The Winchester Model 70 is an American bolt-action sporting rifle designed by Edwin Pugsley based on patents by T.C. Johnson in 1934 and produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company since 1937. A highly popular sporting rifle, the Model 70 remains one of Winchester's most popular offerings even until the present day.
The roots of the Model 70's design go back to 1925 when the Model 54, Winchester's first bolt-action rifle chambered for heavy, high-velocity ammunition. While the Model 54 was fairly successful, it became clear that the Model 54 had a number of faults, so a new rifle had to be designed.
Under the leadership of Winchester's new president John Olin, Winchester opted to design a new bolt-action rifle to replace the Model 54. As Johnson had died in 1934, Edwin Pugsley took over Winchester's design team to design this new rifle; authorization to design the new rifles was given in December 1934, with the first reaching warehouse stocks in August 1936. The rifle was first announced in January 1937.
On its introduction, the Model 70 was highly commercially successful, with the rifle being held in high regard by many hunters and shooters. As it set the standard for the various bolt-action rifles to come, along with its good reputation among hunters and shooters, the Model 70 was given the colloquial moniker of "The Rifleman's Rifle".
A number of Model 70s were purchased by the United States Marine Corps in 1942 and were used in some numbers in the Pacific Campaign and even up to the Vietnam War. Many were modified for use in later years with heavier and reconditioned barrels and newer optics. These were used until they were replaced by Remington Model 700s as the Marines felt that the Model 70 no longer met their standards. One of the most notable users of the Model 70 in warfare was GySgt Carlos Hathcock; equipped with a 8×43 Unertl optic, Hathcock killed a North Vietnamese soldier by shooting him in the eye with the bullet passing through his scope at a range of 1,200 yards (1,100 metres; 0.68 miles).
In 1960, it became clear to Winchester that the Model 70 was starting to get less competitive in the market as improved marketing and manufacturing techniques began to erode the Model 70's renown in the sporting rifle industry. And so, come 1964, with the resignation of Olin as the president of Winchester, the Model 70 received a number of major design changes in an attempt to regain a foothold in the market. This did not work as Winchester had hoped; while some of the new design elements of the Model 70 were indeed superior to older models, the new Model 70 was almost universally panned by shooters while older Model 70s rose in value.
Additional improvements to the Model 70 were made over the years which largely appeased consumer complaints. In 1992, the Model 70 Classic was introduced which brought back the original pre-1964 action, but mounted on stocks which are machined through modern methods. However, with the closure of the New Haven plant in 2006, production of the Model 70 ceased in the United States.
This would not be for long, however; that same year in August, it was announced that Olin Corporation, the owners of the Winchester trademarks and brand, entered into a licensing agreement with the Browning Arms Company allowing them to manufacture Model 70 rifles. FNH USA later announced that they would be manufacturing Model 70s as well in their Columbia, South Carolina factory in a dedicated area of said factory; production of said rifles began in 2009.
A revised version of the Model 54 designed by T.C. Johnson, the Model 70 was a simple bolt-action rifle which took some design cues from Mauser actions. Improvements from the Model 54 include a gas port bored into the side of the barrel, a hinged floorplate, a receiver-mounted bolt stop, a redesigned walnut stock and a newer trigger mechanism among other improvements.
Over its production run, three design changes were made to the design and construction of the Model 70. The first change came in 1964 after John Olin's resignation from The Olin Corporation which owned Winchester at the time; this change is regarded as the most major of all three of the changes. The change was enacted by the new owners of The Olin Corporation and involved production methods of the weapon; this included a new receiver manufacturing process (where it was forged into shape first, then machined), a new two-piece bolt design with the original Mauser claw extractors removed (and replaced with wedge-shaped ones),hammer-forged barrels and the use of aluminum alloy on various parts. Most notably, the Model 70 used a new push-feed system instead of the original Mauser-style controlled round feeding system. This was seen as detrimental to the gun despite it apparently not affecting performance of the weapon as a whole, and eventually causing prices of what would be known as "pre-64" Model 70s to increase in value due to their perceived better quality.
The second change came in 1968 in an attempt to address user concerns. Most notably, changes involved the action; an "anti-bind" action was added which comprised a groove in an extended right locking lug in a rib on the right of the receiver. This is said to have made the action smoother and has been continued in current-production Model 70s.
The final change in manufacturing came in 1992, after the U.S. Repeating Arms Company went out of business in 1989 and was subsequently acquired by FN Herstal, which set out to improve the design even further so that it could be marketed worldwide. A large variety of configurations was made available, including the introduction of the Model 70 Classic reintroducing the Mauser controlled feed system. Current production Model 70s also feature the "M.O.A. trigger system", a three-lever trigger system.
The Model 70 is available in many calibers; a non-exhaustive list is available in the infobox above.
- Standard Grade: plain walnut checkered stock and foreend, 24 in (61 cm) round barrel, 26 in (66 cm) for .220 Swift and .300 H&H Magnum or 25 in (64 cm) for .375 H&H Magnum caliber guns after 1937
- Carbine: plain walnut checkered stock and foreend, 20 in (51 cm) barrel with integrated front sight, chambered in .22 Hornet, .250-3000 Savage, .257 Roberts, .270 Winchester, 7×57mm Mauser or .30-06 Springfield (not an official name)
- Featherweight: plain walnut checkered stock and foreend, 22 in (56 cm) round barrel, chambered in .243 Winchester, .264 WM, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, or .358 Winchester, serial number between 206626 and 581471
- Super Grade: select walnut checkered stock with raised cheekpiece, capped pistol grip, checkered foreend with black plastic tip, same barrel lengths as Standard (24 in (61 cm) round barrel, 26 in (66 cm) for .220 Swift and .300 H&H Magnum or 25 in (64 cm) for .375 H&H Magnum caliber guns after 1937)
- Super Grade Featherweight: Featherweight model with Super Grade traits, features slim tapered free-bedded 22 in (56 cm) barrel, 930 produced, rarest of all standard Model 70 configurations
- Super Grade African Model: has hooded front sight and adjustable rear sight, special order-only model chambered for .458 Winchester Magnum only, 1,226 produced
- National Match: has plain walnut target-type stock, chambered for .243 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, or .300 H&H Magnum, has 24 in (61 cm) round barrel
- Target: has plain walnut target-type stock, chambered for .243 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, or .300 H&H Magnum, has 26 in (66 cm) round barrel
- Bull Gun: has plain walnut target-type stock, chambered for .243 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, or .300 H&H Magnum, has 28 in (71 cm) round barrel
- Varmint: has heavy varmint barrel drilled and tapped for front sights and scope blocks
- Alaskan: has plain walnut checkered pistol-gripped stock and foreend, 25 in (64 cm) round barrel, chambered for .338 Winchester Magnum or .375 H&H Magnum
- Westerner: has plain walnut checkered pistol-gripped stock and foreend, 26 in (66 cm) round barrel, chambered for .264 Winchester Magnum
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