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The Original Silver Bullet
Rifle Magazine
January - February 2002
Volume 34, Number 1
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 199
On the cover...
This issue is only available on CD-ROM.The Remington Model 700 EtronX with electronic ignition is tested on page 22. Ammunition photo by Stan Trzoniec. Whitetail deer photo by John R. Ford. Purchase the CD-ROM here
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We all knew it was coming. Sooner or later modern technology was bound to catch up with the shooting industry. We’ve seen it in optics, new cartridges and more efficient powders, but when it came to rifles, high-tech advances seemed light years behind, until Remington’s EtronX centerfire rifle came on line.

Introduced but a few short years ago, the EtronX is making inroads in present-day shooting circles. Varmint shooters love the rifle for the way it was put together and for Remington’s choice of a pair of .22-centerfire cartridges - the .22-250 Remington and .220 Swift. Benchrest shooters like the rifle for its semi-heavy barrel and the fact they can refine the trigger to uncanny limits.

In basic form, it is a true electronic rifle. To fire, the rifle depends on a battery, a circuit board, a ceramic firing pin and special primers to get the ball rolling. This is really not the first “electronic” rifle we’ve seen. Krico developed a .22 rimfire rifle almost 20 years ago called the Kricotronic. It was obviously made for serious target shooters (as the trigger had no appreciable lock time) and had, of all things, two 9-volt batteries that delivered the power. But after that it all changed. Working on the idea of low voltage and high amperage, the system delivered about 300 amps via a very special firing pin to set off the .22 rimfire round. There were no moving parts, and all you had to do was allow the capacitors to charge up between rounds. Buck Rogers? Maybe. That was in the mid-1980s; there was still more to come, but today it’s a brand new ball game.

Out of the box, and if one would never look at the roll marks on the side of the receiver, the EtronX is a Model 700 through and through. Aside from that time-tested, short bolt-action receiver, the bolt and its familiarity among riflemen was also a major consideration for this new rifle. Drawing from experience, the design team went with the present-day Model 700 bolt style. Using the inherent strength of the system in total, the bolt incorporates a twin locking lug design. Additionally, the EtronX shares the same Model 700 barrel, bolt release and magazine, as well as other design features not to exclude appearance and operation of the rifle as a whole.

Initial cartridge offerings are not an across-the-board selection but are presently limited to the .22-250 Remington, .220 Swift and the .243 Winchester with factory ammunition available in popular bullet weights and styles. Varmint or small game hunters will find favor with the Hornady 50-grain V-Max loaded in both .22 centerfire cartridges. Plainsmen will find a 90-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip to their liking in the .243 Winchester with a starting velocity of around 3,120 fps.

Although factory specifications are from more common 24-inch barrels, the EtronX is favored with a 26-inch fluted barrel in all calibers. Manufactured from 416 stainless steel, the barrel is finished in a satin hue; there are no sights as manufactured by Remington, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for all popular base and scope ring combinations.

Looking much like a twin to the popular Model 700 Sendero rifle, the EtronX is equipped with a black synthetic stock, a mixture of graphite and fiberglass reinforced with Dupont Kevlar for additional strength and durability. To bring out the most in the accuracy department, an aluminum aircraft type bedding block has been installed in the stock that runs the full length under the receiver. There is a thin rubber buttpad topped off with a black spacer, sling swivel studs and a key that acts as an off-on switch located at the point of the grip where a pistol-grip cap would normally be.

After all this, any similarity to a Model 700 ends. In talking with the folks at Remington, it seems the most important ingredient of this particular rifle relates to an incredibly fast trigger lock time of only .0000027 microseconds. When you relate this to the lock time of a production grade Model 700 of around 3.2 milliseconds, this is a reduction of roughly 99 percent in time alone, not to mention there is up to 36 percent less travel time in the trigger system itself.

Remington's discussion at the writers conference centered on the movement of the rifle when firing and how it might - depending on the shooter - impair accuracy at distances greater than 100 yards. When working with muzzle movement of a hunter shooting offhand, the figures that were given relate to about one-third less movement with the EtronX rifle than from a more conventional shooting arm, due to the fast lock time of the ignition system. For the field hunter we're talking about thousandths of an inch here, and yes, it could affect the outcome of a hunt say out to 300 or 400 yards; but then again, how many savvy hunters will try to take game offhand in a standing position at those distances.

On the other hand, varmint hunters who usually grab a solid rest and shoot from a prone position will probably never notice this effect, and owing the fact they handload their own ammunition to the nth degree would in all likelihood place that adjustable trigger over muzzle movement in pursuit of their game.

All the important hardware is housed in the buttstock and consists of a circuit board complete with an 8-bit minicomputer all hooked up to the ignition assembly via a 10-strand conductor cable. Naturally all this takes power to run, so a 9-volt battery that tucks into the buttstock just in front of the recoil pad is needed. The battery is good for about 1,500 rounds, and when it gets low, there is no need to panic as there is enough of a reserve for another 100 rounds or so. At this point the LED will blink so, as a good safety measure on an expensive hunt, don’t leave home without a spare battery. Considering the minimal outlay of a common 9-volt battery, and depending upon your shooting year, I’d opt to change it just before every hunting season.

Working from the circuit board toward the trigger, the cable is interrupted by an off-on switch before it ventures onto the LED and ignition system. As a footnote, all components in this rifle are “environmentally hardened” for both moisture and shock as well as being non-sensitive to EMS (microwave, radio and television waves) and ESD (static charges), which simply means you can hunt anywhere with this rifle without the fear of any interference to disturb your outing.

Operation of the EtronX is simple and straightforward. To fire the rifle you must turn the key on - which is in the pistol-grip cap in line with the barrel - before you do anything else. Like anything high-tech, the system “talks” to itself and its related components and, through a series of blinks with the LED, lets the operator know if it's ready to go or if there is a problem. If by chance there is a complication, the LED will blink a series of times, which can easily be looked up in the back of the instruction book. These codes can be committed to memory easily; this rifle was designed for recreational shooting and not to be an electronic nightmare for its owner.

After turning on the rifle, take the key out and place it in your pocket, glove box or leave it at home. Making sure the safety is off - the safety is in the same spot as the Model 700, but this safety lever has been replaced by a toggle switch - load the magazine with EtronX ammunition only. More on this shortly.

Like any normal bolt-action rifle, strip a round from the magazine pushing it home and into the breech. To fire, turn on the safety and the LED will now light continuously simply indicating there is a round in the chamber. After you fire the rifle, the LED goes out only to light again when another round is chambered and the safety pushed forward.

When closing the bolt on a loaded round, the firing pin rests directly on the primer. This is for a number of reasons: to let the rifleman know there is a round in the chamber by completing a simple circuit that illuminates the LED, and when the trigger is pulled a 150-volt pulse runs down the firing pin setting off the round through its special primer. Since the rifle is electronic, the firing pin has a space-age ceramic coating to insulate it from all the metal parts that surround it. This firing pin coating is good for around 7,500 rounds, which is just about twice the life of the barrel. This pulse gets to the primer via twin electrical contacts on the rifle itself - one in the raceway where the sear would normally be, the other on the underside of the bolt.

Aside from being an identical twin to current bolts now on production Model 700s, this EtronX bolt has a few extra features that make it unique. First, there is no cocking indicator simply because no mechanical leverage is needed to tighten the mainspring. Second, because there is no mainspring, there is no pressure to cock the rifle. Almost unnerving at first, you literally have to get used to this silky smooth occurrence. Aside from all this, the bolt has all the normal design features, like a guide notch to keep the bolt wobble free for its trip down and inside the receiver, jeweling for both appearance and function and a bolt knob that is machine checkered for non-slip properties.

The trigger on this rifle is going to really excite deliberate shooters like varmint hunters, benchrest aficionados and plains shooters. Basically, it shares the same housing and design parameters as the Model 700, but this is where it all stops. Because the trigger is a micro switch, it not only feels different upon firing but can also be adjusted downward to light trigger pulls.

Upon taking the rifle apart, you’ll find an Allen screw on the front part of the housing. This is a locking screw for the main adjustment, which is inside this hollow Allen screw. To adjust the trigger, insert a 1/16-inch hex key wrench into the trigger adjustment screw and turn counterclockwise to lighten the pull. Clockwise increases the pull. To confirm your reading with a trigger gauge, a “click” will be heard at the point where it breaks in terms of a traditional sear release.

Being electronic this trigger adjustment will allow you to bring the trigger pull to very light levels. For the purpose of this test and subsequent handloading, mine was adjusted to about 12 ounces. For hunting - be it varmint or bigger game - don't let it go below 3 pounds for safety reasons. Even at that the trigger pull is crisp and almost nonexistent.

The EtronX is limited to factory ammunition. This was not done as a ploy to make you purchase Remington commercial ammunition, but it’s just the way the rifle is configured. While many will say this is a negative factor concerning this rifle, actually it’s not. Granted at this time you probably will not be able to purchase factory ammunition in every part of the country, but knowing Remington’s distribution network, don’t expect too much trouble in locating any, especially in retail outlets that sell the EtronX. The other part of the deal is that while you can’t fire traditional percussion rifle ammunition in this rifle, Remington did design the product so it can use common cartridge cases, propellants and bullets.

The “odd man” here is the primer. Because of the technology involved in making the primer, it is totally different and relatively expensive. Presently primers for the EtronX cost about four to five times that of conventional primers, even when purchased in large quantities; and for the immediate future, Remington indicates there will not be a price reduction because of high startup costs. On the brighter side, handloaders can use all common components - sans primers - with the same powder charge weights they have been using in the past with other     rifles of the same caliber/cartridge combinations.

Finally, dependability and water resistance have to factor in with a rifle of this type. In total, Remington claims the same misfire rate as seen with ordinary primers, and Remington fired over 2 million rounds before the rifle was ever available for public use. This EtronX is water resistant, not waterproof, and will stand up to just about any climactic condition. Even if accidentally dropped from a canoe into 15 feet of water and retrieved quickly, this rifle will keep on working. It’s that good.

Topside I mounted a Bushnell Elite 6-24x in Leupold rings tightened down on Redfield bases. There is a parallax adjustment up front for the long rangers, and the usual thoughtful sunshade and lens covers are included in the package. Markings are in feet and meters out to 200, 300 and infinity. Zoom adjustments are solid to the touch and offer just the right amount of resistance to stay put during long field sessions. Click stops can be adjusted by hand.

Handloaders will obviously reap the rewards of this rifle especially with features like the 26-inch barrel that measures .830 inch at the muzzle and that fantastic trigger. We’ll go into that later, but in the meantime you can use either factory brass to fireform cases or do it later with mild charges in commercial brass. In any event, Remington has only one factory selection for our .22-250 Remington sample, and that consists of a 50-grain Hornady V-Max boat-tail that is cataloged at 3,725 fps in a 24-inch (?) test barrel. Surely two more inches in our rifle should add a bit more velocity and strengthen the trajectory over the long haul.

Out on the range, this rifle is a whole new ball game! Before you settle down to shoot serious groups, take a few minutes, fire a few rounds and get to know this trigger and bolt action. The trigger as I adjusted it to 12 ounces is devoid of any slack and is hard to get used to on the first couple rounds, especially if you just fired a conventional rifle. The bolt, on the other hand, has little or no resistance; you will flip up the bolt handle as if you were working just another Model 700. But just like that first car you drove with power steering was a totally new experience, this EtronX is a pleasure unto itself. You have to shoot it to believe it.

Since there is only one factory load at the present time, I took the liberty of firing strings of three, five and 10 rounds. Three rounds grouped around .75 inch, five rounds went about 1.75 inches and 10 shots went into groups that averaged just about the same. The sample rifle finished the day with a mean of around 1.42 to 1.5 inches. Factory figures, as mentioned, positioned this .22-250 Remington EtronX at 3,725 fps. Over Oehler screens, the test rifle averaged 3,726 fps. Some of the engineers at Remington told me that when cartridges are fired in test barrels, these barrels tend to be closer to SAAMI specs than standard production barrels, hence the velocities can vary depending upon the caliber. As you’ll see in the next installment, factory ballistics are really not that bad and, matched up to handloading, did very well in both velocity and accuracy.

This new Remington EtronX rifle is really a neat and important innovation in the shooting sports world. For small to medium game, the rifle is in a world of its own and, for the present time, is going to be aimed at the benchrest, varmint and open field hunter. Perhaps in the future we’ll see a .25- or .30-caliber offering, but if I were a betting man, I’d say the EtronX will remain in its present position for sometime, especially when Remington is now devoting much of its energy to short-action, short-magnum type cartridges.

Handloading the EtronX will be covered in the next issue of Handloader, complete with a new approach in testing potential loads.

Montana X-treme
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