Sunday, June 6, 2010

Peculiarities of the Remington 700 Rifle

I'm a big fan of Remington's Model 700. I think it is among the very best rifles ever made. There are a few problems with it, though. I am acquainted with them firsthand. The purpose of this article is to help the rifleman armed with this weapon understand what its particular problems are and how to avoid or fix them. I have concentrated on issues specific to the 700, omitting the many issues or concerns that apply to bolt rifles in general. That leaves me quite enough to talk about.

A few built-in glitches aside, though, what a fine shooting iron! The reason we know about the problems is the 700 has seen use everywhere, doing everything, for a long time. It is well established as a target rifle and a hunting rifle, and has long served as the sniper's rifle of the Army and Marine Corps. Millions of 700's have been sold. Because its flaws have been exposed through long hard use, I tend to trust this rifle more than some others. It's as in the old saying: "Better the devil you know."

It is typically an accurate rifle and it works smoothly--most of the time. In its usual sporter configuration, it is slim, well balanced and handles well. You can put a yard of bull barrel and two tons of fancy stock on it and it will handle like a plank, but that is true of any rifle.

Now, as to the downside: As with any machine, the works can get gummed up. Parts can wear and fail and things can break. There are three places where the Remington 700 is particularly inclined to mischief: the extractor, the magazine and, on a small percentage of older models, the trigger and safety--potentially a very serious matter. (If you have one of these troublesome older models, Remington will put things right at very little expense to you. I give the details below.)

The Dinky Extractor

Where riflemen to gather to talk shop, the Remington's extractor is the first thing mentioned as a weak point of its design. It is said to be the rifle's weakest link. It is a small spring steel semicircular affair that sits inside the bolt face. It snags the cartridge rim when you close the bolt. It drags the cartridge out again when you open the bolt.

It is a very small part, to be tasked with such an important job. The Mauser, and similar actions, use a massive claw. The comparison is inevitable.

It isn't as if Remington did not know about the Mauser extractor. Before they came up with the spring clip type, they had made a great many rifles with Mauser extractors, including Springfields for the military. Presumably they knew all about the advantages. What they came up with instead is more compact, simpler, lighter and, yes, also cheaper to make.

This part occasionally breaks or becomes distorted. In the few incidents I have been able to track down that have all the facts available, the failures have happened at high round counts--over five thousand in one case, above ten thousand in two others. A small number of extractors have failed in brand new rifles--bad tempering, apparently. Always try out a rifle before you trust it.

You should carefully inspect the extractor every time you have the bolt out of the rifle. Gently clean any filth from on or beneath it, with solvent and a toothpick. Examine the part for any signs of cracking or distortion. Replace it if it looks wrong. You may wish, as a precaution, to change it out every few thousand rounds, just to be on the safe side. This is more rounds than the normal hunter shoots through his rifle in his entire life. Still, there are people who shoot that much and more, and lots of them have Remingtons.

There are two styles of extractors used in Remington 700's. The older style is riveted to the bolt face. The newer style does not use a rivet. Remington discovered that the rivet was not really needed; spring pressure was enough to keep the part in place. Unfortunately, the newer rivetless design is not interchangeable with the older, riveted extractor and cannot be used to replace it. If you have a riveted extractor, that is the kind you are stuck with.

Replacing the new rivetless extractor is easy, just pop it in. Extractor, Rivetless F93712 '06 Bolt Face. Replacing the riveted extractor is not difficult, exactly, but it is a bit of a fiddly procedure. You have to buck over a rivet while supporting it from inside the narrow rim of the bolt face. Brownell's replacement kit includes instructions. I find it telling that the kit includes the extractor and two rivets, while only one rivet is needed. What that says to me is a lot of people miss on the first try. The kit: Remington 700-Style Riveted Extractor Kit . (Be sure you order the right size for your caliber.)

To make the installation go more smoothly, there is a tool to make it easier to smack that rivet right: Remington 700 Armorer's Kit Remington Extractor Rivet Anvil. You can do the job without the special anvil, but it may require some ingenuity on your part.

If you're not at all a gun hobbyist-tinkerer, consider taking the riveted style to a gunsmith if you need it replaced. It's a quick and easy job for someone who has the right tools and has done it before.

There is a scheme for replacing the Remington extractor with the extractor from a Sako rifle, or from an M16. I am not convinced of the benefits. When Marine armorers build the Corps' sniper rifle, they use numerous custom made or specially adapted bits and pieces, but they keep Remington's extractor, and this is on a rifle being tuned up for life and death use. Fitting a different extractor would be an unnoticeable added bit of time and expense, in crafting what is in effect a hand built rifle, but the Marines decided the Remington extractor would do. Nobody knows more about rifles than the jarheads; if you doubt it, you can ask them.

My own verdict on the extractor issue: Keep the extractor and bolt face clean, watch the extractor for signs of trouble, and if you fire off a whole lot of ammo, replace the thing periodically as a precaution. And stop worrying about it.

Magazine And Feeding Issues

Here is a common occurrence: It's difficult pushing the rounds into the magazine, and perhaps not all of them will go in. When you shoot, rounds fail to feed, sticking in the magazine so that the bolt rides over them instead of pushing them into the chamber. If the rifle worked before, the likely cause of this misconduct is that the magazine box is cockeyed in the rifle--pinched somehow or in crooked. Take the gun apart and put it back together again, making sure the magazine box is undistorted and installed just right. A less common cause for misbehavior is foreign material or rust interfering with the function of the magazine. The solution there is obvious.

If the magazine system is put in right, unobstructed and unrusted, any feeding problems are ordinarily limited to rough, sluggish or incomplete feeding. A new, strong magazine spring should help. If that doesn't completely solve the problem, perhaps a slight smoothing of the feed rails will help. Polish don't reshape. (Crocus cloth not sandpaper.) Reshaping rails is a factory matter, or something for a good gunsmith with lots of Remington experience. The amateur is well advised to leave it alone.

A few people have reported feeding failures on brand new rifles. In this case, why fool around? Send the thing back to Remington and tell them coffee break's over.

These remarks apply to the models with internal magazines, which you fill from the top of the rifle. They do not apply to the detachable magazine models. I have no experience with those, as yet. On other detachable magazine arms, in my experience, anyway, the solution to most feeding issues is a new magazine, and I suppose it would be the same with the Remington DM.

The Trigger and Safety Matter

Remington will convert the bolt locking safety on older model Remington 700's to non bolt-locking operation, for $20. At the same time they will replace your trigger, at no additional charge, if it is not working to spec. The link is here and more information on the retrofitting program is here. To quote:

Remington is extending through December 31, 2010, its Safety Modification Program to remove the bolt-lock mechanism from certain Remington bolt-action centerfire firearms made prior to March, 1982. (Post-1982 bolt-action firearms were not manufactured with bolt-lock mechanisms). To determine whether your firearm has a bolt-lock mechanism and is subject to the safety modification program, click on the model listed below and follow the directions included.

The unloading process for most bolt-action firearms with a bolt-lock mechanism cannot begin unless the manual safety is placed in the "F" or "Off or Fire" position. If you participate in the program your firearm will be modified to eliminate the bolt-lock feature and you will be able to unload your firearm while the safety is kept in the "S" or " On Safe" position. The operation of your firearm will not otherwise be affected.

Unless they extend this program again (they have before), you have till year's end to get the modification and a complimentary hat; see the web site for details. There is a bit of history behind this program; some 700's, it now appears, have fired when the safety was taken off, without the trigger being pulled. There was quite a media circus about it years ago; here is what CBS said. Although any accidental shooting is tragic, and I do not at all wish to detract from the seriousness of the accidents or the anguish caused by them, shooters well know that you must never trust a safety and always apply the rules of proper gun handling. Furthermore, the off-safe-and-bang malfunction is not unique to Remingtons.

But since we know there is a possible issue here, why not send in your rifle, if you have an '82 or earlier model? As I read the factory's announcement, they will convert your safety so you can leave it engaged while you unload, as on the current model, and if there is anything amiss with your trigger they will put in another. Amiss, in this case, no doubt includes any amateur slob job trying to make a field trigger into a hair trigger. The trigger is a bit of precision workmanship and does not like to be messed with.

Here is what a wrongful death and personal injury law firm has to say about the Remington trigger; I include this link to round out coverage of the subject. As you may suppose, what it says is not positive, but careful reading between the lines may suggest, to the gun-savvy, something about the true nature of the controversy.

 I have an older 700 with the bolt lock that I am going to send in, simply because I am telling other people to do so. Its operation appears to be all correct, but I cannot expect others to take my advice if I do not take it myself. I haven't had any trouble with this rifle, but that may be due to foresight. When I bought it used, I found it was pretty well gummed up with congealed oil, so I rinsed that out before I tried to use the rifle. The pull weight, when I got it, was set at about 3 1/2 pounds, not unreasonable for the design, possibly the way it left the factory, and the sear engagement screw was untouched under its factory seal. Of course, grime or gunk, and unreasonable trigger settings, will contribute very much to unsafety, on this or any rifle.

It may be that there are Remington 700's out there that have triggers that were never quite right in the first place, even among those made after the 1975 revision of specifications, and the 1982 elimination of the bolt lock, for no manufacturing process is error free, but the last line of defense, in rifle safety, is the thoughtful and well informed rifleman.

A quick field check you can do on any 700, old or new, is as follows. Gun UNLOADED and pointed in a SAFE DIRECTION, gun cocked and safety on, move the safety halfway between Safe and Fire. Pull the trigger. Take your finger off the trigger and move the safety to Fire. The striker should not fall. If it does, do not fire the gun, or load it, until it is professionally repaired. I repeat this check a few times before each outing.

Trigger Addendum

Beginning in 2007, Remington began shipping the 700 with a new trigger mechanism called the "X-Mark" and in 2009 the X-Mark gained an external adjustment screw for pull weight, on its trigger face; the 2007 version had all the screws inside the gun, like the previous model. I have no experience with this trigger unit myself and am trying to sort out how this change is working out for people. If you have some firsthand input on the subject, please leave it in the comment box.

So In Summary...

The Remington 700 reminds me a little bit of the Jaguar automobile. They do not look the same, and they only occasionally sound the same, but with either one there is the feeling that here is a high performance machine with some maintenance related peculiarities. The 700 has the particular virtue of wanting to shoot straight. It is ordinarily a good shooter right out of the box and with tuning it can be phenomenal. Its vices are few in number and easily dealt with once you know what they involve.

If that doesn't seem persuasive to you, that's fine. Some situations, and some people's preferences, are better served by designs where toughness and endurance were the main criteria. (A Dodge 4x4 serves better for some trips than a Jaguar.) But, if you ask around, trying to find out which rifles never give any trouble, the answer, you will find, is "None of 'em!"


  1. I will never purchase a Remington weapon again. For generations, Remington was the weapon of choice for my family.
    I purchased a used Remington 700 rifle and was told by another person that it had a problem with the trigger and safety. It was true, if your finger was on the trigger, without any pressure, it would fire when the safety was pushed forward. I was told Remington knew about this problem.
    I contacted Remington and they offered to look at the problem. I said I have been out of work for 2 years and could not afford to pay anything. They picked up the tab for to/from shipping and said they would look at it. I got a letter saying that I needed a new bolt, trigger assembly, etc. I told them that I had already said I could not afford to pay for repairs. They sent the rifle back labeled dangerous w/o repairing it.
    I was told by several people that Remington only wanted to cover their ass.
    I also own a Glock 40 cal S&W piston. I called Glock and told them I had a safety issue if the pistol was dropped. I sent in the pistol, and they replaced every single part, with the exception of the receiver housing, barrel and slide. Even new front and rear sights for the slide. A whole page of parts w/o any charge. Not only that, they sent me the gun back in a new heavy plastic gun case. Just like the ones they come in when new.
    My point is, Remington has a problem with their triggers, and does not want to pay for it. Glock wants their weapons working perfectly no matter what. They ask no questions of me, they just fixed it for free and then paid to ship it back to me,
    REMINGTON sucks. None of my family will ever purchase their crap again.


  2. I've had some 12 remington center fire rifles; 7- 700's,4- 788's. 2 of the 700's could be described as reliablely accurate; 3 of the 788's were one hole shooters. Of the poor and undesirable ones even though respectably "pretty", they were miserable examples of quality control. 4 with visible defects inside the bbls, one on the bolt face. No need to set cartridge lenth to fit the chamber because no bullet has ever been made long enough. Only one bolt lug makes contect with receiver races.

  3. Paul Martin

    I have a Remington 700LH in varminter format. I started sighting it in previously but fitted a different scope and tried again on the week end. However the bolt would not close fully. I took it back to the retailer. he removed the pin assembly and still the bolt would not close fully. So it cannot be the bolt lock as that came off with the pin. We cannot see any obsticles in the chamber. The gun is about three years old and has fired less than 25 rounds.

    Any suggestions?

  4. Mr. Martin in Australia:

    This is a long shot. Try taking the scope mount off of the rifle.

  5. Mr. Martin,

    After further thought, I have not thought of another suspect. I think a too-long scope mount screw is interfering with the bolt's operation. Actually "think" may be putting it too strongly; that is a guess, but the best I can come up with, at this distance.

  6. i bought a brand new remington 700 30/06 from walmart in november 2011. i used it for the first time a month later the end of december 2011 for deer hunting. long story short i was in my sportsman condo deer blind and i saw some deer so i started raising up my rifle and as i brought it up i switched the saftey off and when i pushed the safety off the 30/06 fired without me pulling the trigger at all and it scared me to death and it almost shot my left leg off. it blew a hole in the side of the condo blind. my ears rang for a day or so. smoke filled the blind. i am very glad i did not have my 6 year old grandson with me. if he would of went with me that day he would of probably got shot and would probably be dead right now. he always sits to the left of me and that is what i almost blew off was my left leg. i took it back to walmart and showed them what the rifle was doing wrong. the where very surprised that the rifle would fire without the trigger ever even being pulled. i told them that why is it that walmart did not check the rifle to make sure it is in good working condition and walmart should of checked the safety and if they did they would of caught the malfuction before i almost had my left leg shot off or shot my 6 year old grandson by mistake. walmart took the rifle out of the box to show me it did not have scratches to protect themselves but walmart never thought to check the safety on the rifle. walmarts only concern was protecting themselves. what walmart needs to understand is dead customers give them no repeat business. any other rifle retailer like bass pro shops check their rifles safety before you leave with the rifle. walmart treats a rifle purchase like they are selling you a gallon of milk or selling you a bike. where are the safety checks walmart?????????????? walmart sent the rifle to remington and remington told walmart that i must of done something to the barrel to make the rifle go off. that is stupid. number one i did not mess with the barell at all period and even if i did that would not make the rifle fire without pulling the trigger. so a week and a half goes by and walmart calls me and said the rifle is fixed and back from remington so i go by and pick it up and i get home and the rifle is still firing when you push the safety to the off position and this time i noiticed that the rifle would fire also by just pulling the bolt action back and when you push the bolt foward it fires by itself. i took it back up to walmart and remington told walmart it was a bad sensor in the rifle. that is again the stupidest thing i have ever heard there is nothing electronic in the rifle. there are no sensors. the rifle just has steel mechanicial parts that work together. i asked remington and walmart for a refund because they had their chance to fix it and they could not fix it. i told them just give me a store credit walmart says no and remington said no to remburseing walmart or me. remington said they will try to fix it again. so remington has my rifle and they are supposdely fixing it. we will see. i have my doubts. remington has known about this problem for a very long time. i can not beleive remington is not being held accountable for selling a deadly product that has killed alot of people and also killed alot of kids already but in the name of making money remington does nothing except continue putting these death traps out there in the name of big business and big profits. how does remington sleep at night???????????thanks kevin johnson 901-258-3077

  7. Kendal, this is Kendall out in Utah. Don't you have some kind of filter that screens out the nut jobs?
    walmart is going to test fire every rifle they sell? Rotflmao!!
    I've lost track of the Remmys I've owned and the worst problem I ever encountered was a poorly fit extractor that took ten minutes and a file to fix.
    Four 600's and every one one gladly and freely fixed by big green.
    the old "Remington Crisp" article for tweaking the old triggers was a twenty minute project an ourangatan could do.
    remmys have always been a working mans gun, short on price and long on value. I've spent a hell of a lot more for rifles that weren't as accurate or reliable.
    people need to quit watching MSNBC's anti-firearms "exposes" and try some independent thought.

  8. I own alot of remingtons they all have been good, my 5r 300 win mag shoots 1/4moa, ive lightened all the model 700 triggers and never had a problem. I dont flip the safety off or even have my gun pointed in an unsafe direction if it is loaded... that would be retarded. The walmart douche bag saying his grandson would died if he was with him, that would have been his own fault, I would never point a loaded gun at my hunting partner

  9. Thanks for such an interesting article here. I was searching for something like that for quite a long time and at last I have found it here.

    Firearms Accessories in Australia

    1. G'day, Fred. Thanks for saying so! You might like my follow-up on the legal issues and pattern of slander surrounding the Remmie,

      I've fired the 700 in configurations ranging from light sporter to bull sniper. In any of its configurations it feels like an old and trusted friend.

  10. Your post about Remington 700 is really interesting and useful. Thank you for taking time to write it.

  11. I agree about the trigger. I think that it is one of the first things to upgrade when you buy a new Remington 700.