I’ve long been a fan of the Model 70, probably because every big-game hunter in my family carried one of these rifles in the field at one time. But, as good as the Model 70 is, it faces stiff competition from new guns that offer the features that today’s shooters want.
The Model 70 Extreme TrueTimber VSX MB is an example of how Winchester is making “the Rifleman’s Rifle” more appealing to today’s shooters. These rifles feature a steel receiver and fluted steel free-floating barrel, and the detachable threaded muzzle brake allows for the addition of a suppressor. The receiver, bolt handle, barrel, floorplate, extractor and trigger guard all feature a Tungsten Cerakote finish that looks great with the True Timber VSX camo on the Bell & Carlson stock, and also offers an added level of protection while hunting in harsh climates.
Of course, the primary features of this rifle remain largely unchanged—and that’s a good thing. At the heart of this rifle is Winchester’s controlled-round feed (CRF) action that utilizes a large claw extractor and a fixed-blade ejector to ensure reliable feeding. The dual-lug bolt is jeweled, adding an extra touch of class to the rifle, and the three-position wing safety allows you to operate the action with the safety engaged as well as lock the bolt closed.
The hinged floorplate magazine is a classic Model 70 feature. Top loading the gun is easy, and when you want to empty the magazine, simply press the magazine release at the front of the trigger guard and the cartridges fall into your hand. The release is small enough that it doesn’t catch on brush and briars: I’ve hunted with several Model 70 rifles in gnarly country and have never dropped the magazine contents by mistake. I also find the design more streamlined and quieter than the polymer mags that are popular on many of today’s hunting rifles.
The Model 70 Extreme TrueTimber VSX MB comes with Winchester’s M.O.A. Trigger System. The M.O.A.’s pivoting-lever design provides a crisp, creep-free break and minimal overtravel. It’s not a bladed design like Savage’s AccuTrigger, and the broad, curved trigger face offers excellent control when firing. Is it as good as the original pre-’64? Maybe not, but it’s a suitable trigger for a factory hunting rifle.
Starting in 1964, Winchester tried to cheapen the Model 70 to compete with the then-new Remington 700, and that made Winchester fans furious. The CRF action was replaced by a push-feed design, the quality of walnut stocks and checkering was diminished, and many feared Winchester’s flagship rifle would never be the same. However, following Winchester’s sale to FN (the Model 70 ceased production in 2006, only to return under the FN umbrella in 2008) the Model 70 has gotten the attention it deserves. I owned a few of the push-feed Model 70s of the 1970s and 1980s, and most of those guns were pretty coarse. They were mechanically sound, but the walnut stocks were very basic, and the early injection-molded stocks left much to be desired. Plus, they lacked the Model 70’s defining feature—a controlled-feed action. Since FN’s purchase the quality of Model 70s has improved, and bringing back the CRF action across the line was a step toward reinvigorating Model 70 fans who’d lamented the rifle’s deterioration since 1964. Every Model 70 I’ve seen from FN has been well machined, and fit and finish are excellent. The new Extreme TrueTimber VSX MB is no exception. The Bell & Carlson stock is durable and there were no gaps or ill-fitting junctions between the stock and action on the 6.5 Creedmoor test rifle. The stock’s straight comb and rollover cheekpiece give the rifle a classic look and feel, and the dense recoil pad is made to absorb kick. Everything fits solidly on this rifle. The hinged floorplate snaps into place with authority, and the bolt runs smoothly through the action right out of the box. Now that Winchester has the entry-level XPR in its lineup, the Model 70 will remain a premium rifle with no need to cut costs. These guns cost a little more, but the workmanship is high-quality.
The Model 70 Extreme TrueTimber VSX MB is available in 14 different chamberings from .243 Winchester to .300 Win. Mag., including classic hunting cartridges like the .264 Winchester Magnum, .308 Winchester and .30-06, as well as a .270 and .300 WSM. This rifle is also chambered for today’s hottest new hunting cartridges like the Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC and Winchester’s outstanding new 6.8 Western cartridge. Unloaded weight for the short-action version (tested) is about 7 pounds, which makes this gun suitable for mountain hunting.
I tested the Model 70 VSX in 6.5 Creedmoor with four different loads from Hornady, Norma and Federal, and during testing both Norma’s Bondstrike and Hornady’s Precision hunter ELD-X placed five shots under an inch at 100 yards. Norma’s 143-grain Bondstrike ammunition proved to be the most accurate and had a test-best five-shot group of .89 inch, with three of the shots touching.
There were no issues with feeding, extraction or ejection with the Model 70, as you might expect. The beefy extractor takes a hefty bite on the base of the cartridge and the ejector sends empties hurling out of the action. There’s ample room to top-load the rifle under the optic (in this case a Leupold VX-3i 4.5-14x40 CDS-ZL with Wind-Plex reticle). With the optic, bases and rings the rifle weighed just over 8 pounds, which is still manageable in the field.
The M.O.A. trigger is relatively clean but the test rifle’s trigger weight was set at 4 pounds. I do like the wide, curved trigger face that offers good control when firing the rifle, but the first order of business if I owned this rifle would be to lighten the trigger pull.
I don’t think there’s much I can add to the volumes of literature that exist on the Model 70 except to say this: The newest addition to the Model 70 family offers many of the outstanding qualities that have made generations of hunters and shooters fans of these guns. We’ve come to expect solid reliability from the Model 70 rifle, and the Extreme TrueTimber VSX MB doesn’t disappoint. Build quality and manufacturing is excellent, and this is a gun that you’ll be proud to own. Its Model 70 heritage shows through, but this gun is built for the backcountry and is loaded with modern features like a threaded muzzle, fluted barrel, Cerakote finish and quality composite stock that looks good. For Winchester to remain the Rifleman’s Rifle these guns will have to offer a list of amenities that appeal to the next generation of shooters—and the Extreme MB does just that.
• Type: bolt-action centerfire rifle
• Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .243 Win., .25-06, 6.5 PRC, .264 Win. Mag., .270 Win., .270 WSM, 6.8 Western, 7mm-08, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., .30-06, .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag.
• Barrel: 22"; sporter contour; fluted; 1:8" RH twist; detachable muzzle brake
• Magazine: internal box w/ hinged floorplate, 4-rnd. cap.
• Trigger: M.O.A. trigger, 3-5 lbs. pull weight
• Sights: none; drilled and tapped
• Safety: three-position wing
• Stock: Bell & Carlson; composite, True-Timber VSX camo, 13.75" LOP
• Metal Finish: Tungsten Cerakote
• Overall length: 42.3"
• Weight: 7 lbs.
• Accessories: gun lock
• MSRP: $1,829.99; winchesterguns.com