Remington Model 700: Gun History

The best-selling bolt-action rifle in America is also a classic American success story.

Gun of the Week: Remington Model 700
Remington has sold more than 5.3 million Model 700 bolt-action rifles since it was introduced in 1962.web photo

It’s been chambered for just about every cartridge made, from the tiny .17 Fireball varmint cartridge through the elephant-dropping .458 Winchester Magnum. It’s been offered in probably more versions than any other rifle in history, including just about any conceivable configuration imaginable—blued, stainless, titanium, with wood or synthetic stocks. It’s been made with light barrels and heavy barrels, long barrels and short barrels. It’s even been made with a triangle barrel. It’s been made in varying designs, applicable for hunting, sport shooting, law enforcement, and the military. There’s even a muzzleloading version.

It’s been around for 53 years, and there are more to come. So it’s not hard to see why the Model 700 is the best-selling bolt-action rifle in the country.

Wartime Origins

Remington’s search for an ideal bolt-action design began after World War I, when it was clear that the bolt-action rifle design would soon dominate the sporting world. The company introduced the Model 30 bolt-action rifle, which was based on the 1917 Enfield, which was the main rifle used by American Expeditionary Forces in the war. The Model 30 was designed to use leftover parts from the Enfield rifles Remington had been building. It was heavy and expensive for the time, and only 2,900 of them were sold between 1921 and 1925.

In 1926, Remington introduced the Model 30 Express rifle. It was lighter and shorter than the original, and the action cocked on opening, rather than on closing as the original Model 30 did. The new gun had a better trigger and was spruced up cosmetically. It was improved again in 1930 with the Model S Special Grade Bolt Action Rifle. That one had a better stock and included a Lyman Number 48 peep sight. This rifle stayed in the lineup until 1949, when the Model 720 replaced it.

Remington had great plans for the Model 720, but WWII put them on hold. They made about 4,000 guns and the government bought up most of those. Most were put into storage. (Later, in 1964, the Navy began awarding new-in-the-box Model 720 rifles as marksmanship trophies.)

In 1944, Remington understood that the war was winding down. The company had been third place in rifles sales before the war, behind Winchester and Savage, and they wanted to change that. So the company sent out questionnaires to thousands of American sportsmen who were serving in the war to help plan their re-entry into the sporting gun market.

In 1948 Remington introduced two new bolt-action rifles, the Model 721 Long Action in .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield; and the Model 722, a short-action version of the same rifle offered in .257 Roberts and .300 Savage.

Gun of the Week: Remington Model 700
The Model 700’s bolt is of three-piece construction. The bolt face is recessed, fully enclosing the base of the cartridge.web photo

The design engineer, Mike Walker, was a hardcore benchrest competitor and he focused on accuracy. The new rifles used a cylindrical receiver that reduced the cost of manufacturing. This round action required less machining than other action types and much of the work could be done on a lathe; as a result, accuracy was improved as they could now turn everything on a center, which helped insure better alignment of all the parts.

The rifles were, for the most part, rather plain Jane, with a simple stock design and uninspired wood, although in later years some embellishments were added.

I have a 721 in .30-06 and two 722 rifles, one in .300 Savage and the other in .222 Remington. They are well-mannered rifles—accurate and reliable. They are sort of a blue-collar version of a hunting rifle—solid, competent, and dependable.

Thinking the 721 and 722 were too plain to compete head-to-head with the Winchester Model 70, which had been introduced in 1938 and was held in high regard by shooters, Remington introduced the Model 725 in 1958--pretty much a gussied-up version of the older rifles. Remington continued to produce these rifles until 1962 until replacing them with the Model 700.

Strength, Accuracy, and a Hot New Cartridge

Remington advertised the M700 as the “world’s strongest bolt action,” citing the “three rings of steel” that surround the cartridge head. They also claimed that it had the “best out-of-the-box accuracy” of any production-grade rifle.

Its accuracy is attributed to multiple factors that were designed into this rifle. First is the cylindrical receiver. Next is the bedding that floats the barrel except for a pressure point at the tip of the stock; and then there was the fact that the gun had a very fast lock time of 3.2 milliseconds. Lock time is the time that elapses between the tripping of a gun’s trigger and the ignition of the powder or propellant that drives the projectile(s) downrange, and the faster the better. The Model 700 also had an excellent, crisp trigger. The barrels were held to a very tight tolerance and the bolt design helped to keep the cartridge centered in the chamber—all good engineering attributes that help make a rifle consistent, and therefore accurate.

Gun of the Week: Remington Model 700
The Model 700 has been used to take every species of game in the world, and has won in every competition where bolt-action rifles are used.web photo

In my opinion the then new Model 700 was also a better-looking rifle than its predecessors. But, perhaps more than anything else, the rifle was hugely successful because it was launched in conjunction with a new and exciting cartridge, the 7mm Remington Magnum. This high-performance cartridge helped fuel the “magnum mania” that gripped the hunting world in the 1960s. For a long time it was the best-selling big-game cartridge chambered for the Model 700 rifle.

In 2012, Remington celebrated 50 years of the Model 700 rifle with a limited run of Model 700 BDL rifles with a high grade of wood and an engraved floor plate. It was chambered for—of course-- the 7mm Remington Magnum.

The Model 700 has taken every species of game hunted in the world and has won in every competition where bolt-action rifles are used. It has protected Americans from harm and filled their freezers for more than half a century.

Remington has sold more than 5.3 million Model 700 rifles—and they’re still selling more.