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Before & after: G&A finds and rescues an unloved Remington 700 to build a precision hunter.

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THE SERIAL NUMBER dated this Remington Model 700 short-action .308 to the early 1990s. That sounded about right given that I knew the owner was a U.S. Marine scout/sniper who bought it for himself after graduating sniper school in 1992. He fitted it with a Leupold Vari-X III 6.5-20x50 EFR and duct-taped a cheekpiece to the stock made of military sleeping pad foam. Along the way, a machinist recessed the muzzle but forgot to finish the crown. I couldn't tell you if its poor performance at the range was due to the sketchy muzzle job or the long crack in the stock at the front action screw. It was in sad shape.

Magpul came out with its composite-molded Hunter 700 stock in September 2015. Keeping in step with the company's affordable approach to making accessories, this stock retails for $260.

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I didn't have much invested in the Marine's former rifle, but to be sure what I paid wasn't out of line, I quickly checked gunbroker.com and found that 700 actions start at roughly $380 and complete used rifles can be had for about $450. With this in mind, I tried to approach the project with a budget mindset. How little could I spend in putting together a precision hunting rifle like those costing between $3,000 and $5,000?

The Rebuild I considered calling Brownells and ordering its 700 Action Wrench, tools for chambering a new barrel, crowning and so on, but the investment in this tooling can quickly add up. The legendary Larry Weeks wrote an excellent Gun Tech piece for Brownells' website. It does a great job of explaining the process, so attempting to build your own custom 700 certainly qualifies as a do-it-yourself project. However, the last time I built a custom 700 was back in 2007, and even then I was still learning how to do it.

So, I called up PROOF Research in Montana for a cut-rifled barrel. Not for a carbon fiber barrel, but a stainless one instead. Though light and handy, carbon-fiber-wrapped barrels sell for $900, while PROOF'S more traditional 416R stainless are just as accurate and start at $350--a $550 savings. Further, if you follow the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) matches, you might know Brian Sanders seems to win everything on PROOF'S stainless steel barrels.

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While on the phone, I was convinced to send in the project rifle along with the Magpul stock and let them rebarrel the action, treat the muzzle and apply a Cerekote finish to everything metal. While they were at it, they'd install the Magpul stock and shoot the rifle across their test equipment. Without discussing the cost breakdown, I liked what I was hearing and agreed.

On receipt, Cole Bender, PROOF'S master machinist and gunsmith, tore apart the rifle and went to work. Bender has been with PROOF working on 700 platforms since the company opened its doors more than five years ago.

PROOF Research makes match-grade barrels in a state-of-the-art facility--and I'm always reluctant to describe something as "state-of-the-art." These barrels are single-point cut rifled, which is a process that doesn't induce any stress. Relieving stress seems to be PROOF Research's first concern with its materials. Even the barstock is stress relieved once (sometimes twice) at the foundry and then kept on PROOF'S racks, which supports every 3 feet of the 12-foot bars so they don't warp.

When they're pulled, machinists will cut the barrels to length, face both ends and stress relieve the barrels in an oven before checking the barrels' hardness and sending them into the drilling process.

"We are very critical when inspecting the hardness of the steel," Bender said. "We want hardness to be as close to the same Rockwell hardness number across the entire length. It's not so important that the hardness measure a specific number as it is the same number. We don't want one end to be 26 and the other 30. That's going to cause imperfections. We'll take these barrels to a critical temperature to normalize the bar's hardness throughout."

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PROOF Research uses the latest English four-spindle automatic gun drill in turning barstock into barrels. An employee simply loads bars into one end, barrels come out the other, and the fully automated machine does everything in between.

PROOF hand-laps its barrels twice. It is drilled and reamed, and then lead-lapped afterward to ensure everything is uniform. The bore is air gauged to ensure dimensions are perfect and round from end to end without any taper. Then, it is rifled.

There's a lot of debate among riflemen about which rifling process is best. Cut rifling is generally sought by shooters of high-end match rifles. Generally speaking, the big-time barrel makers like Rock Creek, Krieger and Bartlein will cut-rifle 90 percent of their barrels even though the process takes a lot more equipment and time. Button rifling usually starts with a small hole in a barrel where an oversized button is pulled through, inducing stress outwardly. Cut rifling starts with a drilled hole that is reamed to its bore diameter. Then a broaching tool cuts lengthwise, taking as many as 40 cuts per groove to reach the final depth. This cutting process doesn't induce stress into the barrel whatsoever. A button rifling machine only takes seconds to impart rifling on each barrel. Cut rifling takes nearly 20 minutes.

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The final lap is for the surface finish of the bore, which Bender inspects with a borescope before mating a barrel to its action. They're not trying to lap out imperfections. Rather, they're looking for a uniform surface finish to reduce fouling and reduce the time the barrel needs to break in.

Bender went through my action and dialed it to the bore's centerline. They usually recut the face and lug abutment inside the receiver before touching the threads and making sure they are concentric. Factory Remington 700 actions usually need this treatment when accurizing. PROOF also opens up and centers the optic rail screws from the factory 6-48 threads--which can sheer under high recoil--to 8-40 threads. The bolt itself gets its lugs turned in the back and lapped before the face is recut until it's perfectly square.

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Once assembled, the barreled action is indicated concentric to bore within .0003 of an inch, and crowned with a dual-angle crown which starts with a 60-degree angle and finishes at 11 degrees. The barreled action was then protected with a Sniper Grey Cerakote finish and capped with an APA Gen II Little Bastard three-port muzzlebrake to make recoil akin to shooting this rifle in .223.

Though rifles in 6.5 calibers, .260 Rem. and even 6mm Creedmoor make up PROOF'S most popular bolt-action orders, I decided to stick with .308 in a medium Palma contour for its low cost to feed and current ammo availability. Greg Hamilton of PROOF'S R&D finished my project by attaching the Magpul Hunter stock (without bedding), torqueing the action screws to 65 inch-pounds and installing the optional Magpul detachable magazine well I provided. Hamilton also checked the 5and 10-round detachable box magazines for proper fit and function.

The invoice from PROOF Research indicated that I blew any semblance of a budget I'd hoped for, but I ended up with a great short 700 that prints Yi-inch groups at 100 yards. I consider it a rifle that's been successfully rescued.

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ANSCHUETZ & WHITE CLIFF PRODUCTIONS
                                                                  (As
Remington 700 Project Costs                                   Tested)

Magpul Hunter 700 Stock (magpul.com)                             $260
Magpul Magazine Well (magpul.com)                                 $70
Proof Research .308 16 1/2-in. SS Barrel (proofresearch.com)     $350
Xtreme Hardcore Tru Level Rail (xtremehardcoregear.com)           $99
Weaver Four-Hole Picatinny 30mm Low Rings (weaveroptics.com       $48
Weaver Tactical 2-10x36 FFP [amazon.com (Discontinued)]          $400
Harris HBRM Bipod (harrisbipods.com)                              $74
Magpul M-LOK Bipod Mount (magpul.com)                             $23
Cerakote Sniper Grey (cerakoteguncoatings.com)                   $300
APA Gen II Little Bastard Brake (americanprecisionarms.com)      $160
Blueprinting, Barrel Installation, Labor (proofresearch.com)     $475
Total Cost                                                     $2,259

PERFORMANCE

                        VELOCITY                BEST         AVERAGE
LOAD                     (FPS)     ES   SD   GROUP (IN.)   GROUP (IN.)

Hornady 178-gr. ELDX     2,471     21   9       0.41          0.69

Note: Accuracy is the average of five, three-shot groups fired from
100 yards using a bagged support in the prone position. Chronograph
results are the average of five shots measured at 15 feet using an
Oehler Model 35 Proof.
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Article Details
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Author:Poole, Eric R.
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:May 20, 2016
Words:1400
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