A great deal of buzz in the world of bolt-action rifles has revolved around so-called budget rifles, but let's not forget this is the second major battle to produce the least-expensive, most accurate bolt gun in our nation's history. In the mid-20th century, when a sizable portion of hunters were still carrying lever actions with iron sights, the primary bolt-action designs of the time were Peter Paul Mauser's '98 and Winchester's Model 70. Both of those rifles used controlled-round-feed designs with flat-bottomed receivers.
Remington changed conventional wisdom on what a bolt-action rifle should look like in 1962 with the release of the Model 700. The concept for the Model 700 was not brand-new at the time. Remington had slowly been perfecting it for decades with the release of the Models 721, 722 and 725. But the Model 700 that came out in '62 was the version we know today, with its two-position safety, push-feed design and characteristic cylindrical action.
It sent waves through the shooting community. Here was a less-expensive bolt gun with a great trigger, excellent accuracy and a functional design. Other companies, including Winchester, starting working to produce a push-feed of their own. But Remington's 700 had a head start, and hunters and shooters were impressed.
Remington has produced more than five million of these guns since the 1960s, making it perhaps the most popular sporting bolt-action centerfire of all time. Sixty-five years after the very first 700s hit the shelves, Remington is launching its latest iteration of the 700, the American Wilderness Rifle, or AWR—successor to the brand's popular XCR II rifle that was introduced in 2010.
Like the Model 700s that have come before it, the AWR rifle features a push-feed action with a three-piece bolt that has dual-opposed locking lugs up front, a recessed bolt face, a C-clip extractor and plunger-type ejector. The design is so common that when you pull the bolt from many other similar rifles you'll notice the layout is very similar, and that's because it works so well.
The recessed bolt face is a feature you won't find on controlled-round-feed rifles, and this represents one of the 700's "three rings of steel." It adds a layer of protection for the shooter by surrounding the case head and offering some protection in the event of a case rupture. The forward receiver ring and the rear of the barrel add two more layers of steel defense against rupturing cases.
The cylindrical action that the 700 introduced to the world has become the standard for target rifles because they are relatively affordable to produce and offer increased stiffness for improved accuracy. The 700 AWR has a free-floated barrel and a large recoil lug as well as pillars that ensure solid bedding, and the trigger is Remington's X-Mark Pro adjustable model, which launched in 2007. The crisp single-stage trigger is externally adjustable from three to five pounds and is supposed to come set from the factory at 3.5 pounds.
My Wheeler trigger gauge indicated the pull on my sample was just above four pounds, but that's not a concern with a trigger like the X-Mark Pro. A few simple turns and you can drop the weight (or raise it, I suppose) to your liking. There's very, very little creep with the X-Mark Pro, and it breaks quite cleanly. Bladed triggers are en vogue today, but the Remington has a more traditional look and feel.
The X-Mark Pro is one of the features designed to improve accuracy. Another is the adoption of 5R rifling. Traditionally, barrels have four or six sets of lands and grooves, which means the lands are opposite one another. By contrast, 5R rifling has an odd number of lands and grooves, so the lands are opposite a groove—a design said to reduce accuracy-harming bullet deformation.
In addition, 5R rifling has sloped land shoulders, not the 90-degree shoulders found in traditionally rifled barrels. This makes it easier to remove fouling that tends to hang up in traditional rifling.
The 700 AWR is available in four calibers—.270 Win., .30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag.—with barrel lengths of 24 inches. All 700 AWR barrels sport a recessed crown.
The XCR II that preceded the AWR had a satin-finished stainless barreled action. In a change from that model, the AWR's 416 stainless barreled action is treated to a black Cerakote finish for protection against the elements, and because it's matte black it won't shine and spook game.
The AWR features a Grayboe stock made from fiberglass and epoxy formed under extreme heat and pressure to provide a stable platform in any weather condition and a consistent fit and feel. The stock is brown in color with black spiderweb epoxy, accents, and it features a straight comb and a relatively thin but comfortable pistol grip.
The AWR comes with a hinged floorplate with a magazine capacity of four in .270 and .30-06 and three in the magnum chamberings. The overall length of this rifle is 44.5 inches, and it weighs 7.4 pounds unloaded and unscoped.
The 700 AWR has the traditional 700 fire-control system, with a two-position safety that does not lock the bolt handle in the Safe position. The release blade for the hinged floorplate is located in the front of the trigger guard, and the bolt-release button is located just ahead of the trigger toward the top of the trigger guard.
The AWR did well at the range. Accuracy results are shown in the accompanying chart, and as you can see it had a particular affinity for Federal's Vital-Shok ammo with 165-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips.
The stock design is comfortable, and recoil is manageable thanks to Remington's dense recoil pad. The straight-comb stock offers perfect eye alignment without having to lift your head. Like most Model 700s, the AWR has a 13.38-inch length of pull, so if you've shot Remington rifles, this one will fit exactly like the others.
Much has been made about the dependability (or lack thereof) of the push-feed rifle design, and despite those who claim that the controlled-round-feed design is superior, I've never had any feeding issues with the Remington design.
Ditto with this rifle. The slick bolt slides effortlessly through the action, plucking each cartridge from the internal box magazine and moving it gracefully into the chamber. Reliability was 100 percent.
With its weight and length, the AWR falls in line with most sporting rifles. Sure, there are mountain rifles that weigh a pound or two less, and there are target rifles that weigh more, but the seven-pound range is a happy medium. It's light enough for all-day carry in most any terrain yet substantial enough so the gun's weight helps mitigate recoil somewhat.
The fiberglass and epoxy stock is robust and well built, and that black epoxy webbing is thick enough to help provide enough texture for a sure grip even when the gun is wet. Opinions on the stock's looks may vary, but I am a big fan of the brown color with black epoxy webbing.
Remington has had its share of difficulties, but Big Green is still producing some really excellent rifles. Though it may have been the original budget rifle, the 700 AWR runs $1,150 and so faces competition from the growing band of $500 rifles promising superb accuracy. To entice hunters to pay the extra money, Remington had to build a gun that had the pedigree, design features, build quality and accuracy to make it appealing.
Based on what I've seen, I'd say the company has accomplished that. It's a high-quality rifle that looks expensive, feels expensive and is built to last. The build quality and fit/finish of this rifle are excellent, and it indeed feels like a gun you will hand off to the next generation.