Wayne R. Miller has
been kind enough to present several interesting and educational
displays over 20 years including representing us at the 2010 NRA
Annual Meeting with ďModel 54 Bolt-Action Rifles." He displayed
Winchester Model .22s at the I-X Center, Winchester Model .54s
in Milan and ďWinchester Boyís RiflesĒ in Wilmington. He
displayed Winchester Pre-64 Model 70s in September, 2005, and
most recently at our November meeting. Anyone interested in
doing a Featured Display should contact the Business Office.
Following is his article on the iconic Model 70.
Model 70 rifle, of course, needs little introduction being the
most widely known bolt action sporting rifle in the world. Since
the Winchester Model 70 made its appearance in the late 1930ís,
it has been the standard by which all other bolt action rifles
are judged. Seldom will you find an article written on another
make and model bolt action rifle without reference to the
Winchester Model 70.
Winchester Model 54 rifles were the
first successful bolt action sporting rifles manufactured by
Winchester and were available from 1925 up until the Model 70ís
began appearing on dealersí racks in 1937. The model 54 was
really a form of sporterized Mauser and lacked refinements being
sought by the bolt action minded sportsmen. The Model 70 offered
stronger action, more checkering, improved safety, and much
Collectors prefer the Model 70ís
manufactured prior to World War II with their fine finish and
hand fitted parts even though they did not provide for
conventional scope mounting. Bolt design changes and drilling
and tapping the rear receiver bridge were performed on the
rifles when production resumed following the World War II. Some
collectors prefer those early post-war rifles because they
retain pre-war quality but at the same time lend themselves to
easy mounting of telescope sights.
Model 70ís manufactured in the early
1960ís are the least pursued mainly because of the poorly
checkered stocks. Winchester was experiencing problems at this
time producing the quality of rifle that made the Model 70
famous. Unfortunately, this led to the well known changes that
took place in 1964. The quality of these post-64 rifles was so
poor that in a matter of only a couple years the Model 70ís
produced prior to that era fast became collector items.
One of the first well written
articles on collecting the pre-64 Model 70ís was penned by the
hand of Jim Scott from Iowa, a man with great perception, who I
had the pleasure of meeting in 1971. Jimís article appeared in
the April 1968 issue of Shooting Times and is a collector item
in itself for Model 70 aficionados.
The pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters were
produced in 18 catalogued calibers as follows: .22 Hornet, .220
Swift, .243 Winchester, .250 Savage, .257 Roberts, .264
Winchester Magnum, .270 Winchester, 7X57MM, .300 Savage, .308
Winchester, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum, .35 Remington, .358
Winchester, .375 H&H Magnum, and .458 Winchester Magnum. Also, a
very few were produced in 7.65MM and 9X57 MM prior to World War
II in an attempt to lure foreign market.
Perhaps at this point I should point
out the possibilities of after-market fakes in these rare
calibers. Let it be known that I personally have no proof and am
accusing no one but many accusations have been made. Rarity of
calibers or rare configurations, of course, command very high
prices but the collector must be well informed.
A few Model 70ís have been special
ordered in other calibers than the twenty previously mentioned.
Unfortunately, we cannot obtain a letter of authenticity from
Winchester on bolt action rifles to verify one of these rare
Regardless of what make or model of
firearm we seek as collectors, originality is most important,
followed by condition. There are people restoring firearms who
have become so proficient at matching the finish on both metal
and wood that it becomes difficult to separate these from a mint
original piece. Any extra holes drilled in the metal detract a
considerable amount from the value. In many cases, these extra
holes have been welded and can be difficult to see except under
strong light. I have encountered holes in the barrel hidden by
the long rear sight. Beware of rifles wearing scope bases. Under
the bases you may find an extra hole or find the original 6-48
holes have been enlarged to accept 8-40 screws.
Over the years, many attempts have
been made to duplicate the stock finish on Winchester Model 70ís
but usually can be detected more readily than a professional
reblue. If a model 70 stock showing considerable use is
observed, flaking off of the finish can be noted. Winchester
applied the finish on the wood not in the wood. You can observe
only the stain penetrated the wood. Experience allows your
fingers to feel a difference in the texture of the finish.
Barrel and stock changing has, of
course, been going on ever since model 70ís became collector
items. Unless the parts are from a different time period, this
is one change that may be impossible to detect. If it canít be
detected, perhaps it does not matter. In the late 1960ís, I sent
a Winchester Model 70 in .220 Swift caliber back to Winchester
for a new barrel and there was absolutely no way to indicate the
Replacement of the solid red rubber
pads Winchester utilized on the large magnum calibers cannot
really be detected because even the repro pads you can buy today
are made to the exact specifications. And again, does it really
make any difference?
Sometimes collectors create through
their observations in their mind alterations that really do not
exist. For instance, the butt plates do not always fit exactly
because the wood may have changed somewhat over the years. I
have seen people pass up a Model 70 because the bluing on the
butt plate was not as good as the barreled action. They tend to
forget those rifles were often placed on the damp ground which
caused the flaking of the blue. Arguments have ensued over the
checkering. Remember it was not computerized machine cut as is
Recently, I displayed variations of
the pre-64 Model 70 Winchester rifles at the OGCA show in
September 2005. These included standard grade, featherweight,
carbine, national match, target grade, super grade, varminter,
gopher special, super grade featherweight, bull gun, and special
order models. Other variations exist, some quite rare such as
special shaped stocks and unusual barrel lengths.
Over the years, many articles have
been written on the Winchester Model 70 appearing at some point
in time in most of the well known hunting/shooting magazines.
Two books have been published on the Winchester Model 70. The
first book by Dean Whitaker, The Model 70 Winchester 1937-1964
in 1978 and The Riflemanís Rifle by Roger Rule in 1982. Roger
Rulesí book has been reprinted a couple times but I have never
heard of a second issue of Dean Whitakerís book. Ruleís book is
a must for any serious Model 70 collector.
Many collectors, myself included, not
only cherish our Winchester Model 70ís as collector items but we
shoot and hunt with them as well. The advantages of the three
position safety, controlled feed, and coned breech become
apparent to anyone using one of these fine rifles. My first
Model 70 was purchased in 1957 and remains in my collection.
The pre-64 Model 70 Winchester
certainly must be included in the top ten greatest firearms ever
produced for sporting purposes anywhere in the world.