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Tndeerhunter's picture
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The Great Model 70 Winchester

I'd like to begin by simply saying I do not claim to be a M70 expert, simply a huge fan of this rifle. If I am incorrect on any facts, feel free to correct me. If you'd like to add more, please do!

Besides a full custom rifle, I'd have to call this rifle perhaps my favorite, all time. Especially the original pre '64 Featherweight version. The original M70 started being produced in the very late 30s. It began re-production after WWII and there are some versions/models called transition models, as a few miner alterations were made to the M70 rifle at that time.

Basically the rifle is a close cousin to the M98 Mauser with a few differences. Perhaps the best known is the very famous 3 position safety of the M70. It allows for safe(bolt locked) position, safe (bolt unlocked) position and fire positions. This is by far my favorite type safety ever. Ruger uses a similar system today as well.

Model 70 rifles were originally produced with 24" barrels (magnums had 26"). In around 1953 the Featherweight version was released. It used a 22" slightly lighter contour barrel and aluminum floor plate (and butt plate) system to trim weight. The stock looks all but identical to the standard rifle to my eye, so I doubt any weight was saved there.

Both versions had a simple point pattern checkering that was useful if not particularly handsome. The action on every early M70 (through 1960s) was left matte and the floor plate and barrel in polished blue. Many, many chamberings were made and I'd be a fool to try and mention all here. Some as odd as the .35 Rem and 9mm were produced along with pretty much all standard, popular American cartridges of the day.

In 1964, the rifle was changed some and lost a lot of fans. Biggest changes included pressed vs cut checkering, different bottom metal and the loss (horrors!) of controlled round feeding and full length extractor. Fans were NOT amused at these changes, likely made to compete (at lower production cost) with the then new M700 Remington (1962). The strategy did not work.

The rifles made immediately afterwards are perhaps the least desireable of the M70s but if you want a rifle that is of excellent quality, but simply lacks the panache of a pre '64, buy one! You will not regret it, I promise. They are very nice guns, period. :thumbsup1:   My 1966 rifle shoots sub MOA and is a nice smooth handling and functioning rifle. Everyone who handles it, wants to buy it! Not for sale, however. Whistling

The Featherweight model also left post '64 and did not return until the early to mid eighties. These newer Featherweight models are by far my favorites, looks-wise. Simply beautifully designed rifles. The next F/W iteration was the Featherweight "Classic" which brought back the CRF and full length extractor loved so much on the pre '64s!

Winchester Corp has changed hands a few times over the years and a few years back the New Haven plant closed it's doors for good, halting production of both the M94 and M70 Winchester rifles. FN has recently started making new M70 rifles in their S.C. factory and word I have is that they are as well made as ever!

I've owned a bunch of rifles over the years (over 100 big game rifles) and if I could only have one production rifle, it would be a M70. To me, they are simply that nice. If you ever have an opportunity, handle a well kept pre '64 rifle and work the action. It is simply something special! The 1960 Featherweight I now have was supposedly made in the custom shop at Winchester and it is a very good looking and extremely good shooting rifle.

Some pictures here:  http://www.biggamehunt.net/galleries/tndeerhunter/classic-rifles

groovy mike's picture
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huge fan here too

I just bought my second Winchester model 70.  My first is the rifle that I primarily hunt with.  I have carried her from South Africa to Alaska and it seems just about everywhere in between.   and if one is good, two is better.  I hate the idea of having my entire supply of ammunition for a given cartrdige tied up in the reliablity of one rifle.  break a spring or firing pin and you are out of business, period.  So I like to have a second rifle along on all of my hunts away from home.  Up until now I would need to bring two sets of ammunition and have two different rifles as long as I wanted to bring my Winchester along.  But now I can bring a second as back up.

I love the straight forward design.  The safety is simple and reliable. So too are the bolt and magazine which seem to be about all the moving parts there are on my scoped rifle. 

Mine wear traditional wooden stocks and the classic blued steel.  Maybe I'm a pureist. Maybe I love the classic original way that things should be or have a fondness for history and the trappings of a by gone era.  Or maybe I'm just cheap and got a good deal or two.

My Model 70's are both from the dreaded push feed, and low quality era of Winchester.  But I see nothing wrong with them at all and would match my one hole groups against yours any day. 

If I could change one thing about these fine rifles it would be the limited magazine capacity.  In my long action versions that hold the big 375 Holland and Holland magnum cartrdiges, there is only room for two cartrdiges in the magazine.  If I want to carry one in the chamber that gives me a grand total of three shots without reloading and yes I have on occassion used all three and more to drop game.  A recent white tail got hit three times just because Iwas afraid of losing him.  Turns out all three shots hit and two would have been fatal within 30 seconds but I just didn't want to risk it and he was still on his feet so I kept shooting until my Winchester model 70 was empty.  So, if I could modify the design it would be with a staggered detachable box magazine not unlike the Lee Enfield.  A ten cartridge capacity might be overkill, but I don't see anything at all wrong with wanting the standard Mauser five cartridge capacity.

So that's my take.  I agree that they are fine rifles indeed - so fine that I have a second just in case of the low chance event that the first goes out of commission (and that has never happened to me).  So - not quite perfect, but still plenty good enough for me.

 

Tndeerhunter's picture
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magazine capacity

Mike your limited magazine capacity is because of your chosen caliber/cartridge, not the rifle's design. Any 30/06 type cartridge fits 4 in the magazine, plus one in the chamber. Your .375 has the dreaded "belted" magnum case and this adds up to a lot more room needed for stacking cartridges. The newly designed .375 Ruger is something of a hit because it has no belt, thus one or two more cartridges in the magazine than the older, classic H&H.

My .450 marlin, with it's belt is the same way, along with my SMs, which only hold 3 rather than the standard 4 in many magazines. Such is the downside with big thumpers. (I still love them though!!)  Yes

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Yep!

Tndeerhunter wrote:

Mike your limited magazine capacity is because of your chosen caliber/cartridge, not the rifle's design. Any 30/06 type cartridge fits 4 in the magazine, plus one in the chamber. Your .375 has the dreaded "belted" magnum case and this adds up to a lot more room needed for stacking cartridges. The newly designed .375 Ruger is something of a hit because it has no belt, thus one or two more cartridges in the magazine than the older, classic H&H.

My .450 marlin, with it's belt is the same way, along with my SMs, which only hold 3 rather than the standard 4 in many magazines. Such is the downside with big thumpers. (I still love them though!!)  Yes

 

You are right of course, but its worth the trade off to me too!

Tndeerhunter's picture
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big bullets

Perhaps the coolest thing for me when shooting the bigger calibers & cartridges is simply holding those big bullets. Plop five 45-70 400gr cartridges into your hand and tell me that ain't a handful!  Yes

groovy mike's picture
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like cigars!

Peter Capstick describes some of the big game cartridges as "panatellas" which is of course a small cigar.  I just luve the subtle THUMP as they slide home in the big barrels

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Mod70

It's my rifle of choice when biggame hunting these days.  I've hunted with other rifles many times, but have selected the M70 as my standard years ago.  Mine is the Classic Featherweight model in .270 Win with the reintroduced CRF action built in early '90s.  It feels right, fits me right, and is a tack driver in accuracy.  Sadly many of the Winchester rifles that were produced in New Haven at USRAC from about 2000 until it closed in March 2006 were of pretty shoddy and spotty quality from my observation. 

Because of this lack of pride on USRAC part, it was almost a mercy killing that the rifle stopped being made when it did in 2006.  Should have happened a few years sooner. Glad to see that the owners of USRAC picked up production again and is now assembling the new rifle in the same Carolina plant that makes the new military contract M-16 rifles. 

I was watching a documentary on the new production M70 rifles.  FN sure seems pretty proud, but sadly the only thing FN actually makes on the new rifles are the finished barrles and boast more about their exterior polish job than they do about what's really important (inside the bore).  The rest of the rifles components are sourced from third pary contractors somewhere else here in the USA.  At least it's still an American made firearm even if it isn't entirely made by FN.  Seriously though, did the price really need to go up that much?? 

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retail price?

I don't buy new rifles any more what are the new Winchester model 70s selling for these days?

Tndeerhunter's picture
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M70 prices

The only model that I pay attention to is the M70 FW model. The list is a grand or so. But the buy price, if you look for it, is around $750. That's why I still say a post '64 in GOOD shape can be a bargain. My 30/06 that shoots sub MOA was bought for $285. a while ago  Yes

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price

Tndeerhunter wrote:

The only model that I pay attention to is the M70 FW model. The list is a grand or so. But the buy price, if you look for it, is around $750. That's why I still say a post '64 in GOOD shape can be a bargain. My 30/06 that shoots sub MOA was bought for $285. a while ago  Yes

I think I paid about $499 for mine brand spankin new back in 1994.  If I recall the Win M70's were roughly comparable in price to the Remington 700s.  As I recall when last looking at one on the dealer shelf back in 2005 the M70's were around $50 to $75 more in price than a new Model 700's.  Either way I think if one wants a quality rifle with a Mauser style action without going broke you really can't go wrong with the Ruger M77.  They are a good rifle for the money. The big difference between the M77 and M70 CRF is that the Ruger uses a plunger style ejector in the bolt face as opposed to a spring loaded flange type of the M70 CRF, and Rugers recievers are investment cast.  All I need is functionality and quality in a field grade utilitarian finish.  My M70 may be a bit prettier than most of my other rifles, but I don't look for fluff in a rifle as a rule.  Polished steel, exotic wood, and engraving don't appeal to me in a hunting rifle.

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Wonderful Rifles

The M70 Winchester is a wonderful rifle, indeed!

Back in the late 70's when I was buying a new deer rifle, I chose the Ruger M77, primarily because of my cousin's recommendation, but also becuse of the price.

The Ruger was a couple hundred buck less than the Win., so that's the way I went.

In your review of the M70, you mentioned that the 3-position safety is what Ruger is using these days.

That's true, but it wasn't when I bought mine - and that is the one thing I would like to be different on my M77.

It has the 2-position, sliding tang safety which locks the bolt in the safe position and unlocks it in the fire position.

When clearing the rifle, you can easily drop the unused rounds out of the drop-down floorplate, but the one in the chamber must be removed by taking the safety off and opening the bolt.

Even though I am very careful to point the muzzle in a safe direction when loading and unloading (other times, too), being able to unload it in the safe position would be nice.

A good friend of my dad's bought a new M70 when he got back from WWII and used it until he moved to Florida after retiring.

I remember watching him practice his favorite "trick shot" at his house in the country.

He'd set an empty Prince Albert pipe tobacco can about 30 yards directly behind him and then sit on a chair with his rifle across his lap.

When someone said, "Now!", he'd spin around and snap a shot at the can as soon as the stock touched his shoulder.

He'd hit the can 3 out of 4 times.

He swore that it couldn't be done with any other rifle. "They just don't have the balance", he'd say.

Those of you who own M70's probably know exactly what he meant.

 

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