The Winchester Model 70
The Winchester Model 70 aka “the Rifleman’s Rifle” has a long and storied history and is one of the most iconic bolt action rifles ever produced. It has been praised by both hunters and military personnel. Millions of Winchester Model 70s have been produced and offered in 18 different cartridges. The most popular cartridge being the 30-06.
The Winchester Model 70 has a somewhat odd service record with the U.S. Military. Though many people in the military had high praise for the rifle, it was never officially adopted to any great extent. The Model 70 first came on the military’s radar shortly after Pearl Harbor. Two members of the U.S. Marine Corps Equipment Board wrote a 72 page report titled “Equipment for the American Sniper.” The report looked at the available rifles and scopes that were on the market and came to the conclusion that the Winchester Model 70 was the best.
Based on the advice of this report the Marine Corps ordered 373 Model 70s. However, the Marine Corps declined Winchesters invitation purchase more, stating that the rifle wasn’t sufficiently sturdy, parts are not interchangeable with M1903 and M1 parts, replacement parts aren’t easy to procure, and that it was not fitted with sling swivels.
Though some of the military command didn’t think much of the Model 70, many snipers and designated marksmen did. During Korea many snipers and designated marksmen saw fit to bring their own Model 70 rifles with them into combat rather than rely on standard issue firearms.
The Winchester Model 70 would also go on to serve in Vietnam. The Winchester Model 70 was most notably used by none other than Carlos Hathcock, who is largely considered to be the greatest sniper in American History. It was also used with both great frequency and success by many other sniper and designated marksmen throughout the Vietnam War.
Carlos Hathcock and his Winchester Model 70:
Through a bit of research I was able to find two notable instances where Carlos Hathcock relied on his Model 70. Both these instances involved Carlos Hathcock going up head to head against NVA counter snipers.
One notable instance Carlos Hathcock armed with a Winchester Model 70 went up against another sniper known as the “Apache.” The “Apache” was a North Vietcong sniper who received nickname because she would torture Marines to death within earshot of their fellow Marines. I won’t go into detail about how she tortured them, but it suffices to say that it was quite horrific.
However, Carlos Hathcock wasn’t the kind of man to let this sort of barbarity to continue. Armed with his Model 70 Carlos and his spotter set out. After hiding out all day in the blistering tropical heat they finally spotted the Apache and her platoon. Carlos and his spotter called in an artillery strike. The subsequent artillery strike killed several members of the platoon but didn’t kill the Apache. I was at this point that Carlos took carful aim with is Model 70 and put an end the Apaches reign of terror.
The second notable instance in which Carlos Hathcock relied on his Model 70 was when he came up against an NV sniper known as “The Cobra.” It was at this time that the NVA had taken note of Carlos and had nick named him “The White Feather.” The NVA had also put a reward of $30,000 on Carlos and sent out their best sniper “The Cobra” to kill him.
At this time Hathcock and his spotter John Burke where stationed at Hill 55. The Cobra would stalk and area round Hill 55 picking off servicemen in an attempt to draw Hathcock out and engage him. The Cobras plan worked. Hathcock wasn’t the kind of man to shy away from a fight. Not to mention the fact that he would tolerate another sniper killing his comrades. What followed would become one of the greatest stories skill and marksmanship from the entire conflict and the Winchester Model 70 was there.
Carlos Hathcock and his spotter set out early one morning and began stalking the Cobra. The Cobra was “cagy” and kept changing position. At one point Hathcock messed up and fell over a rotten log. This mistake alerted the Cobra to their position. Lockley the Cobra just barely missed putting a hole through his spotter’s canteen. By late afternoon Hathcock and the Cobra had worked around each other. Which was good news for Hathcock since this meant that the sun would be in the Cobras eyes.
Suddenly Hathcock say the twinkle of sunlight reflecting off the scope of the Cobras Mosin-Nagant 91/30. Taking fast and quick aim, Hathcock fired his Winchester Model 70. The 30-06 bullet went straight through the Cobras rifle scope instantly killing him.
Model 70 Pre-64:
Today a Model 70 can be purchased for anywhere $700-$3,000. The price largely depends on the condition of the rifle and when it was produced. The most sought after Model 70 is the pre-64 version. The reason being that the pre-64 Model 70 had what is known as a “controlled round feeding.” Simply put, the extractor captures the rim of the cartridge and helps guide it into the chamber. As such, making it arguably more reliable than later versions.
Winchester cited rising labor costs as the reason for simplifying the rifle. Their decision to change the rifle was met with outrage and skepticism from the shooting community. However, some have argued (myself included) that these changes have been overstated by its critics. The post-64 models are still incredibly reliable (as are most bolt action rifles). The post-64 model has a stronger action with the head of the bolt encloses the head of the cartridge and helps guide it into the chamber. Despite its critics the post-64 model has withstood the test of time and remains popular with sportsman around the world.
Between 1992 and 2006, Winchester introduced another variant on the model 70 apply named the “Classic.” This version reintroduced the “controlled round feed” feature will retaining some popular features from their post-64 model such as the “locking lug groove bolt guide.”
The Winchester Model 70 has been used by sportsman all around the world. It has been used from the plains of Africa, to big game in North America. It’s a simplistically beautiful and reliable bolt action rifle. Most “Top 10 Hunting Rifle” listicles include the Modal 70. Considering that rifle is commercially sold chambered in 18 different cartridges. As such, there’s a good chance that you can find a Model 70 chambered in cartridge that will meet the needs have.
My Winchester Model 70:
I bought my Winchester Model 70 chambered in 30-06 a few years back. I got the “good old boy” price and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The rifle didn’t come with a scope, but the fixed iron sight or great. I can reliably hit a baseball sized target at 100 with the fixed iron sights (I’m not that great of a shot). Given the heavily wooded area I live in, I don’t need to shoot much farther than that. I have shot hundreds of rounds out of my post-92 Model 70 and I never once had any issue.