New Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Deluxe Rifle in .270 Win.
I had gotten that itch, you know the one comes in the back of your mind when a man has too much time to think about buying things, for a nostalgic, lightweight, take anywhere rifle in a multi-purpose caliber. Being an avid reader and owning several subscriptions to current outdoor publications, including Guns and Shooting Online, I kept reading references to Jack O’Connor and the work he did in the outdoor industry and it made me curious. I am only twenty-three years old, so Jack is way before my time.
After much research and a lot of reading, it became quite clear Jack O'Connor had a fondness for the Pre-64 Model 70 Featherweight in .270 Winchester, albeit with a high-grade walnut stock. Having always been a fan of Winchesters (and never owning one, or a .270!), especially the post 1992 classic actions, I decided to put together my own "Jack O’Conner Special."
I had heard the rumors of Winchester reintroducing the Model 70 in late 2008 and I had a 2008 Winchester catalogue, but a call to every gun shop in a 300 mile radius of my small Arkansas home town only produced push feed Winchesters of the post 64’ era. A quick look online at gunbroker.com and I had quite a selection from which to choose.
I found a new-in-the-box 2008 Model 70 Featherweight Deluxe in .270 Winchester with a "buy it now" price of $750.00. Including the shipping and transfer fees, I had it in my hands for $785.00. I was curious what the quality of this new Model 70 would be like, but I was not disappointed.
Upon arrival and inspection of the new rifle, I found that it came well packaged, double boxed with a plain cardboard outer box and an appealing solid red interior box. Opening the interior box was a very nice surprise. Winchester calls their Deluxe model "deluxe" for a reason! The metal work was fantastic with no visible tooling marks, a jeweled bolt and a satin blue finish on the action, bolt handle, and barrel. The bottom metal and grip cap are aluminum with a finish matching the steel barreled action. Wood to metal fit was excellent with even spacing and tight tolerances.
The stock on the Featherweight Deluxe is supposed to be an upgrade and it definitely is! Good mineral swirl in the Schnabel fore-end with straight grain through the wrist and even better mineral color through the butt. The wrap-around checkering on the forend, as well as the checkering panels on the gracefully curved pistol grip, are well executed at 22 lines per inch.
Upon removing the barreled action from the stock, the artisanship beneath was equally impressive. The integral recoil lug was glass bedded and the inletting of the action was precise. The barrel is free floating, but not excessively so. I found that the stock was thoroughly sealed. Overall, I was very impressed with the fit, finish and overall build quality of the rifle. So, phase one of my O’Connor Special is complete; I have a beautifully stocked Model 70 Featherweight in .270 Winchester!
Now, to decide on a scope. As a young man, O’Connor used aperture sights. After it was introduced, the 4x Weaver K4 riflescope became a favorite of his. I did not feel that a 4x would fulfill my needs as a go anywhere scope, so I started consulting different resources on an appropriate scope.
Chuck Hawks recommended a Leupold VX-3 2.5-8x32mm, so I decided to try one. I went to Midway USA and purchased the necessary mounting hardware, Leupold Low Rings and Leupold standard bases. I found that their scope prices were a bit expensive, so I decided to look elsewhere.
While on the hunt for a scope, I decided to try some spare scopes I had to get a feel for the rifle's balance. I had an inexpensive 2-8x32mm scope that was within an once of the Leupold in weight, so I mounted it on my new rifle. I found that the Featherweight didn’t balance quite as I would like with the 2-8x32, so I tried another scope. I mounted an inexpensive 3-9x50 scope that was comparable in weight to the corresponding Leupold. I was quite pleased with the way the rifle felt with this setup. With a full magazine and wearing the 3-9x50mm scope, the rifle balanced perfectly under the weak hand, just as I like.
Although I do not think Jack O’Connor would have chosen this scope in his day, he isn’t alive today and with all the advancements in optics, who knows? A quick look on EBay found me a new-in-box Leupold VX-3 3.5x10x50mm with the Boone & Crocket bullet drop reticule for $430.00 and free shipping. (Leupold does not make a 3-9x50 VX-3, but their 3.5-10x50 is lighter than most other brands 3-9x40.) I had had no experience with this setup, but thought for a go anywhere rifle a bullet drop compensator might be a nice addition.
The scope arrived in a very attractive gold and black two-piece box, nestled in a soft velvet bag much like a favorite Canadian adult beverage. It included an owner’s manual, nylon 1-piece scope cover and a guide to using the bullet drop compensator. As has been clearly stated in various Guns and Shooting Online articles, the inner workings of a Leupold scope are top notch, steel on steel adjustments, waterproof, fog proof, shock proof, lifetime warranty and best of all MADE IN THE USA!
Once I had the scope, I went about re-mounting the bases with purple Lock-Tite and then re-mounting the rings using alignment bars to align the forward axis of the scope and rings so as not to bind the scope tube. After this was done, I removed the top halves of the rings, inserted my lapping bar and compound, and went to work lapping the rings to almost perfect concentricity. Some find this step unnecessary, but in my experience even the most expensive CNC machined rings (and my Leupold rings were no exception) are not as round as they could be. By lapping the rings one gets better contact between scope tube and ring giving extra holding power. Once this was done, I thoroughly cleaned the rifle’s bore and removed any left over lapping compound. I finished mounting the scope and adjusted to fit my eye. Then, it was off to range to see how my new rifle would shoot!
Per Chuck's recommendation, I bought three different types of ammunition to see which my rifle would prefer. In addition, if you can find a factory load that shoots well in your rifle, it can usually be duplicated by handloading and that takes some of the trial and error out of the reloading process. At the range, it was a sunny May morning at 65 degrees F with no wind and humidity about 75%. I have a friend with a private 200 yard range, so we set up at 100 yards and went to work. All shooting was done at 100 yards from a bench rest using a Caldwell Lead Sled. The results were as follows:
As one can see, this Winchester loved the Remington Core-Lokt ammunition and it is the most expensive in my area! Federal Power Shocks are $15.00, Winchester Power-Point’s are $18.00 and Remington Core-Lokt’s are $26.50. To say the least, I was very pleased with the results of this rifle. I really looked forward to fine tuning a load based on the Cor-Lokt performance.
Thank goodness, Winchester was kind enough to give their rifles a user adjustable trigger! Right after my first group, I removed the stock and adjusted the trigger all the way out (it originally felt to be in excess of five pounds). According to the manual, the minimum pull weight should be about three pounds. I did not bring my trigger pull weight gauge, but it felt close. This is probably the best factory trigger I have ever used; it is easily adjusted by a 1/16” Allen wrench for weight of pull and sear engagement. The only complaint I have about the whole rifle is that the trigger “wiggles” slightly from side to side when pressure is not applied. A call to Winchester confirmed that this is normal and doesn’t affect performance. I can verify that statement, because at the bench I did not even notice the movement.
In regards to the Leupold VX-3, optical quality was top notch, the adjustments are accurate and precise and the B&C Reticule is spot on. Per Leupold's instructions, I zeroed at 200 yards. I accomplished this by zeroing 1.6” high at 100 yards then stepping back to 200 yards. At the 200 yard mark, the zero was dead on! The scope's reticle has drop compensation marks out to 500 yards with lateral markings for wind-drift. Unfortunately, I was only able to test at 200 yards. This being my first venture with Leupold, I am very impressed with their quality and workmanship; it will be Leupold scopes for me from now on.
I completed my O’Connor Special by adding a 1” wide, leather, adjustable sling. The whole outfit weighs a very pleasant eight pounds. Even though Jack might not agree with my scope choice, I believe that he would approve of this rifle. I doubt he would have had any ill words about the new Model 70 Featherweight Deluxe. This is my new favorite rifle and when my wife gets over me spending that much money, or I get over buying her new furniture, I might just let her shoot it! For what my opinion's worth, I give it an “A” Grade overall.
Note: Complete reviews of the Model 70 Lightweight Carbine, Classic Featherweight, Super Grade and Jack O'Connor Tribute Rifle may be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2009, 2012 by Quin L. Rogers. All rights reserved.