One hundred years ago, something very important happened for hunters. A British company by the name of Holland & Holland introduced the .375 Belted Rimless Nitro-Express. Today, this cartridge is known simply as the .375 H&H. Fifty years later, another good thing happened: Remington introduced the Model 700 bolt-action rifle. For 2012, Remington has united these two classics to celebrate their 50th and 100th year anniversaries.
Let me say up front that I don’t need a .375 H&H. I don’t routinely hunt dangerous game, and if and when I do, it’s very likely I’ll be doing it with a rifle manufactured by whichever company is sponsoring the hunt. Full disclosure aside, I want this rifle! Partly because it is destined to become a classic collectible but mostly because I truly appreciate guns that are darn-near perfect.
The hunter’s choice for decades, the Remington Model 700 in .375 H&H has a storied legacy of taking big game like bears and buffalos. One hundred years after the .375 H&H was born, the Remington 700 is turning 50—and it’s still fast handling and plenty capable.
I should probably go on to say that if you’re looking to build a rifle battery that would allow you to hunt any game animal walking this planet, something in .375 H&H should be a part of your collection. At the same time, a comment about the popularity of the Remington Model 700 with hunters is due. Many have said the Winchester Model 70 is the rifleman’s rifle. That may be true. For me, one thing’s for certain: Remington’s Model 700 is the hunter’s rifle.
I’m sure a few armchair experts will quickly point out that Remington 700 is not a controlled-round-feed (CRF) design and therefore not suitable for hunting dangerous game. It’s true that the 700 is a push-feed (PF) action, but the idea that it is somehow insufficient for dangerous game hunting is preposterous. No action is infallible, and their performance is subject to a user’s abilities. And, while I’m no dangerous game hunting expert, my associate Craig Boddington is, having been on over 100 African safaris. With a caveat on proven reliability, Craig told me, “I have absolutely no qualms about using a PF action in any hunting application.”
I’ll trust Craig on this one. He is someone whom I know has faced down danger on several occasions. Regardless of what I or anyone else might think, the CRF/PF choice is yours. In the end, your skill with whichever rifle you choose will matter much more than the action type.
As for this double anniversary rifle, Remington hit it out of the park. I consider it the most appealing if not the most attractive rifle Remington currently offers. You cannot help but appreciate the classically shaped walnut stock with the straight comb, cheekpiece and black forend tip. Then there’s the generous and very tasteful SuperCell recoil pad. Also, 2 inches forward of the forend, a barrel band features a sling swivel attachment point. Round all of this out with deep-cut checkering at the wrist and forearm and you have a very attractive rifle that balances just shy of the front action screw. This is perfect for a gun you may need to handle fast—like when teeth, tusks or horns are headed your way in a hurry.
Knowing that bad things can happen to riflescopes in the bush, Remington wisely installed a set of express sights. The rear sight is a New England Custom Guns all-steel sight that is drift/screw adjustable for windage and elevation. It has a shallow “V” with a U-notch at center. The front sight is a brass bead mounted on Remington’s customary ramp with a hood. The hood adds cosmetic appeal but I’d remove it on the hunt. I’d also have liked a slightly larger bead up front and a bit larger U-notch in the rear. Damn my aging eyes!
The X-Mark Pro trigger was exceptional. There was no take-up, no creep, and minimal overtravel. The trigger broke at a crisp and consistent 4 pounds. What a delight it is to take a rifle out of its factory box and realize the trigger is as perfect as a trigger can be.
As for the rest of this rifle, it’s pure 700. There’s a hinged floorplate that allows you to unload the three-round magazine box quickly. The release is positioned inside the triggerguard, high, near where the front of the guard joins the bottom metal. For those who worry about inside-the-triggerguard floorplate releases, try as I might, I could not make it let go during recoil or by hitting it with the front of my trigger finger. The triggerguard and floorplate are steel for added durability.
If I could change one thing on this rifle, it would be the same thing I’d change on every new Remington 700. Until 1982, when you placed the safety of a Remington 700 in the “safe” position, it locked the bolt in the closed position. This kept the bolt from inadvertently coming open and unlocking the action. On more than one occasion, I’ve had this happen while carrying a 700 after the bolt handle snagged on a branch or me. It’s something you need to keep in mind; make suret the bolt is closed as soon as you shoulder any 700. The plus side is that you can keep the rifle on safe while loading or unloading.
Running The Rifle
I wanted to subject this rifle to a field test that would replicate its real world intended use. So I went to Gunsite to run this rifle through a dangerous game training class. Short of actually hunting dangerous game, I figured this was the best way to sort out this rifle’s suitability for that purpose.
First, I needed a scope and mounts. I turned to Leupold and opted for their very light 1-4x20mm VX-2 riflescopes. Paired with their QR rings and bases, this allowed quick access to the open sights, providing what I felt was the perfect combination. This brought the total rifle weight to 9 pounds. I also needed ammunition, and in addition to 40 rounds of factory Federal Cape Shock, I assembled 100 rounds of low-recoil loads to save my shoulder.
During the class, we ran the rifle through every conceivable situation you might expect during a Cape buffalo hunt. We shot from sticks at 30 and out to 200 yards, and from various field positions. We worked extensively on a charging buffalo target and we even went through a mock hunt with life-sized buffalo targets. The 700 performed exemplary. Feeding was flawless, ejection was positive and the crisp trigger helped me place my shots where I aimed. The more I shot this rifle, the more I liked it.
From the bench, the story was the same. I tested the two loads used during the Gunsite class along with an additional load from Remington. The average group size for five shots at 100 yards was 1.71 inches. I should also mention that my idea of fun is not shooting a .375 H&H repetitively from a bench and a string of five shots with a .375 is stretching my limits. Less of a wimp might have shot better because my first three shots were generally within an inch of each other. Thank the gun gods for the SuperCell pad!
If grizzlies, lion or buffalo were my quarry, I’d happily write the check and take this rifle along. For more information, visit remington.com or call 800-243-9700.
Check out page two for the story on the 50th Anniversary 700.
If you think the Model 700 has deep roots, you’re right. And wrong. The design is actually quite recent by historical standards. But the company had a bolt rifle before Ford had a Model T. Its tube-fed .45-70, invented by John Keene, proved too costly. After the Army rejected it in 1881, Remington built a handful before falling into receivership five years later, victim of its unbridled expansion in an economy with no military imperatives.
In 1962, Remington announced a new rifle. The Model 700 borrowed heavily from the 721/722—in fact, the mechanism is the same. A trim tang, swept bolt with checkered knob and cast alloy (not stamped steel) bottom metal distinguished the 700 from its parents. So did a modern stock, designed to put the shooter’s eye in line with a scope sight. Mike Walker gave the 700 a very fast lock time (3.2 milliseconds) and a short lead. Bore and chamber tolerances were suitably tight.
PRICE POINTS: The ADL in .222, .222 Magnum, .243, 6mm, .270, .280, .308 and .30-06 retailed for $114.95. It had pressed point-pattern “checkering.” The BDL featured pressed fleur-de-lis panels, a price of $139.95. Remington also listed magnum 700s: $129.95 for the ADL, $154.95 for the BDL. A special-order, safari-style 700, with braked 26-inch barrel in .375 H&H or .458 Winchester Magnum, brought $310. The 700 big bores were from leftover 725 Kodiak stock and identically priced.
The concurrent introduction of Remington’s 7mm Magnum cartridge gave the 700 a terrific boost at market. Wyoming outfitter Les Bowman hailed the flat arc and lethal bite of the belted 7mm, but pointed out its modest recoil. The other charter magnum in the 700: Winchester’s similar but less ably advertised .264. These rounds, and the .300 Winchester Magnum that soon followed, wore 24-inch barrels. Remington’s John Fink tells me early magnum barrels actually taped 23.5 inches. “By 1965 they were truly 24.” The 20-inch barrels standard for the .243, 6mm, .270, .280, .308 and .30-06 were replaced by 22-inch tubes in 1964.
EVOLVING 700: In 1969, Remington installed a longer rear bolt shroud on the 700 and jeweled the bolt. A restyled stock wore a buttplate of black plastic instead of anodized alloy. Machine-cut checkering replaced pressed panels. The RKW wood finish came a few years later. Remington first listed a left-bolt, left-stock 700 in 1973, in .270, .30-06 and 7mm Magnum. By then the Varmint Special had arrived, with no sights on the heavy barrel. Its .22-250 and, later, .25-06 chamberings were for wildcat rounds adopted by Remington in 1965 and 1969. Beginning in 1966, Remington manufactured 700s for military and police forces. Paul Gogol, design engineer and Custom Shop foreman, came up with a sniper rifle on a 40X action. It won a contract from the Marine Corps. Substituting the 700 mechanism, Remington built 995 of these M-40 Sniper rifles over the next six years. Many were fitted with Redfield 3-9X scopes. Chambered to 7.62mm NATO, the M-40 saw service in Vietnam. In 1986, the U.S. Army approved a Model 700 SWS (Sniper Weapon System).
FAVORITES: Remington has added many versions of the 700 since my early hunts with the rifle. My favorites include a 5.5-pound 700ti with titanium receiver and 24-inch .30-06 barrel, introduced in 2001. The top-drawer synthetic stock is beautifully proportioned. The 700 Classic came 23 years earlier. I like its satin-finished walnut stock with conservative lines and full-wrap front checkering. In 1981, Remington began limited runs of the Classic, listing one cartridge per year. That program expired in 2005. The 700 SPS (Special Purpose Synthetic) replaced the 700 ADL in 2005, but BDLs continue to sell briskly in walnut.
OVER THE YEARS: Like the 721/722, early 700 rifles featured a side-switch thumb safety that in its rearward position arrested the bolt and trigger. A secured bolt handle is an asset in cover, preventing accidental lift. But a few accidental discharges as shooters unloaded caused concern at Remington. In March 1982, a recall brought Model 700s (and other Remington bolt guns) in for re-fitting. For $20, Remington would clean and inspect the trigger and safety, then remove the bolt-locking device. The customer would get the product back with a $20 gift certificate. No 700s built after the recall have a bolt-locking safety. In 2005, Remington replaced the adjustable 1962-era trigger with a new X-Mark Pro. It had a fixed pull of 3.5 pounds, no adjustments. Four years later, it was overhauled so shooters could set pull from 2.5 to 4.5 pounds.
While the 700’s moon-shaped beryllium clip extractor doesn’t appear as substantial as the Mauser claw, its longevity speaks volumes. And because there’s no slot in receiver or barrel, the cartridge is fully enclosed. I’ve never had a 700 extractor fail. Controlled feed? No. Reliable feed? Yes!
Remington’s first magnum 700s had stainless steel barrels. Stainless can’t be blued, but because blued metal was the order of the day, these barrels were plated with copper, then tin, then blued! In 1967, Remington changed to chrome-moly steel for all 700 barrels. Stainless steel later returned, polished bright or satin. Remington’s TriNyte coating arrived in 2005 on the 700 XCR (Extreme Conditions Rifle).
STAYING POWER: The 700 has been barreled to nearly every centerfire round feasible in a bolt action. Two receiver lengths handle just about everything, from the .17 Remington (1971) to the .338 Lapua Magnum (2011). Bestsellers are still the .30-06 and .270. The 7mm Remington and .300 Winchester top the magnum list. Elk-hunter surveys I’ve taken show the 700 and Winchester’s 70 neck-and-neck in popularity, though the Model 70 has been around 25 years longer.
50th EDITION: To commemorate the 50th anniversary of its flagship rifle, Remington is offering a special edition this year. I’m told there’s no limit to the production run, but that it will end in December. John Fink says this rifle is faithful to the 700 that debuted in my youth. “We found original drawings and digitized stock dimensions so CNCs could cut the walnut to 1962 dimensions.” The forend is appropriately flatter than on current rifles. A black ventilated pad mimics the original. The same goes for white spacers. “We programmed laser cutters to reverse the checkering for the look of pressed panels. We included the patch atop the grip, too.” Those laser-cut panels actually look better than original stampings. The commemorative rifle’s walnut has more figure than you’ll find on standard-grade bolt rifles.
TESTFIRE: As soon as I got a sample of the 50th-anniversary Model 700, I scoped it with a 4X Leupold—an updated version of the scope many hunters preferred at the 700’s debut. Scrounging four types of ammunition, I hied off to the range. This 7mm Magnum showed a decided preference for a Federal load with 160-grain Nosler Partitions and for 160-grain Swift A-Frames loaded by Remington. Both printed 0.9-inch three-shot groups. Neither Winchester 150-grain nor Hornady 154-grain bullets stayed that tight, though their accuracy was certainly acceptable for hunting. The bolt cycled and fed cartridges smoothly. The crisp trigger broke at 3.25 pounds.
You can buy Remington’s 50th-anniversary rifle for $1,399. That’s nine times the 1962 price. But in that year, gasoline cost 26 cents a gallon, and you could snare a surplus 1917 Enfield or SMLE for less than $30—and have the postman deliver it to your door. —Wayne van Zwoll