There is a certain segment of the shooting public that is more educated and experienced with firearms than ever before, and they are never going to be satisfied with off-the-shelf performance from production rifles. So, a wise retailer will keep tabs on all the shooting disciplines that affect their business.
The Remington 700 bolt action rifle is widely used across many areas, including hunting, tactical and competition. If your business serves shooters who are engaged in these activities, you’ve probably already been asked, “what can be done to make my 700 shoot better?”
The skills of the shooter will, of course, have to be considered. If his fundamentals of accurate shooting are solid, maybe a simple change to premium or “match” ammo will bring accuracy to an acceptable level. If high-quality ammunition with a proven track record of accuracy doesn’t cure the problem, it’s time to look into the mechanical side of the rifle.
Are the mount and rings tight, true and properly installed? Is the trigger too heavy to manage? Does the scope need to be changed out and then the shooting system reevaluated? Has a heavy-recoiling cartridge in a light rifle caused your customer to develop a flinch problem? If all of the above have checked out OK, but on-target accuracy is still not to the level of other comparable Remington 700 factory rifles, then you might have to get deeper into the mechanics of the rifle.
How do you evaluate the mechanics of the rifle? It could be as simple as sending the rifle back to Remington with a letter describing the problems and letting them deal with it. You could send the rifle to a custom gunsmith to improve reliability and accuracy with proven mechanical techniques. You could consider taking on the job at your own shop, provided you have the right personnel and equipment. Let’s examine the mechanical improvement procedures and determine the best route to take.
The base cylinder style action of the Remington 700 rifle is a very popular action for accuracy work, and certain gunsmithing procedures have proven to yield excellent accuracy improvements on target. Some people looking for the ultimate in accuracy from the 700 will scrap most everything except the action itself. Doing this, while choosing the best in aftermarket components, will be expensive, but it will also result in excellent downrange accuracy.
Starting with truing, or “blueprinting” the action, you will generally need a precision lathe and holding fixture. This will allow the receiver to be dialed in to run true with dual dial indicators. Once the action is running true, the receiver threads are cut into perfect alignment with the axis of the receiver. This will allow the barrel to accurately and squarely thread into the receiver. The internal locking lugs are then trued while the receiver is still in the lathe. This will allow for even support of the bolt’s locking lugs once they are hand lapped into place. The receiver ring is then lightly faced back until true. This will provide for a perfect recoil lug and barrel shoulder bearing surface.
In other words, the barrel shoulder, the recoil lug and the front action ring will all be brought into a perfect union when the barrel is finally torqued into place.
The critical dimensions of the bolt, whether factory or custom replacement, will have to be checked and addressed as needed. When truing is required, it is common to indicate the bolt true in the lathe and lightly face the front and rear of the lugs, as well as the bolt nose. Extreme care must be taken not to mushroom the firing pin hole while live centering and turning the bolt body in your machine. Once the lugs are square and true, the bolt face should be trued as well. Then move on to the bolt lug lapping process to bring them into 100 percent contact with the receiver.
The Remington 700 receiver generally has a scope base or bases held in place by four small screws. To help assure durability, it is wise to address this issue before the action is re barreled. Failure to do so can result in the scope mount shearing off under recoil. Some people like to use lugged scope mount rails to absorb the recoil impulse instead of transmitting the impulse to the screws. Others prefer boring out the action screw holes and installing oversized mount screws to, in effect, serve as multiple recoil lugs threaded into the receiver.
When it comes to rebarreling your Remington 700 accuracy project, do not skimp on barrel quality or your accuracy will suffer. This generally means buying a match-grade barrel from a company with a reputation for accuracy. Hart, Krieger and Bartlein all come to mind. Caliber, twist rate, contour, weight and material will all have to be considered to make sure the final project meets its expected use goals.
One of the biggest hurdles you will face in purchasing a name brand match barrel is delivery time. It is not uncommon to wait up to a year for your match barrel order to be filled. You are lucky to find them in stock.
Precision barreling is generally done on a lathe by a skilled operator and gunsmith. This is an operation that can directly affect the safety — as well as accuracy and reliability — of the rifle, so it must be done properly. You will also need to consider adjusting dimensions if you decide to install an oversized recoil lug.
Headspace is a critical dimension in the rifle, but there is more to consider. The Remington bolt is actually counterbored into the rear of the barrel. This creates the “three rings of steel” that many people speak of when talking about Remington 700 rifles. The clearance in the counterbore should be considered in terms of safety, reliability and accuracy.
Shooters who are looking for a zero fit in this area might run into reliability problems because the bolt will not close with the slightest interference, such as the bristle off a bore brush. Another reliability consideration when custom barreling the Remington 700 action is to assure that the proper barrel recess bevel is turned in place to help assure reliable feeding. If your shop is doing the gunsmithing, consider the expected use of the rifle while mapping out the work. Get professional assistance as needed.
Obtaining a stock for your 700 project is easy, because there are many companies making 700 stocks. The Remington 700 is often referred to as the “small block Chevy” of rifles due to its popularity and the huge array of accessories for it.
Choosing a stock for your Remington 700 stock can be difficult because there are so many to choose from. Again, I would suggest considering the expected use of the rifle and the body type and physical strength of the owner. Too heavy or too light, too long or too short can all cause problems. Some stocks will require bedding material, others will rely on a bedding block and some will use both.
To minimize stock problems, consider going with an established company in the stock making business. McMillian has been around for about 40 years and certainly knows the stock business. When it comes to stocks for the Remington 700, McMillian has a wide variety to choose from. Have your customer review the catalog, and he might be able to tell by sight which stock would probably best suit his shooting style.
A quality trigger is a requirement for safety, reliability and accuracy. Many aftermarket triggers are made specifically for the Remington 700 rifle. This is another area where the “buy quality” rule certainly applies.
Two aftermarket Remington 700 triggers that have gained a large following over many years in the business are Timney and Jewell. Research them both, while considering the expected use for the rifle, and make an informed decision. Once the rifle project is operational, the trigger will be the finger-rifle connection that will influence on-target performance. Once a shooter develops a high level of trigger control without rifle disturbance, he will begin to see the true potential of his mechanically accurate rifle project.
What about trigger pull weight? Again, it depends on the application and the shooter. As a retailer, you will want to consider product liability issues when it comes to trigger pull weight. Most would consider it unwise to put a 2-ounce benchrest trigger in a rifle expected to see use as a mountain-climbing, sheep-hunting rifle. Apply common sense in all of your decisions. Whatever pull weight adjustment you settle on, make sure you properly safety test the trigger’s functionality before delivering it to your client.
Once you have the Remington 700 “trued,” assembled with the best components available and test fired for safety and accuracy, it’s time to call your client with the good news that his custom rifle project is done. It is a sign of a professional retail operation if you are well organized when your client arrives to pick up his rifle.
Have it cleaned and ready to go. Consider doing the barrel break-in process for him. Have a case, safety gear and cleaning supplies ready so he will have the opportunity to obtain everything he needs without wasted time — his or yours. Have a test target to document the performance his improved rifle will deliver. If you have an on-site range, give him a live-fire demonstration to show him what kind of accuracy can be obtained with proper shooting form. Document the work performed in detail and be sure to complete any FFL log-out requirements.
Once he begins winning the local matches, with the assistance of your performance improvements, you can be assured of a steady stream of fellow competitors coming into your shop for similar work.