WHY THE WINCHESTER PRE-'64 MODEL 70 STILL MATTERS
Rifle|November - December 2021
MOSTLY LONG GUNS
Brian Pearce

It has been 58 years since the famous Winchester pre-’64 Model 70 rifle was discontinued; however, it is still highly relevant and influential with select rifle manufacturers. Collectors justifiably snatch up and lockup pristine examples, rare calibers and configurations, etc., to preserve a piece of history. But knowledgeable hunters and sportsmen desiring a highly rugged and reliable rifle, especially those that pursue big and potentially dangerous game, or that hunt under harsh conditions, still search out shooter grade Model 70s. So why is there so much fuss over a bolt-action rifle that has been out of production for nearly six decades? Let’s take a closer look.

Model 70 production began in 1935, but the rifle was not formally announced to distributors and dealers until 1936. It was based on the Winchester Model 54; however, it featured at least five important improvements and was considered the ultimate bolt-action rifle by in the-know big-game hunters, professional hunters, guides, target shooters and custom gunsmiths. Even the U.S. military began using Model 70s as early as 1942 and are reported to still be in service (but now fitted with new barrels and fiberglass stocks). Noted Vietnam War Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock used a Model 70 .30-06 sniper rifle equipped with a Unertl scope, along with his outstanding skills, to combat enemy snipers and military personnel at extreme distances. (The post-’64 Model 70 was never adopted, as it failed to meet military standards.)

The Model 70 receiver (one size for .22 Hornet through .375 H&H) was fully machined from forged chrome-moly solid bar stock. Likewise, all action components were machined from forged steel. There were no crush-fit assemblies, flimsy stamped parts, MIM parts or anything that could compromise function, durability or reliability. Essentially, there were no shortcuts in design, materials or assembly.

The receiver is uniquely shaped and features a solid integral recoil lug, flat bottom and three guard screws to secure the bottom metal and action to the stock. It is gracefully shaped and often referred to as being “artistically sculptured,” which explains in part why so many high-grade custom guns are still built on this action, but its quality and design remain of foremost importance. Standard weight models feature a barrel lug that accommodates the rear sight slot at the top, and a forearm stock screw on the bottom to reduce barrel vibrations.

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