The Remington Model 740 Woodsmaster Autoloading Rifle
By Cole Wimer
One of my more powerful centerfire rifles is a Remington Model 740 Woodsmaster, chambered for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. Although not the most accurate I own, it is accurate enough and serves its intended purpose well.
I went to a gun show in Columbia, SC with my granddad in January of 2007. We were looking around for a suitable deer rifle at an even more suitable price, haven decided to snatch it if the opportunity arouse. After walking around this rather large show for upwards of an hour, we came to a table where a dealer was selling large numbers of pump and semi-automatic Remington rifles. Two main rifles caught my eye, a Remington Model 760 pump in .270 Win. and a Remington Model 740 autoloader in .30-06, complete with scope! Of course, the scope was a Bushnell (Pre Banner) 4x and the mount was a Weaver, but we figured it would do for deer hunting in the pine forests of central SC, where shots are usually less than 100 yards. The asking price was the same for both rifles; $275.
The 760 would require scoping, another $100 at least (probably $200 to do it right). The 740 was gas operated, so it might not kick too hard. We decided to buy the Model 740 and I stood guard to make sure that nobody else bought it while granddad went home to get a checkbook. After a short delay, he returned. I haggled the price down to around $230. With the Form 4473 filled out, we were the proud owners of a Remington 740 Woodsmaster in .30-06!
Here are some Model 740 Woodsmaster historical facts, courtesy of our friends at Remington:
At another table, a man was selling Federal Power-Shok rifle cartridges. Among them, of course, was .30-06 Springfield. I, knowing a little about rifles, figured that a heavier bullet moving a little slower might not damage as much meat as a lighter one moving faster. Meat damage is a big concern on a small SC whitetail, where the average doe might run 90 pounds and the average buck about 140. We purchased two boxes of 180 grain soft point bullets, for all of $10 a box. (I wish I could by them for that now, the last time I checked they are up to at least $14/box).
The next day, after spending the morning acquiring a sling and swivels, as well as a slip on recoil pad at the local Sportsmanís Warehouse, we took our used Model 742 to the rifle range in Newberry, SC to shoot it. Initial results at 100 yards were disappointing. The target was completely untouched after the first five shots. Undaunted, we brought the target in to 25 yards and let a shot go right at the middle bull. At least we were on paper this time. A few adjustments to the battered 4x scope and I took the target back out to 100 yards to do a little shooting. I had the groups centered 3" above the bull, but to call the bullet holes "groups" is a stretch. More like patterns, actually. I finally got three (lucky!) shots to form a sort of group, so we called it good and went home.
The new rifle's inaccuracy bothered me. It seemed to be a $250 bullet hose, with a bullet hitting the target simply because of good luck. As I went home to Asheville, the gun remained in Columbia with my granddad, who didnít take it out of the case until I returned for spring break to work a little and do some shooting. Remembering the poor accuracy we had experienced before, we stopped and bought a Hoppe's Boresnake on the way up to the range.
When we arrived, I snaked the weapon and then loaded it and fired three rounds downrange. Miraculously, the three shots landed in a group, although it was about six inches across! I ran the snake through the bore a few more times and finally got the groups down to around four inches. It was much improved and good enough, I decided, with which to hunt.
My granddad shot a deer with it that fall, a shot right to the spine. He was aiming for the heart/lung area and missed by about 9", but hey, whatever works! Anyway, he hunted with it many times that winter, but never saw another deer. The rifle had proved its worth, however, and despite its poor accuracy, it would do for the menial task of downing whitetail deer at ranges often not exceeding 35 yards.
When my granddad died this past July, he left the rifle to me. I brought it home and the first thing I did was get rid of the scope, mount and rings. I contacted Natchez Shooters Supply and had them send me a refurbished Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40mm scope, some Weaver rings, and a new Weaver scope base for a total of about $160. The scope itself was $140 and it's the same model that is on my Ruger .243. I also contacted Cheaper Than Dirt and had them send me a Triple K replacement magazine. Although I still had the original, I decided that for $20 I might try a 10 round magazine.
I mounted the scope in the new rings and waited until the first weekend in August to sight it in for the August 15 opener of the SC rifle season. Before my trip to the range, I ran plenty (almost 4 oz.) of Montana X-Treme copper solvent through the barrel to get all the fouling out. Although I had used the Boresnake previously, it took me well over 100 patches, three days and plenty of soak time to remove the copper. Finally, I got it clean.
This trip to the range proved a little more fruitful. I shot several groups with the rifle that ran around three inches, with one measuring just under two inches. Not having a way to bore-sight the scope, I shot almost an entire box of cartridges to get it on the paper. Once that was done, I zeroed it right where I wanted and I called it good enough to hunt. I did not get a chance to try the rifle with the new magazine, but vowed to do so in the future.
On April 15, 2009, I skipped going to the "tea party" at the town hall and went shooting instead. The wind was blowing over 30 mph when I got to the range, which definitely did not help my shooting.
I decided to try out that new magazine. I loaded it fully and then began to blast away at the target 100 yards distant. I experienced two jams in only 10 rounds. One was the fault of the gun/ammunition; one was definitely the fault of the magazine. The first, on round two, was the magazine jam. The bolt came back and rammed the cartridge precisely into the front of the magazine, smashing the exposed lead tip. I pulled the bolt back, then pressed the magazine release and yanked the magazine out. I positioned the round fully rearward in the magazine (I may have failed to do this the first time, which may have caused the jam.) I re-inserted the magazine, and pulled the bolt back. When it slammed forward, the deformed cartridge was placed right in the chamber, where it should have been the first time. The second jam was a stovepipe, caused by a failure to eject. The round in the magazine was already out, about halfway into the chamber, but the empty case was left sticking out of the ejection port.
Accuracy was a little lacking, although I had just cleaned the barrel. I suppose I will have to devote my next three days removing all the copper fouling to get it shooting again. 4-1/8" groups will work for the kind of hunting I do, but I would like to see the gun do better.
Overall, the Model 740 is not a bad choice for those who hunt primarily in heavily wooded areas. Accuracy is the only consistent problem Iíve had with this rifle, although I have neglected to try other loads. I refuse to spend more than $20 for a box of rifle cartridges and I think $14 is quite enough as it is. With accuracy the way it is now, itís a 200 yard deer rifle, if you have a steady rest. If not, it is good to about 100 yards, which covers everything I normally do. I would like to get it shooting better, so that Iím prepared in the event a 10-point buck steps into the open at 300 yards!
Copyright 2009 by Cole Wimer. All rights reserved.