A Remington 700 is a rifle I know I should probably own. They are dependable, have proven reliability, and increasingly important for today’s trends, are easily adjustable should you want to re-barrel, re-chamber, re-trigger, re-stock or generally accurise. Why don’t I own one? I don’t really know, I just never have. I do have to admit though that after hunting with the new 700 Mountain Rifle I may have to re-think this in the near future, especially considering the places I hunt in.
The Hawke scope performed so well that Don bought it – look for a review in an upcoming issue.
THE COMPANY AND THE MODEL 700
The Remington rifle company began producing solid, accurate rifles during the century before last and they will probably still be doing that in the century after this one too. They have made some fantastic firearm lines but by far the most successful has been the 700 series. This series was introduced around 1962 and due to ease of manufacture and good performance, sales and model lines started to rapidly escalate. Presently, the Remington 700 is one of the best selling bolt-action rifles of all time and it’s the action of choice for many people who custom build. There are many different configurations of the 700 action and there seems to be something to suit almost everyone. Our test rifle, the Remington 700 Mountain Rifle, is configured to be super lightweight, yet it still retains the properties an accurate deer calibre rifle needs if it is to be capable of successfully hunting our mountain-dwelling game animals.
The Mountain Rifle has a standard Remington 700 action, meaning the receiver is machined from a solid tubular steel bar giving it great structural integrity. Similar to a Weatherby action, the 700 also uses “three rings of steel”. The first two rings consist of the recessed bolt face that encloses the cartridge base, which in turn is enclosed by the breech end of the barrel when the bolt is closed. These are then surrounded by the front receiving ring, making up the 3rd ring.
The bolt knob is flattened and knurled to provide a good grip.
The Mountain Rifle’s bolt has a circlip-style extractor and a plunger ejector.
The bolt is also a solid design with twin front locking lugs, a circlip-type extractor set into a groove inside the rim of the bolt face, and a plunger type ejector. The integral extractor uniformly supports the cartridge head. The bolt has a cocking indicator on the rear of the shroud and the whole unit is neatly finished with a round knurled area on the flattened bolt handle, together with detailing down the length of the bolt shaft.
The slim free-floating barrel is perfectly centred in the stock channel.
Remington’s strong tubular receiver is the basis for many custom rifle builds.
The trigger/safety mechanism is Remington’s successful X-Mark Pro unit. This features precisely polished working surfaces and is fully adjustable down to around 2.25 to 2.5lbs which can be safely done by the owner. On the left side of the receiver tang is the two-stage safety lever that is easy to reach with the tip of the right thumb. On the bottom of the action there’s a hinged floor-plate. While the floor-plate and its surround are cast in light alloy, the magazine box is made of folded steel plate. This seems to go against the super light theme of the Mountain Rifle and I feel a lighter weight material may have better finished the rifle in this area.
The Remington’s trigger is crisp and adjustable for weight of pull.
The stock and barrel of the Mountain Rifle are where the most significant weight savings have been achieved. And to tell you the truth the barrel kind of looks out of place on the rifle when you consider the solid stock and chamber. This very thin tube seems too small for the frame it’s built on and to the eye the #1 contour doesn’t seem much wider in diameter than some of the cases these firearms are chambered for! The stainless steel barrel is 22” long which is an acceptable length for the calibre choices available for the Mountain Rifle, given the necessity to keep it light. This is especially true of the very efficient 7mm-08 and .308 cartridges. This length however still permits good velocities for longer more traditional deer cartridges like .270 and .30-06; the latter’s point blank range is around 270 yards with a 225 yard zero. The barrel has a recessed crown to protect and preserve the accuracy of the rifle.
The Bell & Carson stock is made up of a mixture of Aramid fibre, fibreglass, polyurethane, gel coats, graphite and various laminating resins. This cocktail equates to incredible strength and the stock doesn’t have that hollow feel common in many of today’s synthetic units. The design is very comfortable, unlike the Sendero stock, which personally I find too big for my hand around the grip. Internal to the stock is the cast alloy frame with sidewalls that limit any sideways movement of the receiver. This ensures that the slim fully-floated barrel is located evenly within the fore-stock. The stock is finished with swivels and a decelerator pad that handles recoil extremely well, so much so that firing the .270 was a complete surprise. I expected the combination of light weight and powerful calibre to hammer me, but it didn’t!
The highly successful Model 700 action features a recoil lug sandwiched between the receiver and the barrel.
The factory bedding job is well executed and provides both bottom and lateral support for the action.
The test rifle was fitted with a budget-priced Hawke scope and came with a selection of ammunition including Barnes VOR-TX and Remington Core-Lokt. With a barrel this slim I was concerned that successive shots with the Mountain Rifle would cause it to lose accuracy fast due to the barrel heating up rapidly. To check this, for my first test after sighting-in I fired no less than 10 shots in succession. The barrel was too hot to touch, however reasonable accuracy was still retained with the group not exceeding 2.5 inches at 100 yards. The day I chose to range test came with howling Nor’west winds and intermittent horizontal rain so I wasn’t expecting to shoot my best.
These are 1” squares – the Mountain Rifle put three Barnes VOR-TX factory rounds into this .8” group.
I tested a selection of factory ammunition and a few handloads to decide on a round for hunting. All the factory loads delivered similar results in the conditions with the exception of the Barnes VOR-TX. These 130 grain loads grouped at just over .8" at 100 yards. A couple of recipes of handloads were shot with the best result at .6" so there is plenty of accuracy potential here. Overall the rifle functioned flawlessly with the bolt being smooth and the trigger breaking crisply.
Hunting tahr can be challenging, mostly due to their environment where every ounce of weight will take its toll and sap your valuable energy. We got dropped off high at the top of our chosen valley and only came across a few small nanny groups with no bulls to be seen. This meant one thing to me: they were low. Next morning Dion and I dropped to the valley floor and trudged down the watercourse. Our hunting buddy Rob decided to stay high on the tops, spending the second night out in less than ideal conditions. Dion reclaimed some height and I decided to hunt the lower tussock margins before meeting him at the hut. While standing on the hill in the blazing midday sun I had finally had enough of sidling the loose screes and said “Bugger this!” out loud! At that instant not five metres in front of me a big black bull tahr exploded out of the tussock. I managed to regain my composure and drop the 13.5 bull with a shot to the neck. Dion also managed to get onto a 13 bull the next day low in the valley, just an hour before pick up.
A successful tahr hunt – Dion and Don with the two 13” trophy bull heads.
The real test of the Mountain Rifle was not so much after the tahr but a “hot” fallow hunt. I had spotted a deer about a kilometre away that meant I would have to make haste over some pretty rough terrain, all before the sun vanished over the main divide for the evening. I had to drop down one side of a valley, cross a creek and up the other side to a shooting position, take the shot, get some images and get back before dark because I had no torch with me. This is where a light rifle comes into its own. The first thing I noticed was that I was able to carry the rifle easily rather that having to sling it on my back. This and the lack of weight allowed me to run with the rifle in hand and cover ground quickly. Running and I don’t mix by the way – my philosophy is you should only run if you’re being chased by something!
I sneaked over a ridge, and reaching my goal I was able to get in to within 260 yards across a small gut. I placed a Barnes 130 grain projectile at the top of the deer’s shoulder with the Remington, dropping the animal instantly. Once again recoil was tame for a super-light .270 and I was able to follow the hit in the scope. Overall, in the hunting environment, the Remington seems to be a very calm rifle. There is little to no felt recoil, no fuss or discomfort, and on deer and tahr I could not fault that pencil skinny barrel for out of the box accuracy.
To get onto this fallow before nightfall Don had to cover a lot of country fast (see text). The Mountain Rifle pulled off an accurate 260 yard shot.
In hunting there are compromises, especially in the high country. With modern equipment longer shooting distances are possible these days, but some hunters are using long heavy barrels, hugely powerful calibres and high-magnification optics. Extra weight is the sacrifice for these guys, so it is a big plus for a rifle to be lightweight and still very capable of doing the job. In large game hunting all you really need is a rifle capable of firing one or two clean accurate shots, which the Remington is more than able to do. As the name suggests the Remington 700 Mountain Rifle is a specialised and yet versatile high powered rifle and is very much at home in the environment it was designed to be used in. As a range or target rifle maybe not so much – that’s not its intended role. But for a steep and/or high country rifle I found it a pleasure to use.