|Winchester Model 70|
Winchester Model 70 with rifle scope and 24-inch barrel. One-piece scope mount.
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||United States Marine Corps|
|Manufacturer||Winchester Repeating Arms Company, U.S. Repeating Arms, Fabrique Nationale de Herstal|
|Mass||6-8 lbs / 2.7-3.6 kg|
|Barrel length||22, 24 25 or 26 inch|
|Cartridge||various, see article|
|Feed system||internal spring fed well with floorplate
The Winchester Model 70 is a bolt-action sporting rifle. It has an iconic place in American sporting culture and has been held in high regard by shooters since it was introduced in 1936, earning the moniker "The Rifleman's Rifle". The action has some design similarities to Mauser designs and it is a development of the earlier Winchester Model 54.
The Model 70 was originally manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company between 1936 and 1980. From the early 1980s until 2006, Winchester rifles were manufactured by U.S. Repeating Arms under an agreement with Olin Corporation, allowing USRA to use the Winchester name and logo. Model 70s were built in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1936 to 2006, when production ceased. In the fall of 2007, the Belgian company FN Herstal announced that Model 70 production would resume. As of 2012, new Winchester Model 70 rifles were being made by FN Herstal in Columbia, South Carolina. In 2013, assembly was moved to Portugal.
In 1936, Winchester introduced the Model 70 bolt-action rifle to the American market. The Model 70 was largely based on the Model 54, and is today still highly regarded by shooters and is often called "The Rifleman's Rifle". In 1999 Shooting Times magazine named the Model 70 the "Bolt-action Rifle of the Century".
Throughout its life, the Model 70 has been offered in many grades and styles. Over the entire production of the Model 70, chamberings have included: .22 Hornet, .222 Remington, .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .223 WSSM, .225 Winchester, .220 Swift, .243 Winchester, .243 WSSM, .250-3000 Savage, .257 Roberts, .25-06 Remington, .25 WSSM, 6.5×55mm, .264 Winchester Magnum, 6.5mm Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, .270 WSM, .270 Weatherby Magnum, .280 Remington, 7mm Mauser, 7mm-08, 7 mm Remington Magnum, 7mm WSM, 7mm STW, .300 Savage, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester, .300 H&H Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 WSM, .300 Weatherby Magnum, .300 RUM, .325 WSM, .338 Winchester Magnum, .35 Remington, .358 Winchester, .375 H&H Magnum, .416 Remington Magnum, .416 Rigby, .458 Winchester Magnum, and .470 Capstick.
The pre-1964 Model 70s were manufactured from 1936 through 1963 after which time significant changes in the design and manufacture of the rifles were made. Pre-1964 Model 70s bring a substantial price premium due to a public perception that they were better, as they had several desirable features (Mauser-type controlled round feed, cut checkering) that the post-1964 version did not. The best way to identify a pre-1964 Model 70 Winchester rifles is the serial number and the fore-end screw to secure the barrel to the stock. Model 70 rifles with serial numbers below 700,000 are the pre-1964 variety. The receivers of these Model 70s were machined from bar stock steel.
The original Model 70 quickly established an excellent reputation with American sportsmen. It was a high-quality action of considerable strength, with two forward locking lugs and a Mauser-type non-rotating claw extractor. The key benefit of the Mauser-type extractor compared to later versions is that it more positively extracts the spent casing. This feature is often referred to as "controlled round feeding" (CRF) because the extractor captures the rim of a cartridge as it is fed upwards from the magazine and controls its journey forward into the rifle's chamber. Later designs referred to as "push feed," only capture the cartridge by the magazine lips and the chamber and the cartridge is not held to the bolt face until a spring-loaded extractor is pushed over the cartridge's extractor groove. The smaller extractor of the push feed action may slip or break off a spent casing stuck in the chamber under adverse conditions. Therefore the more positive extraction of the controlled round feeding action is favored by some shooters, especially those who pursue dangerous game, who require rifles to extract reliably. This function is necessary to allow subsequent cartridges to be fed and fired in a bolt-action rifle with only a single barrel. The ejector on the original Model 70 was of the blade type similar to that of the Mauser 98, but considered superior as it did not require a Mauser-type slot through the left locking lug; instead, there was a slot in the bolt face below the locking lug, leaving both forward lugs solid and hence stronger. The main benefit of the blade type ejector is it is simpler and perhaps more reliable (being considered less susceptible to ingress of foreign matter) when compared to the later post-1964 plunger ejector in the bolt face controlled by a coil spring.
Other significant features of this action include a three-position wing-type safety (retained throughout Model 70 production), a cone breeching-system that helps prevent bullet-nose damage while loading a cartridge from the magazine, machined steel trigger-guard and floor plate, one-piece bolt construction, and a trigger adjustable for pull weight and over-travel.
Competing as it did with the Remington Model 700, it was decided that changes needed to be made in the face of rising labour costs. Accordingly, in 1964 Winchester made a number of design changes to the Model 70. Few to none of these changes were popular with the rifle-buying public, or with the US military. The changes included dropping the controlled round feed feature, a change to the basic stock shape and the use of impressed checkering rather than cut checkering.
Jack O'Connor, long a proponent of the Model 70, wrote of the post-1964 version that "I was informed by Winchester brass that the Model 70 was being redesigned. I told them that I was glad to get the information so I could lay in four or five more before they loused the rifle up. Then I saw the pilot model of 'New Model 70.' At the first glimpse I like to fell into a swoon. The action was simplified, the trigger guard and floor plate made of a flimsy looking one-piece stamping." Despite this initial reaction, O'Connor grudgingly went on to say, "Actually the post-1964 Model 70 is not a bad rifle in spite of the fact that rifle aficionados have never taken it to their bosoms the way they did its predecessor. It is a stronger action than the pre-1964. The head of the bolt encloses the head of the case. It has a small, neat hook extractor, which is adequate. With this extractor the cartridge is not as surely controlled as it is with the Mauser-type extractor. However, the new model seldom gives feeding problems."
In order to reduce manufacturing costs in the face of higher labour rates, rifles manufactured from 1964 to 1992 differed from early Model 70s in the following ways:
Any Model 70 rifle made since that is not designated as a "Classic" model is likely to have this post-1964 action. In design terms (enclosed bolt face, plunger ejector, brazed bolt construction) the new action itself was comparable in design to the competing Remington Model 700, which has a worldwide following and is considered to be very reliable. When coupled with the other cost-cutting changes and compared with the previously produced and very familiar Model 70, however, it was immediately declared to be lacking. The new design of the rifle was swiftly and severely criticized by both gun writers and riflemen alike for its perceived lesser amount of control and feed issues, making the original action much more prized.
The post-1964 action has been further improved over the years. Thanks to a refined bolt head design, the bolt is now less wobbly when open, and the action is now generally considered on par with the CRF action. Under normal conditions, the action's new design is no less reliable, and although the simplified construction is certainly less elegant, some of the changes could be considered improvements, having made the action stronger. Also, the pressed checkering, one of the most reviled changes, was likewise done away with as soon as machine-cut checkering became available. All things considered, in normal situations there is now not much to choose between the two versions at present, apart from personal preference.
In 1968 further revisions were made to the Model 70 in part to address consumer concerns. An "anti-bind" feature was introduced to make operation of the action smoother, which comprised a groove in an extended right locking lug operating on a rib on the right side of the receiver. This made the action noticeably smoother to operate and has been retained to the present day. A steel floorplate and stainless magazine follower were introduced, partially revoking changes introduced in the 1964 model. The alloy trigger guard was retained.
Starting in 1992, Winchester re-introduced many features of the pre-1964 rifles, while also continuing to manufacture less-expensive variants. The post-1992 Model 70 is an extensive rifle line that boasts nearly all of the features of the original line, but with some updated equipment, such as the Controlled Round Push Feed action and synthetic stocks. The popular Shadow variants feature black resin stocks, which reduce the price of the firearm significantly, and hold up better than wood stocks over time. Some of the modern rifles also use high performance McMillan or Bell and Carlson fiberglass stocks, though these rifles tend to be expensive. Particular models feature a one-piece aluminum pillar block bedding for greater accuracy, and some models have fluting of the barrel to reduce weight and vent the barrel for additional cooling. Carbon fiber barrels are also found on select models to reduce weight and dissipate heat faster. Walnut stocks are still found across the line in satin finishes, and laminated walnut stocks are added to the mix for structural stability in extreme dry or wet conditions. The Model 70 is offered in all of the previous chamberings as the original, and is now supplemented with newer rounds, including the Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) and Winchester Super Short Magnum (WSSM) cartridges, which are magnum loaded rounds, but are shorter in length and wider in diameter, so spent cartridges take less time to eject and use less powder. However, these short magnum cartridges reduce magazine capacity and feeding reliability, due to their extra width and rebated rim.
In 1992, Winchester began producing a controlled round feed Model 70 that was marketed as the "Classic" model. This version reintroduced the CRF feature, while retaining the "anti-bind" locking lug groove bolt guide of the 1968 push feed model. The use of modern CNC manufacturing techniques allowed Winchester to re-introduce the CRF feature at a competitive price.
Around this time, Browning, which is owned by the same parent company as USRAC, Giat Corp, of France, introduced the BOSS accuracy system. The term 'BOSS' is an acronym for Ballistic Optimising Shooting System. The device attaches to the muzzle end of the barrel and allows the natural harmonics, commonly known as barrel whip, caused during the bullet's passage down the bore, to be refined and controlled. By adjusting the device for optimum performance in the individual rifle, accuracy is brought to peak level. Winchester Model 70s equipped with the BOSS provide a significant improvement in accuracy for a production rifle. Currently, only Browning rifles are available with the BOSS.
Later, Winchester expanded the Classic line, putting the Classic action on all their modern stocks, giving a wide range of choice in rifle types. This basically lets the buyer choose an action, then choose a stock to one's liking. Both pre- and post-1964 versions of the Model 70 actions have their strengths and weaknesses.
At the same time as the CRF feature was re-introduced, a recent innovation allowed the short extractor used on the post-1964 models to ride over the extraction groove on a cartridge, giving controlled feeding without the expense of the long Mauser type extractor. This was called Controlled Round Push Feed. This is achieved by the use of the pre-1964 extractor, combined with the post-1964 bolt face relieved at the bottom allowing the round to engage the bolt face from underneath.
On March 31, 2006, U.S. Repeating Arms closed the New Haven, Conn. plant where Winchester rifles and shotguns were produced for 140 years. This resulted in hiatus of the production of the Winchester Model 70 rifle and Winchester Model 1300 pump-action shotgun and the end of the Model 94 lever-action rifle. Other Winchester models however, are still produced in other regions such as Asia and Europe.
On August 15, 2006, Olin Corporation, owner of the Winchester trademarks, announced that it had entered into a new license agreement with Browning to make Winchester brand rifles and shotguns, though not at the closed Winchester plant in New Haven. Browning, based in Morgan, Utah, and the former licensee, U.S. Repeating Arms Company, are both subsidiaries of FN Herstal.
In October 2007, FN Herstal announced that it would produce Controlled Round Feed Winchester Model 70 rifles at its facility in Columbia, South Carolina, where it currently manufactures the M240, M249, and M16 for the United States military, as well as its SPR and PBR lines, which are, in fact, variants of the modern Model 70 Controlled Round Feed rifles.
In 2013, FN/Browning relocated Model 70 assembly to Portugal.
As of 2015, Model 70 rifles are stamped, "Imported by BACO, Inc., Morgan, Utah - Made in Portugal by Browning Viana".
The Winchester Model 70 series rifles are marketed as sniper rifles for military forces and law enforcement agencies under the Fabrique Nationale banner as the Special Police Rifle (SPR) and the Patrol Bolt Rifle (PBR).
The FN Special Police Rifle has the standard Winchester Model 70 rifle action, receiver and magazine system but the rifle is fitted with a heavier barrel and with the McMillan series tactical rifle stocks.
The FN Patrol Bolt Rifle has the standard features of the original Winchester Model 70 rifle but the rifle is designed for use by police officers in patrol cars with the rifle having a short and compact barrel so it would allow the rifle to be stored in a police car. The FN Patrol Bolt Rifle is also marketed with a compensator on the muzzle of the rifle's barrel.
The United States Marine Corps purchased 373 Model 70 rifles in May, 1942. Although the Marine Corps officially used only the M1 Garand and the M1903 Springfield as sniper rifles during the Second World War, "many Winchester Model 70s showed up at training camps and in actual field use during the Pacific campaign." These rifles had 24-inch shorter barrels chambered for .30-06 Springfield. They were serial numbered in the 41000 to 50000 range and were fitted with leaf sights and checkered stocks with steel butt plates, one-inch sling swivels, and leather slings. It has been reported that some of these rifles were equipped with 8X Unertl telescopic sights for limited unofficial use as sniper weapons on Guadalcanal and during the Korean War. Many of the surviving rifles, after reconditioning with heavier Douglas barrels and new stocks between 1956 and 1963 at the Marine Corps match rebuild shop in Albany, Georgia, were fitted with 8× Unertl sights from M1903A1 sniper rifles. The reconditioned rifles were used in competitive shooting matches; and the United States Army purchased approximately 200 new Model 70 National Match Rifles with medium heavy barrels for match use between 1954 and 1957. Many of the reconditioned Marine Corps match rifles were used by Marine Corps snipers during the early years of the Vietnam war with M72 match ammunition loaded with 173-grain boat-tailed bullets. A smaller number of the Army's Model 70 rifles also saw combat use by Army snipers; and some were equipped with silencers for covert operations in Southeast Asia. These Model 70 rifles never achieved the status of a standard military weapon; but were used until replaced by the Remington Model 700 series bolt-action rifles which became the basis for the M40 series sniper rifle.
One of the reasons the U.S. Marine Corps replaced their Winchester Model 70s was that the post-1964 variants of the Model 70 did not meet U.S. Marines' standards. Despite the introduction of the Remington Model 700 rifle, the pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 was still used by the US Marine Corps' scout/sniper teams during the Vietnam War alongside the Remington Model 700 rifle. The original wood stocks were found to be warping in both rifles after a few years of service and both rifles were given fiberglass stocks to remedy the problem. Existing Model 70s still in service have had their stocks replaced with a McMillan fiberglass stock, such as that found on the Custom Extreme Weather variant.
One of the best known U.S. Marine Corps snipers who used the Winchester Model 70 during the Vietnam War was Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, who used a Winchester Model 70 sniper rifle chambered in .30-06. It was this rifle, equipped with a standard 8×43 Unertl scope, that Hathcock used to kill a North Vietnamese enemy sniper by shooting him in the eye, through the scope of his Mosin-Nagant rifle. Hathcock's rifle is on display at the Quantico, Virginia Marine Corps Sniper Museum.