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 barrel has a ramp front-sight base. Option of 24-inch or 20-inch lengths, except in caliber .220 Swift, which is standard only in 26 inch.
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 barrel is floating type. No front band, forearm screw or escutcheon. National Match rifles come in 24-inch length; Target model (medium heavy) in 24-inch only, with .220 Swift, 26-inch only; Bull gun, 28-inch only; standard in .30 Government ’06. The National Match rifle has Lyman 17A front and 48WJS rear, Bull gun same as National Match. No ramp sight-base on 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.
Read John Barsness's results when he shoots 70 years of Model 70s.