The Winchester Model 70 is a bolt action sporting rifle. It has an iconic place in American sporting culture and has been held in high regard by shooters since it was introduced in 1936, earning the moniker “The Rifleman’s Rifle”. The action has some design similarities to Mauser designs and it is a development of the earlier Winchester Model 54.
The Model 70 was originally manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company between 1936 and 1980. From the early 1980s until 2006, Winchester rifles were manufactured by U.S. Repeating Arms under an agreement with Olin Corporation, allowing USRA to use the Winchester name and logo. Model 70s were built in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1936 to 2006, when production ceased. In the fall of 2007, announcements were made that Model 70 production would resume, and, as of 2008, new Winchester Model 70 rifles are now being made by Fabrique Nationale in Columbia, SC.
The Winchester Model 70 series rifles are marketed as sniper rifles for military forces and law enforcement agencies under the Fabrique Nationale banner as the Special Police Rifle (SPR) and the Patrol Bolt Rifle (PBR).
The FN Special Police Rifle has the standard Winchester Model 70 rifle action, receiver and magazine system but the rifle is fitted with a heavier barrel and with the McMillan series tactical rifle stocks.
The FN Patrol Bolt Rifle has the standard features of the original Winchester Model 70 rifle but the rifle is designed for use by police officers in patrol cars with the rifle having a short and compact barrel so it would allow the rifle to be stored in a police car. The FN Patrol Bolt Rifle is also marketed with a compensator on the muzzle of the rifle’s barrel.
The United States Marine Corps purchased 373 Model 70 rifles in May, 1942. Although the Marine Corps officially used only the M1 Garand and the 1903 Springfield as sniper rifles during the Second World War, “many Winchester Model 70s showed up at training camps and in actual field use during the Pacific campaign.” These rifles had 24-inch sporter barrels chambered for .30-06 Springfield. These rifles had serial numbers in the 41000 to 50000 range and were fitted with leaf sights and checkered stocks with steel butt plates, one-inch sling swivels, and leather slings. It has been reported that some of these rifles were equipped with 8X Unertl telescopic sights for limited unofficial use as sniper weapons on Guadalcanal and during the Korean War. Many of the surviving rifles, after reconditioning with heavier Douglas barrels and new stocks between 1956 and 1963 at the Marine Corps match rebuild shop in Albany, Georgia, were fitted with 8X Unertl sights from M1903A1 sniper rifles. The reconditioned rifles were used in competitive shooting matches; and the United States Army purchased approximately 200 new Model 70 National Match Rifles with medium heavy barrels for match use between 1954 and 1957. Many of the reconditioned Marine Corps match rifles were used by Marine Corps snipers during the early years of the Vietnam war with M72 match ammunition loaded with 173-grain boat-tailed bullets. A smaller number of the Army’s Model 70 rifles also saw combat use by Army snipers; and some were equipped with silencers for covert operations in Southeast Asia. These Model 70 rifles never achieved the status of a standard military weapon; but were used until replaced by the Remington Model 700 series bolt-action rifles which became the basis for the M40 series sniper rifle
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