As the Model 1873 began to show its age, Winchester wanted a new rifle to take its place in the company catalog. Scaling down the Model 1886 to the pistol cartridges of the 1873 seemed like a fine option, and Winchester executives approached John Browning, offering him $10,000 if he could produce such a gun within 3 months, or $15,000 if he could do the job in two months. Browning’s response was to say that he would take $20,000 and have the rifle in company hands within 30 days – or else he would give it to them for free.
The $20,000 that Winchester paid him for the new rifle was well worth it, as the 1892 would become the best selling Winchester rifle to that date, selling more than a million guns by the 1930s. It used the stronger and more cost effective locking system of the 1886, while being chambered for the same cartridges as the 1873 – the .44 WCF (.44-40), .38 WCF (.38-40), and .32 WCF (.32-20), as well as a few new cartridges added over time.