Winchester and Waterfowl – A Match Made in the Marsh
In 1886, just 20 years after Winchester’s founding, the venerable gun manufacturer started rolling out more and more ammunition to round out its popular offerings.
It should be no surprise that at this time, as there was increasing interest in meeting the ammunition needs of a growing legion of sportsmen, that Winchester shotshells first found their way into the duck boats of waterfowl hunters along the Mississippi River as well as along the Eastern Seaboard. Subsequent ammo introductions quickly followed, including Winchester’s Star line, which coincided with the appearance of the lever-action 1887 shotgun that same year.
From there, Winchester’s shotshell lines grew, and as the 19th century came to a close, and the new century ushered in a wave of conservation-minded sportsmen, the company offered their shells loaded in either black or the new smokeless powder. In the very early 1900s, boxes of Winchester Nublack featured a trio of rising mallards, attesting to the desire of traditional waterfowlers for an efficient blackpowder load. Still, modern technology was creeping into the sport and Winchester kept pace.
Marketed as “the finest smokeless powder shell science can produce,” the company’s high-brass Leader was a hit with wingshooters looking to take down high-flying ducks and geese. The Repeater Speed shells that soon followed boasted “the utmost in long-range, powder loads,” for taking down waterfowl in a variety of situations.
As a good friend and hunting partner of John Olin, famed conservationist and writer Nash Buckingham would ultimately have a hand in the development of early shotshell technology at Winchester. His involvement would fuel the company’s waterfowl loads for decades to come. The famous waterfowler’s opinions were important, and as such he was among the first to test Olin’s experimental 3-inch shotgun shells, which eventually came to be known as the Super-X. Today, the Super-X lineage can be traced to Winchester’s Xpert Hi-Velocity, shotshells that continue to lead the industry in value and performance, as well as Drylok, an extremely water-resistant load with a lacquered primer, sealed shot cup and plated steel shot for hunters who regularly find themselves in typically tough waterfowling conditions.
From Buckingham’s Beaver Dam to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Horicon Marsh to the Great Salt Lake, waterfowling is a pastime that leans heavily on the tradition of those hunters who came before. However, that emphasis on history doesn’t mean the waterfowler’s chosen pursuit is stuck in the past. Far from it.
In fact, today, Winchester Blind Side has become the most innovative waterfowl load since the development of smokeless powder and a go-to load for many of today’s waterfowlers in the know. You can bet, even as hunters are currently finding success in our nation’s duck marshes and goose blinds, Winchester’s engineers are busy cooking up the next big thing for our nation’s feather-frenzied sportsmen.