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Rifle Magazine
January - February 2000
Volume 32, Number 1
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 187
On the cover...
Weatherby's new Mark V Super Varmint Master in .22
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Rifle Magazine
Product Tests
Remington Model 700 VS Composite

 Al Miller

At first glance, a Model 700 VS looks like a typical 16- or 17-pound bench gun, complete with long, massive bull barrel and wide, flat-bottomed, hand-filling forend. Pick it up and you realize your eyes have been deceived. Appearances to the contrary, a Model 700 VS weighs only a few ounces more than the average Model 700 sporter.

This year, the fertile brains back in Ilion have come up with a new approach to barrel-making that augurs well for future varmint hunters and competitors. Briefly, the barrel of the VS consists of a slender, stainless steel, rifled barrel liner, a muzzle cap formed from the same material surrounded by a casing formed with graphite fiber and toughened epoxy wrapping. The result is an unbelievably stiff barrel that sheds heat rapidly and is immune to most forms of corrosion.

Combining micro-thin sheets made of thousands of graphite fibers and epoxy with additional thousands of fibers carefully wound around the barrel liner is merely the first step of the process.

Steel, engineers tell us, is an isotropic material, i.e., its mechanical properties are the same in every direction forces are applied. This new synthetic composite, on the other hand, is anisotropic. That means its mechanical properties can differ, depending on which direction forces are applied. Taking advantage of that characteristic, Remington’s process orients the wound fibers in such a manner that they increase the barrel liner’s strength and rigidity.

After the composite material is wound around the liner, it has to be cured. That process is Remington’s secret and will probably remain so for some time to come. If conventional curing techniques were applied, company spokesmen say, internal stresses created during the curing cycle would result in microcracks, weakening the whole. Remington’s new process leaves the composite completely free of cracks and voids.

Although not quite as stiff as steel, the composite material is much lighter. If a VS barrel, one of equivalent stiffness, were made of steel, its diameter would measure 1.21 inches and it would weigh a whopping 11.96 pounds. Remington’s composite barrel is 1.25 inches in diameter but tips the scales at an easy-toting 2.6 pounds. Quite a difference.

Another benefit of this new synthetic composite is that it is practically unaffected by heat. In addition, it sheds heat 10 times faster than steel. As a barrel heats from firing, it usually flexes as it expands. Locked in the grip of the surrounding synthetic, however, the VS’s steel liner is virtually immobilized. As a rule, it can’t move. If it should, its shifts are so slight, the bullets’ points of impact on target seldom deflect a measurable amount.

Since the surface area of that long, 1.25 inch diameter tube is so much greater than that of the relatively thin barrel liner - and that synthetic material whisks heat away from the steel so rapidly - it is practically impossible to overheat the liner. Not only does that mean a more stable and, consequently, a more accurate barrel but a longer-lived one as well. That might not be a critically important consideration for the average big game hunter, but to a varminter or competitor, who might fire thousands of rounds a season, reduced barrel wear is money in the bank - literally!

Well, that’s the way a composite barrel’s made and the way it’s supposed to shoot. Does it?

Judging from the rifle’s performance at the local range, the answer has to be in the affirmative. For the range tests, a Weaver variable was mounted on the Model 700 VS and set on 8x. Sixty rounds of .223 Remington Premier Varmint loads featuring 50-grain Green Tip boat-tails were consumed. No handloads were tried.

First, a number of three-shot strings were fired to get the scope zeroed. Extreme spread of those groups ranged from .6 to .8 inch at 100 yards. Trigger pull was clean-breaking, as usual, but heavy. When measured on a Chatillon trigger pull gauge, it registered a consistent 5 1/2 pounds.

Everyone tells me that adjusting Remington triggers is a simple matter, but I decided against it. Why? Because past experience indicates that any time I pick up a hand tool, disaster follows. So I chose to accept the trigger the way it was. Most of the time, it proved manageable. Every now and again, however, it was my undoing and a wild shot resulted. Such shots were always called, of course, but still, it’s always frustrating to see what should have been a decent group marred by a flier or two, called or not.

Once the Model 700’s zero was established, a series of four-shot strings were launched slow-fire. All were sub-MOA, despite that weighty trigger.

Four instead of five rounds were loaded into the magazine because, in the beginning, I didn’t understand that the fifth round had to be stuffed in the magazine base first. Once that trick was learned, filling the magazine posed no problems. By that time, however, the four-round string was pretty well established so it was decided to stick with them.

To see how the liner handled heat, a three-string series was fired as rapidly as possible. After the 12th round went, the outside of the barrel was slightly warm, about the same as normal body temperature. The muzzle cap was uncomfortably hot, and the liner’s muzzle was too hot to touch for more than a second.

Then, another four-shot string was fired slow-fire to see if the point of impact had shifted. It hadn’t. After that, I touched the liner’s muzzle again. It was still hot, but I could leave my finger pressed against it. In short, as that last four-shot string was being fired, the barrel liner was actually cooling.

Next, another three strings were fired slow-fire. Ten of the 12 bullet holes clustered inside an inch. Two others, both called fliers, opened the group to 1.3 inches. That blasted trigger!

Visually, the composite barrel’s exterior gleams dully, like blued steel. It feels like steel too. On closer examination, though, there’s an unusual pattern of light and dark splotches covering the barrel’s exterior. I tried to photograph it but was totally unsuccessful. It resembles nothing I’ve ever seen and is practically invisible unless the barrel is held up to the light at just the proper angle.

The Kevlar-reinforced stock is matte gray and extremely comfortable. A thin, rubberlike buttpad adds to shooter comfort. The pistol grip is generously proportioned and should fill the largest hands. It’s a very straight stock, offering the shooter’s cheek plenty of support and puts the eye exactly where it should be: in line with a low-mounted scope. As a bonus, there’s a receiver-length bedding block of aircraft-grade aluminum embedded in the stock.

This year, the VS will be chambered for three calibers: .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington and .308 Winchester.

All in all, the Model 700 VS is an intriguing rifle - a sign of things to come and certainly, an impressive performer by any standards.

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