For the gun enthusiast, no trip to California would be complete without a visit to the Winchester Mystery House. In this article, G&G contributor Robert Dunn describes his visit to this famous landmark. Make sure to add this incredible house to your itinerary when you next visit California.
My wife and I decided to go to the Winchester Mystery House and Firearms Museum for our 19th year wedding anniversary. This was a good choice because there was something there that both of us would really enjoy. The estate is located in San Jose, California and was designed and built by Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, in 1884. The construction lasted for 38 years, until her death.
This is a bizarre house, to say the least. There are doors, windows and staircases that lead to dead ends. Sarah was obsessed with the number thirteen, evidenced by the number showing up in many designs found throughout the house. There are 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, three elevators, two basements and 10,000 windowpanes. After taking a two hour guided tour, I was finally let loose to go explore the firearms museum!
I would recommend this museum to any firearms enthusiast. There are three rooms filled with various models of rifles and handguns that we would all want in our collections. There is also a Winchester Antique Products Museum.
I am a big fan of tools as well as firearms and there are some nice old tools to see that were manufactured by the Winchester Company. During the early part of the twentieth century, Winchester had the largest hardware store chain in the world, with 6,300 Winchester stores that sold their products.
In the Firearms Museum, you can see the Henry rifle, which preceded the other famous Winchester rifles like the Model 1866 “Yellow Boy” rifle. The famous 1873 rifle, “The gun that won the West,” is in the collection, as well as the many rifle models designed by John M. Browning. There are also many commemorative rifles to be seen, like the Theodore Roosevelt Centennial ’66 and the John Wayne. There is a display called the “Evolution of Firearms” that displays a Matchlock, a Wheel Lock, a Flintlock, a Percussion System firearm, an example of a gun that shoots Metallic Cartridges, a Pinfire Gun and a Repeating Rifle.
There is a wealth of lever action rifles and the famous framed Winchester cartridge display, which can be seen up close. The collection also includes a lot of memorabilia from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as well as other plaques and letters from the history of the Winchester Company. There are bolt-action rifles, various repeaters, British Enfield rifles manufactured by Winchester, a Low Wall single shot rifle, a 12 gauge 1897 Trench gun (complete with bayonet), and a Model 39 M1 Rifle – and those are just a few of the beautiful firearms on display.
Long guns are not the only type of firearm in this wonderful collection, as there is also a long display case of various handguns. There are tiny percussion pistols, a Remington-Beal .44 caliber revolver, and a Swedish Nagant Model of 1887 revolver. Various Smith and Wesson, Remington and Hopkins and Allen revolvers can also be studied in detail.
After walking through the Winchester Firearms Museum, you get a true sense of our American heritage. I wonder how other Americans could dispute our Second Amendment Rights as I look at the fine craftsmanship and ingenious designs of our ancestors. These firearms represent the pride and tenacity it has taken to maintain our freedom. These guns are the tools that enabled us to have a United States of America.
The knowledge and memories that I acquired at the Winchester House will be with me forever.