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#5887259 - 12/06/11 08:45 AM Model 70 Gopher Special Information
VarmintGuy Offline
Campfire Tracker

Registered: 05/22/03
Posts: 6680
Loc: SW Montana
Some weeks (months?) ago I made reference in this venue about the Winchester pre-64 Model 70's that are referred to as "Gopher Specials".
I also mentioned that I had an original Gophers Shooters Supply catalog from the 1950's.
Well I finally found that catalog and as best I can ascertain it is from the year 1958. The only clarification on that is a handwritten note of same on page 2 - and on the face of the catalog it refers to itself as "catalog No. 12".
Anyway on page 31 of this catalog it shows the "Gopher Special" Rifle and gives a lengthy description under the Rifles picture, there is a bold faced heading "Something Special" under this picture.
I assume that is where the term "Gopher Special" originated as the Rifle was NOT described or named as such (Gopher Special) in the catalog.
The Gopher Special Rifle was priced at $129.95 (the same as the normal Featherweight Rifle offerings) that year.
The Gopher Special was offered in only 3 (three) calibers that year: 243 Winchester, 270 Winchester and 30/06.
The Gopher Special only came with the Monte Carlo high comb stock where as that year (and in this catalog) the normal Featherweight was offered in both high comb Monte Carlo stock and in a standard low or straight combed stock - both styles at $129.95.
There is an absolute wealth of information in this large format, 173 glossy paged, well done catalog - it covers all merchandise of the shooting nature of the day including guns (pistols and Rifles), Rifle scopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, munitions, reloaders and dies, calls, knives, archery equipment, iron sights and on and on!
On the first page of the catalog is what appears to be an introductory advertisement for the Ruger Bearcat pistol - that cute little pistol is priced at $49.00!
The section of this catalog that contains all of Smith & Wessons offerings for that year simply makes me swoon and drool!
One offering was for the 1955 Model Smith & Wesson Model 22/32 Kit Gun "Airweight" weighing 14 ounces and priced at $75.00!
The standard 22/32 Kit Gun of that year weighed 22 ounces and cost $70.00 or $75.00 for the nickel plated version.
Anyway I believe the original discussion regarding Gopher Specials (IIRC) had to do with what calibers it was offered in by the Gophers Shooters Supply Company - this may answer that.
Indeed other Rifles of this type are known in OTHER calibers than what I have referred to but those would have been special orders from the Winchester factory, I believe.
In the past I have owned two other Gopher Specials but as of today I only have the one Gopher Special type Rifle in caliber 243 Winchester, it has serial number 543562 which puts its manufacture date right at December 4th of 1961 (half a century ago now - where does the time go?).
In other words I doubt if it was one of the original 300 (total) Gopher Specials contracted for by the Gopher Shooters Supply Company back in 1958 or 1959.
Merry Christmas and Happy Winchester Collecting to all here in the coming year.
Hold into the wind
VarmintGuy

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#5889673 - 12/06/11 06:53 PM Re: Model 70 Gopher Special Information [Re: VarmintGuy]
bigwhoop Offline
Campfire 'Bwana

Registered: 11/22/05
Posts: 12892
Loc: MN. - Where loons abound.
Yes I have that catalog and it is fun to browse through, like an old Herters. A deceased gunstore owner knew the owner down there in Owatonna. The Gopher Shooters Supply ad which would appear in various magazines would have a banner: "Something Special" to announce a particular promotion. The 3 calibers that Gopher ordered are correct. It took about a year to get them in. A truly recognized "Gopher Special" would have to be accompanied by a store receipt or the box to document it. As you corrected noted, Winchester would make a sightless rifle, for anyone ordering one. It would be a Class IV variation according to Rules' Book.
Certainly good stuff to mull over.


Edited by bigwhoop (12/06/11 06:54 PM)
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#5893154 - 12/07/11 04:27 PM Re: Model 70 Gopher Special Information [Re: bigwhoop]
Rangr44 Offline
Campfire Regular

Registered: 02/12/08
Posts: 1267
FWIW, last year a local funshop had a lettered Gopher Special in .220 Swift that sold for only $1500 due to a buncha extra holes in the side of the receiver where someone once had a side scope mount.

Someone got a nice varminter @ half price, 'cuz they could live with Swiss cheese.

.
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It ain't no fun, when the rabbit's got the gun

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#5893319 - 12/07/11 05:09 PM Re: Model 70 Gopher Special Information [Re: Rangr44]
bigwhoop Offline
Campfire 'Bwana

Registered: 11/22/05
Posts: 12892
Loc: MN. - Where loons abound.
That would not have been a "Gopher Special". Gopher Shooters Supply only ordered sightless Fwt. models in .243, .270 and 30-06.
Now someone could have ordered their own custom Model 70 through Gopher Sports, as in your example a .220 Swift. Too bad about the extra holes.
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#5896349 - 12/08/11 12:09 PM Re: Model 70 Gopher Special Information [Re: bigwhoop]
Rangr44 Offline
Campfire Regular

Registered: 02/12/08
Posts: 1267
Who knows ? I sure wish these old rifles could talk - why I leave SOMETHING under the buttplate of ALL mine, whether they go down the road, or not. smile

.
_________________________
It ain't no fun, when the rabbit's got the gun

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#5915509 - 12/13/11 01:11 PM Re: Model 70 Gopher Special Information [Re: bigwhoop]
VarmintGuy Offline
Campfire Tracker

Registered: 05/22/03
Posts: 6680
Loc: SW Montana
Bigwhoop: Pardon my slow reply as I have been out to the west coast doing gunshops and gunshows etc and just returned late Monday night.
Let me add/opine in this regard - to add some certainty to whether or not a sightless smooth barreled Fetaherweight IS or IS NOT a Gopher Special - IF a Featherweight was from the particular year/era as verified by serial number production date - then it would qualify in my mind as a Gopher Special.
These sightless Featherweights from 1959 in caliber 243 Winchester, 270 Winchester or 30/06 in my mind would defintiely be worthy of the nom de plume "Gopher Special".
Receipt or no receipt.
I doubt more than ONE or TWO Rifles within the 1959 production era of the REAL Gopher Specials would have been special ordered without sights and having the smooth barrel in the claibers we are discussing?
And even if they did co-exist their values would be quite similar?
Man the NICE Model 70's are holding strong price wise out on the left coast!
I had no luck bring to bag any additions to my collectiosn.
I did sell an old and evenlya dn very lightly rusted Model 70 metal buttplate for $20.00!
Hold into the wind
VarmintGuy

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#5920536 - 12/14/11 06:53 PM Re: Model 70 Gopher Special Information [Re: VarmintGuy]
bigwhoop Offline
Campfire 'Bwana

Registered: 11/22/05
Posts: 12892
Loc: MN. - Where loons abound.
Yes I agree with your basic premise. A similarly vintage sightless in those 3 calibers could be thought of as a "Gopher Special" or a Class 4 Variant. One of my local gunshop owners, now deceased, new the deceased owner of Gopher Supply. It has been discussed many times that GS never kept track of the s/n Gopher Specials (300 total) that came through his shop. He sold all over the nation, not just locally. If by chance someone had the rifle AND a receipt that would be a documented find, add the box and look out!
I don't doubt something like that doesn't exist. Its still tucked away in someones closet.

The reason there is a little doubt lingering is that soon after the GS were made, the idea caught on and the public ordered them. So, with the delay and cleanup of serial numbers, you could have a '59 action with a /60 barrel, made in 1960 but close enough to be called a genuine GS. You can argue it either way!

Also I was told that the records of what s/n guns were shipped to Gopher Supply was either non-existent or certainly never kept as a permanent record at Winchester.

Who knew that the interest and value would ever develop?
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