Celebrating 150 Years of Winchester – Rise of the Bolt-Action
Always an innovator, Winchester began dabbling in bolt-action rifles early with the Hotchkiss in 1878, selling a few to the U.S. military, 15,000 to the Chinese Empire in 1881 and offering them as a sporting arm in 1883.
The first bolt-action ever developed actually appeared in 1824, created by German arms inventor Johann Nicolaus von Dreyse. His invention was called the Needle Gun and it actually predated repeating guns or even cartridges used in them, but was later adapted to these innovations as they were developed.
Still, it would not be until the late 1800s that the bolt-action rifle would achieve the functionality and reputation for accuracy that it continues to enjoy today
The Hotchkiss locked with a single lug at the rear of the bolt and fed rounds from a tubular magazine in the buttstock. Next up was the Lee Navy straight-pull bolt-action of 1895 with the then unusual bore size of 6mm, the first and last 6mm cartridge of U.S. manufacture until the famous .243 Winchester of 1955. Though no one knew it at the time, both these early rifles foreshadowed what would become one of Winchester’s greatest rifle and cartridge combos of all time, the Model 70.
What would come to be known as the Rifleman’s Rifle evolved from not just the early Winchester bolts, but a variety of bolt actions from around the world, including the famous Mauser M98, the Lee-Enfield (which Winchester manufactured in staggering numbers during WWI) and America’s own beloved Springfield M-1903. The immediate precursor to the M70 was the Winchester M54 released in 1925 simultaneously with the .270 Winchester cartridge.
Famed Outdoor Life writer Jack 0’Connor was an early adopter and through his writing played a significant role in popularizing the .270 Win., still one of the top five hunting rounds in the world. A few tweaks to the M54’s bolt handle, safety, bolt stop, magazine box and bottom metal in 1936 were enough to perfect it as the M70 and set it on its way to becoming one of the most respected and beloved controlled-round-feed actions of all time. It continues in that role, chambered for most of today’s high-energy, modern cartridges including the near-perfect .270 Win., the spectacular .300 Win. Mag., .300 WSM, .243 Win., .338 Win. Mag. and .458 Win. Mag. The only thing better than the original M70 is today’s M70 now made in short- as well as standard-length actions with stock lines that are ideal for scope use.
In keeping with its history of supplying affordable rifles to everyday hunters, Winchester introduced the XPR in 2015, the first new bolt-action since the M70. As a solid, smooth, rugged, dependable bolt-action retailing for a bargain, the XPR continues the Winchester legacy of affordable firearms built for all American citizens.