Remington's always shoot well, says Bruce Potts, and this smart stalker-friendly .223 combines that feature with good looks and great handling
It is nice to see Remington getting a good foothold back in the UK again and one rifle that many enthusiasts have missed is its “go to” Model 700. Introduced in 1962, the design is still going strong and it has been copied as many times as the original Mauser 98 was.
The SPS — or Special Purpose Synthetic — is the basic version of the Model 700 with matte blued surfaces and synthetic stock.
It is available in many guises: Varmint, Tactical, Stainless or, as here, Compact Tactical. What you have is a strong, inherently accurate design in a short, compact, carbine-like rifle with stalker-friendly synthetic stock for a price of less than £1,000.
Available in .223 or .308 and .300 AAC Blackout rounds in 20in or 16.5in barrel lengths and threaded, I had the .223 version with the fast twist rifling of 1-in-9in. This meant I could use heavier weight .22 centrefire bullets for small species deer where legal.
- This rifle can be bought as standard in the Hogue rubberised touch Sporter stock, as here, or can be ordered with a Remington Tactical stock design or Magpul Sporter/Tactical stock.
- The stock usually gives you the first sense of how the rifle is going to handle.
- The Hogue stock has been around as long as I have been shooting and is an aftermarket design that can be seen on many manufacturers’ rifles. It is a lightweight Sporter-type stock that has an inner shell which is clad in a rubberised textured finish. This is in vogue these days, but Hogue was one of the very first manufacturers to offer this type of finish.
Need to know
Model: 700 SPS
Action: Bolt action
Magazine: Five shot in .223
Calibre: .223 Remington, fast-twist rifling
Barrel length: 20in Varmint profile
Stock: Hogue synthetic
Trigger: X-Mark Pro
Overall length: 39.5in
Importer: Raytrade, tel 01635 253344
- It allows a good grip as it has that latex feel that adheres to your skin, but it also attracts dust and blood.
- It has a nice grey/black colour, with dimples on the sides and pistol grip, and has a reasonably wide fore-end, semi-beaver-tail in profile and with a sling swivel stud fitted, for good stability.
- The rear section has little cast or comb — it is quite straight, in fact — and no cheekpiece, which allows a good hold in either shoulder. It is light, too, and allows the Remington to balance just in front of the magazine.
- You also have some accuracy benefits, including aluminium pillars to support and stop stock crushing by over-tightening and a free-floated barrel channel.
You would expect the barrel on a carbine to be slim and light, but that is not the case here — this SPS has a short Varmint-profile barrel. It has a large-diameter muzzle of over 0.800in, quite straight tapered for rigidity, and is threaded with an 18mm/1 thread and protector.
Being only 20in long (16.5in available), you have a nice, short and sound moderator-friendly rifle ideal for the woods or lamping.
Being an SPS tactical barrel, instead of a traditional 1-in-12in or 1-in-14in rifling twist, this had a 1-in-9 twist rate. This allows the use of bullets heavier than 60-gr and up to 80-gr, permitting some good bullets designed for small species deer and longer-range fox loads to be used, rather than just lightweight Varmint-type projectiles, doubling the little gun’s usefulness.
The finish is a subdued black bluing that is non-reflective and ideal for hunting purposes. It is a little too austere but suits this type of rifle well — and no worries if you scratch it either.
Action, magazine, trigger
- Despite its dull exterior, the crucial part of this rifle — the action — remains pure Model 700, with the same twin locking lugs in a strong circular receiver ring, often dubbed the “three rings of steel”.
- The extractor is a small pressed steel insert into the bolt face and the ejection is via a plunger recessed into the bolt face also.
- The receiver has a stepped configuration, with the rear section being lower, and accepts bases thus tapped and of the right height.
- The safety is still the right-sited sliding lever acting directly on to the trigger unit and the hinged floorplate replaces the solid bottom so common to the old ADL model.
- The actual bolt operation is smooth enough due to the finish, which becomes better with a few runs through it, and is aided by the semi-dog-legged and flattened bolt knob. It is a reliable and time-proven action that will serve its owner well.
- The trigger unit — the X-Mark Pro trigger — has been in use now for a few years and is so much better than the last. It has a 40 per cent reduction in pull weight coupled with minimal creep and far superior adjustments. I had this one set at just under 3lb, making it safe but light enough for hunting duties.
- The safety is still a small lever behind the bolt handle and Remington has not been seduced into making it fancy with bolt/trigger locks and bolt lift options — just on or off, and that suits my old brain these days. You can also keep pressure on it as you operate for a silent disengagement when that buck steps out.
I had two reasons to test this month’s rifle: first, fast twist .22 centrefires interest me in general and secondly, the new Pulsar Trail thermal sight would make for a great chance to outwit the foxes now looking for an easy meal around the pheasant pens. The one-piece Picatinny scope rail mount makes it easy to swap over scopes.
I fitted a Kahles Multizero and sighted at 100 yards to check accuracy from factory and reloads alike. Despite its fast twist barrel, I just had to see how the lighter bullets would fare. I had some Remington 50-gr Accutip bullets, which I have used well in Scotland on roe where legal. From this 20in barrel, they gave a nice 3,222fps velocity for 1,153ft/lb energy and 1in groups, for three shots.
Another good all-rounder is the new Geco factory load, again a good fox or small species legal round. Its 56-gr bullet achieved 3,155fps and 1,238ft/lb with consistent just sub-inch groups.
Next up were the reloads with a wider range of bullet weights: light for vermin, heavier for longer range and small species deer. Light 40-gr V-Max loads offer good speed and were fine in the fast-twist rifling barrel — sometimes a light bullet can come apart due to rotational speed. A load of 24.0 grains of Vit N120 powder, Federal Match primer, achieved a velocity of 3,421fps, 1,038ft/lb energy and 0.95in groups, which is very good.
With 23.0 grains of RL 10X powder, the 55-gr Sierra GameKing achieved 3,157fps and 1,218ft/lb energy with three shots into 0.75in.
Upping the bullet weights, I shot some 60-gr Nosler Partitions with a load of 24.0 grains of RL 15 powder for 2,823fps and 1,062ft/lb. The best heavier bullet was the 75-gr Sierra Hollow Point Boat Tail with Vit N540 powder and 24.25 grains achieved a velocity of 2,532fps for 1,068ft/lb and 0.95in groups.
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With keepers now out and about controlling vermin on their shoots, I fitted a new Pulsar thermal-imaging sight to the Remington SPS and sighted in at 100 yards with the 55-gr Sierra reload. The Geco 56-gr is a good choice if you do not reload.
Thermal imagers have transformed the way we look at the game fields and what lives within them. Some say it is cheating as no living — in other words, warm-bodied — object can avoid the penetrating gaze of the thermal detection. But if you need to shoot vermin for an employer, they are a godsend.
The Pulsar Trail XP38 offers
a superb level of detection and clarity at a price of £3,769.95.
Pricey, but it can detect a heat
source of a 1.7m-tall object out
I could attach and detach the Trail on its rail mount easily, so I used it as a handheld to spot game then remounted it on to the SPS to shoot.
One shoot had a fox problem and the remaining foxes were getting lamp-shy, so I took the Remington SPS out for a couple of evenings. With the Hogue synthetic stock you can rough handle this Remington and crawl about the hedgerows without fear of damage.
Using the Trail thermal as a handheld, I could see a fox walking down the hedgeline at 400 yards off. So I had to skirt around the farm buildings to get the wind correct, quartering so he would hopefully walk past me in an opening through the hawthorn.
With the Trail attached to the rifle, I sat and waited for 30 minutes. Nothing. So I relocated, and walked right into him. Off came the Trail and I managed to pick up another heat signature scouting the farmer’s ornamental duck pond.
From a prone position I crawled into range, assessed a safe backdrop and soon old Charlie, unable to penetrate the pens, came trotting into range at 60 yards, where the Remington’s mild report from the MAE muzzle can dropped him.
A great little rifle with dependable accuracy and reliability, this Remington acts in a dual role for small species deer as well as vermin with its barrel chambering. The short barrel is perfect for a hunting tool with moderator fitted, and when I saw the farmer the morning after my outing and told him I had shot the fox that had been harassing his ducks, he did not even know I had been there or taken the shot. Perfect.
Accuracy: It is a Remington, need I say more? 17/20
Handling: Lightweight and good handling 17/20
Trigger: Better than most 17/20
Stock: Simple design and very tactile 15/20
Value: Good dependability for the money 17/20
A great little rifle with dependable accuracy and reliability