January 11, 2013
After many months spent circumnavigating the globe aboard the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin began to form his theory of how traits are passed from one generation to the next. Darwin's concepts of evolution and natural selection stated the characteristics that made an organism successful in its environment would be the traits that were carried on and spread throughout the population. And although we don't typically associate Charles Darwin with firearms, there certainly is an element of Darwin's theory of natural selection that applies to the evolution of sporting rifles.
Throughout the history of modern firearms production there have been periods of significant advancement, usually thanks to some new technology. Rifled barrels were an example of a revolutionary step in firearms manufacturing, and very soon this successful trait spread throughout the population. Breech loading was another major advancement, followed shortly afterwards by self-loading capabilities for semi-automatic and automatic weapons.
The last decade has certainly been one of those evolutionary periods in the history of sporting rifles. Bolt-actions had been the most popular hunting rifle for about 60 years, and during that time there had been few major improvements that revolutionized the hunting rifle. Telescopic sights became more popular, as did synthetic stocks and stainless steel finishes. But there was very little sweeping change.
The last 10 years, however, have seen significant change in the realm of bolt guns. For starters, heavy, creepy triggers that came standard with many production rifles were replaced with crisp, light, user-adjustable models, and every major rifle manufacturer had to offer a top-quality trigger or risk extinction.
Likewise, accuracy-enhancing features such as pillar bedding, free-floated barrels and target crowns, which were once found only on high-priced target rifles, became standard on many off-the-shelf guns. The result has been rifles that are less expensive and more accurate, which is a boon for all shooters and a call to every major production rifle manufacturer to design budget rifles capable of extreme accuracy.
For 2013, Remington is unveiling its own budget rifle: the Model 783. Every new centerfire rifle that Remington introduces draws major attention and inevitable comparisons with the company's stalwart Model 700, a rifle that has proven to be a top performer for more than five decades. Because of the success of the 700, Remington's new 783 is less of a revolution and more of an evolution in the company's bolt-action hunting rifle lineup.
It isn't the Model 700 that the 783 is designed to challenge, though. Instead, the Model 783 is Remington's answer to guns such as the Savage Axis, the Ruger American Rifle and the Tikka T3, guns that have already proven that inexpensive rifles don't have to be inaccurate. The Remington incorporates many of features rifle shooters have come to demand at any price point — features such as a superb trigger, a quality, free-floated barrel with a target crown, and a pillar-bedded stock.
It's not likely that you'll mistake the new 783 for your standard Model 700, but the aesthetic of the new 783 isn't as radical as many of its competitors like the Axis or the Giugiaro-designed Sako A7. The stock is modern but not radical, and you won't see the colored grip panels or asymmetrical lines found on other rifles.
Again, this evolution at work, and Remington wisely opted not to design the 783 with an avant garde, in-your-face synthetic stock that will immediately repel traditionalists. Instead, the Remington stock is functional yet modern, with a sloping finger groove on the fore-end that helps the shooter grip and point the gun. The stock on my test rifle was black synthetic, but camo versions are set to debut soon after the gun goes into production.
The gripping surfaces are textured, and the pistol grip is wide enough to be comfortable through long sessions at the range. To help mitigate recoil, Remington included its SuperCell recoil pad on the Model 783, and the soft, textured surface helps reduce impact. Sling studs are molded into the stock, eliminating the metal-to-metal squeaking that sometimes occurs with traditional studs. The stock is pillar-bedded to improve rigidity, and the barrel is free-floated.
The action of the 783 works in a similar fashion to the standard Model 700, with a push-feed bolt with dual opposing locking lugs, an AR-15-type extractor and a plunger-style ejector that protrudes through the face of the bolt. The bolt face looks similar to that of the Model 700, which has served the company exceedingly well for 50 years.
The bolt knob has been flattened and bears a stylized "R" in the center. It's a subtle and effective change, and it's very functional. The bolt knob is easy to grip and allows a bit more space for scope mounting, which is a good thing considering the bolt throw on the 783 is 90 degrees. The bolt shroud is enclosed, with a small cocking indicator in the center. The two-position safety remains largely the same as the one currently found on the Model 700 and is located along the right side of the bolt.
The receiver of the 783, however, bears little resemblance to its Model 700 ancestors. The Model 783 has a one-piece cylindrical receiver with a small ejection port. This provides more mass and rigidity through the receiver and increases the accuracy capabilities of the 783. The combination of a single-piece receiver and pillar-bedded stock means the Model 783 has the potential to be a very accurate rifle.
Two additional keys to accuracy are a good barrel and a light, clean trigger. Remington didn't fall short in either area with the Model 783. The magnum contour, 22-inch, button-rifled barrel fits to the action with a barrel nut, a design similar to Savage's 110 rifles. Savage guns have long been known for accuracy because the barrel nut allows for better headspacing when the barrel and receiver are mated. In addition, the Model 783 also incorporates Remington's CrossFire trigger, a blade-style model that is user adjustable and factory set at 3.5 pounds. The trigger has a rearward cant and breaks cleanly.
The closed-top receiver is drilled and tapped for two front M700 bases, and the flattened bolt handle boasts a stylized 'R. ' The trigger is the new adjustable CrossFire, and the two-position safety on production models will be black.
The 783 employs a barrel nut to attach the magnum-contour barrel to the receiver. The forend sports a finger groove, albeit not a radical one, and features a molded-in sling swivel attachment point.
The 783 employs a detachable box magazine, one built from aluminum that incorporates a release latch. The mag functioned flawlessly during testing.
The Model 783 delivers excellent accuracy at a low price. Average groups were less than 1.5 inches for all three varieties of ammunition tested, and a third of the test groups were sub-m.o.a.
The Model 783 has a detachable box magazine, and when I picked up the rifle and pressed the release button located at the front of the magazine I was surprised to see that Remington used a metal magazine box. The design of the aluminum box is sturdy and easy to load, and I didn't experience any of the problems I've had with plastic boxes in the past that have to be guided carefully into place so that they latch properly.
With the 783 you can simply place the magazine in the bottom of the rifle, give it a slap and you're ready for the field. The .30-06 that I tested had a magazine capacity of four rounds, and throughout the test there were no feeding problems.
The fit and finish of the Model 783 is on par for a rifle in this price range, and the matte finish works well to reduce glare. This gun is targeted primarily at hunters, and the Model 783 has everything required to make an excellent hunting rifle.
It's not a featherweight gun, but it's certainly manageable, and the textured surfaces are easy to grip with wet hands or gloves. The robust design of the rifle means that it can absorb the punishment of being hauled through the woods and mountains without worrying about marring a fancy walnut stock.
It points and balances well enough to be a serious woods rifle, yet it is accurate enough to be used on the open plains of the American West. Initially, the Model 783 will be chambered in .270, .30-06, .308 and 7mm Remington Magnum, though if this rifle is as successful as I'm imagining it will be then I'd look for an expanded lineup of available chamberings.
Overall, the Model 783 is an impressive rifle that looks modern without going overboard and incorporates a wide variety of accuracy-enhancing features. The proof would come at the range, though, and I was anxious to see if Remington's new creation could perform as well as its spec sheet and pedigree indicated that it should.
I mounted Bushnell's new Legend Ultra HD 3-9x40 scope with side parallax adjustment on the 783 with a pair of Weaver rings and bases (the Model 783 uses Model 700 front bases for both the rear and front). Loaded and scoped, the entire package weighed just under 8.5 pounds.
Along with the rifle, Remington sent along some of its new HyperSonic .30-06 ammunition. These bonded bullets have a tapered copper jacket for reliable expansion and increased velocity for more energy and better trajectory as compared to standard hunting loads. I also tested Hornady's 180-grain SST ammunition and Federal's Sierra GameKing 165-grain BTSP. Testing conditions were absolutely ideal; there was partial sun, virtually no wind and temperatures were in the mid-60s, which makes for a pleasant day at the range.
My good day got even better after the first group with the new Remington ammunition. When I looked downrange after my second shot and I could only see what looked like a single hole in the target I told myself that this could be very good or very bad, pushed the bolt forward and fired a third shot. This time there was no doubt. The Model 783, pushing Remington's new Hypersonic 150s, had produced a sub-m.o.a. group right out of the box. That's not bad, especially considering that this is a rifle that retails for around $450.
Accuracy from the Model 783 was good with all of the loads tested, and although my first group with the Hornady fodder was about 1.5 inches, the rest of the groups with the Hornady ammo were at or just over an inch. The Federal ammunition performed almost as well, still averaging under an inch and a half. Of the nine test groups, three of the groups were under an inch (two from the Remington ammo, one from the Hornady) and another of the Hornady groups was just over an inch. The smallest group produced with the Federal ammunition was 1.22 inches, and the worst group of the day was only 1.79 inches. There's no question that the Model 783 can shoot better than its price suggests.
Mechanically, the gun performed without any problems through my testing — no issues with feeding, extraction or ejection. The bolt isn't as smooth as the standard Model 700, but that's a minor gripe considering what this gun is capable of doing. At day's end, I was impressed with what Remington had done with this gun.
The Model 783 makes no pretenses to be anything other than an inexpensive factory rifle. But modern firearms technology has evolved so that even inexpensive factory guns are capable of performing exceptionally well, and the Model 783 is a solid contender for the title of best budget rifle.
Production is set for Remington's expansive Mayfield, Ky., production plant. Only time will tell if the Model 783 will win a place in the hearts of American hunters and shooters, but it certainly has the credentials. It isn't revolutionary, but it does represent yet another evolutionary step in the progression of the hunting rifle.