REMINGTON METAMORPHOSIS: KEEPING TRACK
Created on 20th May 2009
LAURIE HOLLAND's reborn Remy 6BR undergoes one final change - and it's better than ever before
I still refer to my Remy 6BR bench-come-F-Class rifle as the 700VS (Varmint Synthetic). However, after yet another visit to a gunsmith and the third and final step in its metamorphosis from Remington caterpillar to custom-rifle butterfly, the only ‘varmint' it has terminated is a 1" long fly (more on that in a minute). Strictly speaking, the stock is still synthetic too, but it's rather different from the H-S Precision Kevlar/carbon fibre affair that ‘Big Green' originally gave it 11 years ago. This is the rifle's third and almost certainly last feature in these pages, although it'll reappear in the handloading section when I get around to having another look at the 6BR cartridge.
Last time? No, I'm not selling it - not a chance! There's just not a lot more that can be done to it now. Its first appearance in the old Target Gun magazine saw it pretty well as it had left the Ilion factory, except AE Clarke of Blackwater had fitted interchangeable QD target iron sights and 1" Hillver scope mounts. These meant I could switch between target rifle and scoped precision shooting in seconds, with no loss of zero. When I say precision shooting, it was as precise as a Harris bipod, Tasco 3-12x44 World Class scope and factory 9lb (really!) trigger-pull allowed. It was my first sub-MOA rifle, though, and I was pretty proud of it. The trigger-pull was the first thing to be changed and the local gunshop's tame smith adjusted the factory unit down to 3lb.
George (Farquarson for F-Class)
The TR sights had few outings, and I used the rifle in its scoped form for all sorts of target shooting at ranges between 100-600yd. I should say at this point that the original calibre was .223 Remington. As it was the VS not PSS (Police Sharp Shooter) version of the heavy-barrel 700, it had a 12" rifling twist so was limited to bullet weights up to 60gn. In practice, that meant handloads with 52gn and 53gn match pills from Hornady and Sierra, plus the occasional Berger. This made for interesting shooting at 500yd and 600yd on a windy day!
Two things then happened that meant the VS was only taken out of the gun cabinet occasionally: I bought a Southern Gun SSR-15 (also .223R but with an 8" twist match barrel that digested 80gn SMKs) and a rudimentary version of F or Farquarson-Class started up. It still used NRA TR targets but offered the chance to compete beyond 600yd. I used the SSR-15 at every range up to and including 1,000yd for a couple of seasons, but the discipline evolved at a frantic pace and people were soon using some exotic 7mm wildcats as well as the first custom 6.5-284 Norma rifles.
I wanted something ballistically superior to the .223, but still small, accurate, and producing minimal recoil and barrel wear. 6BR looked just the ticket, or at least the long-throated fast barrel twist 6mm BR Norma version did. The problem was that the 700VS's bolt-face was wrong for the cartridge; 6BR has the ubiquitous 0.473" diameter as found on .308W, .22-250R, .243W and so on, while mine was machined for the little .223R's 0.378" case-head. So I picked up the phone and spoke to Norman Clark in Rugby. "No problem," he said. He thought he could probably get hold of a 700 bolt from a .243 or .308 and do a swap. If not he would machine out the bolt-face, although this would entail extra work and cost as a Sako extractor has to be fitted. After some discussion about barrels and chambers we settled on a 28" Border cut-rifled job with the T1 ‘Heavy Benchrest' profile and 8" twist rate. Norman would chamber it with a SAAMI minimum chamber dimension reamer, no-turn neck and give it the long 6mm BR Norma throat configuration. This, alongside the rifling twist rate, allows the use of 105-108gn bullets. The H-S Precision stock would stay, which was not ideal but I was pushing the boat out financially. Unfortunately, the new barrelled action wouldn't be a drop-in to the old stock because the much fatter barrel wouldn't fit - a skim and rebedding job was needed, as well as the barrel channel opening up. Nothing is simple or cheap in gunsmithing work if it's done properly!
Jekyll and Hyde
It's now 2005. The Harris bipod is long gone, replaced by a heavy Sinclair International front-rest. A Burris Black Diamond 6-24x50 target scope sits atop the Ken Farrell 20MOA sloped Picatinny rail that Norman had put on with the barrel, and I'm working loads up. Minimum dimension chamber? You bet, and a percentage of Lapua cases are fractionally too large, so I have hard extraction - hard enough to take a mallet to the range! Perhaps fortuitously, Norman couldn't obtain a standard Remington 308 bolt to swap, so I've still got my original, now expensively altered but with the robust Sako extractor that took considerable abuse during this phase. A Redding ‘small-base' body die eventually solved the problem. On the bench, the rifle would shoot and then some, producing tiny 100yd groups, albeit not with every load combination. Repeating this feat in F-class from the prone position was tough. I just couldn't get the rifle to deliver its inherent accuracy thanks to inexplicable elevation shifts. Read any book on benchrest and the experts say that if you have this problem look at how the rifle rides the front-rest. I did, and didn't like what I saw. The forend stuck and slid jerkily on the sandbag and tracked inconsistently. I had a Jekyll and Hyde rifle depending on the shooting position - the question was how to subdue the evil Mr Hyde and promote Dr Jekyll? I had a premonition the cure would be expensive!
Peter, Vince and Peter
If you frequent the wild, windy wastes of Diggle Ranges and have a rifle accuracy problem, there are two locals at the top of the list of people to consult: Vince Bottomley, well known to Target Sports readers, and Halifax-based precision gunsmith Peter Walker (Walker Rifles). A year on from the rebarrelling work and I had another new rifle - the FN SPR featured elsewhere in this issue. It has a very nice McMillan A5 stock, which while classed as ‘tactical' rides the bags nicely. Can I have the Remy restocked with one of these, I asked my two friends. Yes is the response, but did I know how much a McMillan A5 costs? (No, and the answer is a shock.) If you're going to spend serious money, get a specialist stock designed for the rifle's purpose, said Peter. He recommended the Shehane Tracker, a benchrest stock I've never heard of, and Vince confirmed it's a good ‘un, even if he has his own favourite. "It tracks really well," Pete advised, "even with powerful cartridges that produce lots of torque". I looked it up on the Internet, and found it is manufactured and marketed by McMillan.
Talking to this pair when they'd got together on a weekday at Diggle to sort some problems out on a customer's F-Class rifle produced a stroke of luck. One or the other asked what trigger I'm planning to use, and it turned out Vince had a Jewell match job he'd part with at a very reasonable price. Deal done, and I'm a bit poorer still!
With the McMillan connection, these stocks are imported by Jackson Rifles in Galloway, and a phone conversation between the two Peters (Walker and Jackson) revealed that if I'm not fussy about the colour and pattern, one would be available for immediate delivery (as opposed to waiting the usual age for manufacture and supply from the USA). The price was a pleasant surprise too, but I knew a lot of work would be required on what is described as a ‘semi-inletted' stock. That means it has a very rough, undersize facsimile of the Remington 700 action, so a lot of machining and roughing-out is required right down to drilling the holes for the action screws. "What do you want to do for a buttplate?" asked Pete. You don't get one with these stocks! It turned out the other Peter had a factory Shehane buttplate too and would part with it at cost, seeing as he'd had it on hand for ages with no takers. Fitting it took hours of work, but as with all of Pete's efforts, the final fit and finish were absolutely perfect!
However, I'm getting ahead of myself as the stock still had to be inletted. Pete was wondering just what sort of Remington action the makers had in mind as the short 700 seemed to bear little relationship to it! The apparently natural resting place for the action was very far forward - too far. A lot of time was spent pondering the best course of action, and many visitors to the workshop were consulted, for as Pete says, you're committed once you drill the first hole and start milling fibreglass out. I don't know what he did exactly but the final result looks really good. I'd supplied a single-shot magazine follower which was glued into the action, as the new stock has no magazine provision. The Jewell trigger assembly was fitted, then another problem arose - the trigger blade didn't extend far enough due to the way Pete had to position the action in the stock. An extension-shoe was machined and fitted - no great problem, but you begin to see how costs mount!
So much for the fitting, what about the stock itself? The photos and their captions do most of the work here, but firstly it's huge (and heavy) compared to a conventional sporter or light target rifle design. Good - lots of mass to keep recoil down and improve control on the bags. The VS stock's sharp lower buttstock rake has gone, replaced by a horizontal edge ½" wide so it is supported in the V between the rear bag's ears and recoils horizontally without tilting the rifle up under recoil as with a conventional stock. The forend is also horizontal, flat and has a long 3" wide section. Incidentally, this involved more expense as I now needed a proper benchrest top for my Sinclair rest. I also needed a 3" wide ‘owl bag' - a low-friction cordura covered example bought while the work was being done. (Previously, I'd used Sinclair's All-Purpose adjustable top, very flexible for different rifles, but inferior to a benchrest set-up for this stock).
Death of a fly
Before ladies and readers of a nervous disposition become agitated, I'll say now that no fly was hurt in gathering the material for this feature! So, the usual and vital questions - did it work, and at what cost? As to the second part, I don't know as I wrote cheques at different times and (deliberately) never added the sums up! Yes, it works, the rifle now slides effortlessly backwards and forwards on the front and rear bags. It is immensely stable, a combination of increased weight and flat-bottom form. Interestingly, some of the loads that had worked best with the VS stock at 100yd didn't do so well in the restocked rifle, and I had to work some new medium to long-range loads up, finally settling on 105gn Berger VLDs plus Hodgdon VarGet as my match load.
Shooting the rifle required a new technique too, especially as something unexpected turned up when I collected the finished rifle from Peter. The Jewell trigger that Vince provided was a 2oz benchrest job, not a heavier-pull target job as I had assumed. Breathe on it and it fires - a huge plus as we'll see. With the 6BR having little recoil, even with 105gn bullets and the Shehane Tracker living up to its name on the bags, I've re-educated myself to shooting a la benchrester - free recoil and minimal contact with the rifle. This sees the shoulder an inch or two behind the buttplate and the rifle allowed to recoil on the bags without hindrance, the bullet long out of the muzzle before the stock hits you. With the 2oz trigger, the strong hand doesn't grasp the stock to operate it. This is done by gently squeezing the rear of the trigger-guard and trigger blade together with the thumb and forefinger tips.
I upgraded the optics to an 8-32x50 Burris and used the rifle in 2007 in some long-range F-Class competitions in the Open class. The little 6mm sees a lot more wind-induced movement than the brutal 7mm jobs that all top competitors now use, or even the almost passé 6.5-284 Norma. It has no trouble with 1,000yd shooting however, and could conceivably win a national competition if one ever took place in calm enough conditions to allow its low recoil and natural accuracy to come into play. Where 6mm BR Norma really shines is 300-600yd precision competitions. My first success was PSSA's annual Fly Shoot two years ago. The weather was so bad, the normal 500yd prone format was abandoned and we shot from Diggle's 400yd covered benchrest facility. I was second overall and hit the fly three times to get a coveted ‘fly patch'. More recently, I've managed to attend two of the new PSSA winter-season 600yd benchrest shoots, achieving a sub-3" group on both outings despite pretty rough conditions. There's not much more I intend to do to the rifle, but lots I can do with it - upgrading my handloading methods, trying new 6mm match bullets, a new 12-50x56 Schmidt & Bender scope...
Peter Walker has asked me to say that, thanks to a heavy workload building new rifles (he built the 2008 Bisley European Meeting F-Class winner Andy Wyspianski's rifle among others), he is now unable to undertake restocking work.
Norman Clark Gunsmiths Ltd, Rugby
T: 01788 579651
Walker Rifles, Mount Tabor, Halifax
T: 01422 248241
Jackson Rifles, Parton, Castle Douglas
T: 01644 470223
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