Winchester Model 70

Weather the storm

New Model 70 will handle anything, says Chris Redlich

Fewer sporting rifles attract as much mention as the Winchester Model 70 which, despite its various changes through the decades, has enjoyed enormous popularity. I’ve always been attracted to the iconic Model 70 and after owning a ‘Featherweight’ in 6.5mm, can speak from experience. So when the chance arose to review an Extreme Weather in .308 Win I couldn’t refuse.

What is the Extreme Weather?

The Model 70 Extreme Weather is Winchester’s answer to its competitors’ mountain rifle offerings, a niche market driven by those who push the limits in challenging environments. Known for high quality manufacturing, Winchester have engaged the services of Bell & Carlson to equip the rifle with a synthetic stock.

So what’s all the hype around synthetic stocks? The simple answer is they’re lightweight and durable. I love the look of a classic walnut stock but when the terrain soars above sea level and clouds set in, that’s when you start to appreciate practicality over looks. In keeping with tradition though, Winchester has done a superb job in maintaining that classic Model 70 profile in a synthetic stock.

Made from a synthetic composite to provide a rock-solid mounting platform, the Bell & Carlson stock is free-floating from the barrel and, in the absence of checkering, the surface has a spider-web textured grey and matte black base to enhance grip in adverse weather. A raised cheekpiece enables solid cheek weld for sighting and the one-inch thick Pachmayr decelerator pad helps train felt recoil from heavy-kicking cartridges such as .300 Win Mag. No mountain hunter would venture into the wilderness without the aid of a sling, so rounding out the stock’s inclusions are securely fastened standard front and rear stainless sling swivels.

Over time I’ve become familiar with many styles of rifle actions and each have their advantages and drawbacks. The new Model 70s have stuck with the tried and tested pre-’64 controlled round-feed version, which has its roots planted firmly in the original Mauser 98 design. Mauser actions weren’t always known for smooth cycling compared to push-feeds, though the added security of a large full-length claw gripping one quarter of the case rim gives peace of mind for reliable case extraction. There are two North American-owned gunmakers who’ve refined the Mauser action beautifully and Winchester is one of them.

The stainless steel bolt action of the Extreme Weather cycles as smooth as you like and each cartridge picks up and chambers without fault, thanks to gentle sloping of the feed ramp and coned breach. Two large locking lugs ensure solid chambering and although the Model 70 has a 90-degree bolt throw, it won’t interfere with a sensible scope unless you foolishly mount a large one with a ridiculously oversized ocular bell on low rings.

The three-position wing-style safety operates easily by the tip of the thumb, enabling bolt and firing pin lock (rearwards) and firing pin lock only in the middle position for safe bolt cycling. Initially critical of my own Model 70 trigger, this one seems to be on the money. Although not the lightest of adjustable triggers, with permission from Winchester Australia I lowered the test rifle to the absolute minimum of (measured) 3lbs which felt crisp and broke sharply with no noticeable creep. Following the supplied instructions, trigger adjustment was simple and all it took was a few outward turns of the pressure screw with an Allen key.

Upon case retrieval the swept back bolt handle promotes a positive rearwards action. Empty cases are ejected well clear of the port thanks to the large blade ejector and, hiding under the claw body, are two gas ejection ports to dispel any gases in the event of a primer or case rupture. Rounding out the bolt’s appeal and keeping with tradition once more is the attractive bolt body jewelling and Model 70 trademark classic knurled bolt knob that’s easy to grip regardless of conditions.

The stainless steel receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts and its specifications have conveniently remained unchanged for decades. If you’ve some old Model 70 mounts lying around, chances are you won’t be reaching into your pocket to fork out for new ones. I attached my own Weaver-style bases in preparation for scope-mounting later.

Using the magnet test I discovered the hinge floor plate is stainless steel, while the trigger guard and magazine bottom are cast alloy. The magazine well for .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor chamberings holds five rounds and three for Magnum cartridges. Importantly, the floorplate (or magazine trapdoor) pops open cleanly by pressing the release button forward of the trigger guard, ensuring fumble-free and safe extraction of unfired cartridges. I was impressed by the precise machining and fit of all metallic surfaces, testament to the quality of Portuguese manufacture.

As with all good rifles the barrel is the business end and “if you ain’t got that right, it won’t matter how good the action is”. The Extreme Weather in .308 Win has a slim 55cm (22”) button-rifled stainless steel barrel with 1-in-12 twist. The recessed crown measures a skinny 16mm and tapers gently to the receiver, while parallel barrel fluting adds to the overall flow of stainless steel work, mating beautifully to the synthetic stock. After familiarising myself with the technical side it was time for field testing.

Range and field testing

Not surprisingly Winchester Australia preferred I use their supplied optic for testing. I received a new Meopta Optika 5 2-10×42 scope based on a one-inch tube and though initially a little critical of its bulk, it proved a good choice and once mounted was obstruction-free in the low rings (for a comprehensive review see the May 2023 Australian Shooter). Scoped and loaded the complete rifle and optics package weighed just under 4kg and looked the real deal.

I received a swag of Winchester factory ammunition including 150-grain Ballistic Silver Tips, 168-grain Berger Match and a box of time-proven 150-grain Power Points. As with most families though, there’s usually a problem child and on my first and second range test the rifle didn’t like what I was feeding it. Winchester guarantee 1MOA accuracy, yet all groups using the supplied ammo hovered around 2MOA.

After years of reloading and range testing various types of ammo I’ve become quite fussy on accuracy for good reason, as when it comes to a one-shot kill it’s important to me a rifle shoots well. I’ve always felt if a gun doesn’t perform well on paper it won’t improve out hunting and I believe this rifle has potential for better accuracy with a little more effort.

Attention to detail got the better of me so I bought some .308 Win reloading dies and, knowing the review rifle was capable of more than just good looks, I began testing. Firstly I believe the Extreme Weather’s lightweight barrel in .308 Win and slow twist-rate of 1-in-12 isn’t suitable for 180-grain bullets and marginal for stabilising 150-grains accurately, being better suited to lighter bullet weights of 125-140 grains. There isn’t a huge selection of .308 bullets in that range but they’re out there and I’d rather a rifle shoot lighter bullets well than heavier ones poorly.

My hard work paid off as the new handloads were like giving candy to a spoilt brat and the ‘problem child’ was now content with a diet of 130-grain bullets. In fact my first trial load landed three shots into a ridiculously tight group of .172 MOA. This proved my point of correct barrel to bullet-weight pairing and the evidence I’d achieved on paper gave me enough confidence to load a batch of handloads for hunting.

Rifle slung and into the hills I went. It had been months since my last hunting trip (over in New Zealand) but as I scaled the ‘big ones’, the view from the top of my south-east Queensland deer property was rewarding. Although deer had vacated the area and appeared to have relocated to the flats for greener pastures, my field testing of the Extreme Weather proved the rifle has earned its place in the mountain hunting category.

There’s obviously not much Australian game the .308 Win cartridge can’t handle and, underlining the Extreme Weather’s ability, my son took a large wild boar easily with the 130-grain handloads on a hunt together. The lightweight, slim-line design enabled Carl to confidently take the pig at full pace as it attempted to flee the paddock.


Despite those ammo challenges I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Model 70 Extreme Weather. With the right bullet-to-barrel combination I’m certain it’ll please any mountain hunter looking for a modernised version of what is a classic rifleman’s rifle. Costing around $2595 at time of writing, that’s a competitive price for a quality firearm with decades of heritage. More at

All News