Absent anything short of absolute certainty these rifles stand among the world’s most important and valuable sporting arms. That they are paired presents an unequaled acquisition opportunity. Both 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 is concerned, 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 (copy included), the current owner’s uncle purchased the rifle from a hardware store in Durango, Colorado during the 1937 hunting season. Whether new or used when the sale was wrung, the rifle was already 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 using it over the course of several deer seasons, the current owner formally acquired the rifle – it 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 out 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 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 Rule’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. No doubt, 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 lead to another and ownership transferred.
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 approximately 60 percent overall. 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. Overall metal finish is approximately 75 percent. Wood integrity is strong (absent cracks or chips). Wood finish condition is approximately 70 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).
Inclusions: In addition to a complete bound set of American Rifleman magazines from 1990 with the referenced article, a personalized letter detailing the known history and transfer details of the rifles will be provided by the owner.
An installment sale may be arranged following a suitable, non-refundable deposit. The pair will not be separated. All transportation arrangements and associated costs are the responsibility of the purchaser. The price is firm at $1,750,000.
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