Winchester factory workers went to work Thursday morning

as many of them have been doing for years — but instead of manufacturing guns, they picked up severance packages and received their last Winchester paycheck.The 140-year-old U.S. Repeating

Arms Co. factory, which has produced millions of the popular

Winchester Rifle — otherwise known as “The Gun That Won the West” — closed its operations

on Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule. Herstal Corp., the Belgian-owned parent company

of USRAC, announced in January that the factory would close today due to declining profits, but the 186 workers simply

ran out of things to do before the official closing date rolled around, Facility Director Paul DeMennato said.”We ran out of guns to put in boxes,” he said. “Your parts supply

starts to dry up at the beginning

of the production line and you make some estimates to how long it will last, and it happened to run out during the course of business on Wednesday.”Worker Maria Porzycka said the end was completely unexpected.

“It was a terrible thing,” Porzycka said. “We were all together until three o’clock and [the supervisor] wanted to say something to us. He said, ‘We finished packing the last gun already. We are going to just let you go right now.’ I feel like I got fired. It was a terrible day.”Workers were still in the factory

Thursday to pick up paychecks

— the company will pay workers’ salaries through Friday — but next week only managers and approximately 20 temporary workers will be present to clean up the plant, turn off machines and perform other shutdown procedures, DeMennato said.City and state officials are continuing efforts to find a buyer for the plant, Connecticut

Department of Economic and Community Development spokesman Jim Watson said in a meeting between state and city officials that was held in Hartford Wednesday to discuss further options for helping displaced

workers and finding a buyer for the factory or for the Winchester brand, owned by the Missouri-based Olin Corp.Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in a written statement issued Wednesday that state officials will continue to work with New Haven city officials to save jobs for Winchester workers.”The workers at Winchester and their families have my pledge that the state of Connecticut

will do everything in its power to help them in this difficult time,” Rell said in the statement. “We will continue to partner with the city to explore all options available to us.”Although union officials have said they are not optimistic

about Winchester’s chances of finding a buyer, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has invited numerous gun makers to visit the facility. Earlier this month, Massachusetts-based companies Smith & Wesson and Savage Arms both visited the facility, but neither expressed an interest in taking over the plant. City officials have been looking for potential buyers since Herstal

hinted it would close the factory last year. The city has said Herstal owes the city $17 million in obligatory payments and has offered to forgive

the payments in exchange for ownership of the factory, but Herstal said the city’s figures are inaccurate and has not accepted the offer.City officials are also trying to persuade Olin Corp. to sell the rights to the production of Winchester Rifles so that the factory

can continue to produce the model with a new factory owner.Dinners unite profs, studentsSUSAN TOVAR/CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERAkhil Amar, a popular constitutional law professor who teaches in both Yale College and the Law School, converses with a group of freshmen in the Saybrook College dining hall on Thursday. The Freshman Class Council instituted the ‘Take Your Professor to Dinner’ program this year.Fraternities attempt to rehabilitate their image Winchester factory closes doorsROBIN SWARTOUT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERYale’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter, above, has a True Gentlemen program emphasizing strong values and etiquette.Please recycle your YDN