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54 and 70 target type rifles
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March 24, 2022 - 5:27 am
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I was wondering about the members’ knowledge about the production numbers of these rifles of the various types:  Sniper, National Match, Target, and Bull.  For example, I’ve read that about 1600 National Match rifles were made.  Yet as a potential complication in the counting, at some point those began to be called “Light Target Rifles”.  Was that name change accounted for in the count of National Match guns?  I also understand that many or most 20th century Winchester records have been lost, so how were these production numbers established by the authors or researchers?  I personally don’t have a lot of books, just the Madis one.  

I’ve always thought the Winchester 54/70 target models are really interesting but kind of ruled out getting one due to perceived cost.  Yet when I started looking into them I realized they seem “reasonably” priced considering their scarcity compared to rare caliber hunting 54/70 models.  I would welcome any thoughts and comments about these Target guns from the group. Can you share pictures of your target type guns on this post?

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March 24, 2022 - 1:37 pm
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Two books come to mind David Bichrests Model 54 book ad is in Winchester Collector magazine,and Roger Rules Riflemans Rifle book.Both have good information and will provide you a good start ,books are cheap compared to the guns.Finding what you want will be the challenge l believe you will find model 70 examples more readily than model 54 examples   . Good luck on your search  Tom

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March 25, 2022 - 4:23 am
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Thanks, Tom!

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March 25, 2022 - 4:39 am
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Do any members have any pictures of competition  guns they can post?  I sure would like to see them.  Or, any informed pertinent comments about total production questions I had in the original post would still be welcome!

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March 25, 2022 - 5:15 am
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Vince
Southern Oregon
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Fraternal Order of Eagles

 “There is but one answer to be made to the dynamite bomb and that can best be made by the Winchester rifle.”

Teddy Roosevelt 

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March 25, 2022 - 6:31 am
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Congrats on a first, scientific/’stat’ approach beginning!  Sounds like you’ve done some significant homework. IN your quest you do have a job cut out for yourself.  I’d suggest several immediate actions. 1. As reflected above, buy Roger’s  & David’s respective books for sure.  Read Roger’s Model 70 info for perspective on all the nuances, some of which born in the Model 54 genre!  In any case, make personal contact and seek David’s help/suggestions as you buy his book which he traditionally markets directly. If viable, please consider returnng here with praise and a plug for his book as ethically righteous. 2. Ply the Internet for info/sales/leads.  2. Try Winchester collector gathering place Websites beginning here with WTB ads.  Purchase or not, such owners/collectors with ‘connects’ and valuable insights!  3. “Work the system” unabashedly as learning tool!” 🙂 

Th proposition of initial “rarity” even factory production numbers likely pale to actual small percentage as yet “original”.  I understand your intellectual focus on numbers, but wonder if they’re directly relevant beyond construing ‘unhappy chances’!  More relevant, between decades of tech improvements and almost a century of Bubba hovering, the presumption of “non-originality” factually as considerably more likely than not. Like “buy the gun, not the story”.  Presume non-originality until reasonably convinced ‘otherwise’.

I’d be loathe to buy any such rifle sight unseen unless within auspices of a collector who ‘should know and be able to provide reasonable originality assurance’. Such or to frankly establish whatever factual degree as “not original” & your informed purchase acquiescence. Purchase price the often critical deciding factor of “risk acceptance” too. 

Pardon if all this seems ‘condescending’. but perhaps better advice offered in good faith than not.  My few ‘pedestrian’ M 54 rifles largely undistinguished but a student of the genre and particularly conjuring such in comparison with competitor Remington’s Model 30. A rifle which I also admire. 

Best of luck!

Just my take & hope you keep us informed concerning “the rest of the story!” 🙂 
John

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March 25, 2022 - 7:37 pm
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Hi Jeff-

The accuracy of M70 production numbers is always a question.  There are a few documents in the McCracken Library (CFM) that give “yearly net orders received” or “sales” for short periods of time, but these are reports prepared for Winchester execs and contain summative data, for example orders by caliber but not style, etc.  The most reliable figures are those in Roger Rule’s book, but here again the source documents have gone missing.  Roger told me that when researching the book he engaged Harry Chamberlain, a Winchester employee, to find factory documents for him.  Roger used Harry’s dossier to compile the numbers for the book, and it would appear that numbers exist(ed) by style/chambering from at least the mid-1950s.  Unfortunately, when finished, Roger returned the files to Harry and did not keep copies.  If Harry’s papers ended up in Cody they haven’t been cataloged on-line yet… Frown

All that said, Roger’s (Harry’s) totals for the Target styles were: National Match (1971); Target Model (14,644); Bull Gun (2706).  For comparison, the number given for Super Grades is 15881 and for Carbines (7197).  So it’s fair to say that the Target styles are no more common that the highly desired Super Grades and Carbines, yet they don’t seem to attract the interest of the collecting community.  Personally, I don’t understand why… Confused

While the “demand” may be less, collecting these rifles is hard… For one thing, target rifles tend to get shot a lot more than hunting rifles (though maybe not carried as much).  For another, target shooters are often “tinkerers” when it comes to getting their rifles to be as accurate as possible, so non-factory modifications, e.g. bedding, free-floating, etc., are common.  The M54 Target model was only cataloged for the last couple years they were made, and finding any unaltered M54 is a challenge.  In the M70s some chamberings, e.g. 30-06, 243 WIN and even 220 SWIFT, are relatively easy to locate and if you know what “original” is then you can do OK.  The second tier of Target rifle rarity is probably 257 ROBERTS and 270 WCF.  They turn up now and then.  The real rare ones are 22 HORNET, 250-3000 SAV, 7 M/M, 300 MAGNUM, and 35 REM.  (I’m talking about the 300 MAGNUM Target rifle with 26″ medium heavy barrel, not the Bull Gun).    

Speaking of rare, here are a couple photos:

M70-3339-1-copy-1.jpgImage Enlarger3789-01-copy-1.jpgImage Enlarger

These are what Rule called “1st variation target rifles”.  They were made using medium heavy straight taper barrel blanks intended for the M54 Target rifle that have integral front sight ramps.  S/N 3339 is a 257 ROBERTS and S/N 3789 is a 30 GOV’T’06.  Rule claimed “less than forty” of these ramped target rifles were known.  While I’m sure the actual number made is considerably higher, they are still very hard to find.

Best,

Lou

WACA 9519; Studying Pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters

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March 25, 2022 - 10:42 pm
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Lou – thank you for the information.  Fascinating and informative.  With so much fakery out there, I can’t imagine collecting M70’s.  

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April 3, 2022 - 11:42 pm
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TXGunNut said
 Some collectors see little value in books…

Like the dopes on GB who pay premium prices for faked or messed-with guns.  With respect to 70s, however, if one merely avoids rare calibers & configurations, there’s little to fear from fraudsters; nobody’s faking Standard 70s in the greatest all-around caliber of all, .30-06, & that’s probably true of .270 as well.  Gets a little more complicated if you’re looking for a Super Grade, which might have a non-original stock & floor-plate, but if those parts are original, what’s the diff, since factory records can’t be used to expose the switch.

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April 4, 2022 - 1:56 am
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If possible look through the 1925- 1936 nra magazines and see what was offered after market for the model 54 . It is also interesting to read the articles on modifying rifles through this period .This will give you a real appreciation of what was occurring . After WW2 a lot of modifications occurred with scopes becoming popular. Both Lloyd Tomlinson and Wayne Miller have both provided great articles to WRA collectors magazine. Original guns are out there and some have lived a life and are not closet queens. These guns were made during the depression and some lived a hard life but are still going strong. Period modification like a period recoil pad or non factory sights are indicators of a rifleman ,and are not a deal breaker for me . Enjoy your quest.

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April 4, 2022 - 2:36 am
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Tom Sterr said  Period modification like a period recoil pad or non factory sights are indicators of a rifleman ,and are not a deal breaker for me .

Smartest thing any rifleman worthy of the name could do was scrap the primitive open sights, which it was a mistake, almost an insult, to install on the “Rifleman’s Rifle” in the first place.  Recoil pads, on the other hand, except the factory pads on magnums, make me turn my face in disgust, esp. because the 70 plate was such an elegant piece of metal work, & because for bench testing, lace-on pads (not to mention some make-shift as easily improvised as a folded towel) were available; for me, a pad is a deal-crusher, though thankfully they aren’t common. 

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