Remington 700 in AB Arms MOD X Gen III Chassis - detailed test & review
PUBLISHED: 10:10 14 September 2017
The time-honoured Remington 700 gets a makeover in this AB Arms Chassis rifle with impeccable machining and a massive length of pull... Chris Parkin puts it to the test
PROS: Brilliantly designed/machined chassis forend and centre – one of the best; Massive length of pull range; Will accept ANY Remington upgrade; 26” barrel gets the most out of your 308 FMJ ammunition
CONS: The butt assembly was plasticky with uncomfortable recoil control; Very heavy trigger
VERDICT: The “Chassis Rifle” game must be a head to head FACTORY rifle competition, and not a consideration of what could be added at extra cost. AB Arms aren’t the only one to get the buttstock wrong on a 223 AR15-derived 308 build, but the recoil pad MUST be changed. I could live with the stock, and I’d seek out adjustment for the trigger if the gun were mine.
calibre: 308 on test, also available in 223 (two specifications), 22-250, 6.5 creedmoor
barrel: matt blued finish
barrel length: 660mm/26” 1 in 10” twist rate (both dependant on calibre)
overall length: 1170mm/46”
muzzle thread: 18x1mm
stock: aluminium chassis with ar15 compatible grip and butt
length of pull: 293-362mm-11 1/2- 14 1/4” +32mm reoil pad adjust
trigger: single stage, 6lb pull weight
safety: 2-stage without bolt lock
magazine: AICS compatible 10 round detachable
Given the fact that the Remington 700 probably began the aftermarket chassis rifle concept long before it became a mainstream trend, it’s a shame to see that, after several years in the doldrums, they are now playing catch-up to Ruger, Tikka, Howa, Bergara, Sabatti and others. It’s good to see the new distributor Raytrade UK hit the ground running with this AB Arms Chassis, wrapped around a 700 Varmint in various popular calibres, including a fast (9” twist) short barrelled .223. What a great opportunity to rekindle one of my favourite rifles.
This Varmint 700 in .308 Winchester is paired with an AB Arms Aluminium chassis and, starting out with a 660mm/26” barrel, the ballistic capabilities have a head start for longer range target shooting with the legendary ‘tactical’ cartridge. Ammunition for .308s is easy to source in many types, but FMJ format is especially economical, and I find longer barrels better able to extract the accuracy and ballistic capabilities from it.
An 18x1mm threaded muzzle sits behind the original factory crowning; it would appear to have been done after the rifle left the factory as it is in the white and, frankly, shows higher precision machining than can usually be attributed to the American mass-manufactured market, some of which have very aggressive, sharp threads. A 21mm diameter swelling to the reinforce is a good compromise between the longevity of heavy-barrel accuracy at higher temperatures for longer shot strings, and physical portability.
The tubular fore-end – plentifully relieved with cooling slots and multiple mounting positions for accessory rails – is just right for a hand-sized grip if you are shooting multi-position, although a secure stud mount for a bipod is thankfully included.
You need to dismantle the rifle to assess what fastens where, but two minutes with a pair of Imperial Allen keys soon shows a few hidden gems. Twin screws release the action from the centre chassis of the stock, and two further screws separate the 290mm fore-end from that. Everything will now easily draw apart and you can see the fore-end’s Picatinny rail is left bolted to the four anchor points on the action’s upper as the centre/buttstock lifts away. Firstly, the inletting of the chassis and its magazine assembly is excellent, because given Remington’s somewhat variable tolerances, a good compromise has been found to anchor the action without any misalignment with associated bedding stresses. The recoil lug, sandwiched between action and barrel, fits solidly against its pocket in the hard-anodised black aluminium with only the front and rear of the action bearing load, directly above the action screw locations for minimal fuss and maximum effectiveness. Retightening everything back in place gives solid dead stops to the threads, without the sponginess you would feel if components were bending into position. The magazine well is incorporated here with a release button to the front of the trigger guard that drops AICS compatible mags, or the included MDT TAC 10-rounder, cleanly under its own weight into your waiting palm.
Remington triggers are well known to be effective and easily customised, but this one is threadlocked to discourage any tinkering. It shows a curved grey un-serrated blade with a crisp but heavy break somewhere around 6lbs. My well-used trigger scales only measure to 4lbs or approximately 2,000g. I feel that this is a matter that needs to be addressed. You can get good accuracy from the gun if you have good, patient trigger control, but how many shooters would suffer a six-pounder long term, or for courses of fire in competition that require faster shot times? A lot of replacement triggers are available for Remington 700 actions and their clones, but you begin to add extras here, and that’s not what a factory chassis rifle should be. A skilled gunsmith will be able to tune the trigger somewhat, and I have several Remington triggers on rifles I own that are nicely tuned down to 2-3lbs. Caveat emptor, this is one of the heaviest I have used.
The characteristic ‘fly’s eye’ bolt handle of the 700 is also due an update on such a rifle. It’s not so much about speed but operation around a large scope tube, mounts and ocular lens body. It works okay, but I don’t think it is comparable with its peers in the modern market on a gun that needs fast manipulation with minimum positional shift, therefore benefiting from amplified mechanical leverage. This is now a 55-year-old design – great on sporters and hunting rifles, but here it’s too tucked away beneath that likely large scope.
Bolt lift, primary extraction and ejection were all performed without difficulty as no ammunition gave me any pressure concerns and there was never a problem with magazine feed – all rounds smoothly slid up the feed ramp into the chamber by the legendary ‘three rings of steel’ push-feed bolt face. A sprung plunger performs ejection on the brass that is drawn out of the chamber by a recessed clip in the internal circumference of the bolt-face. This design has been verbally attacked for years, accused of being weak and easily broken; 10 years and 20 Remingtons (at least) in a variety of factory and custom calibres have passed through my own hands, and I have yet to break an extractor, so I’m inclined to blame those who do not respect safe operating pressures for the breakages when trying to tear brass from the chamber walls.
All parts of the AB Arms stock are superbly machined with a smooth-finished, deeply anodised matt black. The underslung AR15-styled Ergo grip is stippled with an ambidextrous palm swell and a slightly longer reach to the trigger; ergonomically, it’s by far and away the nicest that I have tried and is a definite positive to the gun.
Of less excitement is the AR15-style buttstock which, both here and on the Howa Chassis rifle, let the gun down. A standard 39.3mm aluminium buffer tube flows into the AB Arms polymer butt assembly with screw-adjustable cheekpiece. This can be unbolted and swapped for a left-hander and has 25mm/1” of height adjustment. The cheekpiece is fairly slender and fits under your cheekbone without too much jawline interruption, but is injection-moulded polymer and a bit wobbly, supported on a single 8mm threaded rod rising from the stock.
An underslung Picatinny rail is moulded in for a monopod, etc. and will support the gun reasonably well on a rear beanbag with plenty of space left around it for your non-firing hand to manipulate it; it is quite high, though, and does need a tall bag.
An underside bolt allows seven mass length-of-pull adjustments in 12mm/½” increments, with the shortest offering 293mm/11½” distance from the face of the buttplate to the trigger. The longest will raise this to 362mm/14¼” with an extra 32mm of QR adjustment still left. This is enabled by a push button to the right-hand side of the stock with a locking screw on the left. It’s great for those who need to shoot with combat webbing or rucksack on or off with an AR15 in .223 but, on a .308 with significantly more recoil, the polymers feel a bit flimsy and not as solid in position as precision shooters may desire.
A 20mm rubber recoil pad with serrated face is fitted onto your shoulder, and although more forgiving than the similar polymer one on the HCR, it was still uncomfortable for any significant round count. Its teardrop-ended shape showed only 22mm width in the centre with 33mm at the ends, but guess what – a rounded shape is comfortable, and this toothed, firm edge bit into me (yet I shot 50 rounds of .338 afterwards with no issues that day!). Sorry, but kit for AR15s with .223 recoil levels just doesn’t cut the mustard on .308 precision rifles.
A full-length Picatinny rail allows large optics to be fitted, and I used a Minox ZP 5-25x56 scope mounted in Tier-One Tac rings to get the most out of the rifle.
Raytrade supplied two types of Remington ammo – Core-Lokt soft point and Premier AccuTip. I zeroed for both rounds, helpfully showing an identical point of impact at 100m with their 150gr bullets. Velocities of 811m/s (2,661fps) for the Core-Lokt and 822m/s (2,698fps) for the AccuTip seemed a little slow considering the 26” barrel.
The Core-Lokt was a little more impressive on target, with five rounds within the 25mm/1” group, and the AccuTip pushing closer to 30mm/1¼” at 100m. Velocity spreads were very good with both showing less than 10m/s across the batch.
After this I shot on steel at 300m with some good hits, but odd flyers always seemed to open up the consistent results, and when I went out further to 500m and beyond I stayed with hand-loads for better consistency.
Hand-loads were distinctly better on paper (this is generally always the case) with ¾” group capability and an extra 150fps in the speed stakes, which for a 150gr load was far more like the norm, especially from a 26” barrel. I have a hunch that longer tubes seem to get the best from ammo and was very pleased that 145gr Prvi Partisan Full Metal Jacket ammunition held good groups at 100m, with a little more velocity spread than was ideal, but certainly acceptable on target at 300 and 400m. I liked the 1 in 10” rifling twist rate as it allowed me to play with an old favourite load from my own starter days on a Rem 700 – the 190 Sierra Matchking with Viht 150. It’s a slow flyer but fantastically consistent, with the best on-paper accuracy at a cloverleafing half inch, and I was sad to only have 20 of these rounds left. In the long term, a 26” barrel 1-in-10 twist rate is a great choice for a rifle like this for a wide range of bullet weight versatility, and would really attract me.
In these slow precision fire scenarios, the heavy trigger didn’t really bother me as I had plenty of time to squeeeeeeeze and break the shot, but I wouldn’t want a fast-fire competition like a McQueens to rush this trigger’s preferred tempo.
Recoil absorption was spiky thanks to the angular shape of the buttpad, but the gun remained nicely stable at longer ranges and it preferred a 9-13” bipod over a 6-9” one, which was purely down to the tubular fore-end’s lower profile architecture.
Again, to pick on the stock’s rear end, the buttplate/pad showed no vertical adjustability and was too low really. Ruger started this game out with the RPR, and it is still the most linear recoil transfer in the game because of the bore line and recoil transfer being within the recoil pad’s dimensions. Yes, this requires the gun to be a folder to withdraw the bolt, but it does stand the Ruger above its peers in this single respect. You may well shoot 100 rounds for every time you remove the bolt… think about that! Adding a tubular fore-end lifts the scope high away from the barrel. The bolt’s line is fixed and the grip will always be underslung, so the whole point of this ergonomic design principle needs you to lift the buttplate and cheekpiece. Well, here the latter is done but the former ignored.
Many will say this chassis rifle game is going to be a fight on price, and that is very true among new entrants to the sport, but the shelf price is no good if you are truly comparing like-for-like unmodified guns, and this is where some competitors need to really address their players.
Remingtons are a great basis to start with if customisation/modification is your quest and something you enjoy, but when I started out with a Rem 700 10 years ago for tactical/precision shooting, nothing was available with 10-round mag feed, decent triggers or suitable stocks at a low price. You had to modify to progress, or build from scratch, and Remys were the most accessible gun by far to get parts for. That, however, is no longer a mandatory entry into the fold and a perfect gun straight from the dealer’s rack is now available; I’m not sure this is it, and real street price wars will tell.
Raytrade UK Ltd. www.raytradeuk.co.uk 01635 253344
RRP: £1,599.00 (£1,749.00 with Explorer case)
Fiocchi 150gr SST ammunition Edgar Brothers www.edgarbrothers.com 01625 613177
Winchester 150gr Extreme Point ammunition Browning UK www.browning.eu 01235 514550
Sierra Bullets and PPU 145 gr FMJ ammunition Henry Krank & Co. www.henrykrank.co.uk 0113 256 9163
Vihtavouri Reloading powders and Lapua Cartridge Brass Hannams Reloading www.hannamsreloading.com 01977 681639
Minox ZP5 5-25x56 Riflescope MINOX www.minox.com 01494 481004
Tier-One 34mm TAC Scoperings www.tier-one.eu 01924 404313