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Chris Parkin puts the Riflecraft Custom Remington 700 with Hardy carbon fibre barrel to the test and discovers its impeccable engineering and knock-out performance
* Beautiful light weight and ideally balanced for a `heavy` barrelled 243
* Distinctive looks
* Impressive Hardy Moderator
* Results on target reflect the effort put into the build
* Quite expensive but an accurate delight to shoot with
* I’d like some additional grip texture on the stock
Too many custom guns seem like a box of parts thrown together, but the key mechanics and ergonomics of this gun are matched in a delightfully homogenous package. Workmanship is seamless.
Overall length: 42”/1070mm
Magazine capacity: 5+1 Detachable (10’s available)
Trigger: Single stage, 1200gr (42oz.)
Barrel length: 22”/560mm
Stock material:Carbon Fibre, fully Marine Tex bedded with Aluminium Pillars
Length of Pull: 13.9”/353mm
Recommended retail price
Hornady American Whitetail 100gr Soft Point ammunition
Henry Krank & Co.
0113 256 9163
Vihtavouri powders and Lapua Cartridge Brass
I have used and owned a lot of Remington 700s and do like the simplicity of this 55-year-old design. The action has been copied to death and many, like Bergara, have improved upon its design and ‘footprint’, for which accessories like stocks and triggers are common. I still own five Remington 700s, although only one is still in factory condition; the rest are all customised with new barrels, stocks and triggers, but I wouldn’t part with any of them. This Remington 700 from Riflecraft has been blueprinted so that all tolerances are brought up to true specification, adhering as closely as possible to design blueprints – you can only machine steel off, you can’t add it back on, so a deft touch is required to balance the capability of the raw action. Action faces are true along with barrel threads and bolt face, and lugs are lapped for 100% even pressure-bearing contact (and, of course, this is usually accompanied by a new barrel in whichever calibre is desired). A precision ground, rather than stamped recoil lug sandwiched between the two, completes the foundations. My guns all shoot well but none are blueprinted, and when I first operated the jewelled bolt on this stainless action I could immediately feel the difference when either cycling the gun empty, or feeding actual rounds in use. It feels very slick, and far smoother than my own similarly engine-turned bolt, but not blueprinted, Sendero (long action) model.
Fingertips flicked the bolt 90 degrees open and a simple thumb placed onto the cocked bolt shroud stripped a round from the Legacy Sports (Howa) polymer magazine, feeding from a single central pair of feed lips. The raceways for the lapped lugs are polished and you can’t jam the bolt with careless handling, like the factory version. In honesty, you won’t ever get the money back on having an action blueprinted, and it may be simpler to go for a custom to start with, but if you already own the action and want to retain it, this process makes the gun very appealing and, I will admit, my head was turned. Some may criticise the push-feed Remington bolt design with its minimalist internal circlip extractor claw, which can break, but I have never had this happen and I suspect those that do may be over-exercising their pressures and fighting to get the brass out of the chamber. On that topic, the timing on this bolt’s primary extraction had been honed because the handle lift, extraction and, importantly, the bolt handle’s ‘bounce’ upon firing were very calm – a sure sign of a job well done. The other notable feature on this rifle was the Hardy carbon fibre-wrapped stainless barrel, 22” (560mm) long and with a very desirable 1 in 8” twist rate. On .243s this avoids all those possible issues with bullet stability at 100gr or more and, if you must specifically go non-toxic, is an almost mandatory move. I’d never specify a .243 in a 10” twist; a 9” or, better still, this 8” is far superior. The carbon finish with stainless steel intervals at the muzzle with an 18x1 thread (with invisible cap) for a brake, or in this case for a Hardy moderator, was all perfectly executed with a neat dished crown within the 20.8mm diameter ‘heavy’ barrel. The matt finish of the diagonal external weave swells only a couple of millimetres before reaching the chamber reinforce in front of a stainless cylinder forming the barrel’s tenon. The lug it screws through is pinned to the action, which is a subtle benefit to the long-term usability of the gun for any future rebuilds.
The action was supplied topped with two Weaver bases to make scope mounting simple with Weaver rings (but not Picatinny) and, like any 700, below it hangs a 700 derivative trigger; here, a Timney trigger breaks at 1,200 (very crisp) grams (40oz) in a single stage. The blade is blacked and deeply curved with minimal grooves to aid grip, but I have no concerns at all – delightful performance, easy to judge with no discernible creep, and less than one millimetre of overtravel. A two-position thumb safety sits to the right of the action tang. Safe does not lock the bolt closed but it’s all operable in gloves, and quietly, too, as it rolls under your thumb. The bolt-release button is positioned just in front and above the trigger blade and, like any Remy, all this can be done in a left-hander if needed. That all weighs 2,090g, which is very light alone, but when you add the full carbon stock at only 710g, the gun really starts to come together with aluminium pillars and a full Marine Tex bedding job, executed perfectly with a seamless lower inlet for the Howa bottom ‘metal’. It is in fact polymer, with spacious trigger guard and a minimalist twin-column, centre-feed 10-round mag released with a lever to the front of its well. It won’t grind your cases or bullets and feeds quietly. Spare mags in five- or 10-round are easily available at low cost too.
The weave of the carbon-fibre stock matches the barrel’s, if slightly more matt in visual tone, but that’s me being pedantic. A grippy but firm, inch-thick recoil pad is bonded on at the rear, so no spacers are possible with length of pull at 353mm, or just shy of 14”. There is a slim Monte Carlo cheekpiece sloping down towards the action for comfortable head positioning, with a sling stud below the butt and another on the fore-end. The sturdy fore-end floats the barrel fully in all conditions, with an equally neatly machined channel. It’s hand filling, but no extra tactile finishes are added either here or on the grip, so it is a little less assured when wet.
After shooting endless .308s on review projects it was nice to get out with a .243, and this one was a bit of a guilty pleasure. It shot well from the start, but 100gr Hornady American Whitetail rounds were clumping laterally on target in strong, changeable crosswinds. These would have been cloverleafing in calmer conditions, and a total lack of vertical spread showed me the capability of the combined pair. In general, 243s can be loud and get hot quickly, so be aware that you won’t feel the heat from the barrel in the same way you would from bare steel. The Hardy moderator made light work of noise suppression which, for its generous 300mm length, was no surprise, but recoil control was impressive for a mod of only 470g, extending 160mm beyond the muzzle. Ammunition speed from the 22” (560mm) barrel at 861mps (2,824 fps), or 1,771 ft/lbs, crossed that fine line into deer legality which some 20” tubes on .243s fail to meet. The ability to shoot both 100gr Scotland-legal bullets, and lighter 60gr hand-loaded hollow points, within the 8” twist barrel with excellent precision and velocities for foxing was agreeable, to say the least. I never felt that the gun was too light to be reassuring, but it was a pleasure to carry, weighing 3,080g without the scope or mod, and less than 4kg with both. Generally, the compact dimensions, sleek lines and weight were easy to handle in a vehicle cab but, most importantly, the lack of recoil alongside neutral balance made improvised shots off the bonnet or even resting on a door mirror housing a mere formality. A beautifully made and finished stock was a fine fit, other than feeling a tad short in length of pull, with great head/eye position. The zero cast of the stock but gentle palm swell and cheekpiece for the right-hander was not a problem for any left-handed shots I tried. This is definitely a gun to look at if you are of a smaller build and want to ease the load on your body when carrying for long distances.
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