lighter to make it more portable for hunters who wanted to take this rifle on long hunting trips. The rifle weighs a total of 8 pounds, making it a much lighter option compared to other rifles at the time. Its overall length is 41 inches. This makes it shorter than other rifles that were available at the time of its release, making it an easy rifle to carry around when hunting. The thinness of the stock allowed for better portability while carrying it in close quarters.


The Winchester Model 1866 was designed to be a shorter, lighter alternative to the larger carbines and rifles of the time. The smaller size allowed portability in close quarters without compromising power or accuracy. The Model 1866 compact size also gave it an advantage over longer weapons that were relatively cumbersome. This made this rifle one of the most preferred firearms during the Civil War by cavalry troops, especially in the plains regions where long-range was not necessarily needed. 

Barrel and Tube Magazine

The Winchester Model 1866 features a round barrel, which measures 24 inches in length. The barrel is octagonal and was manufactured to have a quarter rib for added rigidity. The round barrel of this model made the rifle easier to load since there were no angled surfaces that would make inserting rounds into the chamber more difficult. The barrel on this model also had a very effective cooling system which allowed the rifle to shoot for extended durations without significant accuracy loss due to overheating. The Winchester Model 1866 has a tubular magazine that holds 14 rounds, making it capable of firing as fast as possible. This feature made this rifle a valuable asset during the Civil War because it allowed for faster rates of fire.


There were other rifles available at the time, but they were single-shot or bolt-action weapons that could not shoot as quickly as the Winchester Model 1866. The tube magazine on this rifle is located under the barrel. The cartridges were loaded directly into the magazine through a loading gate on its right side, situated forward of the trigger guard. Reloading this weapon was as simple as opening the lever, dropping out spent rounds, and inserting fresh ones. The tube magazine allowed the operator to shoot more rounds in a shorter time. It also made it easier for hunters who would have otherwise had to carry extra cartridges on them, unless the weapon’s design could remove or replace the spent cartridges with fresh ones while hunting.

Winchester Model 1866 Review and Price Barrel and Tube Magazine

Stopping Power

The Winchester Model 1866 has a .44 caliber bore that allowed it to fire rounds that were designed for pistols. Most of the rifle’s cartridges had flat-nosed bullets, which are more effective against the larger game because they deliver more trauma on impact than conical bullets. The size of its rounds made it possible to shoot through brush and trees to hit a game that was hidden behind obstructions. It also allowed for easier shots on large targets because the force of impact would cause them to be knocked off balance, making it more likely for the animal to fall over.


The Model 1866 is an excellent hunting weapon because of its power, accuracy, and mobility. This model has an effective range of up to 200 yards, making it suitable for hunting games in close and long-range situations. This rifle also has a high rate of fire which makes it ideal for use in close-quarter situations where the user cannot afford to miss their target.

Safety Mechanism

The Winchester Model 1866 was designed without a traditional safety mechanism. It was primarily intended to be operated by experienced gun users who could handle their weapons safely under any given circumstance. The Winchester Model 1866 has a half cock safety mechanism. This type of mechanism is effective when attempting to load a round into the chamber. It allows the user to rest the hammer on an empty chamber, which prevents it from snapping when releasing the trigger.


The Model 1866 was primarily designed for experienced gun users and had no safety features besides its half cock feature, meaning that this weapon could be ready to fire at all times. Its half cock feature was also designed to increase the rate of fire by preventing the user from having to operate a bolt or lever before each shot. This weapon is very effective when used with single-shot rounds because there is no need for an operator to remove spent cartridges from their weapon to prevent accidental discharges.

Recoil and Accuracy

The Winchester Model 1866 was designed with a stock made of walnut wood. This material is known for being naturally hard but lightweight enough to absorb some recoil when fired. A wooden stock can make it difficult to aim the rifle accurately while still protecting it from its recoil. The fact that this weapon has no safety mechanism helps the user compensate for the difficulty in aiming and firing by aiming their weapon more carefully before firing. Model 1866  has an effective range of up to 200 yards.


The Model 1866 is an accurate weapon because it has a thin barrel with rifling that imparts spin on the bullets as they leave the firearm, giving them stabilization and accuracy. The Winchester 1866 was designed for use in hunting situations where its user needed to aim and fire at game quickly and accurately. The lack of safety features on this model makes it less effective when used by novice gun users or in situations where the operator cannot afford to miss their target.

Winchester Model 1866 Review and Price Recoil and Accuracy


The Winchester Model 1866 is a  lever-action rifle designed with aesthetics in mind, which is evident by the decoration on its brass receiver. The weapon has an octagonal barrel made of blued steel, meaning that it requires regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent rusting. The Model 1866’s receiver is made of brass, and it has an exterior that is polished to a mirror finish. The receiver may be responsible for this weapon has one of the best looking finishes out of all the Winchester rifles. This model also has a walnut buttstock, making it comfortable for its user to shoulder when firing. The Model 1866 has a high aesthetic value. The polished exterior of the receiver reflects light and makes this weapon look very stylish. The brass material can also make this rifle very heavy, making it difficult to carry while hunting on foot.

Winchester Model 1866 Review and Price Aesthetics

Advantages of Winchester Model 1866

The Model 1866 is a powerful lever-action rifle with an increased rate of fire and range compared to its predecessors. Here are some of the  advantages of this weapon:


This rifle was designed for hunters out in the wilderness and needed to rely on their weapons to keep them safe from dangerous game. Its new firing mechanism made it easier for a shooter to fire off multiple rounds quickly without stopping and reloading between each shot. Lever action mechanism allows users to eject cartridges with ease, improving the user’s speed.


When this weapon is used with single-shot bullets, the rifle is accurate up to 200 yards. This allows a user to get enough distance from their target before firing off a shot and ensuring they make a clean kill.

Rate of Fire

The Winchester 1866 was designed to have a rapid rate of fire. This model does not require the user to reload as often as other models because it uses lever action, meaning that the operator only needs to pull back on a leaver mounted below the receiver and forward again to chamber a round, giving them time to aim and fire accurately before the weapon is empty.

Disadvantages of Winchester Model 1866

Large Recoil

The Model 1866 has a lot of recoils, and the stock is not designed to absorb much of it. This lack of recoil absorption makes it very difficult for a user to fire the Model 1866 while standing up, especially when they have not yet had time to get used to shooting this model.


The Model 1866 has a polished brass receiver that is very heavy before any ammunition is placed inside. Suppose this rifle is being used in hunting situations where its user travels on foot. In that case, the heavy receiver will cause fatigue and make it difficult to use this rifle effectively over a long period.

Aftermarket Accessories - Winchester Model 1866 Review and Price

Replacement/Upgrade Stocks

The Model 1866 has a walnut buttstock that is comfortable for its user to shoulder when firing, but it can be replaced with custom aftermarket stocks if the current stock is not comfortable.

Custom Barrels

The Model 1866 has an octagonal steel barrel, which can be replaced with aftermarket barrels made of either steel or aluminum to create a lighter weapon. This is a good upgrade if the user plans to carry this rifle for prolonged hunting periods.

Recoil Reduction Kits

Custom recoil reduction kits are available for this model. They attach to the barrel and help reduce the recoil felt when a rifle is fired. The recoil reduction can create a more comfortable shooting experience for its user, leading to better accuracy over time.

Cleaning Kits

Custom cleaning kits are available for this weapon. They come with a solid brass rod designed to clean the barrel of any dirt or grime that may have accumulated there while hunting. This can help ensure that each round fired comes out of the barrel with enough force to kill an animal quickly and efficiently, leading to more humane kills during hunting situations.

Custom Ammo

Custom ammunition is available for this rifle that significantly increases its effective range. These rounds are made with special flat-nose bullets with an aerodynamic shape and allow them to achieve optimal speeds at long distances, giving the rifle better accuracy than when loaded with standard round nose bullets.

Rifle Cases

Custom rifle cases are available for the Winchester 1866 to be carried safely when traveling. These cases come in various styles and sizes, making them versatile enough to fit any specific need while still protecting their user’s weapon from damage during transportation. If you are looking to buy a rifle case for this model, here is a recommendation:

Plano Pro-Max Series Gun Case

The Pro-Max Series Gun Case by Plano has a thick, durable injection-molded plastic exterior, and the case is designed to fit weapons up to 52 ” in length inside of it – making this case fit the Winchester Model 1866. This case also comes with latches that can be secured with padlocks and a rubberized handle for comfortable transportation.

Thick-walled, high impact polymer case features an interlocking foam liner and Plano's PillarLock system to protect your scoped rifle. It's lightweight, airline-approved, and fitted with a large, molded-in handle for comfortable carry. Molded loops for padlocks allow the case to be securely...
out of stock
Plano Molding Company Scoped Rifle Case


This rifle has a length of 41″ and a weight of 8lbs., making it relatively lightweight for its category. The barrel is 24 inches long, and it can shoot about three rounds per minute if its user can maintain a controlled breathing pattern while firing.

44-40 Win or 45 Colt cartridge can be used with the Model 1866. This rifle is designed to shoot effectively, though other types of bullets are available if their user would prefer something different.

The Model 1866 has an effective range of about 100 yards. This means that the rifle will shoot accurately at that distance, but anything beyond it and its accuracy will drop significantly.

Recommended Holsters for Winchester Model 1866


The Winchester Model 1866 is a good rifle for hunting and home defense purposes. The rifle can hold up well under prolonged use, making it ideal for taking into the field with you while huntingWhile this weapon has some drawbacks that are worth considering compared to standard rifles of this era, they are not enough to erase the value of the Winchester 1866. If you are looking to buy a rifle that will prove reliable, I recommend reading the above Winchester Model 1866 review.

Author Profile

Gabriel Tackett
Double major in Engineering and Geology at the University of Minnesota. Experienced shooter & hunter for over 15 years. Certified NRA officer for over 10 years working as a writer at .

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