By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
At one time every American gun maker with any pretensions to class had a custom shop as part of its factory. These shops offered all sorts of optional engraving, fancy wood, elaborate checkering, barrel lengths—you name it. Remington was no different, but during the middle of the 20th century its Custom Shop in Ilion, NY, was noted not for turning out fancy guns, but for super-accurate rifles. If you showed up at a benchrest shoot with a Remington 40XB-BR, people wet themselves. I owned a 40XB in .222 for a while in the late 1960s, and it made the woodchucks dance for fair.
But over the 70s the trend was to pretty guns, and a typical Remington Custom Shop rifle was likely to be very good looking but otherwise not much different from a production-line gun. Now the pendulum has swung back the other way. The Remington Custom Shop has a new manager, Carlos Martinez, and is getting a major infusion of new CNC machinery with which to build working hunting rifles that are as good as those built by anyone.
The new line of rifles (there are 4) look like run-of-the-mill 700s, but that’s as far as it goes:
- Each model comes in a choice of 56 calibers.
- The barrels (choice of 22 to 26 inches, depending on model) are stainless steel, button rifled (not hammer forged) and lapped right there at Ilion.
- The receivers are stainless steel, and blueprinted. This means that they are trued up so that all the radii are perfect, all the flats are flat, and the barrel screws in perfectly square.
- The trigger is not standard issue*; it’s a Remington 40-X target trigger, which is set at 3 pounds.
- The stock is from Bell & Carlson, and has a full-length bedding girder instead of bedding blocks.
- The aluminum trigger guard and floorplate have been replaced by machined stainless steel.
- In .30 caliber and below, the rifles are guaranteed to shoot sub-MOA.
- Depending on model, you can get black TriNyte finish, satin blue, or satin stainless.
I don’t know if the Custom Shop’s barrels can compete with those made by Lilja, Pac-Nor, Schneider, or others at that lofty level, but aside from that, I don’t see any steps that were skipped here. The rifles I looked at were very carefully put together, and I’ll be getting a loaner soon to see how it shoots.
Prices? The four models hover around the $3,000 mark, which is the low end for work like this. Even if you’re not about to order five, it’s nice to see the Custom Shop going in this direction. It’s what they should be doing.
*Remington’s X-Mark Pro trigger, which debuted last year, was better on the drawing board than in real life. The two that I got to pull extensively were, in a word, ghastly—4 1/2 pounds and creepy. Remington has taken note of this replaced it with the X-Mark Pro Adjustable. It’s set at 3 ½ pounds at the factory, and has a 2-pound range of adjustment that can be set by you, the shooter. Remington recommends that you stay above 3 pounds. So do I.