The Big Green Rifle

The Big Green Rifle

Remington steps out with an AR that's ready for deer, hogs and more.

The enemy soldier in front of our two-man fighting position dove into a ditch about 75 yards downhill from us and began low-crawling along it--but not quite low enough. When the top of his helmet bobbed into view, I put the front sight post on it and squeezed the trigger.


I was rewarded by the high, shrill signal of my M16's laser emitter scoring a hit on the sensors, and the soldier sat up and slammed his helmet down in disgust. That "kill"--during field exercises in Army infantry school--was my first with an AR.


Fast forward 20 years later as guide Danny DeCock at the 777 Ranch in Texas led me to the edge of a big open field. Three exotic blackbucks were bedded in the center of it, and Danny set up the bamboo shooting sticks. "When they stand up, take the one on the left," he said.

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Specifications:

Remington R-25

Type: AR-style seimauto
Caliber: .243 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win.
Capacity:4 + 1 with supplied magazine
Barrel:20 in. fluted; 6-groove 1:10 RH rifling
Overall Length: 39 3/4 in.
Weight:8 3/4 lb..
Recievers: upper: flat-top, hard coated 6066-T aluminum upper with Picatinny style; lower: milled 6061-T aluminum
Handguard: machined aluminum, ventilated free-float tube
Stock: Zytel
Metal/Stock Finish: Mossy Oak Treestand
Accessories: lockable hard case
Price: $1,532
Manufacturer: Remington Arms (800-243-9700)

Moments later, the animals rose and began walking steadily to the right, the range about 250 yards. I tracked the biggest buck with the crosshairs, and when he stopped, I squeezed the trigger--dropping him like a sack of potatoes. That was my second kill with an AR, this one the brand new R-25 from Remington, chambered in .308 Winchester.

Last year Remington trotted out the R-15 VTR, a varminter chambered to .204 Ruger and .223 Remington, and the firm--now a sister company to AR makers DPMS and Bushmaster--wasted little time developing a gun with bigger aspirations.

Initial chamberings for the new R-25 will be .308 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington and .243 Winchester, so it's pretty obvious Remington is going after the big game set. Remington is also going after servicemen and women returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea is to provide them with a rifle with which they're familiar, the hope being that those who either return to their hunting roots or decide to take up the sport will cotton to an AR--and their choice will be a gun from one of our oldest and most respected brand names.

Remington is also betting that an increasing acceptance of the AR among hunters will help put them in the driver's seat. The AR has already achieved this acceptance in the varmint realm. The hill is higher to climb in the big game world, but Remington is putting its best foot forward.

For starters, the R-25 is a good looking rifle, sporting a flat-top receiver, fluted barrel and ventilated free-float tube--all finished in Mossy Oak Treestand camo.

The Picatinny-style rail affixed to the flat top boasts 17 crosscuts, which provide a wide range of mounting positions for a scope or red-dot sight. The gas block (which replaces the front sight found on a standard AR-15) also has rail slots for mounting other accessories such as a laser or light.

The carbon-steel barrel has a recessed crown, is 20 inches long and, as mentioned, it's fluted. The fluting shaves off a couple of ounces, but it's mostly for aesthetics, although the short length does make it handier and lighter. The barrel is button-rifled with a six-groove, 1:10, right-hand twist, but the bore is not chrome-lined as you'll find on some ARs.

The general consensus on chrome lining is that it's critical if you are engaged in a lot of firefights or aren't able to clean the gun regularly between said firefights. But for the average hunter? Not so important.

The lower receiver is milled from a solid block of 6061-T aluminum and hard coated. I'm no metallurgist, so I checked with Remington's Linda Powell, who told me the hard coating is a type of anodizing that increases the surface hardness of the aluminum. Prior to coating, 6061-T registers 1 to 2 on the Rockwell C hardness scale; after coating it's in the 60 to 70 range.

The upper receiver is 6066-T aluminum and is likewise hard-coated. The free-float tube, made of machined aluminum, is ventilated for maximum heat dissipation. The bolt is machined out of heat-treated 8620 steel and features a black phosphate coating.

The Mossy Oak Treestand camouflage finish on the A-2 Zytel stock--as well as the upper, lower and free-float tube--is accomplished through a dipping process that applies a film to the parts.

The stock's vertical pistol grip features a finger shelf, which I found helps get the firing hand in the proper position surely and quickly. The butt incorporates the standard hinged trapdoor lid that opens to reveal a compartment originally designed to hold a military cleaning kit, which is not included.

A captive pin at the rear of the upper receiver pushes out easily, allowing the upper to pivot forward on the front pin to permit easy access to the bolt and trigger group. With the upper receiver pivoted forward, simply pull back on the charging handle and draw it to the rear; the bolt carrier group slides out for easy cleaning.

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ACCURACY CHART:

Remington R-25

.308 Winchester Bullet Weight (gr.) Muzzle Velocity (fps) Average Group (in.)
Remington Core-Lokt 180 2,620 .98
Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 168 2,670 1.28
Hornady InterBond 150 2,820 1.32
Remington Core-Lokt Ultra 150 2,820 1.56
Notes: Accuracy tested at 100 yards off a rest; results are the average of three three-shot groups. No chronograph was available, so velocities are published figures.

The day after I took my blackbuck, Danny and I chased black Hawaiian sheep in the hot Texas sun for close to an hour, threading through thick cover and running up, down and across a hill in an attempt to cut them off. During this, I discovered that the rifle--which is fairly heavy for a hunting gun at 83/4 pounds sans scope--carries fine slung over the shoulder, and the short barrel keeps it from hanging up on brush.

The only other carry option I found comfortable, though, was a modified port arms with the sling behind my upper arm, using the sling tension to relieve some of the weight. The rear sling swivel stud has two sets of holes to accommodate standard and tactical-style slings, but all I had was the nylon-web strap sling I usually hunt with and was unable to experiment with other carry styles.

There's no way to single-hand carry it because ARs are too deep through the receiver, and the R-25's flat top dispenses with the carry handle--as do many ARs these days, especially those intended for hunting.

However, the rifle comes up nicely, and there's little recoil. That, coupled with the overall design, allows quick follow-up shots. When we finally caught up to my Hawaiian black ram, he was mixed in with a motley crew of exotics--Hawaiian blacks, Texas Dalls and the weird-looking four-horn sheep--and they were moving off at a trot not quite 100 yards away.

I focused on a good black ram on the right edge of the herd and began follow him in the scope, hoping he'd give me a look at his shoulder as the band moved off. He did for a second, but I rushed the shot and missed. At the noise, the whole band turned and started running to the right. The black ram made the mistake of hesitating for a second, giving me a broadside standing shot, and I dropped him with a 180-grain Core-Lokt.

The free-floated 20-inch barrel is fluted, and it's a handy length for a hunting AR. The muzzle sports a recessed crown.

In Texas, I also had the chance to do some range testing with the R-25. Accuracy results are shown in the accompanying table and should prove to even the biggest Doubting Thomases that AR-style rifles can hold their own in the precision department.

The straight stock, combined with the low-mounted Leupold Mark 2 scope, put my head in the perfect position, one of the best setups I've seen on any hunting rifle. And as I mentioned, there are plenty of rail slots to allow you to get the right amount of eye relief.

Up until that trip, I'd never spent much time firing an AR from a benchrest, and I discovered I really liked the p

istol grip because it puts the trigger finger in the perfect position for traveling straight to the rear, allowing you to break better shots.

Unfortunately, while the R-25's trigger is described in the literature as a "crisp single stage," I found it to be anything but. It has a long, creepy pull, which takes some getting used to at the bench, although in the field it was no problem.

During function firing I experienced a few instances where the bolt failed to lock back after the last round was fired. And with Federal 165-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, the rifle failed to feed about a third of the time--and it wouldn't group this ammo at all, for some reason--but there were no feeding issues with the other brands I tested.

At the conclusion of my range testing, I rapid-fired about 100 rounds of various ammo (except the Federal) with the butt placed firmly in my shoulder; with a loose grip; and off the shoulder holding just the fore-end and the pistol grip. The rifle was not cleaned or lubricated during any of this. There were no failures to feed or eject, although after the session I found the charging handle a little balky and hard to draw to the rear.

As a big game hunting rifle, the AR platform does have a few inherent disadvantages, at least for someone like me who's not used to using one for this purpose. There's nothing Remington can do about how an AR carries or the inability to close the action quietly, and there's nothing the firm can do about the weight--nothing economical, at any rate. But there are some improvements the company could make.

My number one complaint is the number of sharp angles on the rifle. The R-25's hard plastic buttplate has the standard sharp diamond-grip pattern, and Remington would do well to consider a softer, nonskid rubber-type pad--although not necessarily a full-blown recoil pad, which wouldn't be necessary.

I'd also cashier the boxy forward assist housing in favor of something rounder and sleeker like the one on the R-15 (the R-15's upper is made by Bushmaster, the R-25's by DPMS).

The R-25 is designed to accept all .308-capable AR magazines, and a four-round steel-box mag comes with the rifle. Frankly, I'd rather see Remington or one of its sister companies develop a polymer magazine for it, which would work just as well but would eliminate the sharp edges and corners of the steel magazine and be lighter to boot. Alternately, some sort of rubber or polymer baseplate cover or bumper would also make the magazine a little friendlier.

Last, I'd like to see a better trigger on the rifle. As I mentioned, I had no problems with the trigger in field situations, but it's not a lot of fun at the bench. If I had my druthers, it would be a two-stage affair.

The slots in the flat-top receiver give hunters a lot of latitude when mounting a scope, and the vented free-float tube helps dissipate heat.

These criticisms aside, I think the R-25 is a big step toward making the AR platform a better (or at least more popular) big game hunting rifle, and my experience in Texas indicates that when it comes to the actual shooting part, it certainly can hold its own with most any production rifle, regardless of type. And in some regards I'd say it's actually superior.

On the last evening, our big game tags filled, Danny, Derrek Sigler and I sat in a box blind overlooking a bait pile. Sure enough, at last light a group of wild boars scampered in. Derrek and I picked out two medium-size pigs, and on a count of three we let fly. Pandemonium ensued, but Danny quickly realized one of the pigs was only wounded as it began to scamper into the darkness.

"Get that pig!" he urged, and I swung onto the wounded hog and delivered two quick shots that stopped it. I doubt I could've done that so easily with anything but an AR.

While chasing this black Hawaiian ram, the author found the R-25 to be on the heavy side. Still, it proved a deadly hunting rifle -- quick shooting at short range and accurate enough for long range work.

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