The CFM Record: Fall 2016 e-newsletter!
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Cody Firearms Record, Fall 2016

See the amazing Centennial Rifle at Big Reno Show! Reserve your own.

To celebrate our centennial in 2017, the Center is proud to partner with Navy Arms and Winchester Firearms to create the Winchester "Centennial Model" 1873 lever-action rifle.

If you are attending the Big Reno Show November 18–20, make a point to stop by the Cody Firearms Records Office booth to see the first of these exquisite rifles to be completed! This hand-engraved presentation model is one of only 200 that will be made.
The Centennial Model 1873 Winchester rifle
Navy Arms used Winchester factory records and original firearms housed at the Center of the West to create two outstanding replica models for sale—one hand-engraved (the presentation model), the other machine-engraved (the exhibition model)—in honor of the first one hundred years of the Center. One thousand of the exhibition models will be made.
Reserve your Centennial Model rifle today at
Or place your order at the Records Office booth. These rifles are exclusive, limited-edition rifles, and 100 percent of the profits from their sale support the mission of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Cody Firearms Museum.

Discovering the Winchester Lee rifle...


What do you know about Winchester's Lee rifles? Do you own one? Is it a military rifle or civilian issue? What is your favorite thing about the Lee? What is most off-putting?

I have recently developed an interest in understanding this model better and would appreciate your input. Here is a bit of what we know from our serial number records and items in the Winchester documents archives held in our McCracken Research Library. We are just getting into a comprehensive survey of the Lee serial number records, which we will combine with Lee related documents in the archives in order to create a narrative of Lee production.

In October 31, 1895, Winchester entered into an agreement with the U.S. Navy to provide 10,000 .236 cal./6 mm Lee Straight Pull rifles at the price of $17.60 each. The rifles were to be delivered in lots of 500. The first lot was to be delivered within ten months. A penalty of $100 per day deduction in the contract price was to be assessed if the first shipment was late—barring a written explanation of the delay accepted by the Secretary of the Navy. The price per rifle did not include the cost of manufacture of the rear sight. A second contract for another 5,000 rifles at $18.75 each was signed February 7, 1898, with the same delivery delay penalty. The cost per rifle on this contract included the sling strap and hooks as well as the front sight cover.
The Lee warehouse ledgers are complete, as are the serial number application (SNA) ledgers. That’s a good thing, and we hope to offer some interesting insights into how the contract was fulfilled as we pursue this project. The first receivers were serialized on August 19, 1896, just under ten months from the date on the initial contract. Serial number 10000 was applied on March 4, 1897. At the other end of manufacture, a single rifle order is recorded, leaving the Winchester warehouse on August 31, with seven more single rifle orders shipping by November 11. The first 500 rifle shipment was made on November 14, 1896. Another 500 were on the way by November 28. We are still compiling later order sizes and shipping dates.
Getting into the warehouse records, the first thing I notice in the general survey is that something did not work right in this model. In the first 10,000 records, at least 1,790 were returned or repaired at Winchester. In the first 3,000 records alone, approximately one-third of the rifles were back in the factory for some reason! What would account for this rate of returns? A safety issue? Fine tuning? There are "Repair and Return" (R&R) notations with hundreds of rifles being processed on a single day. At least 166 rifles are marked R&R on August 23, 1897.

Stay tuned as we explore the mysteries of the Lee rifle. We invite you to submit questions and comments to

Cody Firearms Museum welcomes new Assistant Curator Danny Michael

Danny Michael, Cody Firearms Museum Assistant Curator
Danny Michael recently joined the staff of the Cody Firearms Museum as Assistant Curator. In addition to assisting with visitor inquiries, doing research, and writing about the collection, he also manages social media content—through blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to name a few—for the Cody Firearms Museum.

Danny moved to Cody from Maryland and enjoys finding ways to watch the Baltimore Orioles from Wyoming, recreational shooting, and reading about history.

Please join us in welcoming Danny to our team!

A breechloader, the Civil War, a lawsuit:
The Morse carbine


Prior to the Civil War, the U.S. Army sought ways to alter its existing muzzle loading arms into breech loaders. The Army had even been rather forward thinking when it adopted the Hall rifle in 1819, but the Hall had its own problems, and in the four decades between the adoption of the Hall and the Civil War, several competing breech loading designs emerged. One of these designs was patented by George Morse, of Baton Rouge, in 1856 and 1858.
Morse’s patent used a breech block that raised up to expose the chamber; the shooter could then load a metallic cartridge—a design also patented by Morse—into the gun and fire. Morse submitted his design to the U.S. government, and the Ordnance Department appropriated money to convert up to 2,000 rifles. The money ran out after fewer than 60 had been produced, with another 540 partially complete. Morse secured additional funding, and Ordnance Department transferred the machinery to continue converting rifles to Harper's Ferry in July of 1860.
When the Civil War began, Morse sided with the Confederacy. The machinery he needed to build his rifles was still at Harper's Ferry, which was quickly captured by Virginia Militia. The small U.S. garrison tried to destroy the arsenal before they left, but much of the equipment was still usable. The Confederacy split up the equipment between several different arsenals in the South.
Morse, who by then was overseeing arsenal work in Nashville, petitioned to have his machinery moved there. The equipment had to be moved again when Nashville fell in 1862, first to Atlanta, and then to Greenville, South Carolina.

One of Morse's carbines was shown to a newspaper in Atlanta in December 1862, and the newspaper had high praise for the gun, but public praise did not translate into government acceptance. The Confederacy never ordered any of Morse's breech loaders. Morse did receive a contract from the state of South Carolina for 1,000 carbines for state troops, but very few of these saw any action. The distinctive brass-framed carbines were chambered for a .50 caliber version of Morse's centerfire brass cartridge, and the guns were issued with a unique ammunition belt that held 24 cartridges in individual tin tubes.
In contrast to the Confederacy's struggle to field any kind of metallic cartridge breech loading arm, the Union produced large numbers of breech loaders. Spencers and Burnsides were the most common. Morse recognized the success of the Union in producing so many breech loaders, and believed that he had been the impetus for these arms. Following the Civil War, Morse unsuccessfully sued the United States for royalties on the breech loaders they had built or purchased. His lawsuit demanded five dollars for each of more than 170,000 arms that he thought infringed on his pre-war patents. Despite his court loss, Morse continued working on cartridge designs for the U.S. Ordnance Department which resulted in two more cartridge patents in the 1880s. While Morse's firearms never became widespread, the ammunition he developed was an important step in cartridge development.
On display in the Cody Firearms Museum: At left: The Morse carbine. At right: A Model 1822 rifled musket altered to Morse's breech loading system. 1988.8.760 and 1988.8.1508

Double Discount Days! A members benefit.


Buffalo Bill Center of the West Members enjoy a special 20 percent discount November 19–20 at all Center store locations including the online store. Enjoy this opportunity to take care of your holiday shopping early this year!

With a wonderful selection of books, leather goods, handmade Native American crafts, reproduction prints, jewelry, and unique Wyoming gifts, there's something for everyone.

20 Percent Discount Code: PNCXMOUP0DUZ

Paste the code into the Discount Code field and click "Apply Coupon" before completing your payment at

It's our Jingle Bell Sale

Just in time for the holidays! December 1–31 only

Buffalo Bill Center of the West Firearms Members:

Our members receive 20 percent off the already discounted member price on Factory Letters, Letter packs, and Search packs.
  • Promo Code: JINGLE20
  • Letter packs and search packs purchased during in this sale expire December 31, 2018.
    • Packs available in increments of 5, 10, or 20.
    • When ordering packs online, type "Letter" or "Search" and the size of the pack needed under Winchester Model.

Winchester Arms Collectors Association (WACA) members who are not Firearms Members:

Receive 15 percent off each Factory Letter.
  • Promo Code: your WACA number (Example: WACA0000)


Receive 10 percent off each Factory Letter.
  • Promo Code: BELLS10
Discounts do not apply to the Winchester Model 21 Order Sheet add-on fee.

CLICK HERE to order online, or call the Records Office at 307-578-4031. 

If you prefer to download a PDF of this schedule, click here.


Monday – Thursday:
8 AM – 4 PM
Friday: 8 AM – 3 PM
Jesi Bennett, Records Specialist:
Connie Miller, Asst Records Specialist:
Ashley Hlebinksy, CFM Curator:
Danny Michael, CFM Assistant Curator:
Dan Brumley, CFM Curatorial Assistant:
Rachel Lee, Membership Supervisor:
McCracken Research Library:
Photo Rights and Reproductions:
Copyright © 2016 Buffalo Bill Center of the West, All rights reserved.

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