Remington Rifles
Rifle|September - October 2021
Half a Century With Model 700s
John Barsness

This synthetic BDL .17 Fireball, another of John’s Model 700 varmint rifles, grouped Remington factory ammunition almost as well as handloads.

The .221 Fireball was probably the most accurate sporter weight 700 John has ever owned.

The Remington 700 appeared in 1962, in both short and long action lengths, essentially modified versions of the Model 722 and 721 bolt-actions introduced in 1948. The obvious differences were mostly cosmetic, especially fancier stocks than the uncheckered wood on the 722/721.

The 700’s stocks initially came in two variations, ADLs with a blind magazine and BDLs with a hinged floorplate, black forend tip and grip-cap with Whiteline spacers. Both were also “checkered,” with patterns essentially stamped into the wood, the ADL’s is a skip-line point pattern and the BDL’s is a fleur-de-lis. The BDL came with factory-installed sling swivel studs, and initially, a nice leather sling. Obviously, Remington designed the ADL as the “affordable” model, so it came without sling studs, the reason many older ADLs have studs installed in odd positions by garage gunsmiths.

Both stocks had sedate Monte Carlo combs better suited to scope use than 722/721 stocks, which had straight combs with considerable drop for using iron sights. Scopes became almost standard equipment during the 1950s, and 700 stocks acknowledged that fact.

The new rifles were an immediate success, partly due to costing the same or less than the pre-1964 Model 70 Winchester. The 1963 Gun Digest annual, the first where the 700 appeared, listed a retail price of $114.95 for the least expensive ADL and $139.95 for the BDL, while the lowest price for any Model 70 was $139.00.

By then, Model 70 quality had slipped and many younger hunters had been dazzled by Weatherby’s “California-style” stocks. To them, the BDL resembled a Weatherby and the Model 70 looked drab. Remington made money on 700s, while Winchester lost money on Model 70s. Remington had been developing more efficient manufacturing techniques since World War II, including button-rifled barrels. Patented by Remington’s Mike Walker in 1944, button rifling was much faster than cut rifling, the traditional method Winchester used.

Model 700 actions were machined from round barstock, six at a time, requiring about 12 operations. Model 70 actions were machined out of much larger, rectangular barstock, requiring around 75 operations to remove over 80 percent of the steel. (This information comes from Stuart Otteson’s great 1976 book The Bolt Action, a Design Analysis. If, like many shooters, you believe Model 70 receivers were “forged,” you can argue with Otteson.)

The 700 also had an easily adjustable trigger. While pre-’64 M70 triggers are somewhat adjustable, none on the dozen rifles I’ve owned could be adjusted to less than 4 pounds. Many big-game hunters considered this okay, but by the 1960s, many preferred a lighter pull, especially varmint shooters.

The Model 70’s trigger could be modified to less than 4 pounds by a gunsmith, but the 700’s trigger could be safely adjusted well under 4 pounds with a screwdriver. Of course, some people adjusted them too light, causing problems, but early reviews praised the easily adjustable trigger.

Several of John’s Model 700s have been Classic versions, including this .250 Savage.

Ex-U.S. Army sniper Billy Stuver helped test the light pull of the Jard trigger on John’s 700 Classic .221 Fireball. If shooters want a pull lighter than around 2 pounds on a 700, several companies make good replacement triggers.

The 700’s success eventually helped kill off the pre’64 Model 70, replaced in 1964 with a new “push-feed” version manufactured using more efficient methods. Traditionalists hated the new Model 70, and never really got over it until the Model 70 Classic appeared in 1990, with controlled-round feeding.

I purchased my first 700 while working for the state of Wyoming, making just enough money to start hankering for a bolt-action, big-game rifle to add to my Marlin 336 .30-30 and Savage 99 .308 Winchester. A co-worker in her 30s wanted to sell a Remington 700 BDL .243 Winchester. I asked how much she wanted, and she said $80, half of retail back then, and the price included a box of Remington 100-grain CoreLokt ammunition.

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