Remington's Model 600 Magnum -
By Chuck Hawks
The Remington Model 600 Magnum rifle and the .350 Remington Magnum cartridge were introduced together in 1965. Neither was very successful as a commercial venture, but both eventually gained the respect of knowledgeable shooters and became "underground" classics.
The .350 Magnum cartridge, the first true short magnum cartridge, was based on a shortened and necked-up 7mm Remington Magnum case. It was designed specifically to fit in the magazine of Remington's short (.308 length) action Model 600 rifle.
A year later a second short action magnum cartridge was introduced for the Model 600 Magnum rifle. This was the 6.5mm Remington Magnum, based on the .350 case necked down to accept .264" bullets. It was introduced despite the massive indifference of the American shooting public to 6.5mm cartridges. (See my article "The 6.5mm Remington Magnum" for more about that cartridge.) The .350 and 6.5mm Magnums were the only cartridges ever offered in the Model 600M, although the standard Model 600 was also manufactured in .222 Remington, .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, .308 Winchester, and .35 Remington.
The Remington Model 600 Magnum bolt action carbine was a rather radical departure from the norm in 1965. It featured a number of controversial design features, and because of this got mixed reviews from the gun writers of the time. A few loved it but most did not, and the nays ultimately carried the day.
Perhaps the most obvious controversial feature was its laminated beech and walnut stock. This stock was built of five thick layers, alternating walnut, beech, walnut, beech, walnut. The dark walnut contrasted sharply with the light colored beech. Laminated stocks were very unusual then; in fact the first one I had ever seen on a factory made rifle was the one on the Model 600 Magnum. It made for an eye-catching stock that I found rather attractive, but it did not sit well with most of the gun scribes.
This stock had well executed impressed checkering in a point pattern. Impressed checkering was common at the time, but it never failed to draw criticism from reviewers.
The Monte Carlo buttstock was well shaped for handling magnum recoil. The tapered forearm, however, had a rather square cross section that wasn't very ergonomic. Those who owned one of these little rifles appreciated the standard White Line ventilated recoil pad.
Then there was the very short 18.5" free-floating barrel. It was guaranteed to reduce velocity and supply plenty of muzzle blast with a cartridge having the powder capacity of the .350 Magnum.
This ultra short barrel was supplied with a nylon ventilated rib screwed to its upper surface. The trigger guard and the blind magazine floorplate assembly were made of the same material. In 1964 plastic was very definitely not acceptable on rifle stocks to the great majority of shooters, and no one had seen a rifle with a ventilated rib before. In addition, the raised ventilated rib reduced the clearance between the front objective bell of a scope and the barrel. Scopes with oversize 40mm+ objective lenses could not be mounted in standard height rings, although the fixed power 2.5x and 4x scopes of the day would usually clear the rib. Since almost all buyers immediately fitted a telescopic sight, the vent rib was completely non-functional, and roundly criticized.
The polished silver bolt had a sort of dog leg shaped, bent forward handle to place the half-round bolt knob over the trigger for easy grasping. This was due to the fact that the Model 600 (and later 660) series rifles shared their action with the XP-100 bolt action pistol. The oddly shaped bolt handle never bothered me, but it seemed to bother quite a few gun writers.
The Model 600 was supplied with pretty good open sights. The rear sight was screw adjustable for both windage and elevation. The large ramp front sight had a flat faced gold bead and a racy swept back shape that, unfortunately, had a propensity to catch on brush and small limbs in the woods. Fortunately, it was screwed to the rib and could be removed by a sufficiently motivated owner.
The biggest single design flaw of the Model 600 Magnum was its very light weight of 6.5 pounds. This is far too light for a powerful medium bore rifle, and guaranteed recoil that was unacceptable to most shooters. Coupled with the severe muzzle blast from the attenuated 18.5-inch barrel, a Model 600 Magnum was not a fun rifle at the range.
But it had its good points. It was a fast handling rifle. The laminated stock was rigid and virtually weatherproof. The well-shaped buttstock kept the recoil away from the shooter's face. The action, similar in design to that of the Model 700, was extremely strong. The rifle's overall lines were attactive. And Remington even included quick detachable sling swivels and a leather sling strap with every rifle.
Most of all, the little carbine was accurate and had Remington's excellent adjustable trigger assembly. Its styling might have been too futuristic for its time, but the little carbine could definitely shoot. And the .350 Magnum cartridge was lethal on all North American big game. Those who took their .350 rifles to Africa found that it also worked pretty well on African big game.
I ordered a Model 600 .350 Magnum rifle as soon as they were announced. My Model 600M wore a Bushnell Banner 2.5x fixed power scope in a Redfield mount for most of its life, and this combination delivered fine accuracy. It would average three shot groups of about 1.5" from a bench rest with handloads using either the 180 grain or 220 grain Speer bullets in front of IMR 4895 powder. Occasionally groups with either bullet would go into about 1" at 100 yards. I would say that the rifle shot as well as I could aim with a 2.5x scope.
Handloads using the 220 grain bullet at a MV of about 2500 fps, or factory loads using the 250 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet at a MV of 2410 fps, were right up there in terms of recoil energy. According to my calculations the recoil amounted to about 25 ft. lbs. in a 7.5 pound scoped rifle. But the little rifle was not painful to shoot, at least in moderation. I think this fact was overlooked by many of the writers who criticized the recoil of Remington's .350 Magnum carbine.
A good friend and shooting buddy of mine owned a scoped Remington Model 700 BDL in .30-06 caliber of the same vintage as my Model 600M. We traded rifles back and forth, and we both concluded that subjectively there was little difference in apparent recoil. That is a tribute to the clever design of the 600M stock. No less an authority than the famous gun writer Jeff Cooper reached the same conclusion, and said so in a magazine article praising the Model 600 .350 Magnum carbine.
The Model 660 Magnum replaced the Model 600 Magnum rifle in 1968. The Model 660 used the same action and retained the laminated stock, plastic trigger guard and all, but was supplied with a 20" barrel sans ventilated rib. Calibers remained 6.5mm Mag. and .350 Mag. This was a step in the right direction, but it was not enough to stifle the criticism leveled at Remington's powerhouse carbines. The gun was still too light, the muzzle blast was still considerable, and the styling was still too radical for the time. The 660 carbine was discontinued in 1971.
Remington's last attempt to sell .350 Magnum rifles (at least until the introduction of the Model 673 in 2003) was to chamber the cartridge in their popular Model 700 rifle. That pretty much silenced all of the complaints about the 600 series carbines. But by then the damage had been done and the .350 Magnum had a reputation as a hard kicking caliber that was unpleasant to shoot. Remington Model 700 BDL rifles first became available in .350 Magnum (and also in 6.5mm Magnum) in 1969. A total of only 1584 were manufactured. In 1975 Remington dropped the .350 Magnum from the Model 700 line, and that was that. (For more information about the saga of the .350 Magnum, see my article "The .350 Remington Magnum and .35 Whelen.")
Yet the demand for the handy Model 600 Magnum carbine and its powerful .350 Magnum cartridge has quietly grown. My 23rd edition of Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values, published in 2002, shows a used value in 100% condition of $975. That is, incidentally, $100 more than the value of a Model 660 Magnum rifle in the same condition. Not bad for a rifle that had a list price of about $145 when new!
Copyright 2003, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.