By Scott Stoppelman
Remington Arms is our nation’s oldest firearms manufacturer dating back to the early 1800’s. To this day, the company offers a very comprehensive selection of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition.
During World War II, Remington began making Model 1903 Springfield rifles to help keep up with the demand. At first exactly the same as the Springfield Armory rifle, it then evolved as a time saving and cost cutting measure into the 1903A3 which used some sheet metal stamped parts instead of forgings; parts like stock bands and the magazine assembly. It also featured a much better battle sight than the ladder sight of the earlier Model 1903’s. This sight, an adjustable peep, is similar to the sight used on the M1 Carbine. Another change made was the use of a 2-groove barrel instead of the usual 4-groove. Tests showed the 2-groove to be about the equal of the 4-groove in accuracy, so it was accepted as an alternate. However, most A3’s encountered were fitted with a 4-groove barrel. All A3’s, whether built by Remington or its other maker, the Smith-Corona Typewriter Company, were properly heat-treated unlike some very early Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal guns. Thus, there is no high or low serial number question.
Remington made another version of the A3 that would be designated the A4 Sniper Rifle. This rifle was basically the A3 fitted with a Weaver Model 330 2-1/2 power scope and carried no iron sights. Additionally, the bolt handle had to be forged lower to clear the scope. Other scopes would be fitted to the A4 during its history; such as the Lyman Alaskan, later designated as the M81 and M82. The last scope assigned to the A4 was the M84 made primarily by the Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Co. The A4 was fielded as a sniper rifle through the Korean conflict and into the Vietnam War before being phased out of service.
Remington began the current M40/700 series rifles for the Marine Corps in 1966 when a contract for fewer than 1,000 guns was ordered. Many M40’s were later retrofitted with fiberglass stocks, heavier stainless-steel barrels, and a different floor plate. The rifle was then designated the M40A1 and is still in service today in the hands of Marine Corps snipers around the world; and has become justifiably famous. The M24 sniper rifle in use by today’s U.S. Army is also a Remington 700 based rifle.
The 700 series rifles were introduced in 1962 as an updated version of the model 721/722 rifle that Remington had been building since the late 1940’s. Meant to be an easy-to-manufacture rifle and hoping to compete with the excellent and popular Winchester model 70, the 700 has no doubt exceeded Remington’s wildest dreams. It has been, and continues to be, a great success story for the company.
Over the years the 700 has been available in virtually every caliber and style from its early press checkered, walnut stock ADL model to today’s laminate and synthetic stock versions. The 700 line is one of the most popular rifles over offered to the shooting public. The reason is simple: it is an excellent rifle.
Some have criticized the small extractor inside the bolt face, but after many tests it was proven to be just as reliable as the 98 Mauser/M70 non-rotating claw extractor it was being compared to. No system is 100 percent foolproof, but failures are rare.
This leads to the Model 700P Police rifle, sometimes referred to as the PSS, which stands for Police Sniper System. However, the P designation in Model 700P does not stand for Police according to Greg Foster, Director of Sales for Military and Law Enforcement. It actually stands for parkerizing. A number of rifles and shotguns carry this P designation to denote the finish. As opposed to simply a matte blue, this is real parkerizing like the finish given to our service rifles for many years. It is an excellent non-glare, weather-resistant finish that is also quite tough.
Developed in the mid to late 1980’s with primary input by John Rogers and Bill Forson, the PSS rifle was meant to carry on and capitalize on the legacy of the M40/M40A1 military sniper rifles. Designed primarily as a law enforcement tool, though available to the general public, the PSS rifle has been adopted by a large number of police departments around the country.
The standard PSS rifle sports a regular production, hammer-forged, 26-inch barrel of what might be termed medium-heavy. Diameter of the chrome-moly barrel at the muzzle is .830 inch. The muzzle features a concave crown to protect the all-important lands and grooves from damage. This also promotes concentricity if done right, which allows the escaping gases to leave the muzzle evenly thus avoiding “tipping” of the bullet’s base, which can lead to flyers.
According to Linda Powell at Remington’s Public Relations Office, each PSS rifle is tested at the factory before it is shipped and must meet the minimum standard of five shots in one inch at 100 yards, or minute of angle (MOA). Such a requirement is considered more than adequate for a police sniper weapon as it has been established that most shots taken by police snipers are taken at under 100 yards. That standard is met with factory ammunition by the way. Federal Match 168-grain load shoots between one-half to three-quarters minute of angle in my PSS. Handloads might be a little better on good days but most factory ammo is uniformly excellent today, especially the match variety.
One of the standout features of the PSS is the stock. These stocks, as supplied on the PSS, are made by H-S Precision of South Dakota. The stock is “layers of aramid fibers and fiberglass cloth mixed with uni-directional carbon fibers, and an epoxy based gel-coat and laminating resin.”
This is all laid up around an aircraft-grade aluminum bedding-block which was designed by H-S with some input from Remington. This has to be one of the best bedding methods in existence as it requires no bedding compounds, which do wear out over time, and provides a very stable and weather resistant method of mounting a barreled action to a stock. This is also essentially the same stock that H-S provides to the U.S. Army for its M24 sniper system. The M24 stock differs from the PSS in that it has an adjustable length of pull but appears nearly identical otherwise. The center core of these stocks is what is referenced as “reaction injection molded, polyurethane structural foam.” Put all of this together and you get what is arguably the best sniper rifle stock that can be had. Another feature not seen on many production rifles is the presence of a palm swell on the pistol grip. This swell is present on both sides to facilitate right or left handed shooters. Some shooters like this feature and some don’t. It depends to a large degree on the size and shape of the hand. Stocks also feature dual sling swivel studs on the forend so that a sling can be used with a bipod mounted at the same time. The buttstock is fitted with a thin black rubber recoil pad as standard.
The 700 line of rifles has been fitted with a very good trigger system and is used on the PSS. Most manufacturers triggers are set somewhat heavy as they come from the factory and most Remington rifles are no different in this regard. A competent gunsmith can adjust this one down to about 3 pounds from its original 6 or so. This can also be done by the careful hobbyist, but as always, the manufacturer prefers that individual shooters not tinker with triggers for liability reasons. Nevertheless, if done right, the trigger can be made to give a very nice creep-free pull down to about 2 pounds if needed. The safety on the 700 rifles is a two position affair with rearward being safe and forward for fire. The PSS rifle, like many other 700’s, allows the bolt to be operated while the rifle is on safe. Earlier models locked the bolt down. This enables one to be able to chamber live ammo to check for feeding problems. The trigger guard on the PSS is as on standard 700s in that it is a one piece aluminum-alloy unit that fastens to the action via two hex-head screws. Finish is matte anodizing which looks much like the rest of the gun. The hinged floorplate is standard on the PSS while a detachable box magazine is an option; at least on the LTR (Light Tactical Rifle) if not on the PSS as well. Magazine capacity in .308 is four rounds. In .223, the magazine holds five, while the magnums hold three.
The receiver on Model 700’s is machined ordnance grade steel. The action is famous for its “three rings of steel.” This refers to the design in which the cartridge head is surrounded by the bolt face, barrel and receiver. Without a doubt, it is a very strong action. Being tubular in shape, the action is sometimes criticized as being hard to bed to wood because of the lack of flats to sit on. The question is readily set aside by simply glass-bedding the action which is easy to do. Of course the bedding-block system renders the question moot. Glass-bedding of the action to the bedding-block is neither necessary nor recommended. The recoil lug indexes to the block and that is it. The recoil lug itself is different from some rifles as it is a separate piece; a washer actually. This piece of 3/16-inch steel is snugged up between the receiver face and the barrel shoulder to form the lug. It’s been on the 700 series since the beginning without any changes so apparently it is doing the job.
The PSS rifle can be had in .308 Win., .223 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag., and .300 Win. Mag. The first two fit in the short action while the two magnums must of course be housed in a long action. Depending on what a particular individual’s or department’s needs are, any could be useful. The .308 is likely the most popular chambering for several reasons. Stellar accuracy is common, recoil is light – especially in a heavy rifle, and the short action, which is easier and faster to manipulate at least for some. The .308 also hits very hard, quite a bit harder than the .223 and nearly as hard as the 7mm Mag., though it won’t reach quite as far. The .300 Win. Mag. would be the likely winner in the long range department where that is a need or concern.
Twist rates are standard for the .308 at 1:12; .223 at 1:9; and .300 Win. Mag. at 1:10. The oddball was the 7mm Mag. at 1:10 and one sixth inch. Remington must have light bullets in mind for this chambering.
A newer, smaller version of the PSS called the LTR (Light Tactical Rifle) made its debut a few years ago. This model differs from its big brother in several ways. The barrel is of lighter contour, is shorter at 20 inches and fluted to further reduce weight and increase cooling surface. The stock is a slimmer design though still an H-S stock. All cartridge choices are short action being the .308, .223, the new .300 Rem. Short Action (SA) Ultra Mag, and the new 6.8mm, which is a possible new service rifle round that is basically the old .30 Remington case necked down to .277 caliber; same as the .270 Winchester. It is meant to shoot bullets of around 115-grains. Some hope that this will replace the 5.56 NATO as it offers somewhat more punch downrange. The weight of the LTR runs about a pound and a half less than the PSS. Either rifle can be had in a package system called the TWS or Tactical Weapon Systems. This package consists of the rifle of choice with a mounted Leupold 3.5-10X Tactical Scope on Leupold mounts. Included are a Harris bipod, tactical sling, flip-up scope covers, and a Pelican hard case.
Testing of the Remington .308 consisted of forty shots. Four ten-shot groups were fired at the 100 yard target with two different bullets; Sierra Match and Nosler Competition 168’s. All four loads utilized Hodgdons Varget powder, Winchester brass, and Federal 210 Match primers. The only other variable was the powder charge which varied from 43 to 44 grains. When the smoke cleared, the largest group was one inch. The smallest 10 shot group measured just .75 inches. The next smallest just .8 inches, but would have been just over .5 inches if not for one called flyer.
A number of things must come together to make a rifle a better than average shooter. Of utmost importance is a good barrel. Remington has long been known for making a very good hammer-forged barrel. A good trigger is a must and the 700 has that too. The stock plays a major part in a rifle’s “shootability” and that’s where the bedding-block system of the H-S stock shines. The forearm on the PSS is both wide and fairly flat to facilitate shooting from a rest, either bench or improvised, such as what a sniper might be faced with.
The receiver and bolt must also be up to the task. Both locking lugs must bear evenly in their respective recesses. On this rifle they do. This helps to prevent “torqueing” upon firing which can be detrimental to accuracy potential. The bolt must work smoothly, and to this end, Remington some twenty-odd years ago incorporated an anti-bind slot in the right locking lug that rides on the right side action rail to promote smooth bolt travel. It works very well.
The right hand twist, 6 groove barrel of this rifle being 1:12, suggests good shooting with most bullet weights that one might care to shoot in a .308 Win. Sierra 155 Palma, 168 Match Sierra’s and Noslers, and the newer 175 Sierra Match all shoot well, but the 168’s seem to hold a slight edge over the others. This is no surprise as conventional wisdom usually holds that 1:12 is about perfect for this weight of bullet.
LOADING FOR THE PSS
This rifle in this caliber, .308 Win., seems to like the usual suspects when it comes to components. The medium burning rate powders are right at home here. Powders like IMR’s 4895 and 4064 are always good places to start. Hodgdon offers choices like H380, BL-C2, Varget and others. Winchester has its 748 and 760 to try. Alliant’s most likely candidate for the .308 is undoubtedly Reloder 15. The newest Military Sniper round uses this powder with the Sierra 175 Match bullet. It would be hard to choose between IMR4895 and Varget. Both make little groups without too much fuss. As to primers, I’ve had very good success with the Federal 210 Match version. There are lots of good choices out there for brass including Winchester or Federal Gold Match brass.
The end result of all this is that one can spend a whole lot more money than what a Remington PSS costs, and get a rifle that may not shoot any much better. The PSS is a lot of rifle and an excellent choice for the money.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N12 (September 2005)|