By Dan Kidder
In the world of factory rifles, a proven performer has been the mighty Winchester M70. With a manageable price tag, the M70 performs as well as much higher priced rifles, and has features that make it stand above the pack.
The most notable of the features that carries over from previous generations is Controlled Round Feeding, which uses a larger extractor to grip the round more firmly and control it while it feeds all the way into the chamber. It continues to hold onto the case after firing and controls the ejection based upon how the bolt is operated. Open it slowly and it presents the case into your hand to prevent it from being flung clear and protect it for reloading. Open it rapidly, and it launches the case clear for a speedy follow up, so you can make a second shot in the field if needed.
Another feature that is a hallmark from previous iterations of this pedigreed rifle is the manufacturing process. Starting with a solid billet of steel, the rifle is machined to perfection. While a more expensive option, it ensures precision craftsmanship and a more solid platform for the receiver. It also ensures smoother operation of mating surfaces.
The barrel on the M70 is made in the same factory as precision military rifles and machine guns, to exacting specifications. The button rifling provides out of the box sub MOA performance. In the Extreme Weather, the barrel is a fluted stainless steel to provide protection from the elements. Deep flutes in the barrel reduce weight and fine tune the harmonics to improve accuracy. The steep sporter contour of the barrel further reduces forward weight and shifts the balance back to the midline. Our test model in .308 comes with a 22-inch barrel with a 1;12 rate of twist, making it great for a wide range of factory or handloaded ammunition.
The Bell and Carlson stock is not injected like many synthetic stocks but uses a layering construction process to build it up to exacting specifications. The layering of materials such as fiberglass, aramid, graphite, epoxy, resins, and polyester reinforcement, are hand layered to provide a rock solid and steady support for the rifle. The action is mated to the stock at two points, rather than just one, to give it even more stability. The barrel is then fully free floated to prevent shifts in point of impact caused by the barrel interacting with the stock. When you feel this stock, it is solid, unlike the hollow feel of many synthetic rifle stocks. The cheek piece is hand sculpted to provide a great presentation with the ability to repeatedly weld the shooter’s cheek to the stock perfectly and consistently time after time. The gray striping on top of the black furniture gives it a stylish and modern appearance, but also acts to create more texture for a positive grip on the stock, even in damp or icy weather and with or without gloves. It is capped with a Pachmyer Decelerator recoil pad to reduce felt recoil. An oversized recoil lug is machined into the action to keep recoil manageable and reduce failure points that take the most abuse.
The action on this rifle is constructed of quality stainless steel and is smooth as freshly churned butter. An attractive machining pattern on the bolt breaks up the outline and gives a smooth finish that is attractive and functional, reducing friction on the bolt as it slides into and out of the action. The bolt handle is oversized and knurled to give you a great grip for fast racking on the fly. It features a very crisp and positive lock up with great feedback so you know by feel that your rifle is in battery and ready to fire without question. A three-position safety lever allows you to fire, lock the trigger and still be able to cycle the bolt, or lock both the trigger and bolt so you don’t worry about an errant branch taking your bolt out of battery as you hike into your hunting area. Everything from the barrel to the action to the magazine floorplate to the bolt are constructed of the same matte finished stainless steel to reduce glare that can blow your stalk, but still provide you with excellent protection from even the most extreme elements. Even the two swivel sling stud mounts are of the same material and finish.
Where this rifle really shines is the MOA Trigger. The three-lever design of this trigger provides consistent pressure with zero takeup, creep, or overtravel, making it one of the crispest and consistent triggers on the market. It comes from the factory set at right around 3.75 pounds but is user-adjustable from 3-5 pounds.
The M70 Extreme Weather comes in 14 different caliber configurations for varmint control to big game hunting. At a range between 6 pounds 12 ounces all the way to 7 pounds 4 ounces, it is still light enough to maintain nimbleness on the stalk and carry it for miles into the backcountry.
Holding this rifle in your hands, you can feel the craftsmanship that is present throughout and the design that sets it apart from other rifles in the price range. If you are hunting in places with extreme environmental conditions, this rifle will perform beyond your expectations and take all of the abuse you can put it through.