This Rifle/Scope Combo
Will Max Out The .243 Win.
The first rifle in .243 Winchester I ever purchased—more than 40 years ago—was a secondhand Remington Model 700 BDL. It was blue steel and walnut, of course, with (a bit of nostalgia for the old-timers) the RK-W “bowling pin” finish and impressed checkering.
Several other .243s have come and (mostly) stayed, including a mint pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 Featherweight, a Winchester Model 88, a couple of custom-barreled 700s and my current favorite, a Sako Finnlight. Except for one 24-inch Shilen, the rifles have either 20- or 22-inch barrels.
I checked the websites of well-known makers looking for a rifle featuring: 1) a 24-inch sporter weight barrel, 2) stainless steel and 3) a twist faster than 1:10 inches.
I’ll be darned if the trail didn’t lead right back to the Remington 700!
The 700 SPS Stainless featured here is one I bought off the rack at a local store. The 24-inch stainless barrel and action are nicely machined with a frosted matte finish. The rifle has a recessed muzzle crown, hinged floorplate and Allen-head action screws. The bolt operation is smooth and reliable. Everything functions as it should. On a certified scale it weighs 6 pounds, 10 ounces unscoped.
Out of the box, the trigger pull weighed 3.75 pounds. With the weight of the pull adjustment screw at its lightest, it broke at 3.25 pounds. Other than being about a pound heavier than I’d prefer, trigger quality was very good—no perceptible creep, a clean break and minimal overtravel.
The synthetic stock of the Remington 700 SPS Stainless has two pressure
pads at the end of the forearm. They could be removed if you prefer a
free-floating barrel, but this rifle shot very well with the pads left in.
The first powder Dave ever used in reloading the .243 was IMR-4350 and it remains one of the best. Excellent newer offerings include W-W 760, Ramshot Hunter, H-4350 and AA 4350. For bullets under 100 grains, he prefers RL-17, while W-W Supreme 780 gave the highest velocities with heavier bullets. The 1:9.125-inch twist of the Remington 700 SPS provided excellent accuracy with bullets such as the Hornady 87-grain V-Max and 95-grain Nosler BST.
Hornady 87-grain V-Max with RL-17, just under 3,200 fps in the Remington 700 SPS Stainless, gave this group at 100 yards. Both the fine V-Max and the 95-grain Nosler BT shot consistently into 0.75 MOA with most powders tested.
The dimensions of the synthetic stock are well suited for scope use, with a 0.625-inch drop at both comb and heel, measured from the centerline of the bore. Remington provides a quality recoil pad. That may not be a big deal on a .243, but it’s a nice feature on heavier calibers.
I’ve noticed an improvement in injection-molded synthetic stocks in recent years, as manufacturers seem to be supplying more rigid stocks even in their basic packages. The SPS stock isn’t too bad, though there’s still a bit of flex in the forearm.
The tip of the forearm has two pressure pads contacting the barrel. We can debate the issue of free-floating vs. forearm pressure endlessly, though I tend to be an agnostic on the issue. The rifle will show you what it needs when you shoot it. Other than checking action screws for tightness, I shot the 700 just as it came, and it shot very well.
The barrel twist is 1:9.125-inch (I’m darned if I know why they didn’t make it an even 1:9). Accuracy with bullets no longer than about 1.15-inch was excellent. Two of my favorite bullets—Hornady’s 87-grain V-Max and Nosler’s 95-grain Ballistic Tip—both grouped five shots in 0.75 MOA or less.
I had hoped the twist was fast enough for some of the longer, ballistically efficient 105-grain bullets. Manufacturers generally recommend a 1:8-inch twist, but some shooters report good accuracy with 1:9-inch. Loaded to 3,000-plus fps, the Hornady 105-grain BTHP shot into an uninspiring 1 to 1.5 MOA. At 300 yards, groups were still around 3 inches, but with some of the bullet holes a bit on the oval side. At 600 yards, some bullets missed the 4-foot square target backing. In my rifle at least it appears to be just on the wrong side of stable enough. Oh well, it was worth a try.
The 87-grain V-Max doesn’t resist wind drift quite as well as the best 105’s, but with a ballistic coefficient of 0.400, it hangs in pretty well—especially considering it starts off about 200 fps faster. From the deck of my house I can shoot out to about 900 yards. If shooting 100-yard groups gets boring, try selecting a target from 400 to 900 yards, laser the range, dial in the correction and get a first-shot hit. Now try it on a windy day. You won’t get bored, I promise.
MODEL 700 SPS
Maker: Remington Arms Company LLC
P.O. Box 700, Madison, NC 27025
Action: Bolt action
Caliber: .243 Win (tested)
Barrel Length: 24 inches
Barrel Twist: 1:9.125-inch
Finish: Matte stainless steel
Stock: Injection molded synthetic
Length Of Pull: 13.375 inches
Length Overall: 43.625 inches
Weight (Empty): 6 pounds, 10 ounces
A Force to Be Reckoned With
Nightforce Optics has earned a reputation for quality and durability. Mostly when we think of Nightforce we think of big, powerful scopes such as the 5.5-22×50 or the 8-32×56 on dedicated competition and military rifles. But hunters shouldn’t overlook the Nightforce NXS Compact series, which offers toughness and durability in a package that’s practical for hunting rifles. Currently the line includes a 1-4×24, 2.5-10×32 and a 2.5-10×42.
Now, “compact” is a relative term. The 2.5-10×32 shown here has a 30mm main tube, is a foot long and weighs 19 ounces. By hunting scope standards it’s a bit more than full-size. But what a scope it is! Optics are crisp and sharp. Adjustments are dead on, reliable and repeatable.
What appears to be a parallax adjustment turret on the left side is actually the dial for the illuminated reticle. Recently Nightforce has introduced a new scope in the Compact series, a 2.5-10×42. I certainly wouldn’t go to the trouble of trading off my 32mm version, but given my choice of the two, I’d get the newer one, if only for its parallax adjustment capability.
With prices in the $1,400 and up range (depending on the reticle and other features), it’s a lot of scope for a hunting rifle. If you don’t plan to use turrets for long-range shooting, there are plenty of scopes costing far less that can be relied on to hold zero.
But if you want to spin turrets and get exactly the adjustment you dialed in—again and again—then the best you can buy is none too good.
By Dave Anderson
2.5-10×32 NXS COMPACT
Maker: Nightforce Optics, Inc.
336 Hazen Ln., Orofino, ID 83544
Magnification: 2.5X – 10X
Eye Relief: 3.7 inches
Objective Diameter: 32mm
Tube Diameter: 30mm
Overall Length: 12 inches
Weight: 19 ounces
Adjustment Range: 100 MOA elevation and windage
Adjustments: 1/4 MOA
Illumination: Variable intensity
Reticle: IHR (International Hunting Reticle)