Absent anything short of absolute certainty, each of these rifles stands among the world’s most important and valuable sporting arms. That they are paired presents an unequaled acquisition opportunity.
Both rifles have a captivating history. According to Roger Rule’s The Rifleman’s Rifle, serial number 1 was marked on January 20, 1936. As Winchester records are unavailable so far as supporting a proper factory letter, the actual shipping date and destination are unknown. As detailed in Winchester Model 70 No. 1, a feature article appearing in the June, 1990 issue of American Rifleman, the owner’s uncle purchased the rifle from a hardware store in Durango, Colorado during the 1937 hunting season.
Whether new or used when that sale was wrung, the rifle was fitted with a Lyman receiver sight. Upon returning from the hunting trip, the owner had the rifle drilled and tapped in order to install a 10x Fecker scope, then hunted with it for the next forty years. In 1977, after borrowing it over the course of several deer seasons, the current owner formally acquired the rifle still wearing the Fecker and with the Lyman sight in tow.
Staggeringly, another ten years passed before a chance showing resulted in a dealer getting the vapors and blurting a surprisingly high offer. This sparked a curiosity which lead to the realization that his plain old Model 70 was the first of its kind. With significant reservation, the rifle was then retired from hunting after 50 years of faithful and flawless service.
Published in 1982 by Alliance Books, The Rifleman’s Rifle did much to expand and solidify collector interest in Winchester pre-64 Model 70 rifles. Quite naturally, the owner of the number 1 rifle acquired a copy as part of his research. Page 193 carried a photo of serial number 2 from the author’s collection, and page 52 showed a photo of a letter from Richard Pelton, Winchester’s Director of Marketing dated March 6, 1980. Written to Mrs. Ethel M. Lied, the letter mentions the January 20, 1936 marking date for the number 1 rifle and also states that assembly of Model 70 rifles did not begin until 1937.
Pointedly, the letter references Mrs. Lied’s inquiries as to the value of her rifle, serial number 2. Ownership of the number 2 rifle passed to Roger Rule at approximately this time. At some point thereafter, the number 2 rifle was presented for sale at a major gun show attended by the owner of rifle number 1. As things tend to do, one led to another and ownership of serial number 2 transferred to him.
To no surprise, both rifles are of “standard” configuration and chambered in .30-06 Springfield.
Serial number 1 condition: The bore remains smooth, strong and viable. Drilling/tapping for scope mounting includes 2x on the barrel just forward of the rear sight boss and 2x on the front ring. The rear sight is absent and the dovetail is protected with a “plug”. Overall metal finish is approximately 65 percent, as expected after 50 years of use in the hunting fields. Wood integrity is strong (absent cracks or chips). Wood finish condition is also approximately 65 percent overall and the checkering is smoothing. Finish is thinning or absent in places and a general distribution of field impressions and scratches are in evidence. The bolt body is faintly marked “1” in electric pencil (or similar). The Fecker scope is viable and remains optically clear, with surface finish of approximately 70 percent.
Serial number 2 condition: The bore remains smooth, strong and viable. Drilling and tapping for scope mounting includes 2x on the front ring, although the rear ring untapped. Overall metal finish is approximately 80 percent. Wood integrity is strong (absent cracks or chips). Wood finish condition is also approximately 80 percent overall. Checkering is strong. A general distribution of field impressions and scratches are in evidence. The bolt body is faintly marked “2” in electric pencil (or similar).
The price is firm at $1,750,000, and the pair will not be separated. Complete details and images are presented at sportsmanslegacy.com and on gunbroker.com.
In addition to these first Model 70 rifles, Sportsman’s Legacy offers a strong selection of unique, historic and exceptional firearms. One of the finest is a tremendous Makinson sidelock double rifle in .600 Nitro Express featuring 1,100 hours of game scene engraving, which was originally shown at the SCI Convention years ago.
On the opposite end of the caliber spectrum is a custom rifle built by Leonard Brownell for Jack O’Connor on a vintage Sako barreled action in .222 Remington. Rifles and handguns are also available which were previously owned by writers Colonel Charles Askins, Craig Boddington, Roy Huntington and Tom Siatos. Sportsman’s Legacy also has an unequaled inventory of left-hand rifles, including a one-of-a-kind grouping of CRF Model 70s from the Winchester Custom Shop, some from the storied firm of Griffin & Howe and more modern lefty rifles from Hill Country and Weatherby. A number of double rifles from Rigby, shotguns from Holland & Holland and a pair of factory-engraved Colt Woodsman pistols are also available.--Dwight Van Brunt
(Editor’s note: Sportsman’s Legacy is owned and operated by long-time SCI Life Member Dwight Van Brunt. A veteran of 15 African safaris and frequent contributor to Safari Magazine, Dwight has attended most of the SCI conventions since the mid-1990s. Dwight will be co-presenting two workshops at the 2020 SCI convention, one on proper estate planning for firearms owners. Dwight can be reached directly at 406-212-0344 or email@example.com.)