The Arms Dealer Who Collected Winchesters

We recently ran across a rifle with such a crazy story, I felt I had to share it with you. I thought I had simply run across a nice and rare rifle, but it turns out it has ties to one of America's most interesting figures in the world of arms trafficking. 

One of America's most controversial arms dealers was a pre-64 model 70 collector and we have one of his guns

In early January we purchased a large collection of pre-64 model 70s out of Louisianna - a transaction humorously referred to among the guys in the shop as “The Louisianna Purchase”. Among the many nice rifles in the collection was a 1952 standard rifle chambered in 7mm. Now a 7mm model 70 is no slouch of a rifle, even without any special story attached. Only 1,470 model 70s were chambered in the 7mm (7x57mm Mauser) cartridge, or about one-quarter of one percent of total model 70 production, making it a rare and hard to find chambering. We were more than happy with the rifle itself, but a sharp-minded friend of (who happens to be the bolt rifle historian for the Winchester Arms Collectors Association) pointed out this particular rifle had posed for photos in Roger Rule’s book The Rifleman's Rifle. I went to check that out and the caption of the photo in Rule's book sent me down an unbelievable rathole where I unearthed a connection for this rifle beyond anything I could have ever expected.  
A “later” Standard Rifle, serial number 234,057, in 7 mm.  Michael Kokin collection.
Being too young or too clueless to know, I had to ask our historian friend who Michael Kokin was. He answered by sending over a couple documents which had been declassified by the CIA in 2011 which was pretty much all it took to get my attention. With a bit of additional internet sleuthing, I was able to unearth a story about an infamous international arms dealer who also was a big model 70 collector.  
Mike Kokin poses with an AK-47.  Note the pre-64 model 70s on the wall behind him.
Mike Kokin was the founder and president of Sherwood International Export Corp. – a small California arms dealer. Small until a secret deal with the CIA made Sherwood the distribution machine for moving every imaginable type of weapon to hotspots around the globe. Sherwood was at the epicenter of moving 150 Belgian 5.56mm Minimi machine guns into Honduras, while simultaneously moving heat-seeking missiles and armored personnel carriers into Iran – it was Kokin's part in a sequence of arms moves which we all now know as the “Iran-Contra Affair”.
Well, it turns out that as Kokin was building his reputation as an international arms dealer, he was also building a collection of pre-64 model 70s. Roger Rule knew this and in the late 1970s and early 1980s photographed some of Kokin’s rifles for his book “The Rifleman’s Rifle”. Among those rifles is a beautiful and unique 1952 standard rifle chambered in 7x57mm Mauser. You can check it out on page 237 of Rule’s book in image 7-46.
The rifle has a unique combination of features with what was Winchester’s new (in 1952) Monte Carlo stock, but combined with the Winchester 22G rear sight rather than the folding Marbles sight. This combination is unusual and adds an interesting twist to the impeccable provenance of this particular rifle.
At the time of Rule’s writing, this rifle was still a part of the Mike Kokin collection. Just a few years later it would in the collection of a now-passed Mike Holmes of Florida. Upon his death, Holmes passed his entire collection to a friend in Louisiana, which is where we acquired it. 42 years later, the rifle still appears exactly as it did when Rule photographed it for his book.
Although this rifle has already found a new home in an Idaho collection, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to share its interesting history with the large group of Winchester model 70 enthusiasts who follow our site.
You can view many more photos of the rifle in its listing on our site - HERE


  • Craig Bruske

    Wow great story.

  • Mark Pollock

    At my 73 yrs of age and bought and sold many p64 m70 I can not begin to describe how many hours I have pondered the story that each rifle could tell.I ran into a super grade 375 in ak. that told many unbelievable tales I swear some have souls!

  • Phillip McLaine

    Great write up. Thank you for saving history.

  • Jim

    Thanks for that very interesting story on the 7mm M70 . . . .
    I note the barrel date of 1949 on this rifle that dates to 1952.

    Those barrels must have been made well in advance of actually being installed, eh?

    I have a M70 in 22 Hornet that dates to 1939, yet has a barrel date of 1935 . . . .

    I’m thinking the barrel was destined to be installed on the M54 . . . .but languished in the “barrel bin”, just long enough to get installed on my 70 four years later! —jim

  • Peter Hildebrand

    Thank you for this story. It seems inevitable that stories of interesting rifles quickly circle back to stories of the people who collected, owned and used them.

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