Oliver Winchester established himself in the firearms business in 1857 when he purchased the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. He employed Benjamin Tyler Henry as his main gun mechanic. The following year Henry devised a new rifle with a 15 cartridge magazine. The gun was operated by moving the trigger lever down and back to its original position. This extracted the spent cartridge, carried a fresh shell from the spring-activated tubular magazine into the chamber, and cocked the hammer ready for firing.
The rifle sold well and in 1866 the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was established at New Haven, Connecticut. Soon afterwards an improved version of Benjamin Tyler Henry's rifle was produced. It was however the 1873 model that was the most successful Winchester. Over the next 40 years the company sold 720,610 of these rifles.