Special Guns Episode 1Q&A Mod70

SPECIAL GUNS with Roger Rule


Episode 1 – Winchester Pre-64 Model 70 Rifle


Part 1   {Andrew and Roger seated behind table, video}

ANDREW: My name is Andrew Todd and I’m here today to introduce you to our main speaker, Roger Rule. Some of you know him from his seven books.  For those who don’t, we are focusing today on his book, The Rifleman’s Rifle, which is a treatise on Winchester’s rifle, the Model 70, is that correct Roger?

ROGER: Yes, Andrew, thank you, specifically it’s about the Winchester Model 70 made from 1936 to 1963, usually referred to in the industry as the “Pre-64 Model 70”.

ANDREW: And this book has been in print for 35 years?

ROGER: It’s currently in its 3rd edition, my website rogerRule.com shows you some of reviews by many renowned writers.  I think the one by R.L.Wilson probably covers it as well as any when he wrote in his book, Winchester an American Legend, and I quote:

“A Model 70 book with exhaustive information is Roger Rule’s The Rifleman’s Rifle, a tome every Model 70 collector must have.”

ANDREW: Before writing the book, you collected the pre-64 Model 70s?

ROGER: Yes, I became interested in this discontinued Model 70 as early as 1967, only 4 years after they changed from the popular pre-64 Model 70 to the very unpopular post-63 Model 70. But at that time, I was living on a teacher’s salary and couldn’t afford to collect them.  It was not such a heartache because this was in Kansas City Missouri, and you couldn’t find examples of pre-owned Model 70s in any gun stores there.  It was a couple of years later, when the US Army took me to California, that I began finding the Model 70s in gunshows and realized that the Model 70, being basically a long range rifle, was much more prevalent out west than in the Midwest, where the popular rifle in the Midwest was still a woods hunting rifle. After the Army, I remained in California, acquiring my contractor’s license and began a building business that became lucrative enough to allow me to start collecting Model 70s.

ANDREW:  So gun shows became your main source?

ROGER: At first, then I discovered Shotguns News and the Gun List (this was before the Internet), my collection grew.  I ran ads, one of my ads read “Winchester Model 70 collector will pay through the nose for collectible Model 70s.”  Instead of developing a reputation as a tough negotiator, I took the opposite approach.  And you can imagine the calls I got.

ANDREW: I bet.

ROGER: I acquired my first 9mm Standard Rifle this way. I had paid $9,000 for it in 1976. Not trying to boast, but the significance here is, that later when I was talking to a fellow collector — he told me there was some nut in California who paid $9000 for a Model 70!  From that through-the-nose ad, I also acquired my first .35 Rem Super Grade, a 7mm Super Grade, and a .250 Savage Super Grade.

ANDREW: So you were talking with other collectors?

ROGER: I developed a large stable of brother collectors.  We would have long discussions in the evening about our guns, make trades, and it was not long before I was getting calls from new collectors asking me questions.  One night, after an extensive discussion with one collector named Larry from Pennsylvania, he ended with “You should write a book. “  My response was flippant, “Oh sure, I have so much free time with all of my construction going on! I was being glib and left the call thinking he caught it!”

But, then what seemed like less than a month after that, another collector from Oregon called me and before we hung up, he asked, “When is your book coming out?’  I said, oh, you have been talking to Larry in Pennsylvania.  He said, “No, Jeremy in Florida.”

In no time, most of the model 70 collectors I knew, were expecting me to write this book.

ANDREW: So, the rumors led to your writing it?

ROGER: That was part of it, then another thing happened that was the catalyst that triggered it.  It was the early 1980s and interest rates went through the roof, which stopped construction and development.  I had to lay off many of my employees and resign myself to managing my existing building inventory.  I was also worried about having so much cash invested in my gun collection which had become quite outstanding if I do say so myself, and I do! For example, besides having all the rare calibers by then, and many unique factory engraved guns, I had Serial No. 2 (No. 1 was thought to have been in the ownership of John Olin, then CEO of Winchester).  It was becoming obvious to me, in order to get through the construction slump, I might need to cash out my gun collection. Not a fun thought, not a fun thing to do.

But, everything had come together, if I wrote an extensive book on the Model 70 and included photographs of my guns as examples, the book would be sort of an archival photographic album of my collection.  And, 1writing it would satisfy the rumors that I was writing it and 2with my collection memorialized, I could sell my guns to liquidate them if I needed to.  3And, for the first time in my building career, I had the time to do it.

ANDREW: So, you used your knowledge that you had acquired and your collection to write it?

ROGER: As it turned out, that was just the jumping off point. Then the work really started.  Although I had been collecting for a decade, I couldn’t rely on my collection alone.  I had to make inroads with Winchester and begin doing heavy research of the factory records and do interviews with the managers that I could locate who had been involved. With no computer in those days, the book took me about a year to write with my secretary typing my manuscript from my yellow tablets to get it publisher ready. By that time, from my inquiries, I had three offers from publishers to publish it.

ANDREW: Why was this gun so sought-after and collectible from the beginning?

ROGER: Good question!  We probably should have covered that at the beginning of this episode. To answer that, you have to look at the bigger picture and understand what the pre-64 Model 70 was, in terms of gun design.  It is basically an improved 1898 Mauser.   Why is that important?  It took a while for the shooting public to understand it, but when they changed the Model 70 in 1964, it was no longer a controlled-feed bolt action like the Mauser.  It became a push-feed bolt action.  (Push-feed actions rely on gravity and if the rifle is tilted off level, a cartridge can fall out of the action when re-chambering a round, and they have been known to have a double-feed malfunction).  This is important to dangerous game hunters and to licensed Professional Hunters in Africa who can only pass their tests with controlled-feed bolt actions unless they shoot a double rifle.

The only other rifle on the market at that time with a controlled-feed action was Browning’s Safari model, which is basically a commercial Mauser 1898.  It, too, was changed shortly after Winchester did it, in 1965/66 from a controlled-feed to a push-feed system.  So at that time, the later ‘60s, the popular new Sako line, and all Weatherbys, Remingtons, Winchesters and Brownings on the market were push-feed.  Ruger didn’t have a bolt action on the market yet.

ANDREW: That was the only change and the reason collectors went after it?

ROGER:  No, there were many horrific changes in the post-63 Model 70 and you couldn’t pick up a magazine without reading some gun writer’s exaggerated metaphors about the changes in the rifle, for instance, one writer wrote the stock to barrel channel was enlarged so poorly on the post-63 gun that you could navigate a cockroach through it!  And just looking at the new guns, the checkering was a horrible early machine checkering.

But, the control-feed feature was the most significant to those who really understood it.

If a rifleman wanted to buy a controlled-feed gun then, he either had to find a pre-owned one on the market or return to the way riflemen had done it immediately after WWI, when no commercial bolt actions were available – and that was to have a custom gunmaker build a custom gun.  Custom makers back then used the available military surplus Mauser and Sringfield actions, both were controlled-feed mechanisms.  Makers like Griffin and Howe, Sedgeley, Hoffman, etc. were busy then.  Now, in the late 60s era, there was a return to custom makers.  And, hunters and collectors alike went after the pre-64 Model 70s.

ANDREW: You said the Model 70 was an improved Mauser?

ROGER: The Model 70’s speed lock, override trigger, bolt release, and stiffer action were just some of the improved features over the Mauser which made the Model 70 even more sought-after by those who understood these refinements.  With many gunwriters poking fun at the post-63 Model 70, the pre-64 Model’s reputation grew exponentially.

ANDREW: So, what is it that collectors collect, the different calibers?

ROGER:  The different calibers are probably the first choice; that was mine! From 1936 to 1963, it was initially offered in 9 calibers and through the years; 9 more were added as factory offerings.  The first nine, in order of caliber size, were

22 Hornet, 220 Swift, 250-3000 Savage, 257 Roberts, 7mm, 270 Win, .30-06 Sprg, 300 H&H, and 375H&H.

Over the years, nine calibers were added and here’s the order they were added: 35 Rem (1941), .300 Sav. (1944), 308 Win, (1952), 243 Win. and 358 Win. (1955), 458 Win Mag. (1956), 264 Win.Mag. and 338 Win Mag. (1960), and finally 300 Win Mag. (1963).

ANDREW: What other reasons besides calibers?

ROGER: Besides calibers, collectors also go after the different styles that the rifle was offered in.  Initially it was offered in 6 styles: the Standard Rifle, the Carbine, the Supergrade, the National Match, the Target Model, and the Bull Gun. And over the years, 8 more were added (I refer to some of them in my book as sub-styles for classification purposes).  In order of their market appearance these were: the Featherweight (1952), the Varmint Rifle and the Supergrade Featherweight (1955), the African (1956), the Alaskan (1959), the Westerner (1960), the Featherweight Westerner (1962) and the Westerner-Alaskan (1963).

And, in addition to calibers and styles, collectors are also faced with the evolutionary types of the Model 70 which, like styles and sub-styles, there are evolutionary types and minor variations as well.  I’m only going to mention the three primary types here, which were the Type I (commonly referred to as the Pre-war type) which were made from 1936 to 1947, the Type II (commonly referred to as the Transition type) made generally 1947-1948, and the third or Type III (commonly called the post-war type) 1948-1963.   And you can see the overlapping years here where the types were phased into each other without a rigid change.

ANDREW: Wow! That makes for quite a matrix to collect.

ROGER: Well, they didn’t offer every caliber in every style, nor were every caliber and style found in all three types, but that’s the fun of collecting.  Figuring out your own little puzzle as to which guns you want to collect to create the representation that you want for a collection.

But this little overview gives you some idea of how diversified a collection of one Model could be.  And this doesn’t even account for the fact that there were multiple caliber designations, some special-order calibers, engraved guns and other special-order guns with special features made in the Custom Shop. So you can see that matrix, as you call it, can really be vast with a large number of rifles to collect!

ANDREW: I can…. So we have a couple of rifles here to look at?

ROGER: Yes, I am new to YouTube, but my intention is to create several episodes entitled “Special Guns with Roger Rule” and for this very first episode today, I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the Winchester Pre-64 Model 70 rifle, the subject that I’m known mostly for, having had appearances as guest speaker to the National Rifle Association’s annual meetings, also in television, and as the focus of many popular gun magazines over the years.

And because I knew I would need much of this time just to introduce the Winchester pre-64 Model 70, I have only chosen two rifles that I want to show here today for this simple introduction to such a complex field.

Part 2 {Reading, Video of two guns, Andrew & Roger off camera,continues to page 12}

Step over here and let’s look at the two guns I’ve chosen to feature today, two from the same era, in the same caliber so that you can see the obvious style differences that I will point out without us getting confused with the evolutionary changes or caliber idiosyncrasies like barrel length and barrel steel-type differences.  I expect to cover those in later episodes.

Here we have this first rifle, a Standard Rifle in .270 caliber.  Its Serial Number is in the  124,000 range, built in 1949.  It is an early Type III, note the oval shaped upper rear receiver tang, the round breech bolt sleeve, the 3rd type safety, and the solid bolt knob.  These are identifiers of Type III.

The magazine capacity is 5 rounds for standard calibers and 4 rounds for magnum calibers.

For those of you that are not familiar with the Model 70 safety, this 3rd variation safety has become the world standard as used on nearly every custom-made gun today.  It is even a standard on the new Mausers.  But, other companies who don’t want to call it the Winchester Model 70 safety, identify it as the “3-position side swing” safety.  The reason it is liked so well is because it has 3 positions: In position 1 it is on safe and the bolt is locked.  In position 2, it is still safe, but the bolt can be operated to eject a cartridge or transversely, to load a cartridge.  In position 3 the rifle is ready to fire. In addition to it 3-position functions, it is also user friendly in its location, easy to operate under a scope.

Back to our rifles, this Standard Rifle has a one-piece stock, made of American black walnut in a warm brown color.  This is typical.  It has a classic comb, with pistol grip, and is hand checkered at 18 lines per inch.  Length of pull is standard for Winchester pre-64 Model 70s at 13 ½”. Note there is no cheekpiece.  Also, note the checkering is not wrap-around. It does not go over the wrist and it does not go around the underside of the forearm.  And, there is no pistol grip cap and no forearm tip.  The finish is actually lacquer but finished with such finesse that it tends to give it an oiled finish look. The buttplate is checkered steel with an inlaid widow’s peak at the heel.

The barrel length was typically 24” for most calibers which is what this is. This one has the integral muzzle ramp for the front sight which means the ramp is made integrally with the barrel steel, not screwed or soldered on.  This particular one is the Ramp #2 in my book.  The front sight is covered by front sight hood, this one is an after-market hood as it doesn’t have the angled profile front and rear, only the rear is angled. The sight itself is correct; it is the Winchester No. 103C with silver bead.

Besides the sight cover, the sling swivels are not original and have been replaced with studs for Uncle Mike’s type of detachable sling swivels.  Also to accommodate the scope, the rear sight has been replaced with an after-market dovetail blank. The sight would originally have been Winchester’s Number 22G sight.  The scope is a Leupold VX III 3.5-10 variable with 50 mm objective lens, a little late for this period, but is mounted in Redfield JR rings and base, made specifically for this Model 70’s original factory holes.

The wood finish is detailed in my book on pages 150-151, but for brevity here, the stock on this Standard Rifle is finished by hand: sanded, stained, sealed with lacquer, filled with dark filler, rubbed down, and finished with several coats of lacquer that had an additive of carnauba wax, giving it that semi-oil finished look.

For the metal finish, I go into great detail in my book on pages 130-131 and 166-167, but for simplicity here, the blued parts of the rifle were blued with a Du-Lite black oxide process with two separate baths at different temperatures and rinsed in oil.

For inscriptions: On the left side of the receiver is the word Winchester in their stylized logo lettering with the words Trade Mark under it. There is a Winchester proof mark at the chamber end of the action.  Also, on the left side of the barrel, next to the action proof mark, is a second Winchester proof mark.  Further forward on the left side of the barrel, is the inscription: Made in New Haven, Conn. U.S. of America and under that the words Winchester Proof Steel.  Working our way back toward the action is next Winchester Trade Mark again, followed by Model 70 followed by  270 W.C.F. (for Winchester Center Fire). On the right side of the action, front receiver ring, the serial number is inscribed.

On top of the bolt sleeve toward the front end, is the word FIRE to indicate the opposite of Safe when moving the safety through its three positions.  That’s it on the inscriptions.

For years, I had a Standard Rifle just like this, in .270 Winchester, that, after I worked up the best load for it, shot groups you could hide with a quarter at 100 yards from a benchrest.  I started with an accuracy load recommended in Lyman’s Reloading manual, and loaded groups of 5 rounds with ½ grain differences up to the maximum recommended load and discovered that 55.5 grains of IMR 4350 for my Sierra 130 gr boattail or my 130 gr Nosler partition bullets performed the same and were the most accurate.

Okay enough about this rifle.

Now compare it to the second rifle I have here which has a serial number in the 161,000 range, made a year later in 1950.  This rifle is also chambered in .270 Winchester with 24 inch barrel. It’s also a Type III — again note the oval rear receiver tang, the round breech bolt sleeve with the 3rd safety, and the solid bolt knob, same as the Standard Rifle.

However, this rifle contrasts with the first one because it is a Super Grade.  The distinguishing features are first of all, the Supergrade stock.  Again, it’s made of one piece American Black walnut; however, usually the figure of the grain is more interesting on the Super Grades.  And, note the checkering runs over the wrist forming a diamond shape on the wrist and wraps around the forearm, also leaving a diamond shape surrounding the forearm screw.  The stock shape also includes an integral cheekpiece carved into the stock.  This one has the classic comb with the early small-oval cheekpiece as opposed the later monte carlo comb with its much larger full-formed cheekpiece. The stock furniture includes a forearm tip (made of a composite material that Winchester called bakelite which resembles ebony), a pistol grip cap (some early ones were hard rubber, later ones were steel — this one has the steel version), and the Supergrades were inlaid front and rear with two-screw sling swivel bases for their own factory-made swivels, which are much wider than the typical Uncle Mike’s.  Buttplates were the same on the Super Grades as those on the Standard Rifle: checkered steel with widow’s peak in the heel.

As to finish, the stock for the Super Grade was finished the same as that for the Standard Rifle, but for the metal, many Super Grades after 1955 differed from the Standard Rifle by being blued with the old rust-bluing procedure as opposed to the black oxide process.  This rifle’s barrel was blued with the black oxide process and is correct for its age.

Three final differences are: 1) that the floorplate is stamped “SUPER GRADE” and 2) the stock is inlaid front and rear with two-screw sling swivel bases for their own factory-made swivels, which are much wider than the typical Uncle Mike’s and 3) the front sight is usually a gold bead.  This rifle has the Winchester 103-C gold bead that is commonly found on Supergrades from 1942 to 1950.

{Show the floor plate stamping and remove the hood to see the gold bead}

The inscriptions on this Super Grade are identical to the Standard Rifle except the caliber designation on this gun is 270 Win instead of 270 WCF and of course the serial number is different, and the floorplate with the words SUPER GRADE stamped on it as opposed to the plain floorplate on the Standard Rifle.

The scope is a high-end Austrian-made Karl Kahles 3-9×42 matte-finish with fine duplex reticle mounted again with Redfield JR base and rings.  This system mounts the scope low for the low comb stock and is a proven system that I have found to maintain the highest level of accuracy.

Part 3 {Audio only, to use B Roll video and still images}

Let me pause here and explain something: When it comes to the Winchester pre-64 Model 70, I believe and have always believed that it is the very best of what we refer to as rifles made by mass production.  Its many parts were made in various different shops and some of these parts were assembled in various shops, all moving along a course to its final step in assembly and inspection.  That’s the very definition of mass production.  The difference between this rifle and others by other manufacturers is that many of the steps in the production process required talented workers who had to perform some a skilled gunsmith function…bedding is an example, another is fitting the safety to the bolt assembly. If you try to swap out a Model 70 safety, most of the time you’ll find the second safety does not function as smoothly as the original one.  That was because of the hand work involved.  And there were many other areas of the production that required skilled handwork. So, even though it was mass produced, there was enough handwork involved that actually placed the pre-64 Model 70 into a category of its own. Winchester only made less than 600,000 of the pre-64 Model 70.




{Part 4 Video, Andrew and Roger seated at table}

Today, all the new Winchester Model 70s are controlled-feed again, first re-introduced in 1992. We now have several others on the market to choose from, which include the fine CZ 550 line, the Sako Model 85, the Kimber 84/8400 and Ruger’s Model 77 Hawkeye.

But you would be hard pressed to find any of these newer guns being made with the same diligence and voluminous amount of skilled handwork that went into the pre-64 Model 70, still the classic icon of the American-made rifle.

This concludes this first episode of “Special Guns with Roger Rule.”  Thanks Andrew for joining me, and I thank you, the viewers, for watching and I hope you join me next week in Episode Two which will have less about me, and more about the gun I plan to feature.  I also hope you subscribe to my YouTube channel and share my episodes with others.  Thank you very much, see you next week.