The Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader
The Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader was formally announced by a Remington press release dated April 23, 2014, right before its introduction at the NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits of April 25-27, in Indianapolis. The rifle itself isn't cutting edge, for it is essentially a re-release of the over-hyped and overpriced Ultimate Firearms, Inc. BP Xpress muzzleloader that has been in production since 2001.
The BP Xpress starts at $2500 in its cheapest configuration, going up to a comedic $4450 for the Carbon Stealth Model, richly deserving of the "BS Xpress" title some have bestowed upon it. The Remington 700 Ultimate, by comparison, is a tremendous bargain at its 2014 price of less than $1000.
The Remington Ultimate comes in two versions, a synthetic Bell & Carlson stocked version with no iron sights and the model I'm testing, a grey laminated edition that has a front ramp sight and a peep rear sight installed. The idea (apparently) is that those who hunt Utah or Colorado will opt for the laminated / iron sight edition, as scopes are not allowed there, and most others will go for the synthetic version.
For the so-called Western States legal hunting requirement of Idaho, Oregon and Washington that mandates an ignition system "open to the elements," this rifle will not qualify. Further, as the Remington Ultimate has locking lugs on the bolt, you won't be able to buy this rifle mail-order direct, as it is a Form 4473 rifle that must be shipped to an FFL.
Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader Laminate Features and Specifications
Remington has previously offered muzzleloaders, most notably the 700ML that was on the market for something like eight years. I reviewed a pair of 700MLs eleven years ago. That review stated, in part:
"The Remington .50 caliber muzzleloader was one of the first inline bolt-action muzzleloaders on the scene. These rifles are built on the Model 700 short action. The receivers are drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
The 700ML features a matte black synthetic stock, a carbon steel action and 24 inch barrel with a satin-blue finish and a 1 in 28 inch rate of twist. The 700ML weighs approximately 7-3/4 pounds and is 42.5 inches in overall length. The instruction manual states that the maximum charge should be held to 120 grains of black powder or Pyrodex in .50 caliber rifles and 90 grains in .45 caliber rifles.
The 700 MLS Magnum model is similar, but features a satin finished stainless steel barreled action with a 26 inch barrel and a fiberglass reinforced synthetic stock. The MLS is 44.5 inches long and weighs about 7-7/8 pounds. According to the Remington Catalog 2003, the 700 MLS earns its magnum nomenclature by being rated for up to 150 grain charges of either black powder or Pyrodex.
Remington has had some eight years to perfect what is currently the most popular muzzleloading action. They had gold in their hands and they had it first. The notion behind bolt-action muzzleloaders was the faster lock-time afforded by the bolt/hammer versus the plunger type action and the familiarity offered to those migrating to black powder from centerfire rifles, building upon the success of the popular Remington Model 700 cartridge rifles.
Unfortunately, the 700 ML / MLS rifles have some serious flaws. As supplied, the trigger varies from over six pounds to in well in excess of 7 pounds, as measured by my trigger pull gauge.
The buttstock is hollow, which helps to explain the rifle's muzzle heavy feel. The ramrod is poorly designed and painful to use. Worse yet, the barrel can easily be lifted away from the flimsy plastic forearm, no matter how tightly the lug screws are tightened. The hex-head bolt stop screw on the tested model is fussy. Finger-tight, the bolt falls right out. Tightened firmly with the supplied wrench, the bolt is locked in place and does not move at all.
The instruction manual suggests that you stick a coin in a vise to disassemble the bolt. A coin, and a vise to hold the coin, is not included in the supplied tools. These Remington muzzleloading rifles are the only ones I have seen that do not come with all tools necessary for disassembly. The front trigger guard screw is a very small hex-head, much smaller than the other two 5/32" Allen head stock screws. To remove the barreled action for a though cleaning you will have to hunt for a wrench, as well as your vise.
The 3-way ignition (#11 caps, musket caps and 209 primers) breech plug comes with a 209 shotshell primer nipple installed. Unfortunately, the blow back with 209 primers is fierce, the worst I have encountered. This is due to large vents that surround the primer. Additionally, the 209 primers stick in the 700ML after virtually every shot. Included with your new Remington is a green handled primer pick, so you can pry out the spent primers.
The supplied weather shroud is a tube that fits over the end of the bolt, then ensconces the primer nipple. Currently, the Remington WebSite states: 'The Model 700 ML Weather Shroud is not intended for use with 209 primers.' This information has not yet filtered into the instruction manual, but it is good advice. Firing the rifle with the weather shroud in place directs most to the gas right into your face. If you must shoot a Remington 700ML / MLS with the weather shroud in place, #11 cap ignition is the least painful option.
A 700MLS was test fired for this article. With the feel of flaming sand impregnating itself into my face, this gun truly is a pain to shoot. It kicks like a mule, is decidedly muzzle heavy and the barreled action is poorly fitted to the molded stock."
This is where we have previously been with the "take a short bolt action and turn it into a muzzleloader" method of development. Remington was in the market longer than others, though. For example, the Ruger 77/50 originally shipped with a #11 cap nippled breech plug and eventually a musket cap breech plug was made available, but the Ruger was discontinued before it made it to 209 primer ignition. These models became undesirable when the Thompson Omega and the Savage 10ML appeared around 2000-2001, as all the scope-burning filth that no one liked was abandoned in favor of sealed action models.
However, times have changed. Savage has abandoned their smokeless 10ML-II and Thompson (now owned by S&W) has largely abandoned their black powder line, discontinuing all of their side-locks and also the Omega that was once a red-hot seller and still is a very good muzzleloader. Knight Rifles, once the industry leader, more or less self-destructed by deciding to introduce some really poorly designed, ugly muzzleloaders, like the Knight Revolution that my late friend Tony Knight had absolutely nothing to do with.
Remington committed their own muzzleloading crime, briefly re-entering the muzzleloading market with the junky Genesis, a Spanish Bic-lighter quality front-loader made by Ardesa of Spain, imported by Traditions and stuffed into a Remington box. Those dark days are over and I am glad for that. I am much more optimistic about the Remington 700 Ultimate.
I chose to review the laminated 700 Ultimate, because it is an extremely good-looking rifle. My only niggle about the laminated version is the stock is not checkered, so it is a bit slippery to handle in cold, snowy, or wet hunting conditions.
The test gun was shipped in an unnecessarily large plastic hard case. UPS ripped open a side of the outer cardboard box, although fortunately neither the case or the rifle were damaged in shipment.
Saboted bullets and primed brass were just thrown into the box in their own packaging. It would have better if there were dedicated compartments in the case for them, including a couple of plastic boxes along the lines of choke tube cases, to keep these components organized.
The supplied Owners Manual is lackluster, filled with typos, spelling mistakes (PRYODEX) and provides no specific load information. An instructional DVD would be helpful.
Out of the box, the test gun weighs 8 pounds 12.5 ounces via calibrated electronic measure. The trigger breaks at a rather heavy five pounds, but is adjustable. However, the trigger is a superb one, with no take-up and a very crisp break. The wide trigger face makes this five pound trigger seem lighter than it really is.
My initial impressions, overall, are quite positive. The 700 Ultimate is priced right. It looks to be an outstanding long range muzzleloader with enough mass to make it practical to shoot with higher intensity loads.
For this review, I removed the rear peep sight and installed a Warne M676M one-piece rail. I used Warne Maxima medium height, quick release 30mm rings to mount a Hawke Endurance 30 2.5-10x50mm scope with an illuminated LR Dot ballistic reticle. That brought the weight of the entire rig up to 10-3/4 pounds. With the loads this rifle of capable of using, some will wish it was 20 pounds.
For Blackhorn 209, 100 grains by volumetric black powder measure equates to about 70 grains in actual weight. The maximum allowable published charge for Blackhorn 209 is 120 volumetric grains, or approximately 84 grains by weight. This basic data has not changed since 2010.
Of course, the notion of a maximum propellant charge, by itself, makes no sense. Projectile mass has everything to do with a reasonable powder charge, not to mention tolerable levels of recoil.
Popular .50 caliber muzzleloading projectiles, meaning .45 caliber bullets dressed in .50 caliber sabots, most often fall into the 250 to 300 grain weight range. This isn't heavy bullet weight by most standards, considering the classic .45-70 Government load was a 405 grain bullet at 1305 fps.
Working-up loads with Blackhorn is easy, for you just start at 90 grains by volume and stop when accuracy, or your shoulder, begins to erode. In times past, 110 grains by volume of Blackhorn 209 pushing a 300 grain projectile has been a good combination in terms of consistency, velocity and accuracy. It is also sufficiently pleasant to shoot off of a bag and cradle from a bench rest.
While I had no intention of breaking my shoulder, I wanted to explore higher performance levels with the Remington Ultimate, rather than stopping at Blackhorn published loads. I decided to do the initial range work with 100 grains of Blackhorn 209 by actual weight, meaning in the area of 143 grains by volume.
Volumetric powder measures vary all over the place, as do personal methods for using them, so at least 100 grains by actual weight means the same thing to everyone. As this testing date (late July) means higher than typical hunting temperatures, I wanted usable results, rather than just making smoke.
As far as I'm concerned, a good hunting load cannot cause sabot stress and resultant poor accuracy at 95 degree temperatures out of a cold barrel, nor can it be prone to misfires or low velocities at below zero ambient temperatures. The fastest thing out of the muzzle, regardless of firearm, has never been the best load for me. This has been true, without exception, with .22 rimfires, shotguns, centerfire rifles and muzzleloaders. I am not averse to peppier loads, it is simply a matter of being unwilling to accept poor accuracy, reliability, or unacceptable levels of recoil for the sake of muzzle velocity.
It also does not make any sense to burn a lot of propellant to get a bullet with a low ballistic coefficient out of the muzzle at high velocity, only to suffer dramatic velocity loss by the time it reaches the target. Terminal velocity is the only velocity that matters. I also do not want more wind drift or drop than necessary. That means staying away from gaping hollow points and bore-sized bullets like Powerbelts, two really poor choices for long range muzzleloading applications.
Next, it is off to the range with a bag full of sabots and a wide variety of projectiles, to see what kind of accuracy can be achieved by this rifle out of the box. The shooting results follow in Part Three.
Fifty 100 grain charges of Blackhorn 209, by weight not volume, were carefully dispensed by an RCBS Chargemaster 1500, then bagged and tagged. Ambient conditions at the rifle range were about 80 degrees F, slightly on the cool side for late July in northern Illinois.
A target was set up at 25 yards to get the coarse scope adjustments out of the way. The first shot, using a Parker 300 grain Ballistic Extreme bullet pushed by 100 grains (weight) of Blackhorn 209 was on the paper. The subsequent shot was in the bull.
Fresh targets were set up at 100 yards. The first three shots produced a one inch, three shot group, which was quite satisfying. Burning this much powder means barrel heating and resultant sabot weakening is a serious issue, a potential problem that would not be a consideration in one shot hunting conditions or at typical hunting temperatures. The barrel of the Remington 700 Ultimate gets hot quickly, so barrel cooling is mandatory for best accuracy.
Aluminum cooling rods work well, but I didn't bother with one in this inaugural outing. I tried as many combinations as daylight would allow, all using 100 grains by weight of Blackhorn 209. Yet, as you can imagine, I barely scratched the surface of the countless combinations possible.
The Barnes Spitfire T-EZ 250 grain Flat Base bullet in the green Remington/Barnes sabot, has a Maximum Point Blank Range of 211 yards, assuming a six inch kill zone. The Remington 250 grain Premier Accu-Tip, actually a Barnes T-EZ 250 Expander in a stiffer durometer proprietary MMP sabot designed for this rifle and higher intensity propellant charges, also performed superbly, shooting sub-MOA at 100 yards. Muzzle velocity is in the area of 2350 fps.
The Remington 700 Ultimate did very well, producing two extremely consistent sub-MOA loads that I'd happily hunt with tomorrow, with a bare minimum of load development and hassle. The 100 grains by weight (or 143 grains by volume) Blackhorn 209 charge was just an educated guess.
The recoil from a bench rest with 300 grain projectiles is stout, but manageable. The recoil with 250 grain saboted projectiles is considerably less.
The tested Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader is a superb shooter out of the box, with no suspicion of hang-fires or anything less than instant ignition with Blackhorn 209. The breeching system works like a charm and is easily the handiest, easiest to use, cleanest breeching array of any affordable muzzleloader on the market today.
In times past, the Knight Rifles accuracy guarantee was 2-1/2 inches at 100 yards. Savage Arms promised 1-1/2 inch, three shot 100 yard accuracy and T/C has never promised any standard of accuracy at all. This Remington Ultimate is a one inch gun right out of the box, with extremely high-performance velocities of over 2350 fps. What is not to like?
With an excellent, zero take-up, zero creep trigger, dashing good looks and perfect reliability, the new Remington 700 Ultimate muzzleloader is the most appealing standard production long-range muzzleloader on the market. For shorter range applications or when doing a lot of walking and climbing, its 8-3/4 pound weight (sans scope and mounts) might direct you to the substantially lighter LHR Redemption (7-1/4 pounds in walnut with a 24 inch barrel).
However, as the Remington 700 Ultimate is made for high-intensity loads, its weight is no different from several prior muzzleloaders. For example, the discontinued Savage 10ML-II with a laminated stock is a nine pound gun. When firing high-horsepower, long-range loads, the substantial weight of the Remington Ultimate is highly desirable.
The Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader eliminates the filthiness of 209 primers, regular breech plug removal, drilling carbon out of breech plugs and poor ignition due to long interrupted thread breech plugs. Ditto the various and sundry hassles of stuck primers, fouled or crispy scopes and external blowback.
The only maintenance needed after shooting with Blackhorn 209 is a couple of Hoppe's No. 9 soaked patches up and down the barrel. The Remington Ultimate fires like a real rifle, without the slow lock time of hinge-pin hammer guns (the break action genre).
For those who know a great product when they see it, the 2014 $999 MSRP of this Remington 700 Ultimate makes it not just an outstanding muzzleloader, but an excellent value, as well. This is the muzzleloader that everyone has wanted and now it is finally here. I am thrilled with the Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader.
Copyright 2014, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.