Winchester Pre 64
Model 70

 

 

 FIREARMS INFORMATION

 

Predecessor to the Model 70, the Model 54 ;  

 After WWI, all the firearms manufacturers began looking for a high powered bolt action rifle, borrowing ideas off what was learned from manufacturing military firearms.  Winchester chose the 1903 Springfield with a few from the Mauser model 98 as a basic design platform and in 1925 they introduced their Model 54 rifle.  About the same time, Remington chose the 1917 Enfield as the basis for their Model 30.

 

This model 54 rifle stayed in production until 1936, when it was re-designed and was introduced as the Model 70 which corrected many of the faults of the Model 54 and stayed in production to 1963 with only relatively minor changes.  During this time, the Model 70 became a legend in its own time, the favorite hunting rifle of a plethora of knowledgeable sportsmen and gun writers of the era who sang its praises.  The Model 70 also became the favorite American action on which many custom sporter rifles were created. The pre-1964 Model 70 is now a collector's rifle, particularly in scarce calibers, and specimens in excellent or better original condition bring high prices on the used market

 

Enter the Model 70  ;

Between 1936 and 1963 the Model 70 was built in a number of variations and calibers.  Not all calibers were available in every variant.  Models included the Standard Grade, "Carbine" (not an official designation, but a short 20" barreled Standard version produced between 1936-1946), Featherweight, Super Grade, Super Grade Featherweight, Super Grade African, National Match, Target, Bull Gun, Varmint, and Alaskan.  

 

Calibers included .22 Hornet, .220 Swift, .243 Winchester, .250 Savage, .257 Roberts, .264 Winchester Magnum, .270 Winchester, 7x57 Mauser, .300 Savage, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 H&H Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum, .35 Remington, .358 Winchester, .375 H&H Magnum, and .458 Winchester Magnum. A few Model 70 were produced to special order in 7.65mm Argentine and 9mm Mauser, based on left over Model 54 barrels. These are very rare, and along with specimens in .250 Savage, 7x57, .300 Savage, and .35 Remington command premium prices. The more recent .358 Winchester, available only in the Featherweight model, is also a rare caliber.

 

Pre-1964 Model 70's usually had 24"-26" barrels and were equipped with open sights. The action has a machined flat bottom, two front locking lugs, an excellent single stage adjustable trigger, a full length Mauser-type extractor, fixed ejector, and a steel trigger guard and hinged magazine floor plate assembly (aluminum in Featherweight models).  The safety lever, a pivoting winged type unit that was affixed to the top right hand part of the bolt sleeve and had 3 positions, (1) SAFE (all the way to the rear) where it also locked the bolt. (2) Safe (center location) that also allowed the bolt to be opened to extract  alive round.  (3)  FIRE (all the way forward).  The breech was coned as was the 1903 Springfield for smooth and reliable feeding and enclosed the cartridge head to the extractor groove. The Magazine capacity was 5 rounds for standard calibers, 4 rounds for .300 and .375 H&H, and 3 rounds for Winchester Magnum calibers. Checkered walnut pistol grip stocks were universal. Standard rifles weighed about 8 pounds. Post WW II production was usually drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Production of Pre-1964 Model 70's stopped at serial number 581,471

Super Grades usually have jeweled bolts, fancy grade walnut stocks with a raised cheek-piece, deluxe wrap around checkering, black forearm tips and black pistol grip caps. "Super Grade" is marked on the floorplate.

 

For all of its praised reputation, this pre-1964 Model 70 was not perfect as they were on the verge of being heavy because of all the milled parts. The Standard Grade rifle came with a 24" medium contour barrel in standard calibers like .270 and .30-06 and had a substantial stock. When you added a scope and mount and it usually weighed in at around 9 pounds, empty.  Of course, the weight minimized recoil while the long and relatively stiff barrel got full velocity from its cartridges and had a fine reputation for accuracy, but shooters began to think it was too heavy.  Also, the more modern competitors rifles like the  Remington 721, 725, 700 series fully enclosed the cartridge head and were therefore stronger.  But its biggest drawback was that it was relatively expensive to mass produce and stay competitive where machining technology had advanced to where rifles could be made more economically using different more modern methods.

 

 

Bolt action rifle, made in Short Rifle (Carbine), Standard, Featherweight, Magnum, Varmit, Super Grade or Match versions.
Introduced in 1935 but not sold until 1937 starting at S/N 1 & made to up 1963 at S/N 581,471
for the pre-64 versions.  

Cataloged calibers were, 22 Hornet, 220 Swift, 243 Win., 250 Savage, 257 Roberts, 264 Win Mag. 270 Win., 7x57mm Mauser, 7.65 Argentine, 300 Savage, 308 Win., 30-06, 300 H&H magnum, 300 Win. Mag. 338 Win Mag. 35 Remington, 358 Win. 9x97 mm, 375 H&H magnum, 458 Win. magnum

These guns were made in carbine, (20"), featherweight, (22"), standard (24"), magnum and varmint (26") barrels.  The carbine & standard barrels had a raised ring, (boss) at the rear sight dovetail so that the dovetail was above the normal slot cut in the barrel.  The featherweight and varmint barrels did not have the rear sight boss. The breech end of the barrel copied the 1903 Springfield coned breech.

 

All guns other than the target versions used a barrel with an integral front ramp until 1955 when the ramps were silver soldered on.

Sling swivels were the standard non-detachable bows for the standard grade.

Buttplates were a forged checkered steel with a lip on top as issued for the model 54, then later in 1959 they were black plastic.

All the stocks were walnut and were hand checkered, except some match guns which were plain.

The non magnum caliber magazines held 5 rounds.  The steel hinged magazine cover was held in place at the rear by a plunger that was housed inside the front of the guard bow, (trigger guard).

Triggers were a simple toggle linkage type, but adjustable.

There were 3 different types of safeties  used on these guns. The original spatula thumb piece which blocked the line of sight for iron sights in the safe position & had to be moved to the left to fire.  The transition & others thereafter will swing to the right or the muzzle to fire.  

The pre-64 was only made in a "long" action, as when using shorter calibers, the magazine box had spacers added in either the rear or front, or both to allow feeding. A filler (spacer) block was added to the extractor ring that acted as a bolt stop and was made different lengths to accommodate each caliber other than the standard (30-06 and magnums). The ejector was made longer to compensate for shorter calibers.

 

Some Descriptive Features for Identification Purposes

Pre-War:
The "Pre-War" (up to early 1942) version had a cloverleaf rear tang & was made from s/n 1 to about s/n 60,500

The bolt shrouds on the pre-war will be flat on top and the transition model will be round.

The bolt handle on the pre-war will have a 90 degree step at the base and the transition does not.

The pre-war will have clip slots at the front of the rear receiver bridge on all of the standard actions. The transition model has the clip slots on the target rifles in 30-06 only or by special order.

The rear bridge on the pre-war has no original holes in the recessed and matted wavy line area. It does have (2) peep sight holes on the LH side of the rear receiver. Scope mounts in that era used a rear base that was made to use these peep sight holes on the side. 

Transition guns:
The "Transition" was then made from 1945 until 1951 from approximately s/n 60,500 - 87,700 on the standard action and s/n 63,200 - 121,700 for the magnum action.  The reason for this is that it appears there was 2 assembly lines. The carbines were discontinued about 1947.

The transition safety lever was changed to swing to the muzzle to fire. These 3 position safeties had an abbreviated lever that did not hang lower than the top of the sleeve.

The transition version has two holes on the rear bridge with a space of  .865 center to center, and no recessed wavy line area.

The "Later" pre-64 version went up into late 1963 & ended at s/n
581,471.  It's safety had a extension protruding over the side of the sleeve & could have been called a full safety lever

There was supposed to be a gap in serial numbers between the ending of the "Pre 64" at s/n
581,471, and the new "Post 64" guns that started at s/n 700,000. 

Featherweight:
The Featherweight was introduced in 1952 &  used a shorter barrel, 22", with no rear sight hump, & the guard bow (trigger guard) & magazine cover were made of black anodized aluminum.  The buttplate was also aluminum.  The stock had 2 holes drilled about 7" deep under the buttplate.  All other metal parts interchanged with the standard gun.

The Super Grade:
The Super grade guns had a sling swivel similar to the now commonly known Quick Take-Down type only they were about ½" wide at the base. The bows were made of a crude casting. Very late SG guns & factory replacement parts, used a narrower base that is compatible with the common QD bases. The magazine cover has "SUPER GRADE" stamped in the outside of the cover. The front sight was a Redfield sourdough. Wood was a higher grade than was found on the standard grade guns. There was a grip cap on these versions.

Westerner:
The Westerner was available in either the 264 or 300 Win. Mag. with a 26" barrel.

Alaskan:
The Alaskan could be had in either a 338 Win mag. or the 375 H&H mag.  It came with a 25" barrel.

African:
The African was available only in the 458 Win Mag with a 25" barrel.

 

Serial Numbers for Date Manufactured for pre-64 guns

 

Year

S/N start

S/N end

Quantity

1936

1

2,238

2,238

1937

2,239

11,573

9,335

1938

11,574

17,844

6,271

1939

17,845

23,991

6,147

1940

23,992

31,675

7,684

1941

31,676

41,753

10,078

1942

41,754

49,206

7,453

1943

49,207

49,983

777

1944

49,984

49,997

14

1945

49,998

50,921

924

1946

50,922

58,382

7,461

1947

58,383

75,675

17,293

1948

75,676

101,680

26,005

1949

101,681

131,580

29,900

1950

131,581

173,150

41,570

1951

173,151

206,625

33,475

1952

206,626

238,820

32,195

1953

238,821

282,735

43,915

1954

282,736

323,530

40,795

1955

323,531

361,025

37,495

1956

361,026

393,595

32,570

1957

393,596

425,283

31,688

1958

425,284

440,792

15,509

1959

440,793

465,040

24,248

1960

465,041

504,257

39,217

1961

504,258

545,446

41,189

1962

545,447

565,592

20,146

1963

562,593

581,471

15,879

 


Cutaway Diagram of the Winchester Pre 64 Model 70 prewar action

 

POST 64 GUNS:
 
These guns are covered on a separate article, CLICK HERE.


  

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Originated 05-17-04  Last updated 12-18-2014
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