Just recently I was the invited guest of
Remington and Swarovski on a whitetail hunt on the Tio Moya lease run by Amos Dewitt on
the King Ranch not far from Padre Island South Texas coast. The idea was to unveil a
couple of Remingtons new rifles/cartridges and Swarovski optics and, at the same
time, enjoy the game-rich environment of the King Ranch. Anyone who would even consider
turning down an opportunity like that would have to be a complete idiot.
Early discussions regarding
the hunt with Remingtons public relations guru Eddie Stevenson revealed the
festivities were to center around its new 7mm Short Remington Ultra Mag in the Model Seven
rifle. When advised that the .300 Short Action Ultra Mag (SAUM) was also available in the
new Model 673 Guide Rifle (in addition to the reintroduction of the .350 Remington
Magnum), I was hooked.
The plain truth is, I rarely
have the opportunity to use a relatively lightweight rifle on an industry-sponsored
shindig; upon learning that one of the other invitees was using the Model 673 .350
Remington Magnum, I decided to go with the .300 SAUM with the new Premier 150-grain
Core-Lokt Ultra (bonded core) factory loads that skip across the terra firma at an
advertised 3,200 fps. Those numbers, of course, are from a Remington test barrel, but when
the biggest critter on the menu is a 200- to 250-pound South Texas feral hog or a
130-pound whitetail, a 150-grain Core-Lokt at anything over 2,700 fps is quite sufficient.
In effect, the .300 SAUM is
grossly overpowered for deer and more than adequate for hogs, but as some folks have come
to recognize, high-velocity impact, i.e., close to the muzzle or very high muzzle velocity
or both, is only one of several factors that can destroy a perfectly good bullet. Besides,
after 40-plus years of aiming standard, run-of-the-mill Core-Lokt bullets at everything
from coyotes to elk, I was curious to see if Remington could actually improve on what some
feel is a perfectly good bullet in the first place.
As it turned out, it became
necessary to forward the Model 673 .300 SAUM to where it was already set up with a
Swarovski 3-9x scope when I arrived. All I had to do was sit down at the shooting bench,
zero the rifle and we were ready to go. Thats when Doug Kubecka, my guide, decided
we might as well go hunting.
On the way out to the
coastline, Doug explained the rules of the hunt. We had the opportunity to take a
management buck (8-point), a cull buck (one that will never be trophy quality
no matter how long it lives), three to four does and the ever-present South Texas feral
hog, which can be a tough customer if the bullet doesnt land in the right spot.
That evening Doug and I had
the opportunity to take in a lot of the Texas brush country, looking over the general
quality of the deer population and one extremely quick hog that disappeared in the scrub
before we had a chance to gain the advantage.
The following morning while
heading out to hunt whitetail, the same big boar ran across the road again. At a range of
something close to 200 yards (plus or minus), he stopped to look back and took a 150-grain
Ultra Core-Lokt in the left rear pocket. We didnt have to field dress the hog to
know the bullet wound up in the first-class section, well ahead of the diaphragm. I would
have expected that kind of penetration with my favorite 180-grain Core-Lokt, but not a 150
grainer. Shows what I know.
From midmorning to late
afternoon we must have looked at three dozen 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-point bucks, a couple of
which were real first-class trophies in any book. It wasnt until just before sunset
that we happened upon a good looking 8-point that was running with some younger bucks. At
a range of 150 to 160 yards, the buck refused to cooperate with a broadside shot, so I
laid the crosshairs of the Swarovski between the base of the neck and left shoulder,
effectively aiming through the animal to the right quarter, and he dropped like a sack of
witnessing the performance of the 150-grain bullet on the hog, the bullet didnt exit
but wound up in the haunch, about 2 feet of penetration, bow to stern. Then to,
thats what a premium bullet is supposed to do - expand rapidly at relatively close
range at higher impact velocity, while maintaining a high percentage of weight so the
broad mushroom effectively retards velocity as it passes through the animal. Performance
like that reminds me of a slam dunk, as opposed to a long jumper from outside the
three-point line - swish, right on through.
For the next two days, Doug
and I looked at a lot of whitetail and chased a few more hogs. Thankfully, we took the
opportunity to do a bit of walking, an activity that is generally discouraged in South
Texas owing the chance that a dude will get unlocated in the thick
brush, and with no hills or prominent landmarks to orient the unwitting, it is too easy to
I say thankfully, because
all too often writers/editors who attend such jaunts in the Texas flatlands are denied the
opportunity to actually get out of the truck and pack the rifle/scope around, to get a
more realistic feel for the outfit. Its one thing to heap praise on the rifle or
scope after shooting four or five animals over the hood of the truck; it is clearly
another to pack the rig around in the brush for a few hours, to gain a feel for balance,
handiness or just plain clumsiness, such as when someone mounts a 4-14x scope on a
6.5-pound rifle with a 20-inch barrel.
So, I was fortunate to have
the chance to wander around in the brush with a rifle that is billed as the Guide
Rifle. The title certainly suggests durability, handiness and reliability, among
other things, but also that it launches enough bullet to back up a client in a pinch - not
necessarily against dangerous game, but to keep a poorly hit animal from escaping.
In the case with the Guide
Rifle, I couldnt help but wonder if that big front sight, about the size of the
third incisor on the outside row of teeth in a great white shark, would hook up with just
about any hitchhiker in the scrub. Also, if I were going to spend a week or so ushering
some dude around in the Colorado Rockies in pursuit of elk or mule deer, would I even
consider packing the Remington Model 673. (The model designation, as outlined in Stan
Trzoniecs report on the Remington writers seminar is 6 for the old
Model 600 series, 7 for the short action Model 7 and 3 for the
year, 2003.) I will also admit to packing around a whale-sized prejudice against the old
Model 600, aka Mohawk, which coincidently, also sported a sharks tooth
front sight and full-length rib and a laminated stock that seemed to weigh about 6 pounds
all by itself.
For those who werent around in
the late 1960s, the Model 600 was chambered for the 6.5 and .350 Remington Magnums, among
other standards like the .222, 6mm and .35 Remingtons, and .308 and .243 Winchesters, and
was later replaced by the Model 660, sans the rib and front sight. The 660 died off in
1971, and the short magnum disappeared from factory catalogs in 1974.
This brings us back to the Model 673
Guide Rifle. It too is chambered for the old .350 Remington Magnum, which with heavier
bullets gained a reputation for clobbering some fairly unsavory critters in Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48. Like the rest of the
.35 calibers that have debuted over the years, however, no one seemed to care, except of
course, for the saintly .35 Remington. But, times have changed. Short actions are in and
the old .350 packed a lot of wallop in a 2.8-inch action, certainly the equal of the .35
Whelen, which most writers praised to the hilt until Remington made it legitimate in 1986,
whereupon it was ignored like a vagabond relative immediately thereafter. Some folks
claimed the fault for the demise of the .35 Whelen was Remington - for loading it down,
way down below what handloaders had been doing for decades. It apparently didnt
occur to the brain-trust that handloaders had been overloading the Whelen.
The .350 Remington Magnum was never
overloaded, or underloaded. Even in the abbreviated 20-inch barrel that was screwed into
the Model 660, the short, fat .350 cranked out 2,500 fps with a 250-grain bullet and
nearly 2,900 fps with a 180-grain pill. No doubt, folks argued that the light 150- and
180-grain missiles had the ballistic efficiency of a pillow, but the 225- and 250-grain
slugs were adequate for anything that walked, slinked or crawled on Fifth Avenue or anywhere else. One wonders what the result would have been back in the 1960s
if Remington had simply bumped the .350 up to .375. Hmmm.
Now, of course, we have all sorts of
fat magnums, and Remington chambers rifles for most of them, including the long Ultra Mags
and the Short Action Ultra Mags. Given the history of success for .30-caliber cartridges
in this country, it was a no-brainer to rig something up for the Short Action Model 7,
wrap it up in the back half of a .404 Jeffery case, neck it down to .308 inch, slap on a
relatively sharp shoulder, and you are in the twenty-first century. That basically
describes the .300 SA Ultra Mag Ð 3,200 fps with a 150-grain Core-Lokt, 2,900 and some
change with the 180-grain Nosler Partition and if that doesnt flip your switch,
split the difference with the 165-grain Core-Lokt at 3,075 fps. With the quality of modern
bullets, the .300 SA Ultra Mag has great versatility, from South Texas whitetail to Alaskan moose.
So, what about the rifle, and how about
that ribbed barrel with the sharks tooth front sight. First, its apparent that
the rib is pretty much for cosmetics, to offset the large front sight on the somewhat
skinny barrel. The sight itself is another matter.
The problem with mounting iron (open)
sights on a modern sporter is twofold. First, most folks prefer scopes, except where
antiques like me prefer irons, and that presents something of a dilemma for designers. If
you design a stock for use with open sights, it, by necessity, should have more drop at
the comb to allow the shooter to get his/her eyes low enough to see across the sights with
some degree of comfort. Scopes, on the other hand, are usually mounted so the optical
center of the rear lens is about 1.5 inches above the centerline of the barrel.
So, if the scope is mounted in
medium-height rings and mounts, the comb of the stock is too high for optimum use with
open sights. To the other extreme, if you design the stock for use with open sights, the
comb is too low for comfort with a scope. Its a classic Catch-22.
Looking at the Model 673, its
apparent that designers assumed the vast majority of buyers would probably mount a scope,
which is true. So, they set the height of the comb to accommodate a scope, making it
necessary to mount relatively high iron sights.
The only downside of this stock design
is if you prefer to use the open sights, and do much shooting off the bench with the .350
Remington Magnum, for example, your cheek bone may take a beating. In the field, however,
its a non-issue. My short session with the .300 SA Ultra Mag off the bench with the
Swarovski on board proved recoil was well managed by the laminated stock. In short, it was
a pussy cat.
I imagine some are wondering why
Remington didnt outfit the Model 673 with a synthetic stock, rather going to the
trouble of having the laminated stock made up. I have no idea. For my part, the laminated
handle is attractive, and in an era when plastics or some sort of artificial material is
found in just about every walk of life, Im all for a piece of wood, actually several
pieces of wood, of alternate colors used to prevent warpage and ensure durability in the
field. Thats a personal prejudice, of course, and I dont mind oiling blued
steel or sealing walnut against the elements. Judging from the popularity of stainless
steel and synthetic stocks, however, I wouldnt be the least bit surprised if the
Model 673 showed up in a future catalog with an SS suffix. That assumes, of
course, that it sells well enough to warrant the attention.
If you want more information on the
Remington Model 7, 7mm SAUM, you will have to wait for a report from John Barsness, who
was on the same hunt. What we can say with some degree of satisfaction, however, is that
the Ultra Core-Lokt bullets in 7mm and .308 worked just fine on whitetail and tough old South Texas hogs at a variety of ranges. A number
of other hunters reported clean exits on broadside shots, while I only witnessed one, a
75-yard effort on a midsized doe. In all, we averaged about five animals apiece for seven
or eight hunters with no complaints, teeth gnashing or boot stomping. Considering that
gun/ outdoor writers are for the most part a pretty opinionated bunch, the silence echoed
loudly Ð nothing to complain about. The same goes for me. The Model 673 .300 SA Ultra Mag
is a nice, little rifle that would be equally at home in Alaska, South Texas or wherever. Now if they would just
neck that .350 up to .375.
The most often asked question Ive
fielded recently is whether there is enough room for the onslaught of short action
cartridges that have erupted lately. Again, I dont know. Then too, the question begs
of the old Ford versus Chevrolet debate. Some folks wouldnt have a Ford product if
you gave it to them. Others dont care what the name is, as long as its spelled
F-O-R-D. I suspect the same is true with rifles and cartridges. If it is shipped in a
green box and says Remington on it, thats proof enough of quality and
performance. At least thats something that hasnt changed in my lifetime.