Remington 50th Anniversary Model 700 BDL
By Chuck Hawks
2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Remington Model 700, the best selling bolt action rifle in history with over 5,000,000 sold. To celebrate their flagship's Golden Anniversary, Big Green is offering the limited production (2012 only) Model 700 BDL 50th Anniversary Edition, shown at the 2012 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. The single available caliber is 7mm Remington Magnum, the most popular magnum rifle cartridge in the world, which was also introduced in 1962.
Here are the published specifications for Remington's 50th Anniversary Model 700 BDL:
The Model 700 in 7mm Rem. Mag. was a smash hit when introduced in 1962. It was the right rifle and cartridge at the right time. I remember reading that the popularity of the 7mm Magnum cartridge caught Remington by surprise and Model 700's in the caliber were back ordered for months. The 7mm Rem. Mag. immediately became a best selling cartridge and remains so today. Among big game hunting calibers, only the .30-06, .270 Winchester, .30-30, .308 Winchester and .243 Winchester exceed Remington's Big Seven in ammunition sales. It is the best selling magnum rifle cartridge of all time and at one point outsold the .270 Win.
Winchester played into Remington's hand with the infamous 1964 revision of their famed Model 70 bolt action, which transformed the Model 70 from controlled feeding to push feeding and was poorly received by both the outdoor press and the buying public. Even worse for Winchester, the early Model 700 BDL ("B" grade, meaning a notch above the basic "A" grade M-700 ADL) was one of the best looking bolt action rifles ever produced, while the new Model 70 was clunky looking, a definite aesthetic step backwards from the pre-64 version and miles behind the svelte Model 700.
The Model 700 action was based on the earlier Model 721 and 722 (long and short) bolt actions, which had been designed for inexpensive manufacture with 1950's technology. These were strong, functional and accurate rifles, but very plain. The introduction of the Model 700 was, essentially, Remington's very successful attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Suddenly, Remington's plain Jane rifle became a deluxe item. (Literally, as the "DL" in BDL represents "deluxe.")
The 1962 Model 700 BDL featured a nicely shaped, black walnut stock with a functional Monte Carlo comb, smoothly curved pistol grip with black grip cap and a forend with a traditional black tip. There were two small diameter pins in the receiver area to reinforce the stock against recoil. The magazine floorplate was hinged for easy unloading. There were white line spacers, popular at the time, at recoil pad, grip cap and forend tip. The five panel, fleur-de-lis checkering pattern impressed into the pistol grip and forend was generous and very attractive. Detachable sling swivel studs were provided. Model 700's chambered for magnum cartridges were supplied with black ventilated recoil pads.
The new 50th Anniversary Model accurately reproduces these features. The stock finish I remember from the 1960's was a glossy and very durable synthetic, but the Anniversary Model stock wears a satin finish to match its blued bolt and satin blued barreled action.
Impressed checkering was a cost cutting innovation pioneered by Remington. Heat and pressure were used to impress reversed checkering into the wood. By reversed, I mean that the diamonds pointed down into the wood, instead of up. Ultimately, impressed checkering fell out of favor, but it was very popular during the 1960's. Personally, I liked (and still like) the look. However, impressed checkering did not provide as secure a grip as normal (positive) checkering. For their 50th Anniversary Model 700, Remington has chosen to recreate the look of impressed checkering by laser cutting the original reversed pattern. (Today, neither Remington nor anyone else is equipped to actually impress checkering.)
The Model 700 receiver was drilled out of bar stock, rather than machined from a steel billet, which is why it is round to this day. The round receiver has the advantage of being quite stiff, which is good for accuracy. It is an open top design and thus superior to many of the latest actions that merely provide slots for ejection ports. On the other hand, it has a more restricted loading/ejection port than Winchester 70, Mauser 98 and pre-war Remington actions. Since the round receiver has no integral recoil lug, one was added by the simple expedient of trapping what is essentially a thick washer between the barrel and receiver.
A spring cir-clip extractor and a plunger ejector, both mounted in a recessed bolt face, served to extract and eject fired cases. This extractor takes a much smaller bite on a case rim than a full length Mauser or short Weatherby claw extractor and is more fragile. It is perhaps the most criticized feature of the Model 700 bolt design, yet it generally works. I have never had an extractor fail in over 45 years of using Remington bolt actions. One of the real benefits of the Model 700 action is its very fast lock time, which Remington claims is 2.5-3.0 milliseconds. The 1960's metal finish was a polished hot blue.
By recessing the bolt face, Remington--like Weatherby--was able to advertise that the case head was enclosed by "three rings of steel" (the recessed bolt face, barrel chamber and receiver ring). In fact, the Model 700 is a very strong action. The bolt knob is fine-line checkered, which is attractive and adds a deluxe touch.
Model 700 rifle barrels have always been free-floating. This was (and is) advertised as an accuracy feature by virtually every rifle manufacturer who uses it, but it is actually designed to reduce production costs by eliminating the necessity of precisely inletting the barrel into the forend. Sporter weight barrels typically shoot better when bedded full length, although heavy varmint/target weight barrels generally do shoot better when free-floated. Today, all Model 700 barrels are hammer forged, which is cheaper and leaves a smoother finish than broached rifling. Hammer forging is claimed to produce consistently accurate barrels.
The cost savings engineered into the Model 700 design allowed Remington to become more profitable and other gun manufacturers were quick to notice and adopt similar actions. The push feed Winchester Model 70 of 1964 adopted some of these features and the Savage 110 action, introduced in the mid-1960's, copied most of the Remington features while adding some of its own. Later rifle designs have gone even farther into the realm of lowering production costs, so that today the Model 700 is considered a relatively expensive action to produce.
The Model 700 safety is a convenient, two-position lever at the right rear of the receiver. On early model 700's, the rearward (safe) position also locked the bolt closed to prevent inadvertent opening in the field. However, all modern Model 700's, including the Anniversary Model, allow the bolt to be opened with the safety on.
Perhaps the best feature of the original Model 700 action was its fully adjustable trigger mechanism. This was one of the best triggers ever supplied in a production rifle. It could be screw adjusted for a perfect, light and clean, trigger pull. Unfortunately, tort lawyers forced Remington to first seal and then redesign the Model 700 trigger. The current version of the X-Mark Pro trigger used in the 50th Anniversary Model 700 is user adjustable for weight of pull only, but cannot be set as light, or quite as clean, as the original trigger. Regardless, the latest X-Mark Pro is a good trigger mechanism. Remington claims that X-Mark Pro triggers are set at 3.5 pounds at the factory, but the ones I have measured were heavier.
The 50th Anniversary Edition rifle is supplied with a "B" grade walnut stock, better wood than found on most current Model 700's. The black anodized, aluminum magazine floorplate is laser engraved and filled in white to commemorate 50 years of Model 700 production. The floorplate release is conveniently mounted inside the trigger guard. The trigger guard and bottom "iron" are cast from aluminum alloy, while the separate magazine box is formed of sheet steel. Magazine capacity is three rounds of 7mm Rem. Mag. The bolt release is a stamped sheet steel part that is activated by pressing inward on a square tab located directly in front of the trigger. Adjustable open sights are supplied on all Model 700 BDL's in 2012, as they were in 1962. While it looks much like an original 1962 Model 700 BDL, in all mechanical respects the 50th Anniversary Model is the same as other 2012 Model 700 BDL's.
I am old enough to remember the introduction of the Model 700 BDL. Aside from the much more expensive Weatherby Mark V Deluxe, I thought it was the handsomest bolt action rifle on the market. If I remember correctly, a M-700 BDL retailed for about $150. (That sounds really cheap today, but in those days I was making about $1 an hour, so it cost about a month's pay--before taxes!) A Mark V, at almost $300, was well beyond my modest means, but a Model 700 BDL was almost within the realm of possibility.
One of my hunting partners bought a M-700 BDL in .30-06 and, since we went shooting every week, I became quite familiar with his rifle, which I greatly admired. One of the great things about the M-700 stock was that it seemed to fit almost everyone and consequently handled recoil very well. From the very beginning to the present day, Remington Model 700 stocks have been exceptionally well designed. It was a comfortable rifle to shoot and that, along with its excellent trigger and fast lock time, made it easy to shoot accurately.
Somehow, I never did get that 1960's vintage Model 700 BDL I wanted. I have since owned other Model 700's with complete satisfaction, but every time I see one of those 1960's vintage BDL's, I regret never owning one. I still think the original BDL is the most attractive of all the many Model 700 variations.
Now, Remington has given us a second chance to own one of these classic hunting rifles. I have requested a sample for review and when it arrives and we put it through its paces, I will add the accuracy results and appropriate user comments to this article. In the meantime, get your 50th Anniversary Model 700 BDL on order, because they will only be produced in 2012. If you miss this opportunity, you will have to wait another 50 years!
Copyright 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.