August 5, 2013

Winchester Model 70 Rifles

Today’s Model 70s don’t qualify for “classic” status, but they’re out in such number that they’ll keep you busy. Here are some tips.

Over the last 100 years, Winchester has been shaken up, spun around and tossed in the air more times than any one company should be able to handle. But through it all—from ownership changes to bankruptcies—the company has steadily turned out firearms.

That the company stayed in business under sometimes difficult circumstances, is a credit to guns like the Model 70 bolt-action rifle. This model outlasted many managements and has become almost legendary among hunting enthusiasts. I can recall reading the late Jack O’Connor’s accounts of sheep hunting with his .270 caliber Model 70 when I was a young cub in the early 1960s.

You may recall the furor many sportsmen raised over the transition in 1964 to the “New Model 70.” I could really never understand the fuss because, in most respects, the new model’s strength actually surpasses the old. For instance, the coned breech and the flat-faced bolt on the pre-64 did not support and surround the cartridge head like the New Model does. The cutout in the receiver’s right side rail for the bolt length extractor actually weakened the action. And unless you are going after critters that may want to eat you, the big Mauser-style extractor and controlled round feeding is not all that necessary. However, USRAC has felt the pressure from consumers and is reintroducing that aspect in its new Super Grade. The nomenclature these days is “claw-controlled feeding.”

Winchester Model 70 Rifles

American Gunsmith, Gunsmithing the Rifle

The Model 70 trigger is basic but strong. Three nuts on the threaded pin at the back control spring tension and overtravel.


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These are but two examples of improvements Win-chester made to its bolt actions after 1964, but there are other things you ought to know. Here they are.

Getting Started

Complete take--down is a pre-requisite to blueing and thor-ough-ly clean-ing and bluing the Model 70. Before you start work, open the bolt and make sure the chamber is empty and the barrel clear. Then drop the floorplate to make sure there is nothing in the magazine.

In most respects, disassembly procedures are pretty much the same for the pre-64, the New Model, and the Super Grade. Before removing the bolt on models with a two-position safety, place the safety in the safe or back position. If the rifle is equip-ped with a three-position safety, the intermediate position blocks the striker but still allows removal of the bolt. Because this style blocks the striker, it is considered by some to be the safest type on the market. While drawing the bolt rearward, depress the bolt stop/release at the left rear at the back of the receiver. Set the bolt assembly aside for attention later.

The three 1/4-inch, 32-threads-per-inch action screws securing the barreled action to the stock can be removed with a #340-5 magna-tip screwdriver bit. These bits and handles are available from Brownells in sets or individually and fit the screw slots found on firearms properly. Pushing up on the floorplate-release button, just in front of the trigger guard bow, will drop the floorplate along with the cartridge follower and its spring. Once the front action screw is removed, the floorplate and its hinge can be removed from the stock. Taking out the fore and aft screws permits the trigger guard’s removal. On Model 70s in the common calibers, the trigger guard bow is made of black painted aluminum, while steel is used on big bumpers like the .375 H & H and the .458 Winchester Magnum.

The aluminum bow can be replaced by the steel one if you are so inclined. USRAC’s part number for the steel trigger guard is 28017. You will have to remove the floorplate-release button, spring and retaining pin from the aluminum one and install it into the steel replacement. The part order number for the whole assembly is 28117. Brownells sells an all-steel trigger guard bow made by Williams Manufacturing that drops right in the stock of those post-64 models to replace the painted aluminum guard. These will cost $40 or $50.

Once the trigger guard is off, the magazine box can be taken out. Set it aside and separate the barreled action from the stock. Check the crown at the muzzle for any nicks or irregularities that will affect accuracy. If the stock is made of wood, check the inletting to make sure there is a good coat of sealing finish. Also inspect the barrel channel for glazed spots that may be putting undue pressure on the barrel. Such pressure points play havoc with accuracy and should be scraped away and the channel finished with a good wood sealant.

To gain access to the trigger assembly, place the barrel in a vise with padded jaws with the bottom of the receiver facing upward. The Model 70’s trigger system is obviously quite simple but it is good and strong.

With a 3/32-inch punch, drift the single trigger pin out of the receiver’s left side, as it sits in your vise, to the right. While drifting the trigger pin, stop when the punch reaches the inside wall of the recess in which the trigger fits. This pin also secures the bolt stop/release and its spring. Leave the punch in place and pull the pin out while holding down the bolt stop/release with your thumb. Once the trigger pin is all the way out, the bolt stop/release can be removed. Pull the punch out the way it went in, then remove the trigger and the spring that maintains pressure on the sear. Using a 3/16-inch punch, drift the sear pin out. This pin has a larger diameter on the left side of the receiver as it sits in the vise and can only go one way. The sear and sear spring should be the last items removed.

The bolt assembly is the New Model 70’s most complex part, containing a total of 20 parts, but take down is relatively easy. Hopefully, the safety remained at the midway condition or on safe. If for some reason the safety has found its way forward, it must be returned to the midway point or the bolt can’t be disassembled. Clamp the cocking piece in a vise with smooth hard jaws, push forward on the breech bolt sleeve until there is about 3/8-inch of the cocking piece protruding at the back of the bolt sleeve, then set the safety to the middle position. Now you can take the bolt apart.

Press down on the breech bolt sleeve lock and rotate the bolt sleeve counter clockwise until the bolt sleeve comes out of the bolt body. The safety now needs to be placed in the forward position, which will relieve some slight tension on the striker spring. Removing the striker spring requires dexterity and some caution because the firing pin washer can wind up in parts unknown if you don’t stay focused. Place the back end of the cocking piece down on a non-slip surface like a piece of carpet or foam padding. I also wrap a sheet of paper towel around the spring to keep my fingers from slipping. Pull down on the spring and as you hold it, remove the “C” washer from its groove in the firing pin. Slowly relax the spring tension and catch the washer that was positioned between the “C” washer and spring. Now relax the spring completely and remove it. Hopefully, everything came off in good order and you’re not crawling around on hands and knees looking for that little washer.

Back out the firing pin stop screw with a #120-3 magna-tip bit. The firing pin and cocking piece will slide forward and out of the bolt sleeve. The firing pin and cocking piece are permanently pinned together into a solitary unit. If the firing pin breaks, the component will have to be specially fitted. It is important that you send the serial number of that particular firearm along with your order for a new one. This part must be fitted by a gunsmith and is not sold to consumers.

Mating this firing pin/cocking piece unit to the individual rifle is a trial-and-fit proposition. There are no short cuts. If the cutout on the side of the cocking piece does not line up properly with the safety, the firearm is not safe. You may need to remove a little metal, reassemble and try the safety until the fit is perfect. The shoulder that the wing safety rests against must have the rear angle maintained. Smoothing it up is no problem as long as the angle is maintained.

To remove the safety, the roll pin that secures it is drifted through toward the center hole in the bolt sleeve. Swing the safety to the rear, lifting it up and out. The safety plunger and spring is under tension and will come out quickly. Moisture has a tendency to collect in these small holes that capture small springs and plungers so clean them with a good water displacing oil. A dab of your favorite gun grease will keep these little cavities free of rust after reassembly.

Check the wing safety for burrs or irregularities on the stem that rests against the cocking piece. If you choose to polish the stem for smoother operation, avoid removing an excessive amount of material because the stem must have enough surface to bear fully on the cocking piece.

To reassemble, insert the safety plunger spring and plunger, then the safety itself. The roll pin holding these parts in place can be inserted only in the direction from which you drifted it out. Check to see that it does not protrude into the center hole for the cocking piece. Insert the firing pin assembly into the bolt sleeve, replace the firing pin stop screw until it bottoms, then back it off 1/8 turn. A dab—don’t overdo it—of thread sealer will keep the screw from backing out under recoil. With the wing safety forward, slide the striker spring onto the firing pin. As you did before, place the rear of the cocking piece and back of the bolt sleeve down on a padded surface and, while pulling down on the spring, slide the firing pin washer on and install the “C” washer into the groove in the firing pin. It is important that the recess cut into the “C” washer be up or toward the front end of the firing pin. Relax the striker spring and this step is complete. To get the safety back into the intermediate position, repeat the steps described earlier.

Working The Bolt

We can now turn our attention to the bolt body, which contains the ejector and the extractor. You will find the ejector pin on the top of the left locking lug, in a hole that hole angles slightly down and toward the center of the bolt. Using a 1/16-inch punch, drive the ejector pin down and out. The ejector and ejector spring come out quickly so place your thumb over the face of the bolt body to contain them. Slide the two parts out the front, check their hole for accumulated crud, then clean it with water displacing oil. Pipe cleaners get into these little areas easily.

The extractor fits into an undercut slot in the right locking lug of the bolt body. A hole in the extractor face will accommodate a 1/16-inch punch. Once the punch is inserted, you can feel the tension on the extractor spring by pushing on it slightly. To remove the extractor, push down on the plunger while sliding the extractor itself toward the firing pin hole. Here again, watch for the extractor plunger and spring to pop out. Once the extractor has been removed, look for and smooth out any burrs that will interfere with smooth operation. A good hard Arkansas stone works well. Clean the hole and apply a dab of good gun grease.

Check the bolt face for irregularities and make sure the firing pin hole is nice and round without burrs. At the back of the bolt, just behind and below the bolt handle, there is a notch in which the cocking piece rests while in the forward condition. If you find burrs, some judicious work with a hard Arkansas stone might be in order.

The ejector and extractor reassemble in reverse order of the way they were disassembled. Insert the ejector spring and then the ejector, making sure the cutout in the ejector lines up with the retaining pin hole. Tap the pin into place and, using a 1/16-inch punch, set the pin to just below the left locking lug’s surface. Check to see that the pin does not protrude at the bottom. To install the extractor, insert the extractor spring then the extractor plunger. With a small screwdriver, push down on the plunger while sliding the extractor into place until the plunger slips into its hole in the extractor.

Insert the bolt sleeve assembly into the bolt body. Depress the bolt sleeve, and lock-turn the bolt sleeve assembly clockwise until the threads engage. Turn the bolt sleeve until the bolt sleeve lock fits into its notch at the rear of the bolt. The sear and sear spring can now be installed. The pin for these two items allows one-way insertion only. Once this step is complete, the trigger and bolt stop can be installed.

As I said, the Model 70 trigger system is quite simple. Three nuts on the threaded pin at the back control trigger-spring tension and overtravel. The nuts are thin, measuring only about 0.070 inches in thickness. To work with these, I had two 1/4-inch wrenches ground down to about 0.065 inch thick, but automotive ignition wrenches, if they’re handy, will work just as well. I never adjust Model 70 triggers below 3-1/2 pounds.