I have a factory Remington 700 chambered in .270 Winchester. It is a fairly accurate rifle out to about 200 yards. My girlfriend recently fell in love with hunting, so I decided to build her a hunting rifle.
I could have just bought her a factory gun like the one I loaned her. Seeing as her first deer was shot at 140 yards, I think she might want to reach out past the ethical limits of my factory rifle.
My hand loads use Hornady SST 130-grain boattails and they have been very successful with Tennessee and Georgia deer. By setting her gun up as a .270 Winchester as well, we will share component commonality (even if both rifles don’t like the exact same load).
Getting the Base Rifle
My plan was to buy a used long-action 700 and use the donor action for the center of the build. I haunted several local pawn shops and used gun websites looking for a cheap donor. What I found seemed overpriced, being used and all.
Then on a whim, I checked the price of a basic new rifle. It was significantly cheaper than the used guns. Add the fact that I could strip off and resell the barrel, trigger and stock and it seemed like a no-brainer.
After selling of the extras, my net cost for the action was just over $200. Cosmetically ugly, used long-action guns are selling in the high $300s.
My last factory Remington 700 was purchased in 2003. It is still my go-to rifle for sub-200-yard hunting and has harvested several dozen deer. The new 700 rifle was… how can I say this… not as well put together?
I realize different rifles shoot differently and this new one did not shoot as well as my old one. The real issue was getting to the point where I could shoot it. The rifle came with two scope mount screws that were buggered up.
They were both on the front mount. The rear of the two came out, but took a fair amount of ginger finesse. Once removed, it would not accept a rail-mount screw. The forward one would spin, but would not come out.
I had to remove the barrel to access the screw from inside the action. Using a helper and an angled steel rod, I was able to provide enough upward force to engage/create new threads. Once out, this hole also would not accept a screw.
Three days later (waiting on shipment for the 6×48 tap), I was able to retap both and the rail dropped into place easily.
Performing the Upgrade
This is not something the average rifle purchaser can, wants or should need to do. I may have gotten a “Monday” or a “Friday” gun, but that really isn’t acceptable. Had I not already been re-barreling the rifle, this would have been a huge issue.
With no sights and no way to attach a scope, the new 700 rifle was useless and likely would have needed to be returned to Remington.
My upgrade barrel is a Shilen barrel from their new Alternut drop-in series. This type of barrel is new to Shilen and I can tell you the methodology of assembly is awesome. You need a Savage barrel nut and a barrel nut wrench for installation.
The barrel threads into the action, then, using go gauges, you check the headspace. When the proper headspace is achieved, the barrel nut is tightened in place. No fuss or hassle involved.
Analyzing the Results
With effectively three rifles to analyze, the results were as follows:
The Shilen barrel upgrade to the 2019 action is a VAST improvement over the factory barrel and a significant improvement over the 2003 factory barrel at 100 yards.
The real difference occurs out past 200 yards. The 2019 barrel really doesn’t shoot at 300 yards. At least not well enough for me to consider it a viable deer hunting rifle.
The best load was a factory option at just under 2” at 100 yards and opening up to over 9” at 300 yards. That is a non-starter for me past 100 yards. Most people are going to be very happy with consistent, factory trigger +/- 0.600” groups at 100 yards.
For those who are not,the Shilen barrel / Geissele trigger combo had a best load of just over 0.400” at 100 yards and significantly under 3.0” at 300 yards. That is a shooter and should still be less than 6” at 500 yards.
It is capable of taking the long hunting shot, if the shooter is.
In my handloading tests, I used five different powders, but only one projectile. I did this to limit the number of variables in testing (and because the Hornady 130-grain SST loads have always shot well for me).
Considering two different powders (Ramshot Hunter and Hogdon StaBall 6.5) shot+/- 0.400”, it says something to me about the barrel.
The differences between those two powders at 300 yards (with and without the Geissele trigger) indicate the shooter is the limitation.
In defense of the Norma powders, they most likely did not like the barrel/bullet combination. I have had good luck with them on other projects. Sometimes a powder just doesn’t like a barrel, a bullet or both. I think that is the most likely issue here.
Your barrel may like a different combination, but like every Shilen barrel I’ve worked with, this one was a shooter. It definitely liked some combinations better than others, but nothing shot poorly. The same cannot be said about the 2019 factory barrel.
Do you have any interesting upgrade stories to tell? Let us know in the comments below.