Remington Model 798 Rifle
By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
When Remington displayed their imported Model 798 rifle at the 2006 SHOT Show it definitely piqued my interest. Here was a hunting rifle based on a traditional Mauser 98 action, in all its expensive to manufacture glory. It is stocked in an American style, walnut finished, laminated hardwood stock that is very similar in overall design to that used on the last Remington Model 700 ADL rifles. Will wonders never cease?
The late Jack O'Connor, Dean of American Gun Writers, would have swooned over his typewriter had he seen Remington introduce this rifle, and I came pretty close to swooning myself. Anyway, I got around to requesting a Model 798 rifle for review from Remington's always helpful Linda Powell in time for the Oregon deer season.
The .30-06 Cartridge
Our test rifle is chambered for the venerable .30-06 Springfield cartridge, about which not much remains to be said. For those who are interested there is a complete article devoted to the .30-06 on the Rifle Cartridge Page.
The .30-06, 100 years old this year, remains one of the best all-around rifle cartridges ever designed for a bolt action rifle, and the best selling big game cartridge of its type. The .30-06 is available in a myriad of bullet weights, but there is very little hunting that cannot be accomplished with 150, 165, or 180 grain bullets, which are the most popular options. Use a 150 grain bullet for deer and antelope (CXP2 game) and general long range shooting, a 165 grain bullet for mixed bag (CXP2 and CXP3 game) hunts, and a 180 grain bullet for elk and moose (CXP3 game) and you will not go too far wrong.
History and background
The Mauser 1898 (Model 98) is the probably the most famous, and certainly the most copied, bolt action rifle ever made. Its basic design principles have been copied and used in almost every subsequent bolt action design. Oddly, most modifications of this design have not been improvements, but intended to cut production costs or avoid infringing the old Mauser patent.
The famous American 1903 Springfield service rifle (the Model '03/A3) falls into the latter category. Mauser sued the U.S. Government for patent infringement and won in a U.S. court, with the result that the Government had to pay Mauser royalties on the Springfield rifle.
Jack O'Connor once wrote that the Mauser 98 was one of the two best bolt actions ever designed. (The other being the pre '64 Winchester Model 70, itself based closely on the Mauser 98 action). Nothing much has changed in that regard, the M-98 is still the best action around on which to build a hunting rifle.
Before the Great War and during the interim between the First and Second World Wars, the Mauser Company licensed production of the Model 98 to firms in countries all over the world. During the Second World War, when Germany and her Axis allies controlled practically all of Europe, the Germans set up factories to produce Mauser 98 rifles for their army in just about every country capable of building them. As a result Mauser 98 rifles, originally military models but now civilian sporters, have remained in production. Today, firms in several European countries are exporting high quality commercial Model 98 actions and complete sporting rifles based on the Mauser 98 action.
Remington Arms has struck a deal with Zastava Arms of Serbia, one of the most experienced of these firms (in business since 1853), to import barreled Mauser 98 actions, which are then stocked in American made stocks and marketed as the Remington Model 798. ("7" because for the last half century Remington centerfire rifle model numbers usually incorporate a seven, and "98" due to the Mauser 98 action.) Zastava Oruzje previously manufactured the Charles Daly Mauser, and before that the well respected Interarms Mark X. They have, I understand, been manufacturing Model 98's since 1928, and they even have their very own web site.
Here are the Specifications of the Model 798:
I weighed our test rifle and found that, on my scale, it weighed 8 pounds out of the box. I mention this because that is a full pound heavier than the catalog weight. With a scope and mount it scaled about 9 pounds, empty.
The 798 is built on a commercially manufactured "large ring" Mauser 98 action. This true controlled feed action uses a forged and machined, flat bottomed receiver with an integral recoil lug. Bolt rotation is approximately 90 degrees.
Like all Mauser 98 actions it has a wide loading/ejection port, one-piece bolt body with dual front locking lugs and a rear safety lug, integral bolt guide, non-rotating full length extractor, and receiver mounted blade type ejector. It is the antithesis of Remington's own Model 700/Seven actions; the old Corporate enemy come home to roost.
Because of the Mauser extractor, cartridges should be loaded into the magazine and fed into the chamber from there. The 798 looks and operates just like an FN Mauser action, which is probably the best known Mauser 98 action in the U.S., as it was used as the basis of the Browning bolt action hunting rifle for many years. The package of the Leupold scope base that fits the 798 is marked "FN Mauser."
Commercial Mauser 98 actions like the 798 come with a single stage trigger assembly, while military rifles normally used a two stage trigger. The 798's trigger mechanism is typical Mauser 98 and fully adjustable for over-travel, sear engagement, and weight of pull by means of small screws secured by lock nuts, although Remington's lawyers warn you not to adjust the trigger--advice that I naturally ignored. The trigger itself is of medium width and grooved to prevent slipping.
With the action out of the stock and inverted, the front set screw/lock nut is the trigger pull weight adjustment. This is labeled "Pusher screw" on the supplied 798 parts diagram. It's a short screw without a lot of threads, so if you back it out too far it will fall out. The screw directly behind the trigger (top rear with the action inverted) is the over travel screw. And the lower rear screw is the sear engagement adjustment.
Interestingly, the over travel and sear adjustment screws and their lock nuts have been deleted from the Remington parts diagram. Good work, lawyers! I'm sure that they would have erased the pull adjustment screw and associated parts also, had they realized what the "Pusher screw" did.
If you decide to ignore the safety warnings and are willing to take full and sole responsibility for your actions, you will find that if you screw the sear adjustment screw in too far the action will not stay cocked. Back it out until you can cock the action. Then you will have a very light pull weight, maybe 2 pounds, but the safety does not work. Keep backing the sear engagement screw out until the safety works properly. That was at about 2.75 pounds pull weight on our test rifle. Now, try a drop test. Cock the action and drop it as far as is practical onto a carpeted (to protect the rear tang), hard surface a few times with the safety off. If the sear does not keep the striker cocked after being dropped, back out the sear adjustment screw until it does. Our test rifle passed my drop test with the trigger releasing at 3 pounds; yours may vary. Remember, the lawyers warned you not to touch those adjustment screws, so if you do you are on your own.
Out of the box the trigger pull measured a consistent 3.75 pounds on my RCBS Premium trigger pull gauge, which isn't bad by modern standards, but there was a lot of pre-release creep. After adjustment the trigger broke at 3 pounds with a lesser, but still excessive, amount of rather smooth creep.
The typical Mauser bolt release is located on the left side of the receiver and the safety is a slider at the right rear of the action. This two-position safety locks the trigger but not the bolt, which can be opened to empty the chamber with the safety in the "on" position. Unfortunately, the bolt could also be opened inadvertently in the field.
The round bolt knob is flattened on the side facing the stock to increase clearance, and the flat area is checkered. The bolt body behind the rear receiver ring is blued, with the bolt body and extractor forward of the rear ring polished and left in the white. The steel magazine follower was also left in the white. The one-piece combination bottom iron, magazine box and trigger guard appear to be cast steel, polished and blued where visible, as is the hinged magazine floor plate.
The magazine floor plate release is a button mounted transversely in the front base of the trigger guard and is depressed from the right side to let the floor plate swing open. It doesn't seem to take a particularly big bite on the floor plate, but it worked fine during our review and kept the floor plate securely closed. This floor plate release is the only thing I found on the 798 action that is not typical commercial Mauser 98 fare.
The barreled action has a polished and blued finish. It is a superior quality finish to that found on most new rifles sold today, including most other Remington rifles.
Stock blanks for the 798 are supplied by the Rutland Plywood Corporation of Rutland, Vermont, who has been manufacturing high quality laminated hardwood since 1957. (They also have a web site, should you wish to learn more about Rutland.) Rutland rifle stocks are made of "Stratabond" dye impregnated wood veneers in rich earth tones, walnut brown in the case of the 798 stock.
The 798's barrel is free floating in the stock, all the way back to the receiver. The inletting around the action is only fair, with visible gaps around the upper tang and trigger guard. This is a "drop-in" stock, not a stock carefully and precisely fitted to this particular rifle.
Ironically the stock, the only American made component, draws most of my suggestions for improvement. I would have liked a black forend tip and pistol grip cap, along the lines of the Model 700 Mountain Rifle LSS stock. Remington did decorate the bottom of the pistol grip with an "R," so that area is not totally neglected.
When I removed the barreled action from the stock I found a glob of glass bedding in front of the recoil lug and what appears to be a brass reinforcing pin glassed into the wood behind the recoil lug. I also found that the interior of the stock was unfinished, a big no-no as it leaves the stock unprotected from water, a pretty serious oversight should you hunt in the rain. Anyone who buys one of these rifles should unscrew the two hex head screws that attach the stock to the barreled action, remove the stock, and seal the interior of the stock.
While I am nit-picking, some other aspects of the stock could be improved. For one, there is too much wood everywhere, a common complaint about mass produced stocks. The entire stock could profit from being slenderized, which should not create any strength problem with a laminated stock. The machine cut checkering patterns are skimpy and not very well executed. (It is admittedly difficult to checker laminated wood because of the glue that bonds the laminations.) Also, the satin stock finish is barely adequate, if that. You can feel whiskers through the finish that should have been removed by fine sanding before the finish was applied. And the finish itself is very thin. The stock is basically attractive and well shaped, but someone scrimped on the checkering and the finish.
These are relatively trivial complaints. Overall, the stock is better than average in shape, fit and style--particularly if "average" is one of the ubiquitous, injection molded plastic stocks that are supplied on so many rifles in this price class today.
Don't pass on a Model 798 because I suggested some improvements to the stock. It is entirely usable right out of the box, and most shooters have the tiny amount of skill it takes to seal the inside of the stock and give the outside a quick once over with extra fine sandpaper or 0000 steel wool to cut the whiskers and then to rub on some stock oil. Even I was able to manage those simple improvements.
It wouldn't cost much to have a gunsmith/stockmaker deepen and sharpen the existing checkering pattern, and I may have our own Rocky Hays do just that to the test rifle. The recoil pad could be softer, but the supplied pad will do. As a Model 798 owner, which I intend to become as I have no intention of returning the test rifle to Remington, I wouldn't bother to replace the pad. It is certainly better than no recoil pad at all.
If, someday, you tire of the laminated hardwood stock, you can order an Accurate Innovations Supreme AAA grade claro walnut replacement stock. Then your 798 will be the equal of a Kimber 84M/8400 Super America, Sako 75 Deluxe, or most custom rifles. Just don't tell your friends what you paid for it.
Any good hunting rifle deserves a good scope, and a quick call to Leupold's Pat Mundy resulted in the prompt arrival of a new, matte black, VX-I 2-7x33mm variable power scope for the 798. (For a complete review of this riflescope, see the Product Review Page.) I like a 2-7x scope on a .30-06 rifle as it provides a very wide field of view at 2 power and all the magnification necessary for the longest shot feasible within the maximum point blank range (+/- 3") of any .30-06 hunting load. And, being smaller and lighter than the usual 3-9x40mm scope, it has a less deleterious effect on the rifle's balance and handling.
The Leupold VX-I line has been considerably improved since we last reviewed an example. They are now fully multi-coated, boast improved "micro-friction" windage and elevation adjustments calibrated in 1/4 MOA increments, and are available with the standard Leupold Duplex, wide Duplex, or LR Duplex (ballistic aiming system) reticles. Our VX-I was supplied with the standard Duplex reticle, still the best all-around scope reticle in the business.
To mount this fine scope I used a standard Leupold one-piece base ("FN Mauser" is the base you need) and medium height Leupold rings. (I found that low rings allow plenty of scope clearance, but not quite enough bolt clearance.) Scope mounting was straightforward and no problems were encountered. The Leupold Std. base incorporates windage adjustment, a welcome convenience when bore sighting a rifle.
Shooting the Model 798
Okay, the Remington Model 798 is a classy barreled action in a basically attractive and functional laminated stock. It looks good and it works fine. But how does it shoot?
To answer that question required a trip to the Izaak Walton range south of Eugene, Oregon, where we customarily do our gun testing. This outdoor facility offers covered bench rests and target stands at 25, 50, 100, and 200 yards.
For testing we amassed several types of factory loaded ammunition. These included Remington Managed Recoil ammo using a 125 grain Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point (PSP) bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2660 fps, Remington Express with a 150 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet at a MV of 2910 fps, Remington Express with a 180 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet at a MV of 2700 fps, Winchester Super-X with a 180 grain Power Point bullet at a MV of 2700 fps, and Winchester Super-X with a 180 grain Silvertip bullet at a MV of 2700 fps. These are basically standard loads, at typical .30-06 velocities. This ammunition was purchased over the counter at local Bi-Mart and Wal-Mart discount department stores.
Guns and Shooting Online regulars Rocky Hays, Bob Fleck, and Nathan Rauzon assisted me with the shooting chores. We used Hoppe's Crosshair sighting-in targets at 100 yards for shooting the groups recorded in this article. The shooting was done from a Caldwell Lead Sled weighted with two 25 pound bags of lead shot. This provides a steady rest and greatly attenuates recoil. For record we fired 3-shot groups, letting the barrel cool down between shots. The ambient temperature was in the low 90's F, which retarded barrel cooling, so we were forced to wipe down the barrel with a wet face cloth to hasten the cooling process.
Here are the shooting results:
This rifle, fittingly, seems to prefer the Remington Express 180 grain Core-Lokt PSP factory load, and shot its best groups with it, although it was surprisingly consistent with all but the Managed Recoil load. (Other rifles have shot that load very well, but this one did not like it.) It averaged between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 inch groups with all of the full power loads.
The 180 grain Core-Lokt bullet is one of the deadliest and most versatile bullets around, regardless of price or hype. It is suitable for game ranging in size from small deer to giant Alaskan moose, and I would not hesitate to use it for both of those and everything in between.
Feeding and functioning were perfect throughout. There were no malfunctions of any kind. The action is a little bit rough in operation compared to my Husqvarna Mauser 98 action. It could profit from some judicious hand polishing, but if you use one of these rifles as much as I think that you will want to, the slight roughness will be smoothed away naturally.
We all enjoyed shooting the Remington 798. The rifle and scope are a good match. Everyone except Rocky found the trigger easy to control despite its excessive creep, and he still managed to out shoot the rest of us. The Leupold scope also performed as it should. Together the 798 and the VX-I make a deadly combination, handsome, reliable, reasonable in price and consistent in performance.
Summary and Conclusion
The Remington Model 798 is the kind of versatile rifle that would be right at home in a local deer camp for a weekend, or on a deluxe 30 day African safari. Experienced hunters around the world will respect its capabilities and no one who knows anything about rifles will disparage it. It's not the fanciest rifle that Remington builds, but it's no plain Jane, either. It's built to provide reliable service for a very long time. It would be a good choice, in appropriate calibers, for hunting even the largest and most dangerous game.
Anyone looking for a medium priced centerfire hunting rifle owes it to himself or herself to check-out the Remington Model 798. For only $40 dollars more than Remington's base Model 700 SPS, which is supplied with a matte (unpolished) metal finish and cheap injection molded synthetic stock, the Model 798 offers a deluxe, polished blue barreled action worthy of a custom rifle in a handsome, far stiffer and tougher, laminated hardwood stock. I mean, there is just no comparison between those two hunting rifles. In today's market the 798 is a real bargain.
Ultimately, that may create an internal marketing problem for Remington. But for now, as a consumer, the decision is simple: buy the Model 798. And I'm taking my own advice; I'm not letting this test rifle get away!
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2006, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.