When Remington introduced the Model 700 in 1962, advertising it as "the world's strongest bolt action," sales were swift and immediate. Its good looks, light recoil, and strong accuracy for the money, combined with Winchester's move to a push-feed action in 1964, put the 700 on a path to dominance.
Now in its 50th year of uninterrupted production, with sales exceeding 5 million rifles, Remington's American-made beauty is the world's most prolific bolt-action centerfire of all time. It has been chambered for nearly 50 different cartridges and, despite five decades of rifle innovation, its strong yet rather simple 2-lug, rotating bolt remains a go-to choice of custom rifle makers. There's a 700 to fit every taste and budget, from the $700 SPS to the bespoke rifles built by the Remington Custom Shop. The Model 700 has contributed to our enjoyment afield, our national defense and practically everything in between. So, how did it become history's best-selling bolt-action rifle?
Let's take a look at some of the 700's key evolutions as we celebrate its golden anniversary.
Homepage photo by: Plamen Petkov
1948 - Models 721 and 722
The 700's story begins in post-war America with the introduction of Remington models 721 (long-action) and 722 (short-action). Big Green's plan was simple: Undercut the Winchester Model 70 with a lower-cost rifle of equal quality. The gun proved exceptionally accurate for a production rifle, especially when chambered for the era's popular .222 Rem. cartridge. And perhaps most importantly, it contained the DNA that built a legend: Merle "Mike" Walker and the Remington engineering team improved upon the 721/722's aesthetics and ergonomics, but the 700's action is practically identical to the 721/722.
1962 - ADL "Deluxe Grade"
Walker's next design featured the guts of his 721/722, but with a more ergonomic and softer recoiling stock design, a hinged floorplate, and a more eye-pleasing trigger guard and bolt handle. The 700's entry-point option, the ADL "Deluxe Grade", had a checkered walnut, genuine Monte Carlo stock. American sportsmen had arguably never experienced such accuracy from an affordable, production rifle. Sales boomed.
1962 - BDL "Custom Deluxe Grade"
The Remington BDL "Custom Deluxe Grade" is to rifles what the Browning Superposed was to shotguns. Never before had the average blue-collar American sportsman been offered such class for so little money. The BDL's high-grade walnut stock with fleur-di-lis checkering ached with beauty and, some say, is unrivaled by today's production guns. It remained the highest grade version of the 700 available for more than 40 years. Notably, the 1962 BDL was also the first gun ever chambered for the now-venerable 7mm Remington Magnum. Over the years, the BDL has been chambered for more cartridges and offered in more configurations than any other 700.
1966 - M40 "Military Sniper"
Much to the dismay of the Viet Cong, in the mid-'60s Remington unveiled a sniper version of the Model 700, the first of many contributions by the 700 to our national defense. While today's M40A5 is modified for use by USMC armorers at the Quantico Marines Corps Base, the original was factory-made, with a wooden-stock design and a target/varmint barrel. At the time, the Marines had no standard sniper rifle (indeed the very tactic of sniping was quite young), and decided to adopt the 700. The relationship is now in its 46th year.
1967 - BDL Varmint Special
Similar to the SPS Varmint rifle shown here, an early variant of the model 700 had a 24-inch, heavy-barreled rifle--the BDL Varmint Special. It was chambered for a variety of flat-shooting cartridges including the .222 Rem., .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., 6mm Rem. and .243 Win. A new class of shooters soon discovered the benefits of a thick, vibration-dampening barrel.
1969 - BDL with "white spacers" redesign
Close your eyes and picture a Model 700: I'll bet you imagined one with white spacers. Yet this most identifiable characteristic wasn't added until the 700's seventh year of production. In 1969 the BDL's true Monte Carlo stock was slimmed down and its lines were accented by the addition of its now-trademark white spacers on the recoil pad, grip cap and forend. Other changes included a more petite, plastic butt plate and revised checkering.
1972 - BDL LH (Left-Handed)
If you think this is a small detail, you're obviously right-handed. Ever try to work a bolt with your non-dominant hand? Today it's a no-brainer that a flagship production rifle ought to be available for lefties, but it wasn't until the early '70s that such a 700 was produced. Initial chamberings included .270 Win., .30-06 and 7mm Rem. Mag.
1986 - Mountain Rifle
This rifle built for light weight and durability quickly became one of the most popular in the 700 line. Remington has marketed it as a pack-in, wilderness gun, but it's also a preferred gun of still-hunters -- anyone whose hunting methods involve carrying a rifle all day will appreciate the Mountain Rifle. Many subtle variations have arisen since its inception, but most share two characteristics: a 22-inch barrel, slender stock and other weight shaving features. The original Mountain Rifle was a blued/wood gun, while the current version, the Mountain Rifle LSS, features a stainless barrel and laminate stock.
1986 - Model 700P
Twenty years after the military's adoption of the Model 700, it made its first serious push in the law enforcement community with the Model 700P "Police." The 700P was similar to the M40, but for its heavier barrel. The standard version has a 26-inch barrel, while a Light Tactical Rifle (LTR) version sports a 20-inch, fluted barrel. Both are aluminum block-bedded inside H.S. Precision stocks. Available chamberings include popular law enforcement calibers such as .223 Rem., .308 Win., .300 Win., .300 RUM, .338 Lapua and more.
1994 - Sendero
Remington touts this rifle as the most accurate over-the-counter centerfire it's ever produced. Designed for long-range big-game and varmint hunting, the Sendero features a heavy contour, 26-inch, fluted, stainless barreled action. Full-length aluminum bedding and a target crown round out the package. With available calibers that include 7mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag. and .300 RUM, it remains a popular choice with hunters who want to go long.
1994 - Varmint Rifle
A similar heavy-barreled action gun was introduced the same year as the Sendero, but at roughly 10 pounds with optics, the 700 Varmint rifle ain't doubling as a deer rifle. However, that's not its job: It's built for heft, accuracy and long-range precision with flat-shooting rounds like the .204 Ruger, .22-250 and .223 Rem. Want a gently recoiling gun that will allow you to observe the effect of your chosen bullet on an unsuspecting prairie dog? This is the one. Pictured is the Varmint VLS (Varmint Laminate Stock).
1995 - BDL DM (Detachable Magazine)
Based on the demands of shooters who prefer the convenience of detachable magazines, Remington began offering a "DM" option for the BDL and Mountain Rifle. You'll never convince a traditionalist that a 700 should have anything but a hinged floorplate; however, more variations on the 700 have been produced over the years than perhaps any other rifle--is there such a thing as a "real" Model 700? Today a "Detachable Magazine" remains an available option for the 700 CDL (shown).
2005 - Special Purpose Synthetic (SPS)
The introduction of the 700 SPS makes it clear that the strategy Remington first employed with its post-war rifles--undercut the competition's prices with a quality product--is still in play today. There is currently a brand new Model 700 SPS at my local Wal-Mart listed for less than $700. A variety of calibers and versions of the SPS are available, including varmint, youth and tactical models.
2005 - C-Grade Deluxe (CDL)
For more than 40 years, the BDL was the prestige 700--the one you admired and envied when the boss had you over for dinner--but it was unseated by the CDL's release in the middle of the last decade. The CDL is available with non-glare satin walnut and a blued or fluted stainless barrel. Standard options include a hinged floorplate, liberal 26 lines-per-inch laser checkering and a straight comb.
2008 - Varmint Tactical Rifle (VTR)
A big, heavy barrel makes for accuracy, but it also makes for a big, heavy gun. Does a varmint/target rifle have to be so darn tough to lug around? The VTR's oddly shaped, triangular barrel offers an innovative compromise by shaving weight from the gun while offering the rigid properties of a heavy target barrel. A lightweight overmolded stock provides purchase and just feels good in the hands. The VTR is chambered for light-recoiling varmint rounds (the .308 Win. is by far the heaviest), yet given its 7.5-pound weight, engineers still decided to add an integral muzzle brake to its 22-inch barrel. The result is one of the finest blends of accuracy and mobility available on the market--and for just $825.
2010 - XM2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR)
In 1988 the M24, a military and law enforcement version of the Model 700, was adopted by the United States Army. It was originally intended to be chambered in .30-06, but due to an insufficient number of rounds per lot of manufacture (and a great deal of politics), the 7.62x51mm NATO instead became the round of choice. The 7.62 never really proved a popular choice. After all, doesn't it seem a tad European for a nation that loves its .30-calibers? The M24 remained the rifle of choice until two years ago, when the Army announced an updated version called the XM2010. The new rifle features a host of upgrades, but what got people talking is its chambering for the more powerful .300 Win. Mag. Ah, now there's a cartridge we Americans can wrap our heads around!
2012 - BDL 50th Anniversary Edition
The Model 700 comes full circle with the offering of a handsome anniversary BDL. The BDL was the fancy grade version of the original 1962 Model 700, and it introduced the now legendary 7mm Rem. Mag. Cartridge. So that's exactly what the latest 700 is chambered for. It sports "B" grade walnut and retro styling, including a Monte Carlo stock with fleur-di-lis checkering, hooded front sight, white line spacers and rich bluing. But unlike the original 7mm Rem. Mag BDL, this one has an externally adjustable trigger. It's a fitting tribute to the most successful bolt-action ever invented.