Photograph by Nat Geo Image Collection
Photograph by Nat Geo Image Collection
MagazineIn the Loupe

The Gun That Won World War I

Inside a Connecticut factory that produced and tested the rifle used by British, Russian, and American troops.

This story appears in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.
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A hundred years ago this month, workers at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut, were hard at work. After creating the “Gun that Won the West”—the Winchester Model 1873 rifle—they had a new task: manufacturing guns that could help win World War I.

At this indoor range, men—perhaps motivated by pinup pictures and the urgency of a calendar—adjusted the sights and tested the accuracy of each gun. Demand was heavy: In 1915 they made nearly 250,000 rifles for the British Army and some 300,000 muskets for Russian troops.

After April 1917, when the U.S. joined the fight, the Model 1917 Enfield would become the most widely used rifle by American troops in the war. By then, instead of testing their rifles indoors, these men may have been firing them on the battlefield.