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Fifty Years of the Remington Model 700

by Craig Boddington   |  December 21st, 2012 3

This free-range New Zealand sambar was taken with an M700 BDL rebarreled to .300 H&H.

In both the 19th and 20th centuries, American gunmakers probably designed and produced more great firearms than any country on Earth. Some have had lasting impact and passed the century mark—Colt’s Single Action Army, the Winchester Model 94 and the Browning-designed Colt 1911 come immediately to mind. Many more have passed the half-century mark and beyond. In 2012 two extremely important American bolt-actions celebrate important birthdays. The timeless Winchester Model 70, introduced in 1937, is now 75 years young. Remington’s Model 700, introduced in 1962, celebrates its 50th.

Last month I wrote about the Model 70; this month it’s the Model 700’s turn. I will avoid direct comparisons as well as I can, except as absolutely essential. For instance, for most of its life the M70 has featured controlled-round feed, while the M700 has always been a push-feed design. I will not attempt to tell you which one is best, or even which I personally like best. For the former, I’m not qualified; for the latter, well, I’m not really sure. I like both rifles, but since the M700 has had longer and greater availability in left-hand action, I can say that I have much more experience with the Remington Model 700.

Retro Remington
Remington sent me one of the 50th Anniversary Model 700s—chambered, naturally, for the great 7mm Remington Magnum cartridge, which was introduced in 1962 along with the new rifle. Opening the box was like taking a step back in time. No, I don’t go back to the beginning with the M700, but I acquired my first one, an early used specimen, in about 1965. And this one was nearly identical to the rifle I owned 47 years ago.

As reported last month, Winchester went appropriately nostalgic but also fairly ornate with their 75th Anniversary Model 70, an appropriate tribute to Jack O’Connor. Remington went retro with the 50th Anniversary Model. It is, in most ways, an early 1960s version—a BDL with floorplate, 24-inch barrel with standard open sights, and the stock is pure 1960s: Fleur de lis impressed checkering, Monte Carlo comb, ventilated recoil pad and black synthetic fore-end tip (both with white-line spacers). From today’s perspective, many may not appreciate the look—the Model 700 has gone through many cosmetic changes in the last 50 years—but my generation will recognize it instantly.

The rifle has Remington’s newer X-MarkPro externally adjustable trigger rather than the old Mike Walker-designed trigger, and the two-position safety lacks the original bolt lock when on Safe, but externally, there are just three differences between this Model 700 and the one I had when I was a teenager: The wood is a whole lot better (nicely finished Grade B walnut) rather than the darker polyurethane finish of the 1960s. The floorplate is laser-engraved, clearly marking this rifle as a 50th Anniversary edition. By the way, both this rifle and my old rifle are both in right-hand actions; in 1965 it would be another 15 years before I made the switch to left-hand bolts.

The final difference is that my original M700 was chambered to .264 Winchester Magnum. This is of historical significance because Winchester’s .264, introduced in 1958, was the cock of the walk in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Warren Page (longtime shooting editor at Field & Stream), among others, had long touted a fast 7mm. The 7×61 Sharpe and Hart had a following, as did Roy Weatherby’s 7mm Weatherby Magnum. Page apparently convinced Remington’s chief engineer, Mike Walker, and he and his team created the 7mm Remington Magnum and introduced it along with the new rifle.

The rest we know. The 7mm Remington Magnum is more versatile than Winchester’s .264 (I like the .264, but facts are facts), and it wasn’t as overbore capacity so performed much better in a standard 24-inch barrel. Apparently, the public quickly grasped this, because the .264 fell off quickly and has never recovered, while the 7mm Remington Magnum went on to become the world’s most popular belted magnum. With all the newer 7mms, some faster, some shorter and fatter, some unbelted, Remington’s Big 7 isn’t as popular today as it has been for most of the last 50 years, but it remains a world standard hunting load and undoubtedly had much to do with the success of the Model 700.

But in 1965, teenaged Boddington didn’t know any better. The .264’s star was still shining, and the 7mm Remington Magnum’s was just starting to rise. I did a lot of my early hunting with that BDL .264, and Dad had it restocked in a particularly beautiful piece of walnut that Jack Pohl at Bishop’s had been hanging on to. I thought that rifle was magic, and in my hands it darn near was. I lost it—along with everything else—in a 1980 burglary. The real shame is that, although I’ve searched, I can find no useable photo of that rifle from my pre-writing days.

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