Foxing expert Mike Powell reviews this week’s Gun of the Week, the Remington 700 SPS Varmint sporting a Form Carro Stock.
My personal involvement with this rifle has been very limited so I was really looking forward to reviewing the SPS Varmint. The Remington 700 model rifle needs no introduction having been around seemingly forever, both in an umodified form and having provided the basis for many custom builds.
This was also of particular interest to me as the rifle – kindly supplied by the importers Raytrade – was not only rather different in that it was supplied with a Form Rifle Stocks Carro stock but it was in a calibre that I really like – the .204 Ruger. It is also supplied in a range of larger calibres.
Form Rifle Stocks, which incidentally are made quite near to me in Devon, have really made a name for themselves in the relatively short time (five years) that they have been trading.
Having seen some of their products I have to say the workmanship is of the very highest quality and the Carro stock which is fitted to this rifle is no exception. Incidentally, Raytrade are the distributors for Form Stocks and provide a wide range of their products for a range of rifle makers.
Remington 700 SPS Varmint: Key details
Remington 700 SPS Varmint .204 Ruger – £1,195
GPO 6-24×50 Scope – £995.00
Evolve Moderator – £199 (£175 when purchased with the rifle)
Talley Rings – £64.95
From the box, the 700 SPS Varmint looks the part, with a 26-inch heavy profile carbon steel barrel tapering to .822 of an inch at the muzzle, this rifle is clearly designed for long range shooting where weight produces stability and accuracy.
Unscoped and with no moderator the rifle’s starting weight is 8 ½ lbs, so by the time you add those two components the total weight will be around 11lbs. I will be using the rifle for some night-time fox work so will be adding a Pulsar F455 front-mounted, night-vision unit and a PBiR torch which will add another 3lbs to the set up.
At my time of life I won’t be carrying it far on my nocturnal wanderings especially down here among the hills of Devon. However using it as I will, from the interior of my 4×4, weight is no problem and extreme accuracy is of paramount importance. I say this as the .204 Ruger uses relatively lightweight bullets (32 and 40 grain) so bullet placement is essential.
I’ve been using this calibre for a while now and have found it an excellent fox round. That should really come as no surprise as it is used extensively in the States for coyotes which are substantially bigger than our British foxes.
Now a look at the rifle overall. I’ve already mentioned the barrel which is factory threaded for a moderator and comes with a 1-in-12 twist rate in this calibre. The moderator that came with the rifle was an Evolve that is manufactured by A-Tec, which pretty much guarantees it will do the job well.
The barrel is finished, as is the rest of the metalwork apart from the trigger, in a pleasing matte dark grey. This is ideal for night shooting from a vehicle as when there is a moon there is no reflection.
I learned long ago that a fox has the ability to pick up movement generated by reflections from a rifle’s ‘shiny bits’ just as quickly as it will spot a human face whenever there is any moonlight.
The Remington’s action is so well known it needs no great mention; suffice to say it is sleek and extremely practical. It comes drilled and tapped for scope mounts, in this case Talley mounts of very high quality. The bolt, with its twin locking lugs, had a small claw extractor and a single ejector plunger, both of which did the job perfectly.
The bolt throw was quite high but cleared the scope. There was a cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt shroud. Behind the bolt is a safety catch, a standard forward fire, rear safe, unit that allows the bolt to be opened when in the safe position.
The X-Mark Pro trigger is a single stage adjustable unit, the review rifle came with a setting of just over 3.5 lbs which was fine, although if the rifle were mine I would reduce that by a pound or so.
The trigger let off was crisp with no sign of creep. The trigger guard houses not only the trigger (obviously) and its adjuster screw but also the bolt release catch and the magazine release catch.
The five shot magazine is the floorplate design, which doesn’t appeal to everyone! Quite why I’m not too sure as the system works perfectly well and like most things, once you get used to using it you don’t think about it. Feed, extraction and ejection all work perfectly; the bolt ran smoothly and like all new rifles will get even better with use.
Finally to the woodwork – this is the model with the adjustable cheek piece; it doesn’t have the adjustable butt pad, although I believe this can be ordered if required, and the length of pull has been extended to 14¼”.
As you would expect from a Form stock the external finish is as near perfect as it’s possible to get, finished displaying really handsome figuring that sets off the matte metalwork perfectly. The sculpted pistol grip fitted my hand perfectly and guaranteed complete trigger control.
The stock is pillar bedded and has a deep cut out for the substantial recoil lug, possibly unnecessary in this calibre where there is little recoil, but it all produces more stability and more accuracy. That’s what the rifle looks like; now to the important part – how it works in the field – that’s what really counts.
Once again the weather has proved a real problem when it comes to doing anything in the shooting line. Torrential rain, high winds and a temperature that leaves a lot to be desired has meant that not only me, but the local foxes have been somewhat confined to barracks.
However, a day or so after the arrival of the rifle there was a break in the weather, temperatures rose, the rain stopped and the wind dropped, so a trip to the local chicken farm was planned for the evening. But before that I managed to get the truck across the fields to my “range” where I put some ammo through the SPS 700.
For my foxing work with my own .204 Ruger I load my own ammunition using 39 grain Sierra Blitzkings bullets which seems to be the most popular bullet at this calibre. I was also sent some Remington factory 32 grain Accu-tip and 40 grain Accu-tip boat tail ammo, and was interested to compare them.
To start with I tried the Remy 32 grain Accu-tip. This is the first time I’ve used 32 grain ammo as I’ve always felt the heavier 39/40 is more suitable for fox work. Although I have a chronograph I seldom use it as I go more on actual test firing results rather than going down the more technical route.
I am sure there are very many re-loaders out there that will hold their hands up in horror at this, but as my shooting is almost always limited to 200 yards maximum, I’ve found my method works well enough for my purposes.
The 32 grain Accu-tip (factory published MV of 4225fps) worked well in both my own .204 Ruger and the Remy 700 on review, easily putting 95 per cent of the rounds within a one inch circle, the 40 grain (3900fps) were that little bit better.
I have found with my own .204 Ruger re-loads that slowing things down a little produces a more consistently accurate round. I realise that by doing this there is a case for saying, why go for a .204 Ruger when you are bringing velocities back to .223 territory?
My answer is that I like the 204R; it’s a lovely round to shoot and with a good moderator is reasonably quiet. My reloads performed about the same as the 40 grain Remingtons but they were matched to my own rifle. In due course I will try the factory ammo in my H-S Precision custom.
My overall assessment of the Remington 700 SPS Varmint is that it is a well built and accurate rifle, which for those looking for a flat shooting rifle for dealing with long-distance vermin up to and including the size of a fox will do the job really well.
Personally, I would go for the heavier weight bullets for foxes, but for long range corvids the 32 grain fodder will certainly do the job. For those who are far better at reloading than me, I have no doubt that a load could be produced that would make an already accurate rifle into a real tack-driver.
One evening the rain actually stopped and I spent an hour up at the poultry farm where yet another fox had been seen. Like me, one old fox took advantage of a reasonably dry evening and was spotted having a dig at the back of one of the poultry houses.
His evening was a disaster whilst mine was very successful, One 40 grain Remington Accu-tip Boat tail dropped him where he stood, both rifle and ammo did the job perfectly at about 120 yards.
Anyone thinking of getting a .204 Ruger rife will find that the Remington 700 SPS Varmint is certainly worth having a look at.