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Winchester Model 70 Sniper: A Brief History

 

 

 

 

 

Five years before WW2 kicked off , Winchester started production of their masterpiece the Model 70 rifle.  The M70 was known as the rifleman’s rifle and was known as the highest quality factory produced sporting rifle of its time. Little really needs to be said about the quality of the rifle even to this day.  It does not take very long to find some one talking about the “pre 64 model70.”

The start of the model 70 finding its way into sniper use starts Nov 12 1942 when Van Orden and Lloyd  wrote a study on “equipment for the american sniper.”  The testing of the model 70 showed it to be superior to the rifles then in use by the military. Of course the military decided it was unsuitable for combat use because they worried the rifle was not sturdy enough for use by the average infantryman in war.  This, however, set the stage for the Model 70 to be remembered when something else was needed in tough times and US military sniping  was still in its early days.

The model tested by the equipment board was a .30-06 caliber with heavy barrel of 24 inches and sporter stock. The optic was the commercially produced Unertl 8x scope with target blocks and the provision for target iron sights.

In these early days Winchester delivered 373 rifles with unertl optics to the USMC  for testing.  After deciding not to use the M70 or the 1903, the Corps decided to go with the 1903a4 rifle for sniping use.  Though the M70 was not officially adopted for sniping use, it was reported by 1st-hand accounts that a few did see service against the Japanese in the early days of the US fighting in the pacific.

After the war, the rifles remained in the hands of the USMC for target use or to be loaned out for hunting while on leave and even given away as prizes for winning shooting matches.

After the war Winchester continued to refine and upgrade the M70 for highpower shooters. The model 70 was offered in three versions: the national match, the target grade and the heavy weight “bull gun”.  The difference of these models was in the stocks, barrel weight and length.

During the Korean war the model 70 was called up again to be considered for sniper use. One Ord. officer tried very hard to get the military to look closer at the model 70 by showing men in the field what a trained marksman with the M70/Unertl combo could do.  Several 1000-yard kills of chi-com troops were confirmed by Captain Brophy.  The USMC took another look at the Winchester but judged it the same as before, saying it was not durable enough for standard sniping use.

At this point the USMC had around 1000 Model 70s that are currently known of.  Around 1956-1963 the USMC had the existing in-stock Model 70s rebuilt into target rifles . The serial numbers ran from 41,000 to 50,000.  These are the rifles that would later go on to see use in the Vietnam war where the model 70 showed what it could do and went on to help make legendary status in the hands of Carlos Hathcock.

The M70s in stock after rebuild by the corps the have receivers slotted at the top.  The sporter lightweight barrels were removed and either heavy Winchester target barrels were installed or douglas custom barrels were used all in 30/06 caliber.  Existing sporter stocks in good shape were used but relieved to take the heavier target barrels.  If the sporter stock was in too rough of shape, the winchester marksman stock was used. The action and barrel was then glass bedded into the stock and 1 1/4 sling swivels were used along with metal buttplates.

At the end of this period, sadly, Winchester stopped making the version of the model 70 that would go on to be so desired. In 1964 the arms maker went on to change the rifle in many ways to make it cheaper and easier and faster to make.  I will not list all the changes here, but it was enough to damage the company’s reputation for many years and was something many fans never forgave.  It also ended any chance the M70 had of becoming sniper standard in the years to come.

In 1965 the war in Vietnam started to really heat up.  The need for snipers and sniper rifles was remembered after casualties from enemy snipers reminded the US military how effective the sniper can be.  Very early in the war it become apparent the M14 rifle was in no way useful as a true sniper rifle in current form.  In fact the army spent a lot of time and money trying to make the m14 into a sniper system and finally gave up in the 80s before going to a bolt action system.

In the early days of rifles being pressed into service as sniper rifles, the model 70 was the un-official USMC sniper rifle.  The first rifles sent to Asia to be used were from the third marine division rifle team.  These were the rifles rebuilt for use for highpower competition at Camp Perry.  One of the rifles was used by S/SGT Don L Smith to win the 1953 championship.

The rifles were used to great effect by many snipers during the time.  One of these was of course Carlos Hathcock to make most of his 93 confirmed kills in his first tour in Vietnam.  Hits were recorded out to 1000 plus yards with most kills falling into the 500-700 yard range for the more average sniper.

All Ammo used for the Model 70 snipers was the Lake City, NM ammo.  This was a 173-grain boat tailed FMJ match bullet at around 2600 FPS in the 30-06 caliber, the same ammo used at Camp Perry.

Most optics were the original WW2 contract Unertl scopes built for the USMC by John Unertl  in 8x. The power was actually closer to 7.8 but was marked as 8x.  Other powers were used but 8x was the most common. Other brands were used, such as those made by the Lyman sight company and some other optics companies which are now long defunct.  The optics, though of the highest quality for target and sporting use at the time, came up short in the humid jungles of Vietnam.  The scopes sometimes fogged in wet weather and had a small field of view.  The Unertl scope of the time period is still very sturdy and if you can find one today there is no need to worry about it not working.  The elevation and windage adjustment were external and the scope body is one piece steel making it tough.

The scope was a real weak point as far as the USMC was concerned and did not provide enough light-gathering ability and had a small FOV.  These are very important things for combat sniping.

model 70

As the need for more snipers and rifles became more urgent, the USMC needed more rifles.  Parts for the “pre-64 model 70 began to dry up since Winchester had stopped making the older, better rifle in 1963.  Because this version was no longer made and the new Model 70 was of decidedly less quality, another rifle was sought.  The corps ended up with the Remington M40x, a more refined target version of the M700, with a few changes they speced out themselves and type classified the M40.  Also the Unertl was replaced by the Redfield 3x-9x optic with a range finder. Both had their own problems in early use but went on to later become the M40A1. the M40A1 went on to use a more modern Unertl that replaced the problematic Redfield scope and is still in use on some rifles. the M40 is now the M40A5.

The M70 / Unertl was issued again right before the M40 was delivered. Fifty more model 70s with Unertls were ordered and converted to sniper use and sent immediately to vietnam by HQMC.

The model 70 Winchester was never officially issued for sniper use by the USMC or the Army but it saw a lot of service anyway.  The gun has since become legemdary.  The Army even tried the rifle suppressed for special operations use in Vietnam and fired a version of the .458 magnum round.  Many well known snipers during the Vietnam war used the M70 with Hathcock being the most famous by far.  When asked about the rifle he used during the war he stated he loved it.  It is no wonder.  If you have one of these truly fine rifles or get the chance to try one you will see why it was so highly regarded in its time.  Even before WW2 it was the most expensive sporting rifle made in the USA and you can see and feel the quality that made it so.  For years after ’63 it was a shadow of its former glory until Winchester brought the original action back with a few  upgrades to it to make it safer.  The M70 is still made with the Winchester name today by FN and the action is used by FN for their sniping rifles.

Link to   short M40  history

http://looserounds.com/2012/07/11/the-usmc-m40-sniper/

more vietnam USMC  equipment

http://looserounds.com/2012/08/02/usmc-scout-sniper-weapons-of-the-viet-nam-war/

COLT Gov Model 1911 test.

Today I picked up another colt 1911, it is the regular gov model sold as the  1991A1 in the past, and still called that in the colt webpage. If you do not already know, it is just a basic model. It is sort of a cross between a 1911 and a 1911A1 with  better sites and a few differences. And of course it has the series 80 trigger system.  When I was a teenager, it would be what was called the MK IV series 80 Gov Model. If you are out of the loop and last had a colt in the 80s, and want another like it, this is the model to get.  Colt ad refers to it as a direct descendent of the 1911 used in WW1 and WW2.  This is a pretty good description actually, so I wont say more on that.

Now, to the meat of this review. I was very tempted to just skip any kinda intro and lead off with a pic of the target  as the 1st thing anyone could see. I was pretty giddy after I fired the first 5 rounds out of the gun. The picture below was shot using the colt, Black hills 230 grain match ammo, and off a bench at 25 yards. And,it was the first 5 rounds through the gun, brand new, out of the box. I had not even lubed it or cleaned it yet.

As you can see why, I was fairly surprised and pleased. This may be the best group I have ever fired with a handgun that was not a custom pistol.

I next moved on to using winchester white box ball ammo, since those last 5 rounds was all the BH match I had on hand. The next group below was shot the same way; off a bench at 25 yards.

Not as good, but wow!  not bad at all with walmart ball ammo. I am used to great accuracy from my colts that have the national match barrel and up graded specs. But, this out of a  pistol meant to be a little niceer finished milspec was amazing. Last I fired the same WWB ammo at 25 yards but instead of 5 I shot 7 rounds. Even off hand, I was more then happy.

With this pistol, better sights and a lighter trigger I would not be afraid to go to camp perry. It ran flawless just as I knew it would. Some people think a stock 1911 needs work to work perfect. The thought that it would, never crossed my mind. I have never had a colt let me down, though I will not say the same about kimber or springfeild.  The gun comes with 2 seven round mags, the lock to make new yorkers feel safer and the ever present NRA join up paper work.  The gun comes with a nice set of checkered double diamond grips,but I replaced them with a set with the colt gold medallions. The gold colt medallion was all the 1911s of my youth and I have always loved them and tried to keep them on as many of my colts as I can.

One thing that gave me a idea the gun would shoot tight before I even pulled the trigger, was how tight it was. I mean it was tight. No play of the barrel in the slide, no side to side movement,just tight.  The level of craft is a lot higher then some of the plain jane gov models  I have bought in the last decade. Not that the others were bad, just not as nice as this one in the little ways that matter to people that like safe queens and collectors items more then they like shooters and combat pistols meant to work hard.

The barrel is stainless, but not match. No full length guide rod either. A few years ago the same model came with two blued 8 round mags, but this one came with two 7 rounders. I might also add this is this years model.

After testing this gun I am very tempted to use it as a base gun for a MEUSOC clone, which was my intention. But now, no way. This however would be a great base model for a custom CCW gun for anyone. It is a great price and of course it is a colt. A lot of people would tell you to get a series 70 and thats fine too. But I have never had problems with the series 80 triggers and my series 80 gold cup has a better trigger then my series 70 gold cup national match and  every series 70 I ever tried. The BS you hear bad about the series 80, is just that. It makes the gun safer. It may be more parts but so what? If it was as bad as some ignorant people claim, colt would have stopped using the series 80 years ago , and would not put it in their flag ship pistols like the special combat gov the rail gun or the XSE series.

If you want a very nice shooter  as an example of history, a plain combat gun or a base gun for a custom project this is a great choice. It has a forged frame and slide, the least MIM parts on the market ( which is a rare thing in the 1911 market these days) put together still by hand from the company the introduced the pistol and has been making the for over 100 years now. And made right here in the USA. I think the choice is very easy.

www.coltsmfg.com

Colt Rail Gun 1911 accuarcy test

A lot of people have been asking me how I like my Rail Gun ever since I got it. I always say the same thing, that I love it and it shoots great. After using it in a few informal matches and classes and such, I have really come to trust it more then any 1911 I have ever owned, Its accuracy is also more then I could have hoped for, even with typical walmart fodder.  Up until now I never bothered to save any targets from range and training sessions with it to show anyone who asks. So today while I was counting up how many rounds I had put through it  since I bought it in the fall of 09 and realized it has over  4200 rounds through it that I know of for sure.  And after thinking about it, I decided it would be a great time to do a more formal accuracy test  on paper to show.  I did 3 five shot groups.  with  black hills match and winchester white box you can buy at walmart in the 100 round pack.  The first group was shot off a bench with a sand bag with the match ammo at 20 yards.

The Colt national match barrel really shined with that ammo and off the bench. I have to say it took some serious concentration to keep a group that small with the site radious of a pistol.

The upper left hand group was shot with the same match ammo, but off hand at 20 yards. I have to say I surprised myself a little bit with that group, even though I have been shooting the pistol at a very intense volume the last few months and the practice shows.

The bottom group was shot offhand at 20 yards offhand again, with the WWB. I was dissapointed a little, but not much. It was WWB after all and offhand.  It is actually pretty good especially with factory plinking ammo.  The orange dots are a little over 2 inches around, so I put a couple of rounds in the picture to give a sense of the group size since I did not add a ruler or anything. Sorry to say I did not measure the groups with a ruler, I think the picture speaks for its self well enough when it is a handgun we are talking about.  In the next rail gun review I will shoot some winchester ranger T and some of the other more popular self defense rounds.

I would have shot more today but I was running out of light and time. Also, all groups were shot with the surefire X300 attached to the pistol. The pistol has also not been cleaned for the last 1700 rounds, just oiled when I feel like oiling it. Lubricant was slip2000 and some  shooters choice grease used very lightly on relevant parts since I carry it as my CCW gun and I sweat a lot.