I have long had an admiration for bull-barrel rifles. Not only do they look and feel good, accuracy is usually superior to sporter-barrel rifles. But if the design has weaknesses, they would be the excessive weight of the rifles and the relative scarcity of big-game chamberings. That has changed with the introduction of the Winchester Model 70 Coyote Lite.
So, what are the benefits of a heavy-barreled rifle? First, the thick, stiff barrel is generally conducive to increased accuracy because it provides a more stable platform for the exiting bullet, as it flexes less than a standard barrel. Coupled with this, a heavy barrel takes longer to heat up, so more shots can be taken before letting the rifle cool. The rifle’s weight can also help steady it on a bench or bipod.
But with the good comes the bad. Thicker barrels mean increased overall weight. A bull-barrel rifle topped with high-magnification glass can tip the scales at well over 10 pounds. That is fine for a varmint rifle riding the bench, but not for a walking rifle. Too, the majority of rifles available with bull barrels are offered in varmint calibers. I guess some gun manufacturers don’t believe big-game hunters want a heavy-barreled rifle chambered for big-game cartridges.
Winchester’s engineers got it right when designing the Model 70 Coyote Lite. This lightweight weighs 7 pounds, 8 ounces for the matte-blued model or 7 pounds, 12 ounces for the stainless (except .325 WSM, which is 7 pounds, 8 ounces). That is a savings of 11⁄4 pounds for the matte-blued model over the original Model 70 Coyote. Both models wear medium-heavy, 24-inch fluted barrels with a deep-cut muzzle crown. Unlike some fluting, which seems more cosmetic than functional, the six longitudinal flutes on the Coyote Lite are cut very deep, which not only shaves off a good bit of weight, but also allows heat to dissipate faster, as there is more surface area. The medium-heavy barrel retains the stiffness of a bull barrel without the unnecessary weight. There are no iron sights, instead, the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases.
But Winchester didn’t stop there. To further reduce weight, the Coyote Lite wears a racy looking lightweight carbon-fiber/fiberglass-composite Bell and Carlson stock. The cuts on the fore-end reduce weight and vent the barrel for faster barrel cool down time. To enhance accuracy while keeping weight at a minimum, the stock has a skeletonized aluminum bedding block. Reminiscent of traditional varmint rifle designs, the Coyote Lite’s stock has a wide fore-end. Since I frequently use a bipod, I found the stock’s twin fore-end swivel studs extremely helpful. The second stud enables me to attach the sling directly to the stock—a plus. A hinged floor plate, a design preferred by many shooters, allows you to dump unused cartridges quickly. A Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad is also included, which will help soak up the recoil dished out by the big-game calibers.
Further straying from the pack, Winchester took cartridge selection to the max with the Coyote Lite. Unlike many heavy-barreled rifles—mostly chambered for popular varmint rounds—Winchester covered the spectrum by offering all Winchester Short Magnum and Super Short Magnum cartridges, even the new .325 WSM. The rifle is also available in .223 Remington. My test rifle was chambered for one of Winchester’s newest cartridges: .25 WSSM. With a selection like that, nearly anything could be hunted with the Coyote Lite, from prairie dogs to elk and caribou. The wide selection of cartridges and the light weight of the Coyote Lite truly set it apart from the standard, bull-barrel rifle commonly encountered.