THE “PRE-64” MODEL 70 (1/1998)
The Model 70 Rifle was created to replace Winchester’s already popular Model 54, an earlier bolt action that had been developed specifically to handle the popular .30-06 and .270 big game cartridges. or course the Model 54 and its subsequent Model 70 replacement went on to be chambered for substantially more calibers than that. Although it is an oversimplification of tenninology, the Model 70 could be thought of as an improved Model 54, for the Model 70 gave shooters everything they could want in a bolt action fireann. A hinged floorplate, a unique three position safety that did not interfere with a low riding scope, a short and fast bolt action in an ergonomically designed stock.
The first “Pre-64” Model 70 was manufactured in January 1936 and by October 1963, there had been 581,471 guns made. The three distinct production periods and corresponding classifications that most refer to are, Type I (prewar) 1936-1947, serial numbers to 60,500 approx; Type II (transition) 1947-1948, serial numbers for standard actions 60,500-87,700 approx., the H&H Magnum action serial numbers 63,200-121,700 approx; and Type III (late era) 1948-1963/64, standard action serial numbers 87,700 approx-581,471, H&H Magnum action serial numbers 121,700 approx-581,471.
Winchester manufactured the rine in many styles and variations including the Standard grade, Carbine, Bull Gun, Target Model, National Match, Varmint, Feather weight, and Super Grade. There were 18 standard chamberings, from .22 Hornet to the .458 Winchester Magnum.
The cost of purchasing a rifle today can vary from $20.00 up to a 9MM Standard Grade gun priced at $25,000. The prices generally vary depending on variation and condition. The Standard grade guns in most common calibers in mint condition ranges from $850 to $1400. The rare calibers like the .250/3000, 7MM, .300 Savage, and .35 Rem. can bring up to $5500. The magnum calibers, especially the .338 and .375 have had their prices spiraling higher these days. I have recently seen the .375 Standard in mint condition bringing anywhere between $1500 to $2400.
Rifles in shooter condition 80 to 95% can run from 1/3 to 1/2 as much as a mint condition fireann. As an example, a Standard grade rine in .270 in 90 to 95% condition can run $650-800, whereas the same caliber rine can run $1000-1300 in mint condition, and $1500 new unfired in a original factory carton. Its counterpart in Super grade would cost $850-1100 in shooter condition 80-95%, $1700-2500 mint and $2800-4000 new in the factory carton.
For those collecting in the lower price range, it is nice to know that the “Pre 64” Model 70 has intrinsic value as a “parts gun” also. The actions are easily salable at anywhere from $350-550. The stocks, noorplates, even the guard screws are highly desirable items. To learn the technical aspects of the “Pre 64” Model 70, I find the book, The Rifleman’s Rifle by Roger Rule, the easiest and most comprehensive way to research “Pre 64″‘s. Other source materials for study and reference are the Winchester Handbook by George Madis, and the Model 70 by Dean Witaker.
Researching, collecting and especially shooting the “Pre 64” Model 70 can easily become a passion. Remember it is a “buyer beware” business, so proceed with a little research and caution. Since its first appearance in January 1936, the Winchester Model 70 has earned its nickname “The Rifleman’s Rifle”. It is a title that remains well deserved through 61 years of continuous manufacture, and since made the Model 70 one of the most imitated rifles in the world.