March 28, 2007
A Pithy Bit Of Rifleshooting Heresy
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
It occurred to me the other day that the Remington Model 700 is a better rifle than the Winchester Model 70. I haven’t been so upset since I found out the government gave guns to sailors, but anyway, here’s my reasoning:
Remington designed the 700 (originally, the 721 and 722) after World War II when it became apparent that rifles would have to be made cheaply or their makers would go out of business. (Winchester never quite grasped that point and has pretty much gone out of business.) Because of this, the 700 was always the “cheap” gun while the 70 was the “fine” gun. Sticks and stones were hurled at the 700 for its cheesy-looking safety, pot metal trigger guard and floorplate, tiny, non-rotating extractor, and push-feed operation.
Granted, the safety, which requires a gaping slot in the stock, is horrible, as is the pot metal trigger guard. However, the extractor, in my experience, is as good as that of the Model 70 and maybe better. (I’ve seen Model 70 and Mauser extractors fail, but never a 700). As for push feed as opposed to controlled feed, who cares? It works. The rifle I have shot the most, a .30/06 Model 700, has never failed to feed, despite over 3,000 rounds through it.
As for quality, Model 70s have varied wildly. Some of them are great, but there was a period of years prior to 1964 when they were awful, and the ones made in the years prior to the last gasp of the Model 70 were as bad as anything I’ve seen. Remington, however, has always maintained a pretty even keel.
But the deciding factor is this: If you were to test 1,000 Model 70s of all calibers and the same number of 700s, I think the latter would outshoot the former by an embarrassing margin. The 700 is stiffer, and simpler, and easier to make into an accurate rifle. Gunsmiths who go for accuracy above aesthetics go for Remington actions over Winchester just about every time. And accuracy, when all the sentimental b.s. is done with, is what a rifle is about.