When Brandon, first mate of the Sundy, nosed the bow of the small rubber boat against a near-shear rock face, my first thought was “What the heck am I supposed to do now?” Actually, I may’ve said that out loud, because Brandon’s simple response was “Get out.” As the waves broke against the rock, I did just that, getting a tenuous grip just as the young Brandon reversed the zodiac and spun it around for a trip back to our 50-foot mother ship and floating hunting lodge for the week. From here, there was nowhere to go but up.
The reason for my amateur rock-climbing adventure was a big black bear rooting through the detritus of the high tide line on a beach just a few hundred yards away. How I was going to get in position for a shot at the bear was still in question, but at that exact moment I was more worried about going for an unplanned swim in the Gulf of Alaska. Somehow, I managed to inch my way up the face and over the folds of boulders that lay between me and the beach.
I got a few nicks and bruises on my scramble and while crawling through the scattered matchsticks of an old-growth blow-down I found just past the beach, but it was my rifle that really took a beating on the weeklong hunt. Bounced around in a rubber boat, subjected to salt spray, dropped on rocks and even floated in a tidal pool—the Remington Model 700 XCR II in .300 Winchester Magnum stood up to the full Alaska Experience and still managed to put one 180-grain Remington Premier A-Frame on target when it counted.
Introduced in 2005 as a weather-ready version of Remington’s venerable Model 700 centerfire rifle, the XCR quickly found a following among hunters who valued the 700’s reputation for accuracy and performance, and recognized the need for a gun that would stand up to tougher-than-normal use. As evidenced by its moniker—the Extreme Conditions Rifle—everything about the original XCR was built to tackle anything Mother Nature could dish out.
At the core, or more precisely, surface of the XCR system is Remington’s proprietary TriNyte coatings, a multiple-layered application that creates an impermeable barrier between the elements and the gun’s exposed metal surfaces, including the hammer-forged barrel, bolt, action and trigger. The first step applies an electroless nickel plating to a 416 stainless steel base, preventing moisture from reaching the metal to virtually eliminate the threat of rust or corrosion.
That leaves only abrasion and wear to worry about, which the engineers at Remington tackle with a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating including nitrides and other compounds applied at the molecular level. This vapor deposition process creates an incredibly hard, multi-layered and micro-thin coating that registers in excess of 80 on the Rockwell scale. By comparison, a typical, untreated carbon-steel barrel rates somewhere in the neighborhood of 28 to 35 on the same scale.
When they were introduced in 2005, the barreled actions of the original XCRs were finished with a TriNyte coating colored to closely mimic that of the base stainless steel. With the 2010 introduction of the XCR II, Remington chose a matte black DLC coating popular among hunters wanting a more traditional looking rifle without sacrificing the durability and performance the XCR had become known for. While Remington doesn’t tout it as so, the TriNyte coating also creates a slicker surface, in my opinion. Whether it’s all in my head or not, I believe this results in a faster-operating rifle due to reduced tension between the hard surfaces of the bolt and action. Sure, it may only be able to be measured in milliseconds, but a smoother bolt cycle beats a sticky one any day.
The Remington XCR II took plenty of abuse but shrugged off any effects from exposure to the elements, even saltwater, thanks to the patented TriNyte finish, which covers all the metal parts for added endurance and lubricity
The XCR II’s slick action and diamond-hard barrel are set in a synthetic stock finished in a distinctive green color that comes in just a shade darker than olive drab. Black rubber overmolded panels from Hogue provide a sure grip on the forend and pistol grip, a real plus in the cold, wet climate the extreme-condition rifle was designed for. A patented rubber SuperCell recoil pad and hinged floorplate with engraved XCR II insignia round out the sharp-looking rifle’s exterior.
There are not a lot of new things to be said about the venerable Model 700 bolt action, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Crafted from a single piece of bar stock, the round action (and its much-hyped three rings of steel) has been proven time and again to be among the toughest, most reliable available—a fact that’s not lost on rifle builders who overwhelming choose 700 (or 700-variant) actions when crafting custom guns.
The safety is Remington’s standard two-position model, which no longer locks the bolt down as it once did. Still, located at the right rear of the action, it’s easy to operate, going from the rear safe position to forward “fire” with a firm push.
The XCR II also gets fitted with Remington’s X-Mark Pro user-adjustable trigger. The company claims the trigger comes factory set at a crisp 3.5 pounds, but post-hunt, the trigger on my test rifle tripped anywhere from 4.5 to 5.25 pounds, as measured with a Timney spring-tension scale. I didn’t think to measure the trigger before the bear hunt, so if the added weight and 0.75-pound variability is a result of the tough conditions the gun was subjected to in Alaska, I can’t say. The pull is crisp, however, and virtually creep-free.