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An SPS 7mm Rem Mag for long range mountain hunting

21 Feb 2012
@ 06:13 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Taken from email query......

Hi Nathan,

Firstly, I trust that you are on the mend.

Great website. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your various articles.
I've been hunting/shooting for 20 years now, and have heard so much BS for so long that I tend to have very little tolerance for people who have a lot to say, but who know very little about their subject.
It is refreshing to read your perspectives on cartridges and projectiles. I identify very strongly with them.

I'm thinking of getting myself a new long range rifle, primarily for south island hunting. The caliber will be 7mm Rem Mag, and I plan to use 150gr Nosler Partitions (hand loads) as it's standard diet.

Due to the fact that I'm not made of money, wisdom is required in selecting the correct platform. Firstly it must shoot well, and secondly it must give me many years of good service in the harshest conditions (for some reason I'm attracted to the mountains, and inevitable have to manage the wet and the cold).

I'm thinking of the Remington M700 XCR II, but was wondering if you would be able to tell me:
A) Do you think that this is a good platform for my needs, and
B) If you think that this is platform is likely to be accurate out of the box (obviously after some load development), and
C) Whether you would say that this platform is likely to benefit from your accurizing services?

I will be mounting a Burris Laserscope on the rifle (as I already own it, and it's the best scope that I have right now)
Kind regards


21 Feb 2012
@ 06:24 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: An SPS 7mm Rem Mag for long range mountain hunting
Hi Erich, thanks for your kind comments, I am slowly coming right.

The difference between the XCR II and standard SPS is essentially a paint job. Apart from the coating, the barrels and actions are the same, the stocks are the same SPS stock except for the soft rubber panels.

Personally, I prefer to steer clear of painted metal work as it can come to grief during bedding or rebarreling operations at which point, the entire finish needs to be removed. This is why I prefer the British army method of coating a rifle using Elastoplast tape and enamel paint. Nevertheless, on stainless, such coatings are not really necessary, I prefer to reserve tape and paint coatings for black steel rifles. A coating of hand rubbed axle grease once every few months will do the trick. I use a great deal of axle grease on client rifles, this sets the rifle up to be used in inclement weather.

So, looking at the M700 SPS of 2011/2012, the rifle is best described as an outstanding platform yet suffering extremely poor quality control over the last two years. Quality control is not just an issue at the Remington plant though, it’s a problem everywhere, shoddy burred bores from both low end and high end manufacturers, I have a high end unit here that has been grouping 12” at 100 yards, saved only by a heavy dose of fire lapping. Tikka are in my experience, on fire at the moment, note- I did not say Berretta or Sako, I said Tikka. One of the most important factors I have learned throughout all of this research is that its all about people. You can have the best rifle design in the world but if you have a corporate devil thrashing a whip, poor management or simply a poor work culture, all of that CNC machine investment equals exactly nothing. People, who would have thought?

It is surprising how corporates still try to tell me over the phone that “all of our rifles are accurate" and we never make mistakes”. Readers must understand, this is a lie, humans make mistakes- period. It’s the ones who won’t admit to making mistakes, they are the ones to steer clear of, shutting the doors to any and all truth. Its all about them, the customer is always wrong. For those who think that CNC machining removes all error, remember, someone has to check the tool heads, tools chip within a daily production run, lazy staff neglect to clear swarth mixed with Rocol, there is a lot of room for errors within CNC machining- again, its all about people, ethics and attitudes.

The one problem with the Tikka design is that the mag box is too short for an optimum accuracy long range rifle in 7mm rem mag. The mag box is approximately 85.5mm long. You will want at least 87mm to play with unless you want to single feed pet loads. Some Tikka Magnums are extremely accurate, some have to be single fed, it’s a luck of the draw thing. One other thing to consider though, is that if you intend to shoot to a more limited range, such as 600 yards, you will most likely be able to find an adequate load for the T3 that works through the magazine. The accuracy limitations I speak of are more regarding the goal of a true long range rifle (out to and beyond 1000 yards).

Apart from this, its back to the M700 with its impressive ‘build-me-a-7mm-Practical’ 94mm magazine. The M700 action is a keeper, it is the heart of the platform. It may need blue printing one day but again, it is your platform.

The SPS Magnum has a 26” barrel, the XCR II has a 24” barrel, the laminate mountain rifle has a 23” barrel. My concern is that the crowns are no longer cut conventionally but instead, cut with a piloted tool. If the pilot has swarth on it, its goodbye muzzle. This happens roughly 50% of the time (2011 and 2012). Fire-lapping can remedy this (but not on a fully burred bore as pictured at the bottom of the page)- my success rate has been 50% with fire lapping swarth scratched bores. Otherwise, the barrel needs to be cut back and recrowned. If you start with a 24” barrel and discover the dreaded swarth damaged muzzle, the rifle will need to be docked back to 23”. Throat burrs and land burrs are also not uncommon, though fire lapping seems to work very well on the current SPS barrels in this regard. You are probably reading this in horror but honestly, these problems are occurring across the brands so take a breath, keep reading, stick with me here.

The stock of the SPS / XCRII is very slim. It can be strengthened to minimise flexing with ease. The main concern is forend control, the smaller the forend, the harder it is to grip and control under recoil. Felt recoil of the SPS 7mmRM is moderate but the effects on accuracy are measurable. Epoxy bedding the rifle is pretty much imperative. If you get one that shoots well out of the box you are very lucky (it does happen from time to time).

Free recoiling an SPS in 7mm Rem Mag with full power loads is not just counter productive, its down right silly. The SPS is a light rifle, the forend needs to be controlled with a firm hand if it is to be accurate. Bipods and the SPS magnums do not work, the SPS rifle is too light, the bipod making the rifle jump. This has nothing to do with stock flexing, as I have said, the entire stock can be made rock hard with our bedding and stablizer compounds. You will have to decide whether you are normally good at controlling magnum recoil, if in doubt, fit something like a Boyds Classic laminated stock- a sporter stock which features a beaver tail forend. Some folk do prefer the slim mountain profile of the SPS, this requires careful consideration.

The Mark X trigger is a problem. Some can be adjusted to suit long range work, some become dangerous at these low settings. The Maine Police department have just had a row with Remington over this in the P model rifles. Unlike the M24 Sniper rifle (M700 Sniper rifle), the Model P (M700 Police) does not have an aftermarket trigger. Again, my stats show that only 50% of the Mark X triggers cut the mustard and come up very well, I am having to scrap the other 50% for parts. In NZ, a Timney trigger can be obtained from Reloaders Supplies, it’s a nice fat trigger, grooved, can be set down at 1.5lb which is about perfect for long range hunting.

The M700 rifle is a modular design in many regards, the availability of parts and mods are endless- unlike many other brands. With some of the more exclusive brands, a simple replacement part can cost 1000% more than the cost of production, quite disgusting.

As I wrote in the last NZ outdoor magazine article, barrels come and go, they are consumables whether they are flawed from the get go or simply wear out, stocks can be the same depending on taste, but the action is the heart of the platform. You’ll want a brand that is easy on the smith when it comes time to re-barrel, no hidden surprises, no galling threads.

Your chances of a good M700 barrel in 7mm Rem Mag are roughly 50/50. Firelapping and re-crowning can save a barrel that is otherwise a bin job. In fact these two operations can change groups from 3 MOA to .3MOA.
Lower inertia M700’s seem to suffer less from bore flaws. For example, all of the M700 .308’s I have tricked up over the years have shot in the .3’s. It is so much like vehicles, race cars need better tires than town cars.

Would I buy a Remington knowing all of this- yes! An SPS rifle is worth around $1200-$1500 NZ, about the same cost as importing a custom rifle action on its own without the 12 month wait and paper work difficulties. Consider the barrel and stock as freebees.

In recent years, I have warmed to the T3 (regarding new rifles) but I am always mindful of the magazine length, great in short action calibers and a few of the longer ones such as the .25-06 and .30-06 (but not the .270 and .280). However many folk find favor with the whole line. The laminate stocked Tikka’s are very nice as well. In the last year, I have only seen two T3’s with flawed bores. That’s pretty good stats. One of my major concerns regarding the T3 is recoil. These rifles do tend to recoil a lot due to their light weight. It is the type of recoil that can ruin accuracy (due to less than optimal shooting technique) and cause suffering to animals. In this regard, I wish Tikka would go back to medium weight rifles, though the Laminate Tikka is a compromise. Regardless, Tikka do an outstanding job in spite of the Corporate which currently owns the brand.

As to your other questions, yes, I will be able to work on your rifle in the longer term. As you can see, there is quite a bit involved, both in actual bedding work as well as observation and problem solving, followed by load work etc.

The Burris scope will serve you well in the interim but you will eventually learn to out shoot the scope’s range limitations. You will need to weigh this up, it can sometimes be more productive to sell while the scope is in new condition, rather than down the track. On the other hand, you may want a range limit.

The 150 grain Partition is a good bullet but I would like to suggest the 160 grain Partition as a start point, just to push the BC up a bit. Start your load work with a cheaper bullet like the 162gr Interlock, then move to the Partition once the bore is run in and the basic pressure work completed. The 160 grain Partition is outstanding, ideal for your chosen game (90-180kg / 200-400lb). I am glad to hear you are wanting to utilize the Partition, it’s a bit of a ‘forgotten’ bullet these days.

A while ago I helped a hunter from London set up his 7mm Rem Mag for African Antelope, using the 160 grain Partition. The results were emphatic, all one shot fast kills on all body weights from the lightest of species up to Blue Wildebeest and greater Kudu. Fast expanding, violent, deep penetration, these are the hallmarks of the 7mm 160 grain Partition when it is matched to appropriate game weights.

Tape and paint, British sniper method, a fully water proof, extremely tough form of preservation....

A tricked up SPS 7mmRM with Sightron 6.5-20x50 scope....

Bedding and stabilizing of the SPS 7mmRM...

Client showing excellent form, photo taken under full recoil....

The below SPS came to me after it was threaded for a brake by another smithing business. If you look into the bore, you will see the circular burrs which occured during the crowning operation prior to the muzzle brake work. It pays to check these things before investing in brakes, cutting threads etc...

21 Feb 2012
@ 11:06 pm (GMT)

trevor savage

Re: An SPS 7mm Rem Mag for long range mountain hunting
interesting. good read, thanks
22 Feb 2012
@ 05:44 pm (GMT)

Erich Kuba

Re: An SPS 7mm Rem Mag for long range mountain hunting
Hi Nathan,

Thanks for the considerable amount of time that you put in your reply. It was certainly a good read, and the more I research Remington rifles, the more it seams that it's a bit hit and miss these days.

I love the idea of the Tikka from a weight perspective (Yes, I am one of those buggers that weighs his spoon and cuts his toothbrush in half to save weight), but the downside of a light rifle is recoil. I have never owned a magnum before, and so recoil is a concern. In addition, the COAL limitations are also not ideal from an accuracy perspective. As a rule of thumb, I start 20 thous off the lands and this has served me well over the years. If the clip is going to prevent that, then thats probably not ideal at all.

I suppose the question is where would you go from here?

I'm not in the market for a custom job right now, and really want a good accurate hunting rifle out of the box, which has the ability to be accurized / modified in time ....

Would I be better off looking at other brands?

Thanks for your help

22 Feb 2012
@ 05:46 pm (GMT)

Erich Kuba

Re: An SPS 7mm Rem Mag for long range mountain hunting
I should also mention that at this stage, my version of long range is 350-500m at the most .... But as you said, that may change in time ....
23 Feb 2012
@ 02:05 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: An SPS 7mm Rem Mag for long range mountain hunting
Ok, lets have a think about things, then discuss options.

The first thing I want to address is costing. You are on a budget, most of us are. It took me two years to get the Practical together. But lets have a think about this for just a moment. If you go online and look at a machine shop specialising in making optimum tolerance rifle actions, you will see the prices are up around $1200 U.S. To land that action here would push the price up to around $1800 minimum. The Borden Rimrock is a good example, I was working with one a couple of months ago, it was made to perfection. If an ultra match barrel is fitted to this, the cost is around $600 U.S. In NZ, the cost is greater due to the costs of obtaining stock and fright with prices ranging between $700 and $1200 for a fitted ultra match barrel. A good stock can be had from Boyds for $99 U.S or if you want a glass stock or custom stock, prices start at $600.

So far we have clocked $2600 NZ for a non ultra match barrel and and Boyds stock to build a basic rifle with some degree of accuracy. If we fit an ultra match for hopefully guaranteed accuracy, the cost is now $3100 NZ. If we use a glass stock, the cost is now $3600 NZ. The rifle still needs bedding, mounts and a scope. These prices reflect one major component- labour. The more labour required, the greater the cost. Companies like Borden still use CNC machining, but the labour content is still high. If we took a basic Rem M700 rifle action as our donor, it will still need blue printing to get the very best out of it, again reflective of labour. No matter which way we go, to build a no frills tack driver, we are looking at $2600-3600. Remingtons most accurate out of the box sporter is the Sendero at $2700 NZ. The Remington M24 sniper rifle which is a further step up in quality, is worth around $10k NZ if memory serves.

In contrast to the above, hunters tend to be able to manage putting aside around $1200 NZ for a rifle. Rifle manufacturers have for many years, tried to cater to this price range, using advanced manufacturing skills. But please be aware, what you/we are wanting these people to deliver, is an accurate rifle at under half of the price- of what we should really be paying. It most definitely seems to be a gun industry thing. Smiths everywhere tend to undercharge. I have, more than a few times, spent 40 hours on a $440 accuracy job. If you remove the cost of consumables, my hourly rate on such jobs is $9 per hour or less.

To this end, when a design like the Tikka T3 comes along, producing half inch groups for $1200 or so, it has to be regarded as an immense feat. It is perhaps the only budget production rifle capable of this level of out of the box accuracy, consistently from rifle to rifle with a failure rate (accuracy) of, based on my stats, about 2%. So for you, the T3 is most likely the best option.

Now, on to your questions. There are a couple of options regarding calibers.

You could try the T3 7mm Remington Magnum. There is a possibility that the short ogive of the Partition will suit the throat length of your rifle and get you to 10 thou / .2mm. You may have a problem with longer bullets like the A-Max but you will just have to experiment with this. To be honest, sometimes its just as productive, if the rifle is inaccurate with say a 2mm jump, to go back further to for example, a 4mm jump. I forget this myself at times (get stuck in my ways of chasing small jumps in the magnums when the .308's all have a good 4mm jump). Change the jump, change the timing (when the bullet leaves the muzzle / whip). So sometimes, if the magazine is a problem, we can go the other way- if we are willing to experiment.

Another option for you is the .30-06. Seems a bit old hat to many people but its a good cartridge, it does exceptionally well at intermediate long ranges (around 600-700 yards) and does just as well at true long ranges in experienced hands. The T3 loaded to 2700fps (22" barrel) with the 178 grain A-Max will cover most of your hunting, the SST if you want a slightly tougher bullet. Trajectory isn't everything, although the sevens are flat shooters, the heavy bullets in the .30's are ideal for Red deer and Thar, something to always keep in mind. At the ranges you want to shoot to, the .308 is adequate, the .30-06 is dynamite.

Unfortunately, Tikka do not make a 7mm WSM.

Recoil of the T3 is a problem from the perspective of accuracy but not so much felt recoil (unless the scope has short eye relief and causes a flinch). The T3 does not bruise the shoulder. What is required, is good technique. All of these kinks can be worked out at 100 yards. You can work out what works versus what doesn't work. Note how changes in method and changes in forend control and sling tension change group sizes along with the POI. The Laminate T3 is a little better in this regard. But you have to be realistic, you are wanting a light rifle, if you really want a light rifle, all that you need do is make the decision that you are going to commit to learning how to shoot a high powered light rifle.

Problems really only occur when the shooter decides to treat the rifle as they would treat the .243 they were shooting before. Your mind set is all that counts. Developing good shooting technique with the 7mm RM or .30-06 T3 platforms will make you a crack shot with any other rifle you handle.

Suppressors are now common in NZ as a means of reducing recoil and they perform this task admirably. That said, suppressors have limitations, its subject few people seem willing to talk about or admit to. The main concern is that suppressors trap heat, especially effecting boot lace barreled rifles like the T3. If a suppressed T3 is shot in fast strings, such as 3 shots in 40 seconds, or 5-6 shots 3 minutes, the barrel will heat up, the bore dimensions become reduced, pressures rise, velocities rise by on average 100fps, causing huge dispersion at long ranges. In the heat of summer, the heat from 12 shots fired slowly at 100 yards, can/do lift pressures to the point of blowing primer pockets and locking up the action. Suppressors also cause carbon condensation at the chamber end of the rifle. Often after a short shooting session, chamber dimensions are reduced, necks become tight and again pressures rise exponentially.

An appropriate mind set is the key to success with suppressors along with knowledge. If the suppressor is regarded as a specialized tool, it can be used with great success because the shooter will pay greater attention to barrel heat and cleaning routines. I am not a fan of the current trend in NZ where suppressors are slapped on a rifle and treated as normal firearms additions- 'she'll be right' isn't good enough at 90-120,000psi. Yet with just a little bit of care, the suppressor is a great tool. One of our forum members is currently assembling a suppressed T3 in 7mm Rem Mag, the barrel cut back to 21", goal velocity 2900fps with 150-162 grain bullets. He already has the right mind set because he has done his research, he knows what he wants (identify goals clearly), what to expect, he understands the limitations of the platform. The rifle will be his Ruahine rifle, a rifle to be carried up those steep slopes. Its not a goat rifle, he has a .223 and a .308 for that, its not his long range heavy rifle, he has a 7mm Practical for that. The 7mm RM will be his climbing rifle, packing in to base camp, on the trot for three days at a time, just as you are describing.

As for all up weight savings. I know what you mean. One of my major limitations was always the wool Swanni (for U.S readers, the swanni was a traditional NZ outdoor garment, similar to a wool trench coat / officers coat of WWII). Along with this I carried a poncho. Both garments were bulky and weighed several KG. My pack weight was always 18kg (40lb) plus a 10.5lb rifle. Going over the Umekerikeri range with this weight was a killer. These days, I have been able to save weight thanks to gortex. A simple gortex (in my case sympatex) jacket has replaced the Swanni and poncho.


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