The new Winchester Model 70 Featherweight by FN is an fine, American-made rifle

Few hunting rifles have enjoyed the success and over-all approval rating over the years that have followed the Winchester Model 70, bolt action rifle. The rifles built before 1964 are still highly sought after for their smooth, trouble free actions and top quality barrels. When design changes were made in 1964, many fans, ┬áincluding Jack O’Connor – arguably the most influential “gun writer” of his time, and a staunch advocate and promoter of the pre-64 Model 70 – were very disappointed. Later efforts to regain the market once dominated by the Model 70 were met with mixed reviews over the years, and production was finally ceased altogether. When Belgian-based FN bought Browning and Winchester, the revival of the Model 70 had begun. The rifle is made in the FN factory in South Carolina that produces machine guns for the US military, quality is high – and the action that was so much a part of the “mystique” of the original, which takes control of the cartridge as soon as it leaves the magazine – known as “controlled round feeding” (CRF) and grips it firmly until it is extracted and ejected was again the top feature of the rifle.

When I decided to order a new Model 70 a few years ago I already owned 2 pre-64’s and an interesting 1968 vintage Model 70 with “push feed” action, a 19″ barrel and a full-length, Mannlicher stock. My new rifle could only be of one configuration for me – a Featherweight in .270 caliber. After shooting it, hunting with it, and otherwise “getting to know” the rifle, I am satisfied that it is worthy to carry on the Model 70 tradition. The wood stock on mine is darker than I actually like, but has decent figure for an off-the-shelf production rifle, and the checkering is still in the pattern of the pre-64 Featherweights. The term, “featherweight” should not be confused with “lightweight”, as this rifle weighs a bit over 8 pounds with scope and sling, but it is pleasant to handle, “comes up” and points naturally – and just “feels good” to me. Fit and finish are good, and the action is very smooth.

The “Fleur de Lis” checkering in the pistol grip area remains in the same pattern as the Model 70 Featherweights of the past

At this point, the accuracy I have been able to get with strictly factory ammunition has not been as good as I had hoped for – but I am still just getting the barrel properly broken in. As with most of my rifles, it prefers Federal Fusion ammo to other brands, and will usually produce 3 shot groups of less than 2″ at 100 yards. That is not considered “tack driving” accuracy, and my pre-64 rifles will do MUCH better, but I expect it to improve with more bullets down the barrel, and as I start hand loading for this rifle. As some ┬árifles seem to be able to do, however, it shoots well on game. My son, Michael, drew first blood with it with a 75 yard offhand shot at a medium sized boar. The 130gr Fusion bullet placed behind the shoulder did what 130gr bullets from .270’s are famous for doing, and dropped the hog in it’s tracks. In this past season I took a nice 8 point buck with a facing shot to the neck at about the same range, and was able to see the deer collapse in my scope.

This nice 8 point buck was the first to fall to my new Model 70 Featherweight, but will likely not be the last.

The “new” Model 70, in my opinion, is still worthy of being called “The Rifleman’s Rifle”.

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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  1. MikeH says:

    Thank you for your comments. I am admittedly biased towards the Winchester Model 70 in most all it’s forms – but, I think, with good reason.

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