Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen: His Winchester Centennial ’66 Rifle

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Ready, Aim, …

Guns have been a recurrent motif in Leonard Cohen’s work and life. He was deeply effected by his father’s pistol, a marker of his service in World War I, Phil Spector threatened him with a handgun, he has owned a number of guns, and he has alluded to firearms in his poetry, novels, and songs. As is true with most subjects that arise in Cohen’s interviews, he has been forthcoming about his experience with and thoughts about guns, discussing the matter without braggadocio (no one is likely to confuse his views with those of, say, Ted Nugent) or apology. This post is part of a collection of entries comprising a noncomprehensive sampler of connections between Leonard Cohen and pistols, rifles, bullets, small arms, handguns, … . All such posts can be accessed at  Firearms In The Work & Life Of Leonard Cohen. (Note: This material was originally presented at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric, in a series of posts beginning Nov 12, 2011.)

 

Leonard Cohen’s Winchester Centennial ’66 Rifle

I moved there [Franklin Tennessee]. I had a house, a jeep, a carbine, a pair of cowboy boots, a girlfriend. … A typewriter, a guitar. Everything I needed1

The Winchester rifle is discussed in this excerpt from from a 1992 interview2

After New York, Mr. Cohen lived for a year on a 1,500-acre homestead in Franklin, Tenn., rented for $75 a month. “Ah, that was a very pleasant period of my life,” he says wistfully. “There was a shack — a well-equipped shack, but not much more than that — beside a stream. There were peacocks and peahen. They used to come to my cabin every morning. I’d feed them. I had one of those centennial rifles that Remington put out, I think, in ’67.” He pauses. “When was this country founded? ’76?” He seems somewhat dismayed that mathematics could interfere with a colorful detail of his story. “Anyway, I had some kind of centennial rifle. I would amuse myself by shooting icicles on the far side of the creek.” [emphasis mine]

Later, Cohen later elaborates on his expertise:

I was pretty much a bust as a cowboy [laughs] But I did have a rifle. During winter there, there were these icicles that formed on this slate cliff… and I’d stand in the doorway and shoot icicles for a lot of the time so I got quite good.3

Note: While the Bicentennial of the United States, the date of which Mr Cohen was attempting to plug into his formula in order to calculate when he purchased the rifle, was, one supposes, a significant enough event, it was not the occasion the Winchester Repeating Arms Company chose to celebrate with the manufacture of their Centennial Rifle. Chuck Hawks explains:

1966 was the Winchester Repeating Arms Company’s 100th year of operation. To commemorate this occasion, Winchester produced a run of fancy Model 94 rifles. These were based on post 1964 Model 94’s actions with a gold plated receiver and forend cap, brass “rifle” (curved) buttplate, saddle ring, and a heavy octagon barrel with a full length magazine that was nicely polished and deeply blued. The straight hand stock was select walnut. All were in caliber .30-30 Winchester. There were rifle (26″) and carbine (20″) barrel lengths, and sets of rifle and carbine with consecutive serial numbers were also offered. The point to all of the gold and brass was to make the 1966 Centennial reminiscent of the brass framed Winchester 1866 “Yellow Boy” rifle that was Winchester’s first product.4

Note: The gun images that populate these posts, unless otherwise designated, are illustrative only and do not portray any guns actually owned by Leonard Cohen and may not accurately depict the specific gun described in the text. Firearms of the same caliber may be produced by more than one manufacturer and in various formats.

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  1. Various Positions by Ira Nadel. Random House of Canada, 1996 []
  2. Leonard Cohen, The Lord Byron of Rock-and-Roll by Karen Schoemer. New York Times: November 29, 1992. []
  3. Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012 []
  4. For firearms aficionados, much more information about this model is available at the link. []