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Is This Iconic Rifle The Best Hunting Weapon You Can Own?

Image source: TheFiringLine.com

Image source: TheFiringLine.com

The Winchester Model 70 is widely regarded as one of the most classic hunting rifles of all time.

It is an iconic weapon of American history, but as we know, many of the Model 70 rifles produced after 1964 gained a reputation for taking a dip in quality compared to Model 70 rifles built before 1964. Model 70 rifles are still built today, but out of a plant in Portugal.

So the question, then, is this: Is the Winchester Model 70 still a valuable hunting rifle worth owning today? Should you search for a good quality pre-64 Model 70 (and perhaps pay close to two grand for it), or are post-64 Model 70s – at close to $1,000 — worth buying?

The Winchester Model 70 was introduced in 1936, and it quickly gained a reputation for being a well-built rifle. Winchester had adapted many of the design features from the highly successful and highly regarded Mauser rifles. The Model 70 was known for being accurate, reliable and being able to stand up to harsh conditions. It was also offered in an extremely wide variety of rifle calibers.

The highest-quality Winchester Model 70 rifles were manufactured between 1936 and 1964. They adapted the non-rotating claw extractor of the Mauser rifles, meaning the extractor would catch the round of the cartridge in the magazine and then feed it into the barrel when the barrel was pulled back and pushed forward. This led to increased reliability, and this same feature is utilized by many bolt action hunting rifles today. Some even considered the Winchester to be a superior weapon to the Mauser rifles from which it was based.

Winchester’s main competitor turned out to be Remington, which manufactured the Model 700 in large numbers. The Remington 700 is the most popular hunting rifle today, but many still regard the pre-64 Model 70 as being a superior weapon. Each Model 70 was hand crafted in the factory, and since so much precision and effort was put into making each one, the price of the Model 70 rifles were very high.

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In comparison, Remington stamped their Model 700s together. The Model 700 didn’t have quite the quality of the Model 70, but they were still considerably cheaper. As a result, Americans who simply wanted a good hunting rifle were drawn to the Remington. It worked and it was more affordable.

It eventually got to the point where Winchester couldn’t keep up with the low price of the 700. As a result, Winchester made numerous design changes to the Model 70 after 1964 in order to make the rifle more affordable … but many people believed that these changes had lowered the Model 70’s quality.

Throughout the years, sales of the Winchester Model 70 continued to spiral. People were more likely to get their hands on the high-end pre-64 model rather than the post-64 rifles that were being produced. Winchester finally closed their plant in 2006 after having turned their business over to U.S Repeating Arms in the 1980s. As a result, sales of Winchester rifles and shotguns, such as the Model 1300 shotgun and 1894 lever-action rifle, came to an end. And with it, came the end of the Winchester Model 70.

That changed in 2007, when FN announced that they would manufacture Model 70 rifles under the Winchester name in South Carolina. In 2013, FN moved production of the Model 70 rifles to Portugal to save on costs of producing the rifle. Other Winchester models are still produced today, such as the SXP shotgun and the 1894 lever action (which is also the most popular lever-action rifle of all time). The newer Model 70s have gained a reputation of being a solid hunting rifle of better quality than the other post-64s, but still not quite up to the standards of the pre-64.

So, there are three models of the Winchester Model 70: the pre-64 (manufactured from 1936 to 1964), the post-64 (1964 to 2006), and the newer Model 70s (2007 to present). If you are willing to spend perhaps up to $2,000, you can find a quality pre-64 Winchester Model 70 that will perhaps be the best hunting rifle you could ever own. Buying a post-64 Model 70 is risky, since it’s largely a hit-or-miss business, but buying a brand new Winchester Model 70 isn’t a bad idea.  They are a solid rifle, and many come equipped with new synthetic stocks that hold up better in harsh conditions. These new Model 70s cost about $1,000 and come with a good scope.

The Winchester Model 70 is an American icon, and owning a pre-64 Model 70 will be a treasure in your gun collection. But the new Model 70s are a solid hunting rifle, and while there are many other quality options out there — from Remington, Ruger, Tikka and Sako — the Winchester Model 70 is perhaps the most classic and valuable rifle on the market. It has rightly earned the nickname of being “the Rifleman’s Rifle.”

Do you agree or disagree? Is the post-64 Winchester Model 70 worth owning? Leave your reply in the section below:

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17 comments

  1. I don’t know much about the model 70 but being a rifle, those look like shotgun shells displayed under the rifle. wasup? I’m open to teaching if I’m way off base…

  2. I thought the same thing as nam vet. The article mentioned nothing about caliber, ballistics, or type of hunting that the 70 is used for. Those shells look like 12 gauge which would be about .74 caliber. Maybe it is an elephant gun? The word “quality” was used. Quality what? (accuracy, reliability, tooling, looks, ergonomics, materials ?)

  3. I have two Winchester Model 70s, one in .30-06 and another in .338 that’s a ‘pre-64 like the article was talking about. It’s a beautiful gun and a fine shooter. Thanks for the read!

  4. Well written overview of the history of the classic Winchester M70. I would say the post’64 M70 is worth owning, as it’s still up to standards with most other bolt actions on the market, but like the author points out, the pre’64 is a superior weapon to the Remington 700. The only reason I don’t have an M70 right now is because I can’t afford it; if I had the money, it would be in my gun safe in a heartbeat.

  5. The model 70 may be a fine gun , but in my opinion all rifles should have iron sights for backup . Which I do not see on this rifle .

    • Right on the money with all guns should have iron sights, scope optional. Actually I prefer iron sights to scopes, but that’s just me. I find I can stay on target much easier than with scopes. Probably because all my combat exp. is no scope…The range is limited but I can still do targets at 4-500 yards w/ iron sights and my .308. 🙂 anyway, nuff tooting of the horn…

      • I have hunted with quite a few kinds of rifles. I have won awards for marksmanship in quite a few arenas. I have been in the field with even the likes of JACK O’Connor. As he said and wrote, almost everyone can shoot better with a scope than iron sights. I teach even today instinctive shooting. A BB Daisy rifle is a good way to,train. But iron sights adds to,the weight of a rifle and when it is going to,be scoped you are better off with a clean modern barrel. I have rifles (Brand new) and their accuracy is way enhanced with a scope! So,e rifles I,leave with iron sights. I have seen scopes exposed to,elements that would kill a man, yet the scopes continued to function very well!

  6. Winchester 70 is a classic for a lot of good reasons, but I agree with the notion that it could benefit from iron sights.

  7. The Winchester model 70 is and was a great rifle. I favor the Remington 700, but whether you have a good Savage,Browning,Sako or any rifle; they should be maintained and practiced with. Calibers should be determined by size needed and supply of fodder(bullets). The idea is to be safe,proficient and logical for survival.

  8. I can say classic is classic. The post-64 Winchester are better than the pre-64 and that’s because they obviously improved the pre-64 right? Of course they made a better version out of an older version.

  9. The pre 64 is certainly a classic, and a fine rifle. I own four of them. You can spend thousands on some of the more desirable calibers if the condition is good enough. But, a very nice shooter can be had regularly for under a thousand, in ’06 or .270 that will last you the rest of your life, and the lucky person who gets it after you, as long as it’s taken care of. The truth is, ANY model 70 from ANY year will be an exceptional hunting rifle if it was cared for and maintained. In terms of feeding, chambering, firing, extracting, ejecting, and accuracy nothing was lost when the guns were modified for 1964. Mostly what suffered was the stock, and by the mid 1970’s they were better than even the pre 64’s. The real bargain on GREAT hunting rifles are the model 70’s of the 1970’s.

  10. The current Model 70s are amazingly well built.lI own them from 1942 to,present. I have been hunting with them since the late 1940s. The quality of some of the most recent are so good, they shoot so,well, it is almost a miracle! I just helped a friend buy his first, a Midel 70 Featherweight in .243. Every aspect of the rifle was perfect. They shoot so accurately it is awesome! The stocks vary in wood quality, but I have never seen a bad one.

  11. I was confused between post-64 Winchester and the pre-64 , but it was clear to me now. They improved a lot

  12. When I was in high scholl my dad used to take me to the national matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. My wish from the first time I shot there in the hish power rifle class was to own a Model 70 wichester with the target barrell and having it glass beded. In 1964 I finally had enough money $164.50 for the basic rifle an man was I excited. My dad had an armourer from the army glass bed it and had fit all of the additional parts and then I outfitted it with a set of Mark 8 redfield sights. I am here to tell you it shoots just as good today as it did in 1964. I really love this rifle and have since procured a Lyman super target scope which really allows you to reach out and touch someone. It has been the one truly constant personal item in my life.. Besides my ar-15… which is almost as old..

  13. I am a big fan of Model 70, but price looks high.

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