My Remington 700
by AK Church
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The rifle was a Remington 700 BDL short action in .243. I got it with the intention of using the action for a build-it project as it was discouragingly rough.
I'm not sure when Remington got around to chambering their 700 for rival Winchester's more popular .243-initially Ilion built only rifles for their own .244/6mm round. This rifle was built in the mid '60s, leading me to conclude it's an early one for the caliber.
I got it, finding a rifle with several gouges in the mirror shiny Remington piano-finish walnut, iron sights corroded beyond function, and bald spots on the bluing under those cancerous sights. The rifle also carried an older fixed 4 X, 1-inch scope in decent order attached by junkyard rings with gouged out allen screws.
The rifle also showed its age in positive ways. The trigger was obvious set to satisfy riflemen, not liability lawyers. The trigger was where it had been set at the factory during the Johnson presidency, and it is great.
I came pretty close to ordering a .308 barrel from Gun Parts Corporation.
John urged me to range test the rifle first. We cleaned the barrel with Sweet's solvent from the land of the Wallaby and oppressed gun owners and got amazingly little powder or copper fouling. We took his Outers Foul-Out & when done three hours later, the bore had the knife sharp feel of the patch on the lands one gets with new rifles. Neglected this rifle might have been, but it was shot very little. . Bore rust was exactly nil.
Now this was interesting. I decided to try to use the rifle as is for at least one time during deer season. Also, I wanted to carry it as honor of my late friend J.D. Clark of Pleasant Hill MO, who knew more about the .243 than any 10 average people knew. He regarded the .243 as the perfect caliber for about everything.
Knowing these time constraints, I was stuck with an under-magnified scope in battered rings. Also loads would be 1 or 2 brands of factory ammunition. Time wasn't there to develop handloads. I was asking to get decent accuracy from this rig, and hoping it would hold zero. This might be interesting.
On a damp rainy day we hauled this battered specimen to the range with 100 grain Remington factory-pride o' WalMart. We shot slow cadenced 3 round strings, off the bench, and consistently got 1 ½ to 2 inch groups. Sufficient to kill deer out past 100 yards, but disappointing. The late J D contended that a .243 oughta be able to settle them in around an inch at that range, and most rifles could do better.
When we got back to John's place, he took the action out of the stock. In addition to finding some slight rust on the bottom of the action, we saw what looked like occasional rub marks on the bluing under the barrel. This, along with the pitting, made us suspect the wood had once hosted thawing snow. Dampened, the wood might have warped. So we tried some bedding work.
First, we opened up the barrel channel 'til the barrel was free floating. The non-scientific "slip the dollar bill under the barrel until it won't drag test" was employed as a check on progress.
We also shimmed under the receiver ring with construction paper, and played with a torque wrench to get screw loadings on the action consistent. The barrel channel was filled in with paste furniture wax to give the wood some temporary water resistance.
On the second trip to the range, the rifle grouped in at 7/8 inch! Using a low powered scope, awful rings, and the first factory ammo to fall to hand says a lot about Remington's barrel quality (good, as expected), Remington's ammo quality (good, which hasn't been their reputation lately), and the unexpected utility of a 20+ year old Bushnell scope better suited to a .30-30.
It was carried in the deer woods a month later as a tribute to a rifleman and a teacher. Even though I didn't get a shot, it was satisfying.
Next year it gets a 2-7 variable, a new base and new rings. The barrel channel will be opened to fresh wood, and glass bedded, and more permanently water resistant than Johnson's paste wax. Not a penny on cosmetics, though.
Thank you J.D., for what you taught me about the ways of rifles and of the occasionally brilliant ways of the .243. I'm in your debt.
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NOTE: Author Church regrets that he is unqualified to do appraisal, and cannot establish a value on your gun.
I enjoyed your article about the Remington 700. I've a soft spot in my heart for both the Model 700 and the .243 caliber. I currently own a Model 700 in 30-06 Springfield caliber and have found it to be the most accurate out-of the-box rifle I have owned. This was a "hock-shop" purchase that I have never regretted. I found it in a big city hock shop where hunting rifles are less popular than the liberal-described saturday night specials. This was apparently a short-term acquisition of someone who undoubtably obtained shoulder boo-boos from the hard rubber but pad. The gun stock showed traces of where the former owner used it as a boomerang after shooting a magazine full of cartridges. There was no wear to the finish, rifling, or bluing.