From the P14 in World War 1 to post-World War 2 innovation, Remington’s development of the sleek bolt-action Model 700 became the company’s poster child
Our topic of discussion today is the wildly successful Remington 700 Bolt Action Rifle: a poster child for Remington for years.
It was used by the military as a sniper platform; its design has been copied many times over. It has as many configurations as there are days in the year; it has been used to take every game species around the world. Alright, every species is a stretch but the Remington 700 has been and remains to this day a go-to bolt action rifle for shooters and hunters alike.
A rifle the World Wars helped create
For the sake of brevity, we will start our portion of the Remington 700 story with war-time production of bolt action rifles during the first World War. Remington (among others) was contracted to produce Lee-Enfield Pattern Rifles – these were M1914 rifles – for the British.
A brief diversion: Lee-Enfield rifles are bolt action and magazine-fed, with full-length stocks like so many other military rifles. They are chambered in .303 British and were carried around the world by the Brits and many others. The P14 made by Remington was essentially a replica of the Lee in .303 British.
Once the U.S. entered the war, P14 production halted and production of the 1917 version commenced. The P17 was a P14 that was adapted for the standard U.S. Military cartridge, the 30-06, and the same chambering as the Springfield 1903 rifle that was in heavy production at this same time.
The P17 is rather distinct. It has very large wings on either side of the action protecting the rear sight, as well as a bolt handle only a mother could love. After wartime production ended in Ilion, N.Y., and Eddystone, Pa., two of Remington’s factories, the company recognized the need for a sleeker sporting rifle for the burgeoning crowd of sportsmen of the time. And being businessmen, they realized they were already tooled up to make P17s with a bunch of extra parts laying around. As a result, they developed the Model 30, a sleeker version of the P17, which retained some features like the cock on close bolt and bent bolt handle. They were Mauser-style actions with dual locking lugs, box magazines, claw extractors, and, essentially, were sporterized versions of the P17.
The 30 eventually gave way in 1941 to the Remington 720. Their website states it was an improvement on the Model 30 and produced from 1941-44, but production would again jump to military focus for World War 2, primarily Springfield 03 and 03A3 rifles.
When civilian production resumed after the war, some lasting features endured. Esthetics like losing the distinctive P17 wings and slimming the action, as well as very functional changes like a cock on open, would carry forward. Meanwhile, Remington continued the development of the 720 which gave rise to the 721, 722, and 725. These were the first to drop the large claw-style extractors in favor of a recessed bolt face that contained the ejection/extraction parts. These rifles also utilized a cylindrical action that could be machined on a lathe allowing for faster and more economical production.
Post World War innovation
The release of the Remington 700 in 1962 was the culmination of all the production advances made since the P14, and lessons learned over the years certainly solidified what was needed to produce a successful rifle for the consumer market. As mentioned, the production of rounded actions on lathes was both accurate and efficient. Stamping parts like bottom metals reduced cost. Attention to aesthetic details in the bolt handle and the overall configuration of the stock resulted in a slimmed and attractive rifle. The push-feed action and three-piece bolt with recessed bolt face that housed the c-clip extractor and plunger were also innovations that carried forward into production Remington 700s.
It was originally made in two options: ADL and BDL. The ADL had a blind magazine (no bottom metal) and the BDL had bottom metal. Aside from this major difference, the two options varied in stock configuration and details like checkering pattern, forend caps, recoil pads, sights, and swivels. Both were offered in short and long action calibers.
Remington 700 rifles were known for their out-of-the-box accuracy, a result of several features – stout actions, free-floated barrels, and single-stage triggers to name a few. No doubt, tight tolerances of chambers and barrels helped increase accuracy. For years Remington held top accolades as the rifle with the best out-of-the-box accuracy.
An evolving market
ADL and BDL models gave way to a variety of configurations from Remington that reflected the march of progress in gun technologies and the ever-growing use case of customers. Synthetic stocks and a myriad of coatings options were implemented over the years. Specialty rifles were developed for use cases from mountain hunting to long-range varment shooting, competition target, and everything in between with features like bull barrels, sportier contour barrels, upgraded deluxe wood, checkering and engraving, detachable magazines, and more. Of note, Remington produced left-handed 700s as well.
The gun has been factory chambered in a wide range of calibers from .17 to .458 though I suspect many more have been re-barreled and/or rechambered to non-factory and wildcat calibers. Not to mention the fact that today one can get a Remington 700 clone action or rifle from any number of manufacturers in almost every caliber or build up a custom rifle to meet one’s needs.
Controversy and changes
Controversy is drawn to like a moth to a flame, and the 700 is not without its share: the primary subject of which is the original single-stage trigger designed by Remington’s Mike Walker.
Litigation arose as a result of rifle malfunctions, the implications of which were that rifles with these triggers were faulty and could fire while on safe. Remington’s X-Mark Pro Trigger was the response in 2007 to these implications, and I will leave this discussion there as diving any further would require 20 minutes more, and this is, of course, a 10-minute series.
Love them or hate them, the Remington 700 family of rifles has endured the test of time and is not likely to disappear. If you owned one, or have a Remington 700 story you want to share, let me know. I’d love to hear it.
Thanks for stopping by the Gun Room. See you soon.
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Joel Penkala is an Upland Bird Hunter and outdoors enthusiast from New Jersey. His love of all things upland has led him to travel and hunt around the United States and fostered his affinity for double guns and bird dogs. He runs English Setters in his home covers chasing Woodcock, Grouse, and Pheasants.