Which Factory Rifle Action is "Best"?
Remington 700 – Debunking some urban myths.
This is either going to be a lightning rod for some serious discussion, or it will serve it’s purpose which is to get some of the little known facts about the Remington 700 rifle action out in the open. I am hoping for the latter, and I truly hope that this leads others in the field to get some “inside” information out there for the average consumer to be able to evaluate BEFORE they throw down some of their hard earned money.
First & Foremost: Let me categorically state that I mean NO, as in ZERO, disrespect to anyone out there who loves the Remington 700, makes a living building Remington’s, dropped a world record buck with a Remington, or any combination of the above. Remington’s 700 series is a very popular rifle action. There are more parts, more options, more accessories and “toys” for a Remington 700 than just about any other category short of the 1911 and the AR variants. The Remington 700 is to the rifle world what the Small Block Chevy is to the hot rod world and there are some good reasons for this. At the time of the Remingtons introduction only Sako and Remington made actual true short actions and the Remington was a lot cheaper than anything from Winchester, Sako, Browning, Mauser Werke, Weatherby etc. The Remington action being round and softer than the others was easier to work with; this is now not as much of an issue with the tooling and techniques we have today. The problem today is that the more heavily marketed product is sometimes interpreted as “The best” for those that don’t know anything more than what the glossy ads tell them.
The Remington 700 is a fine rifle action, as a beginning platform, and with as many quality gunsmiths as we have available to us in every state, you can get some real great performance out of it with some work, eventually. Although the 700 is a popular action it has some flaws that I would like to “expose" to those interested in knowing. There is no reason to spend perfectly good money on a rifle action only to have to throw half of it out and replace it. If you are a Remington bigot and think there is no other rifle in the world that is okay, this is America and it’s still a free country for now but there is a larger world out there beyond big green and you are missing out on a lot of good rifle products.
I have been reading through a lot of the old posts online, all around the internet, and there is a common theme to people, new shooters, asking questions about “such & such” a rifle action and receiving anecdotal reports about how this person’s rifle works for them, but I don’t see much in the write ups about the rifle actions themselves. For the purpose of this discourse we are discussing the actions themselves which would be built into custom rifles by good smiths. Name brand recognition is one of the largest causes leading to buyer remorse that I see come through the gun shop where I hang out and do some part time apprentice work from time to time. People buy “X” brand, because they know people who use it, talked to someone who loves it, or read an article where “THIS” guy loves the product and everyone should love it. Just because you haven’t seen it or heard of it doesn’t mean it isn’t a great rifle. Remington is a great marketing company that is also a gun company.
For the record: For comparison I have laid out a Remington 700 short action, a Winchester Model 70 long action and a Howa 1500 long action. We don’t have a Remington 700 long action at the moment but the measurements on a 700 short or long would be the same regardless.
Stiffness: Here is a picture of the bottom of all three actions. The Remington is the round one on the right, the Winchester is in the middle and the Howa is on the left. Both of the flat bottomed actions are better at resisting bullet torque than the round bottom 700. The Howa and Winchester have recoil lugs that are integral to the receiver, the 700’s lug is a separate part sandwiched between the barrel and receiver which works but it’s a cheesy way of doing business.
The biggest thing that is commonly known as a “negative” on the Remington 700 is the structural shape of the action itself. Stripped down to the bare receiver, and placed side by side against other actions, you will notice that the Remington 700 is round and has much less cross sectional material than the Winchester Model 70 or the Howa 1500. The overall amount of material and the locations where it is thin are very important. In the pictures below, you will see where I have measured the wall thickness on the bottom of the action on the same side as the feed/ejection port. This is generally the thinnest part of the action, so a comparison of this point on your action is definitely relevant to the discussion. You can see that both the Winchester Model 70 and the Howa 1500 are almost 2 1/2 times as thick as the wall on the Remington 700. This is an important point because how rigid your action is will determine quite a bit about how well your rifle will group.
A correctly built custom rifle will have a free floated barrel, so that barrel, which can be upwards of 26 inches long, will only be anchored to the front of your action. Because your action is asked to support all that length and counter weight, plus keep it straight under the torque of the bullet spinning down the barrel, the stiffer your action, the less barrel whip you will have.
Continued due to length -
Extractor: One thing I didn’t realize until I was doing research when building my first sniper rig was that until you have fire formed your brass, which means having shot it in your rifles chamber, the brass is not truly fit to your chamber. While it is proper ammunition for the caliber you have purchased it for, it is not a custom fit. When you fire it the first time, the brass will expand under pressure, and become more of a custom fit to the chamber. Once it swells into the chamber how do you get it out? That is the job of your extractor – and you should have a good one, because if it breaks, you are screwed.
The Remington 700 features a recessed, thin, crescent shaped extractor. The extractor on the inside of the bolt is thin spring steel in construction that sits below a very thin rim of the bolt itself. In the event of any type of case failure, causing a shell to swell within the chamber, the only thing holding on to the shell to try and eject it is this very thin rim on the bolt and a very thin piece of spring steel that is “gripping” the case rim.
By contrast, both Sako and Howa have a sturdier, steel extractor that has proven to be more durable and resilient. I have pictured all three here so you can see the differences for yourself. Notice the size difference between the Howa, which I personally feel is the best of the three, and the Remington.
Bolt Handle: Another major piece of the action that is important to reliability is the bolt handle. If you can’t open the bolt, you can’t extract and eject a spent case or feed in a new round so you pretty much have one expensive club. The Remington 700 features a 3 piece bolt with a head, body, and handle that are brazed together. By contrast the Howa features a one piece, drop forged bolt, and there is no weak point to this construction. The Pre-1964 Winchester bolts were also one piece, but the post-1964 bolts are two pieces with the handle having a ring that is splined onto the bolt and brazed. Obviously a one piece of anything is going to be stronger than pieces that are assembled, while brazing is a strong joining of metals it is not welded or one homogenous drop forged piece.
Safety: An integral, and the most dangerous part of any firearms fire control system is the safety. It should be strong and have a positive “on” & “off”, if it has a third position, explained later, so much the better. The Remington 700 has a 2 position safety that is a sear block on earlier triggers and a sear and trigger block on the newest trigger. Winchester has a three position safety mounted on the bolt that locks the firing pin independent of the trigger and in the third position locks the bolt closed as well. Howa has a three position safety that acts as a trigger block and locks the bolt closed in the third position. Seen as a weak point in the design, aftermarket parts are available to convert the Remington to a Winchester type.
The benefit to the three position safety is that you can unload the weapon, while the safety is still engaged and the bolt unlocked. If the safety is mounted on the bolt and blocks the actual firing pin (Win 70) that’s as good as it gets.
Bottom Metal: The bottom metal on the Remington 700 is one piece (good) & made of thin, soft aluminum (bad). Commonly the latching tab on the magazine door, also made of aluminum, breaks and since the door is not available as a replacement part the entire assembly must be replaced. Don’t ever, ever take a fall and land on the flimsy trigger guard. There are several good aftermarket bottom metal assemblies for the Remington 700 but they add 200 to 300 dollars to your rifle build project. The bottom metal on the Howa is one piece & made of Zinc alloy with a steel door. The Winchester is one piece on the short mags and two pieces on others. On Winchester stainless steel actions the parts are all stainless, on chrome moly actions the trigger guard is aluminum but very robust and the magazine door is made of steel. The original M-40’s were built with Winchester bottom metal shortened to fit the 700 action.
Firing Pin: The last part I want to discuss is the firing pin itself, or its weight to be more precise. The heavier the firing pin the greater its forward inertia. Something that is not commonly discussed is that all rifle actions, except the CZ 527, have an internal flaw that is inherent and affects your accuracy. Every time you pull the trigger, the firing pin moves forward to strike the primer, but it stops traveling by bottoming out on the bolt itself. This bottoming out in turn drives the bolt forward and unseats the locking lugs until the pressure from the gases expanding and pushing the bullet forward force the brass case rearward and reseats the lugs back into place. Don’t believe it? Dry fire your rifle a couple of times with it lightly resting on the table. That forward motion is the firing pin bottoming out. As a result, the lighter your firing pin, the less momentum will be generated to bottom out on the bolt, which will lead to less action harmonics which means less barrel harmonics and increased accuracy. From the factory: The Howa has the lightest firing pin, Remington is in the middle and the Winchester has the heaviest.
Opinion: For my money I think the Howa 1500 / Weatherby Vanguard is the best action for the money right now. You can get better actions, superior in construction and with tighter tolerances, but you will pay excessively for them from custom makers. Most custom actions are for benchrest rifles so they are single shot and the bolts are too tightly fitted in the receivers for use in a tactical rifle. The Howa’s are made by drop forging and CNC finishing in Japan, so it is not an American made action, but the product is very good and the prices are more than reasonable. For a US made action, I still favor the Winchester Model 70 over the Remington, but to do it right you need to find a highly skilled ‘smith who is willing to take on the build. Winchester actions are drop forged then induction hardened so they are very hard and notoriously tough on tooling and difficult to work with, some lesser skilled ‘smiths will refuse to blueprint a Model 70. At the end of the day, it’s your money and your journey, so do your research and be an informed buyer. Some gun writers like to say that the Remington vs. Winchester thing is like the Ford vs. Chevy thing. I loudly disagree, when you compare the Remington action to the Winchester and Howa from a technically analytical perspective the Remington definitely comes up short. There are far greater differences between these rifle actions then there are between an F-150 and a C-1500. Any skilled gunsmith who understands how a bolt action rifle functions from the applied physics perspective can make a bug hole shooter from any action, but at what a price? How much money do you want to throw at the problem? Why not use a good action to start with and spend the savings on optics? No sense shelling out your hard earned cash, only to discard half the action parts and then buy custom parts to make it into what you wanted in the first place.
NOTE: This article was not produced solely by me and would not have been possible without the knowledge, time, care and understanding given to me by Brett Evans of N.W. Armswerkes. Brett is truly a master of his craft and was more than willing to sit and go over all parts of the actions with me to truly bring out the pros and cons of each piece. His expertise were instrumental in ensuring the most accurate data was available for everyone to benefit from.
Kind of funny how not a single benchrest match has ever been won by the "Seperior" actions you tout. Kind of funny how none of the actions you list has dethorned the Rem 700 as the Marine Corp and Army sniper rifle.
The floor plate really has nothing at all to do with accuracy. Plus how do you explane the Remington 700 ADL with only a single trigger guard? Granted I really dislike the Alum floor plate. My "Infiror" Remington 700 will out shoot any Weatherby or Howa I have ever seen on the market.
My grandfather was a Accuracy nut He was building custom rifles when most of us were just a twinkle in our daddys eye. I bought a few Weatherby rifles and after shooting them for a few weeks got rid of them. Roy Weatherby invited my grandfther down to the factory in California. He went down there and told him just what he though of his rifles. Never owned one again.
I am a die hard remington 700 fan. But I do own other rifles. Never seen the need to waste $3000 on a rifle that would shoot maybe 1" groups on a good day.
If you are bulging the case head area of a case then I would sugest that you back off your loads a bit. I have never had a single problem out of any ofmy remington rifles.
Also if you want to help support the Japenese econemy go for it. I for one will stick to buying the best rifles in the world the ones made right here in the USA.....
You might have missed this part of the article: "First & Foremost: Let me categorically state that I mean NO, as in ZERO, disrespect to anyone out there who loves the Remington 700, makes a living building Remington’s, dropped a world record buck with a Remington, or any combination of the above."
No, on to the matter at hand above. What? :eek:
What benchrest competitors at top level of shooting are using ANY factory action? And let me clarify, if you see a posting that says so and so won such and such with a Remington action, please qualify that it's a FACTORY Action and not one that has been worked over by a gunsmith.
I guarantee you they are all using either high quality, custom built actions like Naska-Bay, Lawton, RPA Quadlock and the like, or they are using a factory action that has been stripped down and rebuilt. No one shooting a benchrest match, let alone even a state level hi power, is shooting a factory rifle or a factory action. Show me one picture of a State, National or World champion that is shooting a FACTORY ACTIONED Rifle.
Here's some links you might want to take a look at before your answer that.
75 world & national titles
6mmbr dot coms rifle action page featuring everything they recommend. You will notice 700 STYLED actions, but you won't find a single Remington 700 Factory action.
Go to any page of the Pennsylvania 1000 yard gun clubs lists of records and you will immediately notice two things. The number of custom actions is about 10 to 1 over "factory" listings and everyone has a gunsmith listed as who built their gun. They list the action, the barrel, the gunsmith, the optics and the cartridge. Why? Because no factory rifle could compete, regardless of who made it, in any country, anywhere, anytime in the history of shooting.
Now, on to the other points you raised.
At any point in time in my post, where did I say that a Remington WOULDN'T shoot well? I said on several occassions that a good gunsmith can make ANYTHING shoot cloverleafs all day long.
I also said that Remington is one of the most widely used products out there. However, I also said it is not the BEST product available and I have clear, cut and concise facts, based on real world numbers that I showed you, and direct comparisons to other products so anyone can judge for themselves.
As for the military argument, I can't even begin to list all the advances that are out there in the real world that our boys in uniform DON'T have because of COSTS. Can you honestly tell me that in all of your years you always had the best gear available? You never wanted for something that was on the civilian market but was not approved or available? Honestly.
You are a die hard Remington guy - which is fine. You have a background in firearms. Great. You have made your choices and you are happy with them. Kudos to you and enjoy your shooting. This is not a personal attack on you or your choices. There are plenty of quality smiths out there that can turn a Remington action into a great rifle, but you will have to pay for that quality and that is what I am talking about.
However, there are plenty of people on this site looking for information BEFORE they buy their first or next rifle. Imagine if you could hear from real world mechanics about what is EXACTLY wrong with the next vehicle you are going to purchase, before you bought it. What if carpenters and concrete guys & electricians gave you actual hands on knowledge of the house they just built, before you bought it. That is what I am talking about with this post. I am giving information that is 100% relevant to the costs you will incur if you want to build a tac driving rifle.
Sweet Jesus - Not everything has to be about a personal affront because it's posted on the internet.
Cerberus Capital Management Group is a privately held investment group with "investors" that reside in countries all over the world. While based in New York, they have satellite offices in London, Baarn, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Osaka and Taipei.
While the products of Remington are still being built here, the profits from all those sales are now being gobbled up by big business and being used all over the planet to support and stimulate economies, and make a sh1tload of money for their investors.
The only way to ensure you aren't giving money overseas with your firearms purchases anymore is to find a custom action builder who is based here, having them construct your action, buy a barrel from one of the great barrel makers up in Minnesota and a stock from someone like Lone Wolf I am afraid.
Sorry Man - It's the way everything is going I am afraid.
For out of the box accuracy the Howa Varmint in 223 or 308 will leave the Remington or Winchester in the dust.
Go to Weatherby : same action But a barrel made by Kreiger ...and it gets even better !
I was waiting for you to stop by, I was very interested in your opinion.
Thank you for posting.
.ok my 2 cents worth my friend a 67 year old target shooter,gunsmith,you
name it he has tried it,even custom barrels,i wont name them,but he has
worked the SAVAGE ARMS CO. to the limits,i know some will say he is crazy
but his most acurate shooting rifles are savage his best shooting rifle is a
worked over Savage model 110 in 22-250,and yes he was a sniper in NAM..
but for me the Browning bolt is my pick..
Why do you need a heavier actions when a lighter one will work?
Why do I need a fancy rifle that is just going to get beat up?
The remington action is a superb action.
Personally I like the Weatherby Mark V action, or the Browning A-Bolt because of the much shorter bolt lift. That said I own 4 Remington 700's, and like them as well. What I get a kick out of is when you mention a Weatherby action, (either Vanguard or Mark V), someone will pipe up and say, "How come you never see a Weatherby action win a benchrest title?" For the same reason a Porsche Turbo has never won a Formula 1 race. Weatherby makes beautiful, accurate hunting rifles. The 90 degree bolt lift can cause problems with fast follow up shots because of scope interference when wearing gloves in the field. I've experienced it, and others have as well. Bill T.
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