Classic Winchester Model 70, For The Shooting Elite
The Classic Winchester Model 70 was probably the premier bolt action rifle of the 1950s and 60s. Until the mid-1960s Winchester firearms in the model 70 would be considered the best of the hi- powered bolt action firearms of that period.
Although the Winchester model 70 was manufactured before World War II, the gun that was made after the war had been improved over its predecessor. I will not get into a lot of detail of different variations and calibers of the model 70. There is a tremendous amount of information in books or on the web for those looking for that type of information.
I am going to give my opinions about why this is such a great gun for collectors, investing, and the gunsmithing issues.
The Classic Winchester model 70 pre-64 design was a vast improvement over the bolt action firearms before World War II. Because of its newly designed safety and extractor with improved feeding it was an immediate success. The new design also benefited from the name Winchester.
The Winchester firearms name already had a big advantage over the other gun manufacturers, because of its history with the lever action Winchester rifle’s. The development of new Winchester ammo would also help Winchester in the 1950’s.
It also benefited from having a big following from the sporting and gun writers of the period. Many celebrities also used the Winchester model 70 for their own hunting and shooting. So the gun had a great marketing advantage over some of the other gun companies that were releasing new versions of their own firearms.
We would have many of these rifles in the Classic Winchester model 70 come through our gun shop in Pennsylvania back in the 1970s and 80s. I was able to work on and shoot many of these rifles at that time and came to really appreciate just how good the gun was. Over the years I was able to handle a good many of these firearms.
I can never remember having a Classic Winchester model 70 (pre 64)that did not shoot very well.
I remember one gun in particular, that was a Winchester model 70 super grade in 257 Roberts. I can still remember that gun, and how I would take it down from the rack and admire it. I knew the man that owned it and still remember him from time to time. I often think I should have bought that gun, but even in the early 1980s it was more than I could afford. But that truly was a beautiful gun.
I always liked the gun because of its simplicity. I think it had one of the best trigger systems of any bolt action rifle. It was very easy and simple to adjust and care for. I liked the Winchester model 70 triggers better than the Remington 721 triggers of that time. And of course its safety was also easy to use and in the right spot.
As long as someone knew what they were doing it was a simple gun to work on. I will discuss this more in the individual articles on the gun triggers and alterations.
Because I was able to work on a lot of these guns and sold many of them I am going to talk about alterations and gunsmithing issues that may have been associated with these firearms. What to look for and maybe what can be done with certain alterations on the gun. I would make sure that anyone who owns any high quality Winchester firearms to have a qualified gunsmith work on it.
If it has mechanical problems, then by all means get it fixed. But if the stock finish or the action and barrel bluing is getting some wear on them it may not be in your best interest to have it redone. Unless the finish is really bad, or the gun has been altered (recoil pad) etc. you may not want to have this done. I will discuss this a little more in the articles on restorations.
When you are considering to purchase these for your collection. You must be careful about redone guns and the fake guns for the rare calibers. Even some of the best experts on Winchester firearms can have a hard time telling the difference between a good model 70 and the fake.
This is where you may need a good expert to help in your decision. And sometimes after all is done, and it’s been looked over very well and no visible issues can be seen. Then you will have to make up your mind as to whether it is right or not. If no one can tell, than who is to say it’s not right. This will usually only be an issue on the highly sought after firearms.
Someone will not spend many hours and much hand work to take a $700 gun and make it into a $1500 firearm. They would be making about $10 an hour if you are going to do it right. This would apply to any collector firearms. Any altered firearms will have something that is not right. The trick is to find it.
So those of you looking to buy the model 70 in 30-06 and 270, or some of the more common cartridges, you will not have the same issues as with the rare variations. (7×57, 300 Sav, 257 roberts, Ect.) But you will have reblued barrels and actions or refinished stocks to contend with.
You will still have to look the gun over carefully. I will discuss more about this in other articles on restorations.
If I had to rate the Classic Winchester model 70 for investing and collecting it would depend a lot on the cartridge and the condition. I mentioned in my main Winchester firearms article that the rare calibers and variations are much harder to find and afford (257 roberts). And they would be sought after only by the very serious collectors. So I would put them as good investments for the average collector.
The easier to find calibers in the Winchester model 70 in great condition would be what I consider excellent guns to collect and invest in.
If you ever get a chance to buy one of these firearms and you know where it came from, then let me know as soon as possible.
(Just kidding) If you do find one, grab it up.