For many years I used a brace of Remington .223 bolt-actions; a 26″ VSSF M-700 varminter and a compact, 20″ M-7. Both shot extremely well but, as accurate AR-15s became practical alternatives, the bolt-guns saw less use. I decided to roll the two Remingtons into one do-all .223 bolt-action capable of handling everything. The replacement M-700 Compact Tactical has proven useful and accurate during the past 18 months.
There are plenty of great choices in the crowded bolt-action market. However, the rifle of choice for most custom builds is a Remington Model 700. This says something about the intrinsic accuracy of the system, which in my experience has been very good. Between work and personal use we rely on a diverse battery of these rifles. A common manual-of-arms is a good thing and with no inclination to switch, the Compact Tactical seemed like just the ticket.
It’s similar to Remington’s “Light Tactical Rifle” with a short, stiff, but heavily fluted 20″ barrel. One difference: the barreled action is stainless steel. I’ll take that feature whenever possible as insurance during inclement weather. A black TriNyte PVD coating cuts glare and affords an attractive but business-like appearance. The trigger is the same one offered with custom shop 40X rifles that are famous for their excellent accuracy. The stock is a green, synthetic HS Precision with an integral aluminum bedding chassis. Three QD sling studs are installed, including an extra in the wide forend for attachment of a bipod. The barrel free-floats with lots of clearance. A hinged BDL floor-plate permits easy magazine unloading. The whole package is attractive and seems to handle very well. Remington lists bare rifle weight at 7.5 lbs.
I was happy with the trigger as it came from the factory so I mounted a Leupold VXIII 4.5×14 in a pair of Talley medium height scope rings. Each integral base & ring is lightweight aluminum but strong, owing to its one-piece construction. Initial zeroing was uneventful and subsequent groups were rewarding. I spent the better part of last summer shooting benchrested 5-round series during optimum conditions, using an assortment of ammo.
Like my older 26″ VSSF, this 20″ CT is a tack-driver. Either is a true 0.5 MOA rifle with the right loads. And herein lies the catch. My trusty old VSSF was rifled 1×12. The newest CT is 1×9 and so inscribed in a barrel flute. I have experience with twist rates running from 1×14 through 1×7. While generally, you’d want a faster 1×7 if using the heaviest .223 bullets much weird science remains with mid-weight and lighter projectiles. The latest genre of polymer-tipped and solid-copper pills only complicates matters. A 55-grain bullet so constructed is longer than a conventional one and may behave like a heavier projectile regarding rate-of-twist.
I’m really not interested in the heaviest .223 bullets, or anything much over 60 grains. If more punch is required I’ll just drag out a M-700 in a bigger caliber. Interestingly (at least to me), the 1×9 CT barrel really liked 40 grain Hornady TAP. After firing many 100-yard groups I switched to 200 yards and shot lots of sub 1″ clusters. Moving up to 55 grain TAP, results were nearly as good. Another favorite Federal 55 grain Ballistic Tip was a close third. It’s hell on our big Maine coyotes whereas the the TAP loads are better for smaller critters.
The one load this rifle didn’t like was my pet 50 grain Sierra Blitz handload that has proven accurate in many other .223s. Speaking of which, I’m guessing Remington uses a SAAMI chamber instead of the sloppier NATO dimension. Regardless, I have no real desire to fire anything through this rifle other than quality ammunition.
A short barrel is typically stiffer than a longer one of the same diameter, which may provide accuracy benefits. However, velocity will suffer at around 40 fps per inch. My Leupold VXIII has a “varmint hunter” reticle with hold-over lines that coincided perfectly with 40 grain TAP right out to 500 yards in my 26″ VSSF. Losing 6 inches of barrel translates to at least a 200 fps velocity loss. Sometimes it’s possible to compensate by a magnification change. Worse case, the hold-over lines still work at odd-ball distances.
Many folks will be interested in the .308 offering. I’m happy with my .223. Remington lists them for around $1500 but street price may be considerably less.