The Remington Model 673 Guide Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
The first big shooting news in the year 2003 for big game hunters was the re-introduction of the .350 Remington Magnum cartridge. This fine medium bore powerhouse was first introduced in 1965. It was based on a shortened and necked-up 7mm Remington Magnum case. The .350 is a true short magnum cartridge, designed to work through .308 Winchester length actions.
Remington originally had two factory loads for the .350 Magnum. One launched a 200 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2725 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 3260 ft. lbs. The other used a 250 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet at a MV of 2410 fps and ME of 3220 ft. lbs. Both were tested in a 20" barrel.
The .350 Magnum cartridge was introduced in the Remington Model 600 Magnum bolt action carbine. This rifle featured a number of controversial design features that were widely criticized in the firearms press.
Perhaps the most obvious feature was its laminated beech and walnut stock. Laminated stocks were rare and did not sit well with most of the gun writers of the time. This stock had impressed checkering, which never failed to draw criticism from reviewers. Its Monte Carlo buttstock was well shaped for handling magnum recoil but its forearm was squared-off in cross section and left a lot to be desired ergonomically.
Then there was the very short 18.5" barrel, which was free floating. This short barrel was guaranteed to degrade ballistic performance 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, and also came in for plenty of criticism. Most buyers fit a scope to new rifles, so the vent rib was not functional. Many regarded it as silly. The large ramp front sight had a racy swept back shape that, unfortunately, had a propensity to catch on brush and small limbs in the woods.
The action's polished silver bolt had a sort of "S" shaped, forward swept handle to get it far enough forward for easy grasping. This was due to the fact that the Model 600 series rifles shared their action with the XP-100 bolt action pistol. The oddly shaped bolt handle bugged the gun reviewers of the period.
The biggest single design flaw of the Model 600 Magnum was its very light weight of 6.5 pounds. This was far too light for a powerful medium bore rifle, and guaranteed heavy recoil. The severe muzzle blast from the attenuated 18.5 inch barrel, coupled with substantial recoil, scared off a lot of potential buyers.
The Model 600 was produced from 1965 to 1968, when it was replaced by the similar Model 660 Magnum, which had a 20" barrel without the vent rib, but retained most of the Model 600M's other design features. The 660 was discontinued in 1971. Remington had produced their .350 Magnum carbines for only six years.
However, they had their good points. The well shaped buttstock made the rifles reasonably comfortable to shoot despite the considerable recoil. The action, similar in design to that of the Model 700, was extremely strong. The little carbines gained a reputation for good accuracy. And, of course, the .350 Magnum cartridge was deadly on all North American big game. For more about the Remington 600 series rifles, see my article "Remington's Model 600 Magnum Carbine."
Remington offered the .350 cartridge in their Model 700 BDL rifle from 1969 to 1975. Ruger also chambered their Model 77 rifle for the .350 for a short time. Neither sold very well. (In 2004 Ruger re-introduced the .350 cartridge in their Model 77 rifle line.)
In 1997, some 33 years after its introduction, the .350 Magnum was quietly dropped from Remington's loading list. That was many years after Remington had quit supplying rifles in the caliber. It's pretty hard to sell a lot of cartridges if new rifles to shoot them are unavailable. The .350 seemed to be obsolete, a good idea that never really got off the ground. (For more information about the saga of the .350 Magnum, see my article "The .350 Remington Magnum and .35 Whelen" on the Rifle Cartridge Page.)
The introduction of the new, short magnum calibers .300 WSM and .300 Remington SAUM in the year 2000 changed everything. A great deal of publicity about these new cartridges was generated in the shooting press, and extravagant claims about their superiority over the standard length .300 Winchester Magnum were made. These new short magnum cartridges were introduced in light, handy rifles such as the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight and Remington Model 7 Magnum. Suddenly, lightweight rifles and short magnum cartridges were "in."
Winchester followed up the .300 WSM with the .270 WSM and 7mm WSM, and Remington added the 7mm SAUM to their cartridge line in 2001. Some gun writers had been suggesting in print and on the web (your correspondent among them) that Remington would do well to give the .350 Magnum another chance. A powerful medium bore short action magnum would seem to be a useful addition to the present lines.
Evidently someone at Big Green was listening, because for 2003 the .350 Remington Magnum has indeed been restored to Remington's factory loading list. Remington discontinued the last .350 factory load in 1997, so a new .350 Mag. factory load had to be introduced. The new load drives a 200 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet at a claimed MV of 2775 fps. The ME should be 3419 ft. lbs. At that velocity the maximum point blank range (+/- 3") of this load is 260 yards.
The surprise, at least to me, is that they did not initially add the .350 Magnum caliber to their existing Model 7 Magnum rifle. (A couple of years later, they did.) Instead, Remington has intentionally repeated some of the features for which the Model 600M was criticized by creating a new look-alike Model 673 rifle in which to chamber the .350 Mag. ("6" for its Model 600 heritage, "7" for its Model 7 action, and "3" for 2003--get it?)
The new Model 673 has a stock made of 5 alternating layers of light and walnut stained laminates which looks much like the original, a mostly free-floating barrel (bedded at only two points) onto which is screwed a ventilated rib, a fully adjustable rear sight and a hooked front sight similar to the original. Clearly, the Remington marketing people see the new gun partly as a nostalgia item and are trying to cash in on the high prices of used Model 600 rifles. Speaking of prices, the 673's price at its introduction in 2003 was $825.
Give the folks at America's oldest gun maker some credit, however, for they did address several of the complaints leveled at the old Model 600. First, the ventilated rib is steel, not nylon. This rib is justified as a means of raising the rear sight so that it becomes useful even with a stock design clearly intended for use with a telescopic sight. The rib interferes with mounting a scope with even a medium diameter front objective, though, and the bulky rear sight doesn't help matters. I would suggest that a quarter rib and a folding rear sight such as that found on the Ruger No. 1H Tropical Rifle would have been a better approach.
Second, the trigger guard and magazine floorplate are aluminum, and the floorplate is hinged. The square release button is directly in front of the trigger. This is a much classier approach than the blind, plastic trigger guard assembly on the old Model 600.
Third, the new forearm shape is more ergonomic than the old, and the point pattern checkering is cut, not impressed. The new stock is superior to the old version in both design and execution.
Fourth, the bolt handle is blued and checkered, and conventional in shape, since the new Model 673 is based on a Model 7 action. The bolt body is polished and engine turned.
And fifth, the barrel is a reasonable 22" long and the new rifle weighs 7.5 pounds. This is advantageous from the standpoint of improved ballistics and reduced recoil.
The old 600M's efficient Monte Carlo comb is gone, but the Model 673's new butt pad is bigger to spread the recoil over a larger area. The pistol grip has also been opened-up some and is thinner through the wrist, and a nicley shaped cheek piece graces the new stock. The 673's recoil pad is not ventilated, and the white line spacer is gone. Quick release sling swivel studs are supplied (but not the swivels and sling strap). Overall, the 673 has pleasing lines. Remington describes the metal finish as polished blue and the durable stock finish as satin.
Other basic specifications include a length of pull of 13.75" and an overall length of 41 3/16" (with a 22" barrel). Rifling twist remains one turn in 16". The safety is the usual Remington two position design, which no longer locks the bolt closed when on "safe." Total capacity is four .350 cartridges, three rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber.
In addition to .350 Remington Magnum, the new carbine was initialy offered in .300 Remington Short Action Ultra Mag. Factory loads for the .300 SAUM claim to drive a 150 grain PSP Core-Lokt Ultra bullet at a MV of 3200 fps, a 165 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet at a MV of 3075 fps, and a 180 grain Nosler Partition bullet at a MV of 2960 fps with ME of 3501 ft. lbs. These figures were all derived in a 24" test barrel. This cartridge has even greater powder capacity than the .350, and the muzzle blast in a 22" barrel should really be something!
For 2004 Remington announced the return of the 6.5mm Remington Magnum cartridge, the .350's original running mate back in the Model 600M days, in the 673 Guide Rifle. Also new for 2004 is the .308 Winchester in the Model 673, the standard all-around cartridge for short action rifles and the best selling caliber offered in the original Model 600.
The new Remington factory load for the 6.5mm Rem. Mag. drives a 120 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet at a MV of 3210 fps and ME of 2744 fps. Zeroed at 266 yards, this load should have a MPBR of approximately 312 yards. This is clearly the "plains game" cartridge for the Guide Rifle.
Since the basic Model 673 rifle weighs 7.5 pounds, adding a scope, mount, and rings should result in a total weight of about 8.5 pounds. The new Remington .350 Mag. factory load should generate about 22.4 ft. lbs. of recoil energy in an 8.5 pound rifle. This is moderate recoil for a powerful medium bore rifle, but it will still get the shooter's attention, particularly when fired from a bench rest.
Back in 1965 I was selling guns at the retail level, and I special ordered myself a new Model 600 Magnum carbine in .350 as soon as the rifle and cartridge were announced. It was the handiest medium bore rifle I have ever owned and, as can probably be inferred from some of my articles, I have had an emotional attachment to the .350 Magnum cartridge ever since. As soon as the first of the current crop of short magnum cartridges was introduced I began writing that Remington should re-introduce the .350 Magnum cartridge and now they have.
Guns and Shooting Online ordered a new Model 673 in .350 Rem. Mag. caliber almost immediately after hearing about it's introduction. After waiting some six months for the order to be filled, a new 673 Guide Rifle is in my hands.
My initial impression is that it is a racy but handsome rifle. I can see no real advantage to the vent rib, but I admit that it gives the rifle a distinctive look. The blue finish is deep and dark but, to be honest, the polish job beneath the bluing is only fair. Someone at Remington needs to take a close look at a Browning A-Bolt Medallion or a Weatherby Mark V Deluxe to see how a polished blue finish is supposed to look. The stock shape is comfortable and the rifle is well balanced and handles quickly.
The safety is a bit stiff, but seems to be breaking-in satisfactorily. Remington's safety is one of the most convenient to use in the industry. The wood to metal fit is very good except for a small gap at the rear of the trigger guard.
The bolt travel is typical in smoothness to other mass produced, Mauser derived actions over most of its travel. The fly in the ointment is that when the bolt is fully rearward, if the shooter inadvertently presses the bolt handle to the side as he attempts to shove it forward, the bolt binds. This is indicative of a poorly finished bolt raceway. (Actually, internally these Remington actions are largely unpolished.) I found that the bolt is most likely to bind when the action is not operated at the shoulder.
The rifle reviewed also had a problem feeding the outer (right hand) cartridges from its staggered box magazine. The inside (left, or second out of three) cartridge fed correctly, but the first and third tended to hang-up. Inspection showed that the exposed lead tips of all bullets were being damaged by the feed ramp, which probably accounts for at least part of the difficult feeding. This damage occurred to both flat point and spitzer bullets. But most of the problem was probably being caused by the edge of the outside bolt raceway. This edge appeared to be too sharp. It had a tendency to drag on the brass cartridge case, scoring it and frequently causing a jam.
I sent the rifle back to Remington for warrantee repair, along with a letter detailing the problem. It was returned in a timely manner with a copy of the work order stating that the magazine box had been replaced. I felt it unlikely that the magazine box was the source of the problem, but off to the range I went to re-test the rifle.
There I discovered that the Remington technicians had evidently just swapped out the sheet metal magazine box (the easiest possible thing to do) and left it at that. They obviously did not bother to test the "repaired" rifle to see if it would properly feed cartridges, as it still jammed regularly. This type of sloppy repair work is absolutely unacceptable; on a "Guide Rifle" it could even prove fatal. Ruger offers the .350 Rem. Mag. cartridge in their M77R Mk. II rifle, so it is not like consumers don't have a viable option.
These feeding problems are not typical of Model Seven actions and may be unique to this particular rifle. Nor are they typical of the .350 Magnum cartridge, which (unlike most of the newer short magnums) is well designed from the standpoint of feed geometry. Not wanting to return the rifle to Remington a second time, I did some judicious polishing with a hard "Arkansas" stone to smooth the offending sharp edge and that put the matter to rest.
The 673's trigger pull measured about 6.5 pounds on my RCBS deluxe trigger pull gauge. This is unsatisfactory on a hunting rifle.
The supplied Model 7 instruction manual says that trigger can only be adjusted by the factory or an authorized Remington gunsmith, but in fact it is user adjustable. Simply remove the action from the stock and there is the trigger mechanism. There are two small adjustment screws on the front of the trigger assembly, and one on the back. These are for for pull weight, sear engagement and trigger over-travel.
The three small adjustment screws on the trigger assembly are sealed with some sort of gunk resembling clear fingernail polish, which you will have to chip away before you can adjust the trigger. (Note: this probably voids the rifle's warrantee.) The rear screw is for over-travel, and the front screw closest to the bottom of the trigger assembly is for sear engagement. On the test rifle, both were correctly adjusted at the factory.
It is the front adjustment screw farthest from the bottom on the trigger assembly that that adjusts the trigger pull weight and which I wanted to adjust. After backing it out a little at a time and testing the results with my trigger pull gauge, I was able to set the approximately 3 pound trigger pull that I prefer. The trigger can be adjusted lighter than that (I had it down to about 2 pounds at one point), but I feel that a hunting rifle trigger should not be set that light, as the shooter is liable to be excited when the moment of truth comes.
Adjustment of the 673 trigger is easy as long as you are patient and have a trigger pull gauge, but if you are not familiar with trigger adjustment or are unwilling to accept the consequences of your actions, do as Remington suggests and take your rifle to a competent gunsmith. (Of course, if you are not willing and able to accept the consequences of your actions you should not buy a gun in the first place!)
Initial shooting trials using a handload consisting of a 220 grain Speer FP bullet in front of 55.0 grains of IMR 3031 powder (MV 2450 fps) resulted in 5-shot, 100 yard groups averaging about 2 1/4" center to center. Considering that the rifle is chambered for a medium bore caliber with plenty of recoil and intended primarily for use on large (CXP3 class) game, those groups are perfectly adequate.
However, I felt confident that the rifle could shoot better groups with a different load. For the next trip to the range I tried 55.0 grains of IMR 4064 powder behind the same 220 grain Speer FP bullet (MV about 2470 fps). 3 and 4-shot groups shrank to an average of 1.625 MOA at 100 yards. The largest group measured 2 3/8" center to center and the smallest measured only 11/16".
Sierra GameKing 225 grain boat-tail spitzer bullets were tried next, in front of H335 and IMR 4064 powders. Once again 55 grains of IMR 4064 powder delivered the best groups at an estimated MV of 2400 fps. Fired from a Caldwell Lead Sled, which takes the sting out of .350 Magnum recoil, the average 3-shot group size shrank to right around 1 MOA at 100 yards, with the largest measuring 1 1/2" and the smallest measuring only 3/8" at 100 yards. This is outstanding accuracy for any hunting rifle, let alone a powerful medium bore.
The Model 673 is just about the ultimate bolt action "guide gun" type of rifle: big power in a compact, manageable package. The 2004 return of the 6.5mm Mag. in the 673 is just iceing on the cake, so to speak. However, Remington had better get their initial quality control and their repair shop up to speed. A rifle intended for use on dangerous game must be absolutely reliable.
Beyond those observations, I have a couple of other suggestions for the folks at Big Green. First, make both the 6.5mm Mag. and .350 Mag. cartridges available in the Model 700 rifle line. Second, offer a version of the Model 673 with a stainless steel barreled action (satin silver finish) and the quarter rib suggested above. This would simplify scope mounting and serve as an "all weather" version of the Guide Rifle.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2003, 2009 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.