1936--American Rifleman Magazine
The Model 54 Winchester has passed into history. No more will be made except in .22 Hornet caliber. The New Year of 1937 will usher in an improved Winchester bolt-action rifle, the new model 70, which will supplant the old Model 54. Practically all criticisms which have been aimed at the old model have been met in the design of the new model. Gone is the "canoe-paddle" forestock, the high-angle bolt handle and vertical safety, the sear bolt-stop, the much-criticized trigger, the solid floor plate and poor trigger guard. Instead we have an excellent modern rifle with the same low receiver line and a much lower action lever to permit a low position of any telescope sight.
The firing mechanism is a new development. The trigger is machined out of a single forging and is so designed with the sear that, together, they give a very short, crisp let-off with no military take-up and with scarely any movement of the trigger.
The new bolt stop, working with the left-hand locking lug on the forward end of the bolt, retains the bolt so that the sear no longer acts as a bolt stop. This bolt stop operates vertically. We found the external bolt-release plunger, on the left side just behind the rear edge of the receiver. It is convenient and effective without being obtrusive.
The new design safety lock operates in a horizontal plane. The lever lies straight in the firing position. It has two other positions. The intermediate position is about 30 degrees to the left of “OFF.” In this position the firing pin is locked but the bolt is not, permitting easy removal of the bolt.
The “ON” or fully locked position is at the limited of its forward movement on the left side. When set in this position the firing pin is retracted from the sear and the bolt locked shut. This safety lever is operated with the tip of the thumb. Set at “intermediate”, we found it easy to throw this safety while raising the rifle to the shoulder.
The bolt handle is designed with a new bend which allows low mounting of a telescope sight. Te knob is carried rearward, positioning it opposite the trigger. We found the manipulation easy, smooth and fast. When raised the lever projects at a 45 degree angle from the side, not from the top.
The speed lock on the Model 70 is quicker than that on the M-1903 rifle; the firing pin has only one-half the travel. The cocking cam is shortened 50%. The firing pin will withstand “dry firing” without injury. We found the striker travel to be a scant 3/16 inch. The magazine is made with a hinged floor plate. We found floor plate and magazine could be easily and quickly released by pressing a projecting plunger in front of the trigger guard.
The stock has a wider fore-end, rounded but approximating the beavertail style. We found the forestock a great improvement in feel. It is over 18 ½ inches long and measures 16 ½ inches from the trigger to the swivel. The maximum gripping width is 1-3/4 inches, tapered to 1-1/2 inches at the swivel.
Special safety features have been incorporated in the design of the Model 70 by which the firing pin is mechanically prevented from being blown out by a pierced primer. In addition two large vent holes in the forward end of the bolt allow ample gas outlets.
The Standard Model
The standard stock dimensions are: Length of pull, 13 ½ inches; drop at comb 1-5/8 inches, and at heel, 2-5/8 inches. Grip and fore-end are checkered.
The sights are: Front, Lyman 5/16-inch gold bead, mounted on ramp. Rear, Winchester 22G open sporting. The receiver is drilled and tapped for the Lyman 48W-JS sight, and the rifle is furnished with this sight at an extra charge. All front sights are equipped with sight cover, except on the Bull gun. The magazine holds 5 cartridges. The trigger guard, or forged steel, has a new shape. Swivel bases for sling strap are attached.
National Match, Target Model and Bull Guns
The stock, a new design with full pistol grip, has a full, fluted comb and wide, beavertail fore-arm similar to style on Model-54 target models. No checkering. The sling strap is a 1 ¼ inch leather sling, treated with neats-foot oil and equipped with new-design, bakelite, Albree keeper.
A chromium-plated, metal, forearm-adjustment-base is located on the underside of the forearm. This is controlled by the sling-strap, swivel-bow assembly, allowing various positions in holding. Sling comes attached on Target Models and Super Grade rifles. The dimensions, with Lyman sights attached, are: length of pull, 13 ¼ inch; drop at comb, 1 3/8 inch; drop at heel, 1-11/16 inch; pitch down, 3 inches. Girth of grip, 5-5/16 inch. Center of trigger to end of grip, 3 inches; drop from center of bore, .50 inch at comb; .78 inch at heel.
I am particularly pleased with the new low-line bolt-handle, because I insist upon having the hunting telescope right down on top of the receiver where it must be placed for efficient employment. I am also pleased with the new forestock, the new trigger mechanism, the new bolt stop and the removable floor plate.
Many of us recommend the low-line safety and action levers, and also a slightly longer action to permit magazine-loading of target cartridges which have an increased overall length. In the sample I find less than 1/10-inch length clearance for the .30-’06 cartridge in the magazine well. The M-70 well is about 3/16-inch too short for the .280 Ross cartridge which has an overall of 3.516 inches against 3.328 inches for the W.R.A. 180-grain cartridge in .30-’06 caliber and of 3.594 inches in .300 Magnum caliber.
The new Model 70 will be made in .250 Savage, .220 Swift, .257 Roberts, .270 Winchester, 7-mm Mauser and .30-’06 calibers. Since the present production, first to come through, is in .30-’06 caliber our sample rifle is of that caliber, least accurate of the above list. The improved rifle costs very little more than the old model. The regular list price of the standard rifle equipped with open barrel-sight was $59.75 for the Model-54 and is $61.25 for the Model 70.
We immediately transferred our Fecker scope bases from the Model-54 to the Model-70, the new model having screen holes already provided in the top of the receiver hood for the purpose. We used our 8X Fecker with 1 1/8-inch objective in Fecker target mounts. The Model-70 handled beautifully in all positions and the factory trigger-pull seemed excellent. Our first zero-group, fired from sitting at short range, indicated good accuracy. The target mounts place the line of sight unnecessarily high on this improved action. A properly mounted hunting scope would be much better, of course, for a secure and comfortable hold.
At 200 yards my first five shots from bench rest went into less than 2 inches with F.A. 1933 Service ammunition. I tried five from prone with sling which position changed the impact 3 inches low and an inch to the right. Five more from sitting with sling did not affect the impact except to lower it less than ½ inch. The two groups measured 4.32 and 5.15 inches, respectively, at 200 yards. Barr also tried it prone with sling and shot into 4.72 inches, his group-impact being an inch higher than mine. Barr also tried five shots from the bench rest and got a group of 4.98 inches which landed an inch lower than my first group similarly fired. Barr also tried ten shots from prone rest, getting a group of 4.20 inches and an impact only ½-inch under our original zero at 200 yards.