Former Beltrami County Sheriff Keith Winger Helps Build Sheriff’s Rifle – Bemidji Pioneer


BEMIDJI — When Keith Winger e-mailed a major gun maker on a Friday afternoon, he thought he might expect an acknowledgment of his suggestion the following week.

He didn’t expect to hear from the CEO of the company the next morning.

Winger, a retired Beltrami County sheriff, had emailed Henry Repeating Arms, a rifle manufacturer well known for its selection of tribute rifles, lavishly crafted rifles that honor certain civic organizations and professions, such as the firefighters, the American farmer, the tankers. and more.

“They were sort of noted for doing that,” Winger said. “I emailed them and said, ‘Have you ever thought about doing one for the US sheriff?'”

Winger noted in his email that there are more than 3,000 sheriffs across the United States and even more sheriff’s deputies. It was a big prospective market.

Anthony Imperato, the company’s CEO, sent him a response the next morning — and invited Winger to comment on potential artwork that could be incorporated into the design.

“I suggested that, first of all, it should say American Sheriff, and I said it should say ‘Since 1634,’ because the first sheriff in America was in a colony in Virginia in 1634”, Winger said.

At one point the design included a seven-pointed star, but Winger suggested replacing it with the more common five-pointed star.

“Those are my contributions,” Winger said, “but I didn’t expect any of this to happen, to be honest.”

The Henry American Sheriff Tribute Edition Rifle includes designs such as the common five-pointed star and the phrase “Since 1634”, as advised by Keith Winger.


In April, Winger and his son-in-law, Aaron Schlosser, traveled to Rice Lake, Wisconsin to tour the Henry plant and meet the staff.

“We met Andy Wickstrom, the president of the company, and he showed us around the factory, giving us a full tour of the manufacturing facility,” Winger said.

“We observed, among other things, the machining of many components, the polishing, finishing and fitting of components, and people sitting with stirrups. We watched the assembly line where it was spinning just like the whole Henry Ford assembly line and each person did one thing and at the end they were stacking guns.

The company was manufacturing several different rifles at the time of their visit, and Winger and Schlosser were sworn to secrecy about what they observed.

Once the Sheriff Tribute Rifles were ready for manufacture, Henry’s staff asked if Winger wanted to order one. Early proceeds would be set aside to be auctioned off for charity, with the proceeds benefiting a law enforcement fund or the family of an officer affected by the tragedy.

Winger was given No. 00005, probably the first made available to the public; Schlosser got 00011.

Since the rifles could not be sold directly to Winger itself, Timberline Sports in Blackduck agreed to be the dealer.

The Henry rifle was originally developed by Benjamin Tyler Henry, who received his first patent for a lever-action rifle in 1860. At that time, the older muzzleloaders that you loaded one at a time were mostly used. Henry’s lever-action shotgun held 15 rounds.

In 1862, Union soldiers used Henry’s rifle, firing a .44 caliber metal cartridge similar to that used today. Some of the Confederate soldiers called it “the Yankee gun you loaded on Sunday and fired all week”.

“I really enjoyed the whole experience,” Winger said, thinking back to emails exchanged with the company’s CEO as they worked on the rifle’s design and bonded over a shared appreciation of the music. . “I didn’t expect any of this. But it was a nice process.

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