About the Cody Firearms Museum
The story of the West just can’t be told without firearms. The Cody Firearms Museum is committed to telling that story with the most comprehensive assemblage of American firearms in the world. Within the exhibits, visitors are able to trace the evolution of modern firearms technology from its earliest days of the sixteenth century through today’s outstanding variations.
Firearms manufacturing—factory workers, business competition, innovations in production—had as much to do with the culture of the American West as did the gun itself. Still, a gun was a gun and provided security to the sure shot, protection for his family, and dinner for his table.
People may be perplexed when they discover the name “Winchester” on things like kitchen utensils, fishing equipment, and work tools. It seems a bit strange for a name that is usually associated with historic and contemporary firearms.
Here is the story…
Following World War I, with the loss of its lucrative government firearms and ammunition contracts, Winchester Repeating Arms Company found itself in serious financial difficulties.
They had no way of keeping their expanded production capabilities in operation; the civilian firearms market was just not that extensive. To avoid bankruptcy, the company went into partnership with a financial firm, Kidder, Peabody & Company, to whom Winchester then owed $8 million. This alliance afforded them relief from their indebtedness and provided badly needed additional capital.
The new management team undertook a product diversification schema in an effort to keep Winchester in full production and make it profitable once again. The result was a broad line of high-quality, moderately-priced items including hardware, tools, sporting goods, pocket knives, cutlery, fishing tackle, flashlights, batteries, ice skates, roller skates, axes, and more.
By 1920, Winchester had approximately 750 products in development or in production. In 1922, they took a giant step by merging with the Associated Simmons Hardware Companies to become the Winchester-Simmons Company. This amalgamation both increased their product line and provided access to a large, established retail-merchandising network.
By 1926, the Winchester-Simmons Company had 6,300 dealer-associates and eleven company-owned stores across the country. Their 1927 catalog described over 5,000 products that Winchester proudly claimed in its marketing slogan to be “As Good as the Gun.”
However, in spite of their best efforts, Winchester-Simmons had to abandon most of their ambitious plans by 1929. The Depression was the final blow, and in December 1931, the company went into receivership and was sold to Western Cartridge Company. Under the leadership of the Olin family, it gradually returned primarily to the manufacture of firearms and ammunition.
Many Winchester collectibles have greatly increased in value. The Standard Catalog of Winchester, edited by David D. Kowalski (Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin, 1999), is a current value guide.
They won’t shoot, but they are “Winchesters” and they are nice to have.
Listed below are a few colloquial—mostly American—sayings that owe their origins to firearms (and other weapons) usage. The first line (a) is the original weapons-related definition, and the second line (b) is the modern meaning.
Armed to the teeth:
- (a) Heavily-armed person or persons.
- (b) Well-supplied with information or equipment.
Bite the bullet:
- (a) Prior to modern medical care, a wounded person was given a lead bullet to bite down on while undergoing surgery to lessen the pain.
- (b) To do something unpleasant in order to get it out of the way.
Flash in the pan:
- (a) When a flintlock’s priming pan powder burns or “flashes,” but fails to ignite the main powder charge in the barrel.
- (b) A person who claims great skills or achievements but accomplishes nothing.
Going off half cocked:
- (a) Placing the hammer of a firearm on a halfway position so that it is unable to be fired.
- (b) Thoughtless or hasty behavior.
- (a) A tool used to squirt heavy grease into a bearing.
- (b) The nickname given the US M3 submachine gun.
Gunning for someone:
- (a) Searching for someone to shoot.
- (b) Aggressively going after someone.
- (a) Frightened by the shooting of a firearm.
- (b) A timid person or animal.
- (a) A firearm that fails to immediately discharge a ball or bullet.
- (b) A delay in something.
Keep your powder dry:
- (a) Making sure that one’s black powder does not get wet, rendering it unable to be fired.
- (b) A request to be careful.
Lock, stock, and barrel:
- (a) The basic components of a firearm.
- (b) An activity or assembly of parts that is complete.
- (a) Long-distance shooting.
- (b) An attempt or action that has little chance of success.
Not worth the powder and shot:
- (a) Firearms powder and shot were relatively cheap in the “old days.”
- (b) Something that is not worth much.
On the shoot:
- (a) Looking for someone to shoot.
- (b) Looking for trouble.
- (a) The last discharge of a firearm, generally as you are escaping or leaving an area.
- (b) Final remarks, usually obliquely insulting.
Quick on the draw:
- (a) To be fast when drawing a pistol.
- (b) An intelligent, astute person.
Ram it home:
- (a) To push powder and ball down a muzzleloader.
- (b) To force something.
- (a) Position taken by an armed guard on an express wagon or coach.
- (b) Riding in the front passenger seat of an automobile.
Shoot from the hip:
- (a) Quickly firing a pistol without aiming.
- (b) A rash statement or behavior.
- (a) An accurate firearm or marksman.
- (b) An honest, trustworthy person.
Worm it out:
- (a) Using a rod-like tool to remove an unfired ball from a muzzleloader.
- (b) To get a secret (or information) out of someone.
Adams, Ramon F. Cowboy Lingo. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1936.
Adams, Ramon F. Western Words: A Dictionary of the American West (New edition, revised and enlarged.) Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, 1968.
Cove, Philip, Babcock, ed. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged.) Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1993.
Frazier Historical Arms Museum. The Etymology of Popular Terms Deriving from Arms and Armor. www.fraziermuseum.org. (Accessed July 19, 2004.)
Glossary. www.savvysurvivor.com/glossary.htm. (Accessed July 16, 2004.)
Mueller, Chester and John Olson. Shooter’s Bible Small Arms Lexicon and Concise Encyclopedia. South Hackensack, NJ: Shooter’s Bible, Inc., 1968.
Peterson, Harold L., editor. Encyclopedia of Firearms. New York: Dutton, 1964.
Cody Firearms Museum, Cody, Wyoming. August 2006.