Budget “Sniper” Project

Dan Rogersby Dan Rogers
Guns and Gunsmiths Contributor

In all the “tacticool” circles “long range” shooting has become quite the rage, but what exactly does it take to participate in such shooting. Like many things, to a certain extent you get what you pay for, but do you really have to spend a small fortune on a completely custom set up? For the beginner the possibilities, prices, and options must be completely overwhelming. With the right amount of information a shooter may be surprised to see how little they could spend and have a fine shooting rifle completely capable of doing a little long range work. I will illustrate my point by highlighting a rifle I acquired basically as a budget project.

All too many of my firearm purchases come as a result of either something I have wanted for a really long time or because I have a specific reloading goal for the particular firearm, cartridge, or both. This rifle kind of falls into both categories, and I have been waiting on writing anything on it because I wanted to include a range assessment. I decided I would break it into parts and do the range assessment later. The rifle in question is a Remington 700 Long Range in 30-06.

Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock. The 30-06 round worked quite well for him!

Yes, I said 30-06. I know some of you just pounded your heads on your keyboards repeatedly screaming “Why?!?!?” . I would be willing to bet the other half of you are cheering. Some gun rags would lead you to believe in order to have an accurate shooting rifle you must have the new flashy uber fast fad cartridge. I would urge shooters to educate themselves, shoot what you like, and shoot what is comfortable. I personally like the ’06. It is certainly a cartridge that needs no introduction. It had a lengthy military career serving as a main battle rifle, sniper rifle, and machine gun cartridge in back to back World Wars, through the Korean War, as well as some use in the Vietnam War. The first 30-06 match ammunition was produced by the Frankford Arsenal in 1908. At one time the ’06 held more match records than any other cartridge, and it is the patriarch of oodles of wildcats some of which are now standard cartridges. Many match shooters still shoot the often overlooked 30-06. One hundred eleven years later, it is still a cartridge that is used when comparing other cartridges. To say it is outdated or simply grandpa’s old deer cartridge is not fair to the round. It is the grandfather of the much beloved and touted 308. It most certainly will do everything the 308 will do, and we do not consider the 308 outdated. The 30-06 can be loaded with bullets ranging from 110-220 grains. This gives the shooter and particularly the handloader single cartridge versatility that rivals most other cartridges. This combined with the fact I simply like the ’06 is why I chose the archaic cartridge.

I plan on shooting 100-600 yards which is WELL within the capabilities of the cartridge. At these ranges almost any high power offering will do. My advice would be to do your homework. Know what you want the rifle to do and find a cartridge that suits you and the shooting task. Bottom line, keep it simple, shoot what you like, and spend your money on quality ammo (or powder and bullets) to practice your skills.

As an aside, I feel I need to make the point known that the Remington 700 is an action that I personally am not very fond of. I have owned quite a few and done my fair share of carrying and shooting one. Like all actions, they have their strengths and weaknesses; and shooters also have their likes and dislikes. It is a matter of my personal shooting preference. Please do not shred me in the comments. I am not implying it is inferior. I have simply shot one enough to realize I prefer other actions over the 700.

Now then, cartridge rant and action disclaimer stated moving on with the review and assessment. One may wonder then if I do not care for the 700 why spend the money on one. Excellent point, the reason is that I have always wanted a long range target 30-06. Ever since I saw that iconic photo of Carlos Hathcock sitting with his Winchester model 70 target 30-06 propped on his knee glassing a target I knew one day I had to have one. Over the years I have passed on a few nice Winchester model 70 target guns. I now regret doing that since their values have skyrocketed. The prohibitive cost of the rifle I REALLY wanted and the fact that the 30-06 is no longer a caliber commonly offered in a target or long range style rifle is the reason I ended up with this 700. I decided I had better jump on it before Remington discontinues the offering.

The Long Range model is a newer offering in the model 700 line up. It is essentially a long action BDL offered in 25-06, 30-06, 7mm magnum, 300 win mag, and 300 RUM. It is practically a budget Sendero in my opinion. The differences between the Long Range model and the Sendero are almost purely cosmetic. They wear similar contoured barrels and have stocks of similar construction. The rifle comes with Remington’s matte blued finish and a Bell and Carlson stock in lieu of the Sendero’s HS precision stock. The Bell and Carlson looks really good, and not simply aesthetically. When I removed the action from the stock to clean and check everything, I found the stock was inletted really well and the aluminum in the bedding areas is very clean and prominent. The action seems to fit very well simply being torqued down to the aluminum, but I will most likely steel bed the rifle. I plan on seeing how it shoots before bedding it; I plan on experimenting with it along the way since it was relatively inexpensive. The fit and finish on my particular model was stellar. There is a gap of two and a half to three business cards’ clearance between the barrel and the entire stock channel. The barrel rides the center of the channel and the stock is stiff enough to use a bipod on its front swivel.

The stock bedding up close.

That pretty well sums up what has impressed me about the rifle thus far. Now I will gripe a little bit. The rifle is finished in Remington’s matte blue finish. I have owned a few firearms in this finish, and I have found that this finish will rust quite easily. This is just something to be considered when purchasing one of these rifles. I suppose one could refinish the rifle. I just check it often and use a little extra oil on the areas covered by the stock. By using a little extra oil on areas covered by the stock, I do not have to constantly check those areas for rust.

The next gripe I have is the trigger. This rifle comes with the X-Mark Pro externally adjustable trigger. I found this trigger ridiculously heavy. Out of the box mine measured just shy of eight pounds. I adjusted the external screw all the way out and only dropped the pull weight about a pound. I will admit, though the trigger was very heavy, it broke like glass. I found a schematic of the new trigger system and figured out how the external screw contributed to the fire control as a whole. I then further adjusted the pull weight. After doing this I was able to safely obtain a 3.75 pound trigger pull. Though it was much nicer I still wanted it in the two pound ball park. I called Darrel Holland and asked if his model 700 spring kit was compatible with the new X-Mark Pro trigger. He said yes and explained to me how to go about installing the spring and adjusting the trigger. Thanks to Darrel the trigger in the rifle breaks cleanly and safely at 2 pounds. I drop tested the rifle, beat it on the workbench, pounded the butt plate on the ceramic tile floor, and all but threw the darn thing and the trigger did not even budge. I also verified nothing does anything weird when the safety is actuated, or the trigger is pulled with the safety on then switched to fire. I confirmed that the trigger returns after it is pulled so that it catches the sear. If all of that sounds like Greek check out one of the great videos AGI has on the 700. I cannot stress enough how important it is to know what you are doing when you adjust a trigger! Back on topic, the trigger now feels identical to my old model 700 BDL with the generation 1 trigger in it. I could not be happier. Darrel really has a top notch product. I kind of regret not getting the kit that has his firing pin spring in it too. I may have to do that since this is an “experimental” project!

I topped the rifle off with a Meopta 6-18×50 mildot scope. I caught the scope on sale for just shy of $400. I have never owned a Meopta, but I have heard good things about them. I thought a mildot scope with 6-18 magnification for less than $400 was hard to beat. All together the rifle and scope combo cost right at $1000 dollars. The last uber accurate “sniper” rifle I read about in one of the gunzines cost $6000 rifle only!

The completed project with optics.

All I really wanted to point out in this article is how little you could spend on a fairly nice “long range” shooting rig if you know what to look for. I hope if nothing else it is food for thought. There is certainly nothing wrong with spending big money on a rig, but you need to know how your money spent is actually contributing to the intent of the rifle. I am certainly not trying to tell anyone how to spend their money; I simply encourage them to think for themselves. This rifle provides the basis for possible upgrades in the future and is versatile enough to be at home on a bench or on a hunt in the field. I hope to try different modifications and loads (handloads and commercial), so I can keep you guys in the know on my little budget project. My first project is to devise an ultra-slick 30-06 long range round using Sierra’s 195 grain tipped matchking bullet. I hope to get some loaded up and make a range trip soon. Stay tuned!

16 Responses to Budget “Sniper” Project

  1. Right on Dan. Good to hear you’re keeping on with the marksmanship hobby.

    My Rem 700 when I bought in new in 2012 or 2013 came with an X-Mark Pro trigger also. It says “3 1/2 lbs out of the box” but it gauged at 4lbs. So, I adjusted the pull weight screw as light as it could go and got it close to 3 1/2 lbs but more like 3 3/4lbs. At 3 3/4 lbs the weight of pull adjustment screw was backed out to maximum and at the point where it was falling out.

    Being concerned that the pull weight screw would vibrate loose (set at 3 3/4 lbs) and fall out of the trigger housing during recoil (and such) I set it back to 4 lbs to at least give the screw one turn or so of engagement into it’s threads in the trigger housing.

    I suppose I could have used medium locktite but at that time the X-Mark Pro triggers were recalled, and sending the entire gun into to the recall facility was not a trusty nor practical option for me so I swapped it out and installed a Calvin Elite Timney in which adjusts from 1/2 lb (8 ounces) to 1 1/2 lbs.

    I wrote an article for Guns and Gunsmiths about my Rem 700 build in November 2015 titled “What’s that rifle? – A Canadian Custom” in which briefly covers the trigger recall, my choice to skip/avoid the recall and install the Elite Timney instead.

    I currently have the Timney set at 1 lb, and at 1 lb it seems insanely light! I did all the same things as you did to test the trigger’s safety under bumps and banging, etc. and sure enough it holds!

    I never knew there was a spring kit for the X-Mark Pro triggers and am totally interested in finding out more about that! I never had problems with my X-Mark Pro (the possible problems associated with the trigger’s recall) but at the time I hadn’t a clue about gunsmithing so to be safe I swapped it out. I still have the X-Mark Pro and was just looking at it now – I like it and it breaks glassy-smooth and clean like they claim but I do not care for the 4lb pull weight.

    Great article! It got me thinking about that X-Mark Pro sitting in the gun tote collecting darkness, now your article has given rise to possible hope for a lighter pull weight for it. I would like to use it if I could get it to around 2 lbs, just as yours is now, because the Timney even at 1 1/2 lbs is very light – with the gun in battery and my finger on the trigger all it takes to set it off to go “bang” is a fart.

    Thanks for another good article Dan. Cheers buddy

  2. Thanks for the comments Dana. I was curious about the Calvin Elite triggers. I have heard differing reviews on them. Call Darrel up and get his spring kit coming and work on that X-Mark of yours. Mine is quite smooth and consistent. Until it stops being consistent the rifle will wear the X-Mark.

    I use nail polish on my personal rifles for locktite on small trigger screws. I haven’t had them back out. I’ve yet to find a particular color that holds better than the others. I just use whatever color my wife has grown tired of. Works for me but as always your mileage may vary. I’ve recently discovered purple locktite. It seems to have about the same kind of hold as nail polish.

    • Barry,
      I have sadly yet to be able to even zero this rifle. I believe it will shoot quite well. I hope to get it out to the range soon. I have an older Remington 700 stainless BDL rifle in .30-06 I hunt with that shoots one ragged hole groups at 100 yards if I do my part. I expect much the same from this rifle once the right cartridge/load combination is found. As I tabulate data with the different loads I will post the results. It’s just been too hot or too wet down here in Louisiana for me to get much shooting done between how busy I’ve been lately.

    • Nick,
      My favorite was the Zeiss 4.5-14X50 tactical with side focus and target turrets. It used to run right around the $800 mark. Sadly it was recently discontinued. I do see that Midway has the Vortex Viper HST 6-24X50 on for a little over $600. Maybe others will chime in as well.
      Thanks for the question.

    • You didn’t specify whether this is for long range target shooting or hunting, what platform it is for, or what you consider “long range” so it’s hard to recommend anything specific. That said I do like the Burris scopes, however a check on Brownells website shows their XTR II long range riflescopes start at about $1,000. If you can go without food for a couple of weeks you should be able to save another $200 towards one, right?

    • I am sure I will get blasted for suggesting so inexpensive a scope but I like the NcStar 6×24 with 50 or 55 mm lens. They are under $200. and if someone does not tell you how inexpensive they are you might like it, I do. I sell them out of my shop on a regular basis and have not heard any complaints.

      • Works for me Danny. Good result all around though I no longer have nearby range facilities beyond 300yds, and my 80+ yo eyes are wearing out anyway.

      • I won’t blast you Danny. I have stuff ranging from 80 dollars to just shy of 3,000 dollars. It just depends on what you are wanting it for and what your expectations are for the particular application. Just because something costs a bunch is not always an indicator of how good the item is.

        A few years ago, I picked up a Mueller when I bought my CZ 527 in .204 Ruger. It is a 4.5-14. I can’t recall the objective and it’s not written on the scope. They call it their All Purpose Tactical. It is adjustable objective, mil dot reticle, and has target turrets. Is it as nice a piece of glass as my Schmidt or Zeiss? Do the turrets feel as positive as my “nice” scopes? No, but for just over $100 I am beyond pleased. It is plenty clear, plenty repeatable, and at the distances I have checked the reticle measures out on target correctly. I think it would make an excellent pick for a precision rimfire scope though I know a guy who has one on a 300WM. Is it my go to choice, no; but it suits the application I had in mind for my .204.

        Again just like the article. Deciding what to get hinges quite a bit on expectations, shooter ability, and purpose of the rig. Do your homework ahead of time and you may pleasantly surprise yourself. Y’all keep em coming and thanks for reading and taking the time to give some input.

        • Good reply Dan–I agree completely. You said “Just because something costs a bunch is not always an indicator of how good the item is.” However I am often reminded as well of the old saying “You get what you pay for.” I had an inexpensive red dot sight on my .22 Colt A4 that worked great. When I received my Tavor SAR I put it on that to try it out because I didn’t have an optic yet for it. It shook the sight to pieces in 25 rounds because of the greater recoil.

          Picking the right optics for a particular firearm is never easy and I hope that the conversation here will give some ideas for Nick to consider as his options.

  3. Finally someone taking long rang with a logical approach. I have an OLD Mdl 70 National Match in 30.06 and I love it,, a tad heavy to hunt with but off the bench it shot well,, well it shot very well! But years of sitting the safe has left the barrel in a little bit of rough shape, I know my bad. So now after reading this and hopping you write more about it, it may well be time to dust the old gal off and maybe make a trip to the smith and see about a new barrel.
    I wish you well and the 06 has always been my first love.

    • Thank you very much for the encouragement, Gene. Quite jealous of your model 70! If you have too many projects to tackle I’m sure I could make her feel at home in my collection. (wink wink). I’d love to find an old pre war 70 target rig they have such a mystique about them. Thanks again for your kind words sir.

    • Before you have the barrel changed out, and potentially significantly reduce the value of the rifle, why don’t you shoot some lapping ammo through it, and see if it doesn’t clean things up?
      It isn’t cheap ammo, but far cheaper than a new barrel! I had a a pre 64 model 70 in .308 that I bought with a rough bore some years ago, and got a great deal because of the bore! I first did a thorough cleaning, with the lead and copper removers… then used the lapping ammo. It was a box of 20, with each five rounds becoming finer and finer. I used the two finest of the lapping round ammo, and after I was done, the bore looked amazing! If you really looked hard, you could see some very minor spots. And even though it isn’t a target barrel, it shoots right at 1 MOA. Might do better with a younger shooter with better eyes, and hands!
      Just wanted to through that out there, as it is worth a try first!

      • One thing, I did not shoot the rifle prior to cleaning… so it may have shot that well anyway, I am not sure! I forgot to add that point… I sure don’t think it hurt!

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