Upgrading a Factory Remington 700 (On a Budget)

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.

remington 700
Example of a base Remington 700.

Overcoming Difficulties

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:

Remington 700 Upgrade - Chart
As you can see from the chart, each barrel likes something different. The hand load for the 2003 rifle did not work very well in the 2019 rifle, although it is better than most factory options.

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.

Remington 700 Upgrade - Geissele trigger
The Geissele trigger used in the Remington 700 upgrade.


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.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. I saw this article and had to read it but, found the info a bit lacking. There was no mention of how much the cost of the barrel, the Giselle trigger, or the aftermarket stock that was used, or the total cost of the project. I have a rem 700 sps in .308with a bull barrel that I picked up for $525, that I also upgraded on the cheap. I found a trigger housing that accepts (and came with a 5 round detachable magazine) for $115. Then I purchased a pillar bedding kit for $80. I added the pillar bedding, free floated the barrel by sanding down the stock a bit and added the detachable magazine trigger housing. I put a $275 Athlon scope on it and on zero day shooting for 200 yrs walked my shots right in to dead center without the use of a sled. For about $700 (not counting scope) I would put my Rem 700 up against any $1000+ rifle.

  2. I’ve been loading and shooting for more than 50 years . I have learned ( and relearned) a few things over the years. As one commentor above has stated, I have never found a rifle that could not be ” tuned” well enough to become a respectable hunting rifle at hunting distances. Usually, taking the time to work up a load for it will work virtually every time. Every componet if necessar. Brass selection, primer used, powder choice, bullet choice and powder charge. All of these are variables that can make a difference in how well a rifle will perform. As far as the scope is concerned, many companies make essentially parallax issue free models. Expensive doesn’t necessarily equate to perfect. The best scope I have ever owned and used is an “old” original Redfield, hardly in the realm of very expensive. It is still head and shoulders better than many of the pricier scopes I own or have owned. But any decent scope with a carefully worked up handload will usually give you a perfectly acceptable hunting rifle. So, , if you are just starting and have limited funds or a ” hand me down” rifle, don’t despair, hold your head up ,you can still have a hunting rifle that will do the job better than many , many expensive out of the box rifles your friends are hunting with..

  3. How could one be enough in the AR platform? Keep the articles coming. I enjoy them very much! XXL please, and Thanks!

  4. Shirt Size: XL
    Love the great articles and very useful information provided all the time. Great products as well. This is a very well managed web site.

    Kudos to you all!!

  5. I find there are two classes of shooters, the first being those that don’t shoot much and primary limit their shooting to hunting. This first group does not need subminute of angle abilities out of their rifle nor their ammunition, thereby factory ammo is the best route for this group of shooters. I would suggest to try different brands for better accuracy.

    The second group are those individuals that can not accept a rifle or ammunition that produces anything more than a one inch group at one hundred yards. Within that group you will find individuals like myself than can not accept anything greater than one half of a inch groups at one hundred yards.

    While you do find factory produced rifles that can shoot right out of the box subminute of angle groups, few do it with factory loaded ammunition.

    Odds are you will need to hand load your ammunition and tailor your loads to match the needs of the rifle. You will be attempting to tame the harmonics of the barrel created during the firing of your ammunition. While you will find heavier barrels or less picky than lighter thinner barrels. Each barrel is different and have their on individual needs inorder to produce the greatest accuracy. Hand loading different test loads and firing them at a given distance for group size is how you discover the best load for your particular rifle.

    Mind you there can be a few other issues in resolving a particular rifles problems of producing acceptable accuracy. Providing you start out with a rifle in good basic working condition, hand loading is your first step in producing acceptable accuracy from a given rifle.

    I suggest you start out with used brass that was fired from your rifle previously, do not full length resize your brass, but neck resize them, matching your brass to that one particular rifles chamber. From there you should select the bullet with the highest coefficiency rating in your desired weight.

    From there I have found that slow burning rifle powders that put the most volume of powder in you case tend to be the most accurate.

    While out to five hundred yards choice of rifle primers do not usually make a obvious difference they can be the last variable in fine tuning your groups even tighter.

    In forty plus years of helping others resolve accuracy problems as well as teaching others to shoot at targets at long ranges with both rifle and pistol, I have found few firearms that could not be made to shoot accurate. The biggest problems I have seen other than development of a hand load for a particular weapon was the shooting ability of the shooters themselves, while trigger adjustments can make a difference the scopes they choose to use were a bigger problem.

    Parallax problems found in scopes along with thick cross hairs contribute greatly to poor marksmanship. You can’t hit what you can’t see. There are many good scopes out there, but buying a popular name brand does not guarantee you a good accurate scope. While there are several high priced scope manufacturers, I have found that I can only recommend one that comes in a affordable price range and meets all the needed requirements regardless of which model chosen, Burris.

    While it is possible to buy from a factory a guaranteed sub half minute of angle rifle, it’s no guarantee you can shot it to take advantage of its capabilities with out training and practice on your part. You can make it even harder on yourself by installing a poor choice of scope on top of such a rifle.

    If you have a rifle in good condition that you like, I suggest you look at your scope and find a load that appeals more to your rifle than to you. Educate yourself on what it takes to produce a good shooting rifle. Blindly spending money on barrels, triggers, and a new stock will not guarantee you a tack driving rifle, it will just give you a different rifle to resolve the same type of problems your old rifle had.

  6. I believe you may have answered a question I have long been pondering. I have a 700 with 24″ Heavy Barrel in .308win. Many times I have taken it to the range, and after three shots from a Lead Sled, I’ll look at the group, and think to myself, “I KNOW that is NOT where I had the crosshairs when I pulled the trigger!”
    No matter the ammo, whether factory or handloads, the results are the same. I repeatedly came away thinking I was just a really bad shot. But your article casts some doubt on that conclusion. For that I thank you.

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