Like a pen with no ink or a car with an empty gas tank, a firearm is a useless mechanical contrivance without ammunition. Until the mid-1980s cartridges and their boxes were largely ignored as collectibles in spite of the obvious and essential relationship with their respective guns. But times change and most gun collectors now seek contemporary boxes of ammunition to display with their collectible guns, and virtually every award-winning gun display will have one or more original cartridge boxes, as well as other accoutrements, enhancing their exhibit. In some cases, usually unbeknownst to those viewing these elaborate displays, the antique ammo is actually much rarer than the gun! The growing recognition of the rarity of many of these boxes, as well as their aesthetic and historic appeal, has led to a tremendous increase in interest in antique cartridge boxes.*
Matching a period-proper ammunition box to display with your favorite Winchester firearm or assembling a collection of the colorful Winchester .22 caliber ammo boxes or shotgun shell boxes can be very rewarding. And the study of the Company’s ammunition history, manufacturing and marketing, lends itself to a look in the window of the New Haven plant’s overall health and prosperity.
There are many little-known aspects of Winchester ammunition history–endless testing of new smokeless powders in the 1890s; long range accuracy testing for the U.S. government; special projects that required specialized ammunition such as the 1914 Pan-American Games and the 1976 Palma Match; cartridges to restart flamed-out jet engines; special blanks for theater and television use. These are just a sprinkling of the ammunition involvements of the ‘Big Red W’ to explore, learn and enjoy.
*Quoted from the book “One Hundred Years of Winchester Cartridge Boxes 1856-1956” page 9, by Ray T. Giles & Daniel L. Shuey