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Fake "rare" pre-64 model 70s
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February 3, 2024 - 4:26 am
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I thought this topic would be of interest to the many collectors and enthusiasts who visit these forums.

Fake “rare” model 70s is not a new topic.  It has been written about here before, so I don’t expect I will be shocking anyone with this post.  However, we recently purchased a large collection of pre-64 model 70s out of Lousanna (jokingly referred to within our company as “The Louisianna Purchase”) and among the collection were a number of fake rare rifles.  The post below is from our social media accounts, but it explains the situation and serves as a reminder that none of us can be too careful when purchasing collectible rifles.

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What’s the difference between a rare and collectible rifle, a well-made custom, and a fraudulent fake? The truth is the lines between them can be alarmingly thin.

Among the 33 rifles we recently purchased out of a Louisiana collection, 5 were fake special-order rifles. Fortunately, we had traveled to Lafayette to inspect the rifles in person and knew what we were buying. The seller had no idea these rifles were not genuine.  He inherited the collection and from a collector who did most of his collecting in the 1980s, so the seller was an innocent bystander who fell victim to a fraud perpetrated on his friend decades earlier. Pair that situation up with an unsuspecting buyer, or a remote buyer who is not inspecting the rifles in person, and you have a recipe for bitter disappointment… or even a lawsuit.

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But it raises an interesting and ethical question about what to do with rifles like these. They are outstanding rifles and in many ways the skills required to create a fake factory rifle of this quality are greater than what it takes to create your average custom rifle. This is because the builder must precisely match the factory metal prep, markings, and all finishes, or the ruse becomes very easy to detect. The builder or builders who created these fakes did a near-perfect job. If it were not for a few minute discrepancies in the barrel roll stamps, we may have struggled to detect all 5 of these as fakes.

In these side-by-side images, the fake is on top and the authentic Winchester-built rifle is on the bottom. What is readily apparent in these closeup images is surprisingly difficult to detect with the naked eye.

 

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More than a few have suggested the only path for a rifle like this is to part it out and destroy the fake “rare” barrels. We see it differently.
 
When Carroll Shelby produced 55 counterfeit Cobras using a block of 100 serial numbers which went unused by AC, no Cobra enthusiast ever suggested the cars be destroyed. In reality, those cars fantastic sports cars in their own right and also had a unique intrigue as a glimpse into the underworld of collectible sports cars. We think these rifles hold that same interest for many fans of the model 70. Top that off with the fact they will sell for less than half what they would if they were genuine Winchester special order rifles, making them uniquely affordable by comparison to the real thing.

We are going to permanently document these serial numbers as fakes on our website and will make them available as well-made “tribute“ rifles. They will make great shooters, great wall-hangers, and great conversation pieces. And best of all, they will never fool an unsuspecting collector again.

I know by posting this here I’m likely to put a burr under someone’s saddle who feels we should not put these rifles back into circulation, but hopefully by drawing attention to the phenomenon of fake “rare” rifles and by showing some of the ways they can be detected, this post will do some good.

Be careful out there!

Justin

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February 3, 2024 - 4:46 am
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I know by posting this here I’m likely to put a burr under someone’s saddle who feels we should not put these rifles back into circulation…pre64win said

Would be absurd NOT to do so!  Except listing the serial on any website isn’t sufficient; how would anyone, in the future, know to look there, that is, IF the site remains available to be searched?  Guns should be permanently marked under the brl “not factory original,” or words to that effect. 

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February 3, 2024 - 6:40 am
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clarence said
Would be absurd NOT to do so!  Except listing the serial on any website isn’t sufficient; how would anyone, in the future, know to look there, that is, IF the site remains available to be searched?  Guns should be permanently marked under the brl “not factory original,” or words to that effect. 

Thanks Clarence.  Yes, we had already discussed this with Lou and decided we would mark the bottom of the barrels.  The main reason for doing this is to prevent the barrel from being pulled form the action and put on a different serial number receiver – thus getting around the protection of linking the “fakeness” to a serial number.  But the reason marking the barrel is far from fool-proof (pun intended) is because there are hoards of casual collectors out there who buy high-dollar rifles and never pull them from the stock.  Being in the business of buying and selling collectible rifles, I see this firsthand all the time.  So in addition to marking barrels, the serial numbers will appear “permanently” on our website, explaining what the rifle is.  While still not fool proof, it’s one way a person could learn the truth about a rifle if they can be bothered to do something as simple as a google search.

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February 3, 2024 - 2:10 pm
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More information on the above would be helpful.  Are all five guns sightless Standard  rifles? Interestingly all the sightless Standard Models that I have seen were later guns with plastic butt plates.  I have seen Feather wieghts with both aluminum, and plastic buttplates that were sightless. 

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February 3, 2024 - 3:05 pm
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  Thank you for posting the pictures of the barrel markings. That is the hardest thing to fake and the easiest way to spot a fake once you have a detailed picture.

  Many times these things are kept to ones self, by sharing your find we all benefit.

                                                                        T/R 

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February 3, 2024 - 3:32 pm
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Justin –

Fascinating post.  I very much appreciate your taking the time to compose this post.  I also appreciate that you are primarily processing this through an ethical lens.  Unfortunately, it is the rare dealer who would take the high road in a situation like this.  Many dealers would tout them a rare special order pieces.  Others would point out that as there is no factory documentation available, the buyer should study the photos closely and ask any questions they may have before buying.  Whether a rifle has been faked or not is a matter of opinion.  I was in a situation once where I pronounced a rifle to be faked.  I was challenged – “who are you to be such an expert that your opinion should be the final say?”  My response was that a previous owner had admitted to having the rifle faked.  

I agree the rifles should not be destroyed or parted out. As these rifles will not be sold for what they would bring if they were original, I can imagine predatory buyers will be sizing them up for how they might pull off selling them as original (e.g. removing added warning markings under the barrel).  Our world is what is and there’s a lot of underhandedness that goes on every day.

I would not be interested in any of these rifle but there have been faked Model 70’s that I would have been interested in purchasing.  My thing is if I’m buying a faked rifle, I want it to be priced accordingly – as you plan to price these.  The faked rifles I have seen that I’ve been interested in have been in .300 Savage, .35 Remington and special order chamberings – such as rimmed cartridges.  I wouldn’t be buying them as collector items.  I am primarily a collector, but not every rifle I own has to be a collector item.  I will never own a, “real” M70 in the chamberings I mentioned.  And if I did, would I fully trust that it was real?  And then, would it be just a safe queen?  With a known faked rifle, you don’t have to worry whether it’s real, and you don’t have to worry about taking it out and using it.  The challenge I have found is that rarely can you purchase a faked rifle at a non-faked rifle price. I have found that just because I, or other collector’s, are not willing to pay the price, usually the seller finds someone who will. 

Justin – it’s just one opinion but I applaud the way you are handling this and the fair opportunity it provides for buyers to pick up rifles that while not perfect, definitely have merit and value. 

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February 3, 2024 - 3:51 pm
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I went to your web sight, and saw the rifles in question.  Thank you for the clear details.

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February 3, 2024 - 4:17 pm
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THANK YOU for the education and enlightenment!

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February 3, 2024 - 4:20 pm
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Bo Rich said
More information on the above would be helpful.  Are all five guns sightless Standard  rifles? Interestingly all the sightless Standard Models that I have seen were later guns with plastic butt plates.  I have seen Feather wieghts with both aluminum, and plastic buttplates that were sightless. 

  

4 of the 5 rifles were “sightless” standard rifles, which means the barrels were the portion of the rifle that was faked.  The 5th is also a standard rifle, but with sights.  What makes it “rare” is the fact it was chambered in .308 Win.  The .308 Win chambering was only ever cataloged in the Featherweight rifle during the pre-64 years, so a standard .308 – even with sights – is a special order rifle.  In this case, it also has a faked barrel.

You are correct that genuine sightless rifles became more common the late you go into the model 70 production years.  This is because of the rising popularity and reliability of scopes.  In response, Winchester began offering a special order option of “sight delete” which showed up in their catalog sometime in the mid-1950s (Lou can tell us the exact year). This helps to explain the prevalence of plastic buttplates on sightless rifles.  It’s also one of the first things that raised our attention to the fact some of the sightless rifles in this collection might be fakes.  Specifically, one of the rifles is a 1947 serial number.  Pretty early for someone to be converting a rifle over entirely to an unreliable optical sight.

While anyone could order a rifle from Winchester without sights, I am only aware of Gopher Supply Company ordering rifles without sights in bulk quantities and selling them as a “gopher special”.  Beyond those sold by Gopher Supply Co, it is my gut feeling genuine sightless pre-64 model 70s are pretty scarce.  We’ve had a handful over the years and they always get a lot of attention.  No doubt, this is why someone decided they would be a good rifle to fake.

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February 3, 2024 - 4:24 pm
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steve004 said
Justin – it’s just one opinion but I applaud the way you are handling this and the fair opportunity it provides for buyers to pick up rifles that while not perfect, definitely have merit and value. 

  

Thanks for the kind and well-thought through response, Steve.  I appreciate it. 

Although it is not the case with this batch of rifles, we have at times purchased faked rare rifles and not realized it until they were in our shop.  That is where being ethical comes with a cost attached.  Our view is it is a small price to pay for having a great reputation among our buyers.  We’re not perfect, but we try to be! 

Thanks again.

-Jusitn

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February 3, 2024 - 4:25 pm
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Were sightless 70s priced lower than standard ones?  On earlier rifles, an extra charge was assessed for omitting the rear sight slot, & no credit was given for value of rear sight.

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February 3, 2024 - 4:34 pm
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I would not be interested in any of these rifle but there have been faked Model 70’s that I would have been interested in purchasing.steve004 said  

My choice in 70 fakes would be one chambered in .22 LR.  Wasn’t there an experimental model made up that way? 

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February 3, 2024 - 4:40 pm
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Justin –

You raised another excellent point about these rifles (and some of the other faked rifles I have seen).  That is, a great deal of craftsmanship goes into these rifles.  A parallel: for many decades, the pre-64 Model 70 action has been the basis for many fine (and expensive) custom rifles. I think the analogous comparison to tribute cars is appropriate.

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February 4, 2024 - 3:51 am
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Hi Justin-

I appreciate your openness in bringing this dirty little aspect of M70 collecting into the light….  ?  It does take an amount of courage (or public spiritedness)…

So many of the “rare” M70s offered for sale these days are (shall we say) “questionable” and I see many of them b/c of the daily survey work. I have generally been reluctant to comment on individual rifles PUBLICLY before sale or AFTER they have been purchased, but have often had the opportunity to offer my opinion (and in some cases documentation) when PRIVATELY asked (by PM) BEFORE the purchase…

As you (of all people) know, there are many ways to fake a “rare” M70, depending on the fake being perpetrated. For example, I think (???) the “best” way to fake a standard barrel in 308 WIN or 358 WIN is to start with an original 243 WIN standard barrel and bore it out.  Then the only thing the faker has to to deal with is the caliber stamp part of the Style 3C roll mark.  The rest of the roll mark is good, the proofs would match, etc.  I’ve seen that done (attempted) a few times and it’s not necessarily obvious…  Other rare/uncatalogued chamberings generally require newly manufactured barrels (and sometimes faked internal parts), and are harder to pull off and often easier to see…  If your money matters then Caveat Emptor should be the rule…  Otherwise HAVE FUN!!! ?

Maybe I should make the effort to cobble together some images of fake M70 barrel markings (like you did) and post them here… Some are so bad that they only make you want to cringe, but some are pretty good… It would be a little bit of work to put this together, since it could easily turn into a substantial essay… Sad we even need to discuss this issue, but these guns are getting awful pricey… Frown

Best,

Lou

BTW… You didn’t mention that the collection you acquired recently had some VERY nice (and legit) rifles.  The owner may not have known that the guns in question had problems, but he had some NICE stuff…  Isn’t that true of all collections???  

WACA 9519; Studying Pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters

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February 4, 2024 - 4:17 am
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Hi Clarence-

As of this writing I am aware of only (2) Model 70s in 22 LR.  Both are legit R&D pieces (with documentation).  But you’d have to ask seewin for details… Laugh  I’m not counting the M70 single shot “Bolt Action A/B/C” ammo test rifles, of course.  Seems at least one M70 ammo test rifle was set up for rimfire cartridge testing, although as I understand it most rimfire ammo testing was done with actions based on the M52.

Cheers,

Lou

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February 4, 2024 - 4:48 pm
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clarence said
Were sightless 70s priced lower than standard ones?  On earlier rifles, an extra charge was assessed for omitting the rear sight slot, & no credit was given for value of rear sight.

  

Hi Clarence-

In response to your perhaps tongue-in-cheek query, look at the retail prices on this page from the 1962 Gopher Shooter’s Catalog (No. 15).  The 1962-63 Gopher catalogs offered a sightless “slick barrel” Standard Westerner in addition to the Sightless Featherweights that had been available since 1959.

Catalog-No-15-1962-.jpgImage Enlarger

The “Gopher Special” Featherweights were priced the same ($139.00) as the Standard Featherweights on the page below.  The “Gopher Westerner” was priced at 161.05 compared to the Standard Westerner’s price of $154.50.  I do not know what wholesale price Gopher Shooters Supply paid Winchester.  

Another minor point was that the pre-war (actually 1941-1947) Winchester catalogs DID contain Catalog Symbols for 30 GOV’T’06 Standard rifles (G7010C) and Target Models (G7040C) without sights.  However these were NOT “slick barrel” guns made w/o a front ramp or barrel dovetail, Winchester simply omitted the sights and installed dovetail blanks where the sights would go.  The only “special handling” involved in making them was that the Marksman stock for G7040C omitted the stock cut-out for the Lyman 48WH recevier sight that was otherwise standard.  On these, the 1941 retail price for G7010C  was $62.80 compared to G7004C (30 GOV’T’06 standard rifle with 22G sight) which was $64.95.  So the price was LOWER when sights were omitted.  Similarly, the price of G7040C ($92.05) was lower than G7044C (109.25).  The greater price differential on the Target Model was due to the cost-saving realized by omitting the pricey Lyman receiver sight.

How’s that for trivia!!! Laugh

Lou

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February 4, 2024 - 4:51 pm
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Lou, 

Reading what you, Clarence, Steve, and Justin are discussing on this thread makes me feel like an earthworm at an elephant convention: awed and impressed. I will never attend a collector show without this forum pre-loaded on my cell phone. Or just take my wife along for maximum protection…

- Bill 

 

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February 4, 2024 - 5:43 pm
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Louis Luttrell said
Hi Clarence-

As of this writing I am aware of only (2) Model 70s in 22 LR.  Both are legit R&D pieces (with documentation).  But you’d have to ask seewin for details… Laugh  I’m not counting the M70 single shot “Bolt Action A/B/C” ammo test rifles, of course.  Seems at least one M70 ammo test rifle was set up for rimfire cartridge testing, although as I understand it most rimfire ammo testing was done with actions based on the M52.

Cheers,

Lou

  

Lou,

Most of the actual rim fire cartridge testing was done using a Single Shot rifle (high-wall).

Bert

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February 5, 2024 - 9:43 pm
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Just following up on Justin’s query about when Winchester cataloged “sightless” M70s and Bo’s observations (which agree with mine)… Laugh

While I’m sure that “sightless” M70s had been made on special order for a while (mid to late 1950’s?), Winchester does not appear to have included it as a cataloged “extra” prior to 1960.  The 1960 catalog specifically mentions “barrels without sight, sight slot or ramp” for the Model 70 AND Model 88. I cannot find this in the 1959 (or earlier) catalogs.  Interesting that both the Model 70 and Model 88 are mentioned… Has anyone seen (or own) a factory sightless Model 88?

*** I tried attaching an image from the 1960 catalog but the system isn’t accepting images from me today, regardless of file type/size… 

As for the “Gopher Specials”… The Gopher Shooters Supply catalog first offered “Something Special” Featherweights in the 1959 catalog.  They were initially available in 243 WIN, 270 WIN and 30-06 SPRG only (1959-1961 catalogs).  I’m presuming here, but if they had them in stock in 1959, the first rifles made for Gopher must have been made circa 1958 (some of their print/magazine ads include the phrase “after waiting over a year”)… I am not sure whether this is early enough that any of the true Gopher FWTs would have had aluminum (as opposed to plastic) butt plates, but a quick look at the survey suggests that plastic butt plates didn’t become dominant until 1959, so it’s possible…

However, the 1962 and 1963 Gopher catalogs included additional offerings, indicating (to me) that there was (at least) one more batch of sightless rifles made for them.  In addition to the aforementioned sightless Featherweights, by 1962 Gopher could provide you with a sightless FWT in 308 WIN and a sightless standard Westerner (26″ barrel).  Catalog pic shown in post above…  I imagine that these later rifles (made in 1961 or thereafter) would all have plastic butt plates and (probably) narrow panel “machine” checkering.  In short, Roger Rule got the first part of the Gopher story right, but wasn’t aware of the second…

I think all this agrees with what Bo said… A genuine sightless M70 made after 1960 could EITHER be a “Gopher Special” or a rifle ordered directly from the factory.  No way to know (without a sales receipt) how the rifle came to be.  I do not know the actual number of sightless M70s sold by Gopher Shooter’s Supply and am not aware there are any records (either Winchester’s or Gopher’s) to answer that question.  I’ve read (somewhere) that the number of Gopher Specials sold was on the order of (300) rifles… Anyone have better data?  

Best,

Lou

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February 6, 2024 - 2:52 pm
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Lou, l have also never seen A sightless Model 88 in all my years of collecting them.  In the special order section of the Rule book on page 252 you will see apicture of a 1954 .270 sightless featherwieght with aluminum butt which would be correct for that gun.  On page 253 there is a picture of eight sightless rifles.  All appear to have plastic butt plates.  The 375 has a low comb stock which was last available in 1958.  The 338 Has the later webbed style recoil pad, as well as the 300 Win Mag, as it should. Above these pictures is a sightless 243 made in late 1957.  Not sure about he butt plate, most likely steel.  The 243 has a jewled action that may have been done after it left the factory.  So, I would think that early sightless Model 70’s would start around 1954 with the majority made in the later years.  

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