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