Here's the part with me in it:
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Few industrial names are as woven into U.S. history as Winchester.
It was the rifle that won the West. Jesse James swore by his. So did Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull. It was also the rifle that won the Saturday matinee. Jimmy Stewart starred in a movie about one called "Winchester '73," and the lever-action rifle was so ubiquitous in John Wayne's horse operas that a statue of the burly, slow-talking actor stands in the lobby of the gun maker's shuttered factory here.
Now, it has fallen to an unlikely modern-day Winchester fan, Michael H. Blank, a 32-year-old who quit his job as a Merrill Lynch stockbroker, to salvage the venerable company. Despite its glorious past, modern times haven't been kind to the gunsmith. In March the Belgian owners shut down the relatively modern factory built on a site where Winchesters have been made for 140 years, citing a bloated cost structure and slumping sales.
The move has sparked a frantic hunt for a buyer, a debate over what to do with the bronze of Mr. Wayne in the lobby, and a shot of soul-searching by gun owners themselves, who know the value of their Winchesters will soar if the factory closes forever.
"If we put out real replicas, and slap on the Winchester name, we'll have the Italians out of the business in three years," Mr. Blank predicts.
Michael Bane, a gun-industry expert and host of the Outdoor Channel's "Shooting Gallery," says Mr. Blank's business model has merit because that's where the growth is in the U.S. rifle market. He notes, for instance, that there's a fast-growing market for "cowboy-action shooting" guns. This is a sport in which people dress up like cowboys, assume cowboy names, and shoot authentic guns. That said, he's not sure it's feasible that such guns can be made cost-effectively in the U.S. "You have issues with unions, you have issues with finding the right skilled workers," he says, not to mention a tough U.S. regulatory climate that many gun makers say adds to their costs.