Just as World War One broke out in Europe, TC Johnson was working on a new Mauser-based sporting rifle design for the Winchester company. With the war, Johnson added options for military configurations (handguard, bayonet lug, etc) and presented the design (at this point called the Model A) to Winchester management. A few changes were made to simplify production, and the Model B was seen favorably in late 1914. However, at this time Winchester received a contract to produce Pattern 1914 rifles for the British. Johnson was put in charge of overseeing that work, which would take up almost a year of his time.
Once the Model 1914 production was smoothly underway, Johnson returned to his new rifle. The rear sight was now moved back to the receiver bridge like the P14 to become the Model C, and an economy model of the same was named the Model D. By this time the date is 1916, and Winchester was trying to market the Model D as a military rifle to a variety of nations. This particular example is chambered in 6.5 Portuguese (6.5×58mm Vergueiro), because of interest from that country. The most potential, however, came from Russia, and in late 1917 Winchester made a sample batch of 500 Model D rifles chambered for the Russian 7.62x54R cartridge. These rifles were ready in October 1917, which was not exactly an idea time to be making business deals with the Czar – and the whole effort fell apart.
After the was, the Model D was followed by the Model E and Model F, which in turn became the Model 51 and Model 54 and ultimately the Model 70, which is still in production today.
Thanks to the Cody Firearms Museum for allowing me access to film this very rare prototype rifle!