Rifle Review: Winchester Model 70 Safari Express (Part I)

"It follows, therefore, that by far the most valuable trophy I brought out of Africa with me is that scarred, worn, grand, old Winchester [Model 70] .375. It is the last rifle of mine I would ever part with."--Finn Aagaard

There are a whole bunch of reasons I wish Finn were still with us, and one of them is so he could shoot the Winchester Model 70 Safari Express I've been fooling with these past two weeks. Finn's gun was made in 1948, when Model 70s were of no better than average quality, and frequently much worse than average. (His stock split, and he patched it.) The rifle that I have is one of the best designed, highest-quality guns I've seen come out of a factory. It is made overly strong. There's nothing on it I'd change, or can see how to improve. Winchester says it's the best heavy rifle in the world, and they have a case.

The stock is very heavy, very dense straight-grained American walnut with a Pachmayr Decelerator Pad, fore-end swivel on the barrel (down close to the wood, where it belongs) and lots of very good laser-cut checkering. It's finished flat, as is the metal, which is what you want in a dangerous-game rifle.

Overall weight on my rifle, with a Leupold Vari-X III 2.5X-8X scope on board, is 10 pounds, 5 ounces, which is heavy for a .375, but is just fine with me, because it cuts recoil way down and lets you get off quick shots. My last .375 had a synthetic stock that was stuffed full of lead shot to bring it to this exact weight.

The trigger is Winchester's new M.O.A. model, which, on this gun, is set at a dead-clean 4 pounds 8 ounces. That's heavy for any other rifle, but perfect for a dangerous-game gun. It is a virtually perfect trigger pull with no discernable movement.

Barrel length is 24 inches, and the barrel contour is quite heavy, the same, I understand, as is used on the .416 Remington and .458 versions of this gun. The barrel is equipped with a secondary recoil lug midway down, which is bedded in steel epoxy, as is the main recoil lug, and there are two reinforcing bolts through the stock ahead of and behind the magazine well. If you want to split this stock you'll need a wedge and a maul.

To be continued...