American Classic: Winchester Pre ’64 Model 70

  • Paul Money
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The Winchester Pre ‘64 Model 70 is known colloquially as “The Rifleman’s Rifle.” Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of hunting with one of these rifles knows that they deserve their nickname.

The Model 70s that this article is concerned with first started appearing on gun store shelves in 1937 and were manufactured until 1964. Winchester then made such drastic changes to the Model 70 that the two eras of rifles can scarcely be compared.

It’s a bummer, really.

At the heart of the Pre ‘64 Model 70 is a Mauser-style action with a full-length claw extractor. The action maintains positive control of a round throughout the feeding process and makes for an extremely reliable rifle. For this reason, these rifles have been favorites of many a dangerous game hunter on multiple continents, including Africa.

Other features of the beloved Pre ‘64s are a three-position safety that allows for the safe cycling of the bolt, hand-fitted parts, ultra-high quality finishes, and beautiful hand-checkered wood stocks. 

My family is very fortunate to have three of these rifles. We have a standard-weight and featherweight model in the venerable 30-06 Springfield, as well as a model chambered in .375 H&H Magnum. The two 30-06s have probably taken 500 deer between them and the .375 has claimed numerous African trophies, including a Cape Buffalo.

Moo. Or whatever noise they make.

The Pre ‘64 Model 70s are known for being extraordinarily accurate rifles. While living in Alaska, my uncle routinely shot sub-MOA groups with the Model 70 in .375 H&H Magnum using his own handloads. I have shot my standard-weight Model 70 out to 600 yards with great effect.

Pre ‘64 Model 70s were manufactured in 20 different calibers and have become exceedingly collectible. Even a well-used Model 70 in a common caliber such as 30-06 commands a high price.

While it is difficult to discern what a fair price for one of these rifles is, Roger Rule’s “The Rifleman’s Rifle” is a great resource to consult about collecting the Pre ’64 Model 70.

If you see a Winchester Pre ‘64 Model 70 for sale, I would advise that, after verifying its authenticity, you buy it. You won’t regret it and your grandchildren will probably thank you. It is, in my opinion, undoubtedly one of the finest sporting rifles ever made.

Do you have one? Do you want one? Share this out on social media and let us know! 

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