The Winchester Model 70 Pre-64 Varmint


We been looking at various precision Model 70s the last couple of weeks and now its time to come to mankind’s highest bolt action accomplishment. Of course I mean the Model 70 made by Winchester before 1964.

Mine is the varmint model in one of the finest rounds ever made, the .243 WCF or .243 Winchester. This model was made in only two calibersm the 243 like mine and the excellent .220 swift. The barrel is a 26 inch heavy barrel with old style target crown and is drilled for target blocks.

The action is the old excellent controlled round feed. Even though it is a short action round the pre-64s are only “long action”, or more accurately to say standard action length. Below you can see the huge claw extraactor.

I have recently put on a vintage Redfield Accu-Track 4x-12x given to me by a friend. This is a lot more flexible and faster to use than the 8X Unertl. Of course the base is vintage Redfield as well.

The feel of working the action on a Pre 64 is hard to explain. You can feel the quality.

The stocks for the varmint models is a standard sporter stock inletted for the heavier varmint/target barrel. Just in front of the scope objective lens you can see the holes for mounting the rear target block for externally adjusted scopes like the Unertl.

The floor plate is solid steel. You don’t get that these days.

The good old days.

No Remington M700 ever made will ever compare to a Pre 64 Model 70.

Above is Brady shooting one of the much hated 1970s made Model 70s. His varmint is also .243 and was the replacement for the superior pre64 varmint. You can tell in the picture the difference in quality. That said, his Post 64 model 70 was EXTREMELY accurate. We later re barreled it in 308 and it was given to his son as a Birthday gift in 1998.

Above is the only Model 70 I consider a real heir to the model 70 reputation. This is a real currently in use FN A3 Sniper rifle issued to my friend. It is a controlled round feed action. It’s a .308 and is a true short action. McMillian A3 stock and McCann rail for mounting night vision and IR lasers. You can see the AN/PVS 24 we were testing mounted to it. If I needed a precision Model 70, this is what I would buy and the only new made current production Model 70 I would recommend to you.


  1. now that you mention…

    …took the head off a big hare with .243win from over the bonnet of a series3 landrover, 180 yards or so, way north of inverness.

    glass was murican iirc…

  2. Two things really infuriated buyers of Win70’s post-64:

    1. The action ‘bound’ when trying to run the action fast. Post-68, they put in an “anti-bind rail” on the left side of the bolt to make it smoother and faster to cycle. It worked, but … meh.

    2. The aluminum bottom metal, which included not only the magazine floor plate, but the magazine box, the trigger bow, etc. Fans of the Model 70 hated this development by Winchester.

    Some people comment that the post-64 rifles lost the Mauser-like extractor, but in IMO, this isn’t as large a loss as some make it out to be. CRF rifles are great if you’re hunting dangerous game and cycling the action whilst being mowed over by a Cape Buff, but they’re not wholly necessary otherwise. The extractor that Winchester used in the post-64 rifles was actually very similar to what Peter Paul Mauser had originally proposed on his rifle(s) in the 1890’s. It was the German weapons acquisition board that insisted on the big claw extractor, not Mauser himself.

    That the big claw extractor worked so well is a fortuitous fallout of how Mauser chose to implement that requirement – there’s lots of subtle issues in the “Mauser claw extractor” that most people don’t recognize, and which could have been done differently by other gun designers to less successful effect.

    The reason given for the discontinuation of the pre-64 Model 70 is the same lame excuse given by all gun manufactures: “It cost too much.” Well, that’s what happens when you’re making something tangible in the economy that is fueled by paper fiat money that is devalued at a target rate of 2% per year by the central bank. In time, your money become worthless. Why gun makers keep thinking that they need to make their products cheaper in the face of a devaluing currency is beyond me. A modern replica of a Mauser 98 action costs over $2K for just the action, more like $3K complete with the magazine and trigger bow. That’s because they don’t compromise or change what they deliver to make it fit a number in a devaluing currency. A modern reproduction of a Luger will cost over $8K today – again, because they’re not making it cheaper to shoehorn the cost of the product into some “under $1,000” category. They’re sticking to making the product that people expect.

    There are over a dozen Italian shotgun makers who don’t flinch for a second to tell you that their guns start at $2500 and up to $15,000 – because that’s what it takes to make a gun of that quality. Winchester could learn something from this, and make Model 70’s as they used to be made, and they’d find a fan base for such quality. They could also re-introduce the Model 21 – for $10K, and they’d sell some of them.

    • Can I please be the retard ask for more detail on the potential weaknesses in the Mauser claw extractor design? I have always heard it is the be-all and end-all

      • Main argument being that you can’t double feed under stress since the cartridge is being held by the bolt the whole time. Honestly something you will probably never even notice. Personally I like it for doing funky things with the action. In actions that don’t have a removable magazine I can just move the bolt back and forth about an inch to grab and flick the cartridges out. So it’s nice but really not as big a deal as it’s hyped.
        Experts in here feel free to correct me

          • the bolt has complete control of the round. it will also extract when others won’t. you can control how far the empyty will kick out of the gun by the force you use. the gun will feed no matter if its upside down. The feeding and extraction are the two big attractions for a lot of people. Thats why they like it for dangerous game. The breech is coned for smooth and reliable feeding and enclosed the cartridge head to the extractor groove.

            its 6 of one half dozen of the other. for everyone you find who will tell you one thing about the pre 64 they like, some one will tell you how its a flaw. I still think its the finest commercial bolt action ever made

      • On a Mauser, you cannot push-feed a round into the chamber (unless you work over the extractor a bit in ways I won’t explain here, except to say that it does NOT involve anything on the part of the extractor that holds the case rim).

        The flip side is that the claw extractor is so strong, it can rip the head off of cases or strip off a piece of a rim. That’s always amusing to see. In a military rifle with mil-surp ammo, this is no biggie, but in a game rifle with very expensive ammo, that might have been a $3 cartridge case you just destroyed.

        Last issue is that the claw should be pulled off a bolt to do a thorough cleaning. For some people, this invites self-mutilation.

        The claw extractor is good, and my preferred extractor, followed the the extractor mechanism on post-64 Model 70’s. On a push-feed rifle, I’ll take the post-64 Model 70 extractor over almost all others, especially the M-16 or Sako style extractors. The Rem700 factory extractor is a real feeble thing, and the smithed-on “upgrades” aren’t to my liking as they give more opportunity for gas blowouts.

        When it is all said and done, the pre-war Model 70 was the best balance of form, function and refinement of the K98 action that I think was ever achieved, esp. after they went to the three position “barn door” safety.

        The books to read if you really want to understand the subtleties of bolt action design and evaluation are Stuart Otteson’s Vol 1 & 2 of Bolt Actions.


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