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The 10 Best Hunting Rifles: The Winchester Model 70 Bolt Action

The Winchester model 70 bolt action is perhaps the quintessential classic bolt action in America. With few changes to the overall gun in decades and a nearly unbroken run of production, Winchester has perhaps created one of the most recognizable firearms in history with the model 70.

The Rifle: Winchester Model 70 Bolt Action

The Caliber: .270 Winchester

The Animal: Deer

The Rifle –Winchester Model 70 Bolt Action

For the purposes of this article, the weapon of choice is the model 70 “Sporter.” Without question, it’s one of the most basic, utilitarian, and classic bolt-action weapons on the market. If a hunter were to envision a bolt-action rifle, having never seen one from Winchester, the “Sporter” is likely the image that would be manifested.

It is a walnut clad, satin finished, blued steel, 24 inch (44 3/8 inch overall length), 7 1/4 pound “plain Jane” hunting rifle. Quite simply— it’s everything that a bolt action should be, with zero extra frills.

Speaking of zero, Winchester claims to have the “triple-zero advantage” in its three-lever trigger, claiming “zero take up”, “zero creep,” and “zero overtravel.” Take up is the amount that the shooter has to pull the trigger prior to engagement for the release of the connection between the sear and the trigger – i.e. the slack in the trigger. The creep is the amount of felt movement during the process of the trigger pull – i.e. the amount the shooter feels as the trigger is pulled until the hammer hits the firing pin. Overtravel is the amount that the trigger continues to move after the firing pin is struck – i.e. how much farther the trigger is pulled through momentum until it stops, after the firing pin is released.

Winchester claims one minute of angle accuracy out of the box, which equates to a one-inch three-shot group at one hundred yards. They are now using their “pre-’64 controlled round feeding” and their classic three-position safety lever. Controlled round feeding is the non-Mauser claw extractor setup (short extractor) and a recessed bolt face.

With ten base models and a slew of commemorative or special editions offered through different retailers and wholesalers, Winchester isn’t sparse in their offerings, but the line isn’t the most comprehensive either.

The Caliber – The .270 Winchester

Designed in the early 1920’s by Winchester, the .270 Winchester cartridge was initially made for the then new Winchester 56; it has since evolved into an incredibly versatile cartridge with ballistics ranging across many game classes. A rifle in the .270 Winchester caliber tends to be one of the lighter recoiling rifles within the range along with a fast bullet, equating to an easy to shoot weapon that makes it easy to land a projectile. It’s easier for most hunters to get on target with terminal ballistics with a .270 Winchester, even out to 800 meters, than most other guns as a result.

The 90-grain projectile moves at about 3600 ft./s with a muzzle energy of 2500+ foot-pounds, while the 130-grain will move about 3000 ft./s with about 2700 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The larger grains – suitable for larger deer and even smaller moose, elk, and caribou (though many hunters have taken larger animals with a .270 Winchester) – like the 140 and the 150-grain offerings are also still quite speedy. For instance, the 140-grain projectile moves out about 2900 ft./s with a muzzle energy above 2500 foot-pounds, while the 150-grain moves out above 2800 ft./s with 2700 foot-pounds of energy available at the muzzle. There are infinite possibilities for hand loads, with some exceeding 3800 ft./s and 2200 foot-pounds of energy in the lower grain weights.

While the .270 Winchester is considerably less punishing in recoil than other high-powered hunting cartridges, it still has substantial recoil. What many people don’t realize is that ammunition manufacturers use slower-burning powders to create less snappy recoil to keep the rifle on target more easily. The powder charge burns more incrementally then quicker-burning powders to even out the felt recoil. The combination of the different variables that the .270 Winchester has going for it delivers not only provide excellent terminal ballistics but also one of the easiest rifles to put a shot on target in the world.

  • Flat trajectory
  • Minimal bullet drop
  • Lowered felt recoil
  • Heavy velocity

These attributes perpetuate the rifle’s ability to land consistent shots on target and with good groupings. The inherent reliability and accuracy of the bolt-action rifle also serves to enhance these qualities.

The Animal – Deer

So many species of deer exist that it would be difficult in the space allotted to discuss all of them. Specifically for this article we will focus on two varieties: the whitetail deer and the mule deer. The ballistics on the .270 Winchester will allow for such a wide range of animals to be hunted that the massive size differences between these two deer species, will easily showcase the round’s capabilities.

The whitetail deer buck might weigh between 130 pounds in youth to 250 pounds at maturity; the mule deer buck could be 170 to over 400 pounds at the same stage in its life. Similarly, the two different deer variations both refer to females as does, males as bucks, and young deer has fawns, and despite the fact that they are both in the deer family, the similarities essentially end there.

Mule deer grow significantly larger horns and associate with other deer differently than the whitetail. Whitetail deer are not commonly found in the western states, however mule deer certainly are. There are so many differences between the mule deer and the whitetail deer that it’s almost difficult to highlight all of them, but suffice it to say no matter where you are on the planet (except where traditional hunting rules exist which exclude the .270), essentially any deer can be dispatched with the .270 Winchester.

Typically, you’ll want to scout your areas months before season opens, for several reasons:

  • To set cameras
  • Make food plots
  • Prepare yourself for your stand location
  • To look for feeding patterns
  • To look for horn shedding

Other equipment may also enhance your hunt in addition to early preparation:

  • Lures
  • Calls
  • Scents
  • Specialty clothing

You’ll be looking for common things as well, including bedding areas, feeding areas, and ruts – these will alert you to the realistic presence of animals in the upcoming season.

Deer meat is the quintessential game meat. It is very similar to beef but a bit leaner and with a hint of gamey flavor. Nutritionally it’s usually lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat for the same amount of protein than beef, pork, and lamb, and has in recent decades become a formidable opponent to other lean meats. Typically deer venison won’t be cooked beyond medium, or even in most cases beyond medium rare, as the meat tends to toughen and take on a heavier flavor profile.

When hunting deer of all varieties, the combination of the Winchester 70 bolt-action rifle and the .270 Winchester cartridge have very few rivals with more kills under their belt. While certain species or certain geographical locations may require a different caliber, it’s doubtful that the .270 Winchester would be unable to handle the task at hand. In the last twenty years, perhaps more than any other round, this round and this weapon have been used successfully for a significant portion of the deer harvesting in the United States.

Deer hunting is a good starting place for the hunter; the Winchester 70 bolt-action rifle is an excellent first, second, and third hunting rifle, and if the experts in the hunting arena have anything to say about it, the .270 Winchester is perhaps one of the most versatile rounds in existence – approaching perfection with regards to deer hunting.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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15 comments

  1. There are many excellent deer rifles from .25 caliber to .35 caliber [ ove two dozen]. don’t discount the one you have and practice, practice, practice !
    The .270 Winchester is a fine rifle but may be too expensive for many.

    • Robby, you are so right! A gut shot deer with any gun will run off and die a slow death. While most American deer can be harvested with a well placed medula/head shot using a .222, my pick for the average nimrod would be the .308 Win. It handles the 110 gr. bullet well for smaller whitetails and the 150 gr. for larger deer. If one needs to use heavier bullets, the .308 handles the 180 gr. and 220 gr. equally well. My least favorite is the .243 Win. As a guide, I have had to trail (and find) many animals that left little to no blood trail after being shot with the .243. The .243 IS NOT a youth’s nor a ladies rifle but should be used by experts using neck/head shots.

      • Aaron,
        I shoot a 308, a 308 Norma Mag, so from one nimrod to another learn to shoot and you would not have to track your deer. LOL Happy Hunting.

    • Nothing has ever escaped my 243…… nothing. But I practice a lot, and like he says, I neck shoot most of my deer when I can place a shot with a 243. When out west hunting elk I take my Wby 300 or my Win 338, and yes I can and have shot them a long way off, or the closest was 15 feet with the Wby, went clear through and the elk looked at me like what the heck just happened and stumbled down hill, couldnt even use the scope for that one.

      • Expert…. I dont know, I wouldnt say I was expert, but I am pretty good. I tend to cant my scopes though, so nobody but me, can hit with a scope I mounted. My family can pick up a rifle and tell that it was mine by the way the crosshairs cant. I can still hit with a professionally mounted scope but I have that problem with the way I hold a rifle. So far I have been better than whoever was up against me……..
        The Col

  2. My favorite hunting rifle is one I purchased 50 years ago at an Army/Navy Surplus Store.
    A British Lee Enfield .303 with full forestock. I had the forestock shortened and Redfield Olympic sights mounted.

    I have put lots of meat on the table with that rifle.

  3. Field and Stream Magazine reported that the Marlin XL-7 shot .600 groups right out of the box for under $400.

  4. The model 70 winchester went to “junky jane” in 1964 along with the model ’94 under the ownership of OLIN CORP. It has long since been restored and improved to its proper quality under current ownership and mgmt. of USRAC. U.S. Repeating Arms Corp.

    Also as I recall the Model 70′s ignition system ( trigger through firing pin mechanism ) does not incorporate a hammer.
    It uses a spring directly powering the firing pin which is released by the trigger after being cocked by the bolt.

    Paul, Williams, Oregon

    • Thanx Paul, I’m glad I wasn’t tha only one that is still looking for tha hammer behind my bolt….lol
      I’m still waiting for “something new” to come from this article and tha author….

  5. my favorite is a draw between the 243 and the 30 30 i have killed more deer with a 243 than i can count white tail of corse i have killed the at over 200 yards and never lost one . i picked up my 3030 again when they came out with the lever evolution bullet . it changes the way the gun shoots and what knock down when hunting the thick swamps it is a super gun and doubles as a home defense gun . i kill average of 6 deer a yr to feed my large family and hog too

  6. The Winchester makes a fine rifle, but I prefer the 30 06 in a long frame bolt action. The bullet weights range from 55 to well into the 200+ range off the shelf. Allowing the option of small game and varmit to Bull Moose from the same rifle. My SAKO will print 1/2″ groups at a 100 yds and hold sub minute of angle at 300 yds using a 150 grain slug with enough mass and terminal velocity to drop anything on North America.

  7. i do like my 7mm rem mag and my 30-06 but if im just hunting for deer then im useing my remington 742 in 308 win with the right bullets the 308 will take on any deer in maine and even moose if needed to but sence the remington is semi auto i always limit my shots to 250 yards but i have shot a buck at 425 yards with my 30-06 and i droped a moose with the 7mm rem mag but for hunting in brushy areas and knowing your gun a good 308 will work on about anything short of grizzly bears and yes the 270 will work on just about anything but its just not for me i know that my 7mm rem mag will do what ever i will ever need for long range and yes brad you can get the same bullets for a 308 as the 30-06 but you loose about 250 fps on the 308 over the 30-06 and a lot less recoil

  8. I found your comments to be informative. I recently purchased a rifle that I have wanted for some time,a
    Remington 798/30-06 with a winchester wrs-531E attatched. Both the rifle and scope are as new haveing shot three rounds.Can someone educate me to the scope and its performance in the field.

    • What is going on with your scope? The 531 seems to be an OK scope…. what is it you want to know,,, I will help if I can.
      The Col

  9. Still a novice in the world of deer hunting. Took my first mule deer in 2010 with an old post ’64 winchester .30-30 using iron sights. Inherited an old remington 700 adl in .270 from the ’80′s that I’ve shot with both a scope and iron sights and couldn’t decide whether to keep the scope on or use the sights. So I purchased a second rifle in .270, a marlin bolt action with no sights and a scope mount and mounted my scope on that rifle so I could just use the iron sights on the remington. Hoping to take lots of mule deer down the road with both of those rifles.

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