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Rifles: Taking It Personally

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Rifles: Taking It Personally

The pre-64 Model 70 made its reputation between its introduction in 1936 and probably the mid-1950s, with time out for World War II.
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Granted that shooters are an odd lot (although no more weird than birders, who are really odd, or golfers, who are pretty much beyond description) but sometimes they really baffle me. A while back I wrote that through much of the 1950s, and into the early 1960s, Winchester turned out a lot of really crummy Model 70 rifles. As a result I got an e-mail from a pre-64 Model 70 enthusiast who was beyond livid. How dare I say that the Rifleman’s Rifle was ever less than perfect? Who the hell did I think I was? It was as if I had just whacked his old mom in the spleen with a grub hoe handle.

My opinion was based on a number of facts: First, quality varies in product lines, as witness Cadillac, which for decades was a synonym for quality, but which, in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, turned out truly rotten automobiles at high prices. Now, the company seems to have found its way again.

So it was with Winchester. All their pre-64 designs, including the Model 70, were complex, and required considerable effort on the part of the people who made them if they were to be any good. However, the Winchester machinery was worn out and the labor situation in New Haven was best described as poisonous. I got this not from hearsay, but from a shop foreman who was there and from several people in Winchester management.

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