Gun Review: Remington XCR Tactical Long Range (.308)


I have to admit that I’ve had a beef with Remington lately. After being totally disappointed with an 887 Nitro Mag, seeing numerous QC issues with Model 700 rifles –including an problem a fellow TTAG writer had – having an issue with a 700 myself, then seeing a brand-new 870 lock up on the first trip to the range, I had pretty much written Remington off as a once-legendary manufacturer that had fallen prey to the “throw QC out the door to save $0.06” monster. But at the same time, I love Remington. I used an 870 20-gauge pump for a decade on pheasant, grouse, and dove. Half of my safe is devoted to Model 700’s that are over two decades old. Most shoot just as well now as they did when they were new. When I turned 16, my dad gave me his fancy-grade M700 CDL chambered in .30-06. I was as proud as a peacock the first day I showed up at the range with that baby…

With those fond memories of a highly polished, deep blued barreled and fine-grade walnut stocked CDL in mind, I decided that I’d give Remington one last shot at keeping me as a customer. I’ve wanted a heavy-barreled .30-caliber rifle and when I laid eyes on the XCR Tactical Long Range (TLR), I just had to have it. I made some calls, laid up my credit card, and waited for my new rifle to arrive. It didn’t take long since Davidson’s is in Prescott, AZ – a mere 3 hour drive from my door step.

Although not a wood-stocked beauty, the TLR is attractive in its own way. The factory installed Bell & Carlson stock is olive drab with a black webbing overlay. Bell & Carlson calls this stock a “Light Tactical” model and features a full-length aluminum bedding system, an extended grip and a fairly wide forend with dual front sling studs to allow for both bipod and sling attachment. The stock also features a recessed “thumbhook” behind the pistol grip for off-the-bench shooting performance and helps “lock” the rear of the stock with shooting prone or off the bench.

Like all of Remington’s Extreme Conditions Rifles (XCR), the TLR is made of 416 stainless steel. To further enhance the corrosion resistance of the action and barrel, Remington applies their TriNyte finish, a PVD (physical vapor deposition) process that hardens and smoothes the surface.  The heavy-contoured 26” fluted barrel is sharp and certainly looks the “tactical” part. It’s free-floated and has three deep flutes (120 degree apart) like Remington’s Light Tactical Rifle (LTR) lineup.

The barrel features a 1-12” twist rate, something I was surprised to see, particularly since this rifle is billed as “tactical.” Most tactical .308 caliber rifles feature a 1-10” twist rate, designed to stabilize heavier (160-grain and up) bullets. The barrel is finished off with a dished-out target crown.

One of the biggest selling points for me was the factory installed 40-X trigger. The 40-X has been around for decades and normally is only available as an aftermarket part or from Remington’s custom shop. It’s externally adjustable and can be set down all the way to 1.5lbs for those who like to fire their gun by blowing on it. I used my new Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge and out of the box, my TLR was set to 4lbs-2oz and had a 10-pull standard deviation of 4.2oz. While the market is full of high-quality aftermarket adjustable triggers for the Remington 700, some still argue that the 40-X is the best Remington trigger available.

Not so fast…

Before I could go to the range, there were a few things that needed to be done. First, the TLR doesn’t come with any sights, not that you’d expect it to. Few people relate “open sights” with “tactical.” Anyway, I needed to pick some quality glass to match (what I hoped would be) the quality of this rifle. I toyed with the popular options: NXS, Leupold Mark IV, US Optics, and the like.

I eventually placed my order with Brownell’s for a Trijicon Accupoint 5-20x50mm (TR23-2G Model#) with a mil-dot reticle and green dot. Why the Trijicon? Well, I’ve used Trijicon scopes in the past (both the ACOG and Accupoint 3-9x) and had nothing but the best of luck with them. As a matter of fact, I plan on purchasing another one (2.5-10x) for Project Elk Slayer when funds become more plentiful (man the holidays are rough!)

Trijicon Accupoint TR23-2G installed with Badger Maximized base and rings

Some 1000-yard guys will say that the Trijicon Accupoint isn’t a true 1000-yard scope, and I’d have to agree. There’s only 40 MOA of internal adjustment, meaning that unless you install a 20 MOA base, you’ll likely run out of “clicks” before you hit that 1000-yard zero sweet spot. Currently, I’m not shooting for score, so I tend to use the hold-over method and thus internal adjustments don’t mean much to me. However, the reticle is thick enough to block fine/small targets past the 600-yard mark.

On the other hand, there are reports circulating that Trijicon sources the glass used in Accupoint scopes from the same supplier Nightforce uses on their NXS line. While not the first choice for benchrest shooters, Accupoint scopes have their following with the varmint popping and hunting crowds. The TR23-2G is a solid hunk of scope, has an illuminated aiming dot that doesn’t require batteries and a very usable mil-dot reticle – something even the snobbiest benchrest shooter can appreciate. Keep an eye out in our “Gear Review” section for a full review and write-up.

Wanting to keep with the tactical theme as much as possible, I decided that heavy-duty rings and a solid single-piece base was just the setup this gun needed. I ended up ordering a set of standard-height Badger Maximized scope rings and a Badger Maximized Scope Rail to keep the near 27 oz. Accupoint locked solidly in place. Badger makes incredibly strong products – so strong in fact that the U.S. Military uses Badger rings and trigger-guard metal on the M40A3/A5 variants.

Getting ready to install the Badger Maximized scope base and rings

The Badger scope base features a heavy steel base with a 20 MOA cant designed to maximum scope elevation for long range shooting. Like most Badger accessories, the scope base is machined after hardening to maintain dimensions. The base also features an integral recoil lug designed to withstand the hardest kicking calibers and uses a MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny slot pattern for maximum scope mounting options.

Badger rings are machined from steel barstock as serialized matched pairs. This assures that both rings are identical and eliminates the damaging effects of mismatched, mass-produced rings. If you need an extra paper weight in your home office, a Badger ring will work just fine. They’re heavy, have an attractive mil-spec black oxide finish, and are close to overkill for a .308. Perfect.

Since all of my other bipods already have homes, I decided to keep the UPS guy busy and placed my order for a new Harris HBRS model and an E. Arthur Brown S-Lever to replace the OEM knurled knob on the Harris. The Harris HBRS has 6-9” of height adjustment and features a swivel base to allow for quick and easy leveling on uneven terrain. It’s designed for benchrest shooting, but I find it very comfortable when shooting prone as well. The EAB S-lever simply screws in place of the OEM swivel adjustment knob and gives you a faster and more convenient way to tighten and secure the rifle in place.

Harris HBRS Bipod w/EAB S-Lever

At the bench…

Time to make this big lady sing. Or at least get her sighted in. I grabbed some cheap 150-grain Winchester soft-point ammo to test the action and get the scope on paper. I was also able to find a box of American Eagle 168-gr OTM (open tip match) ammo (PN: A76251M1A) designed for M1A use. I got on the paper quickly, but I was far from happy. I was only able to maintain 2-3” groups – certainly not what I was expecting from this rifle.

Then, when I opened the box of American Eagle OTM ammo the planets aligned, the tides swelled, and all was right with the world. The first five shots resulted in an impressive 0.63” grouping. Other groupings were decent, but none were as good as than the first. I packed up everything and headed home with a grin. I set the POI to be 1.3” high at 100-yards and “reset” the turrets to zero with the supplied Allen key.

First 5-shot group with American Eagle OTM 168-gr

Wanting to see if I could improve on the first grouping, I did some intertube research to find what loads have proven the best for this length barrel and twist rate. Then I went to the Brownell’s site and picked out a half-dozen loads that were known performers.  A week later, after a visit from the Big Brown Truck, I was ready to head back to the range.

I picked a few rounds of “match” grade hunting ammo, as well as a few true match-grade target rounds. Since this is a heavy barrel gun, I decided to shoot five-round groups and to use all five rounds for group size calculation. This is a slight change from my “shoot five, count four” approach, but this gun should have no problem dishing out tight five-shot groupings.

I still followed my standard testing method of allowing the barrel to completely cool between groups. I also pulled a dry Bore-snake through the barrel between groupings to make sure residual carbon didn’t impair subsequent groupings. One hour and a very sore shoulder later, I was finished with 100-yard testing. The results are as follows:

.308 Win Ammo – 100 yards

Group Size (in)

Remington Premier MatchKing 168-gr

0.32

American Eagle 168-gr OTM

0.63

Hornady Custom 165-gr BTSP

0.94

Hornady Match 168-gr BTHP

1.07

Federal Gold Medal Match 168-gr

1.19

Hornady A-Max 168-gr (repeat)

1.44

Federal Gold Medal Match 168-gr (repeat)

1.57

Federal Fusion 165-gr SP

1.82

American Eagle 150-gr FMJ BT

1.82

Hornady A-Max 168-gr

1.94

Hornady SST 165-gr

3.19

I took the best grouping rounds, plus a few that I was curious about, and set up my target at 200-yards for additional testing. I pulled the Boresnake through the barrel a few times and stepped back up to the firing line. Here’s what happened:

.308 Win Ammo – 200 yards

Group Size (in)

Federal Gold Metal Match 168-gr

0.94

Hornady Match 168-gr BTHP

1.94

Hornady SST 165-gr

2.57

Remington Premier MatchKing 168-gr

2.94

American Eagle 150-gr FMJ BT

>5.00

I made one more trip downrange. I slapped an 8” target on the cardboard and headed down to the 300-yard line. Since the back of the Hornady boxes had a small ballistics chart, I thought I’d try to dial in the scope. I got fairly close considering that the ballistics numbers on the back of the gun are more of a guideline than a rule. And that I wasn’t using the Hornady ammo.

300-yard 8” target

The Dope Check grouping (the circled two-shot group at the bottom of the target circle) was with the Federal GMM 168-gr loads and the main 5 shot grouping was the Remington MatchKings and showed about a 3” grouping.

On the floor…

I decided to save some ammo so I could shoot my 300-yard steel target from the prone position. I made the walk once more, this time with my miniature IPSC (15” tall) in tow. “In tow” in this case literally means in tow – I use a garden cart at the range, which to this day was the best $60 I ever spent on a shooting accessory.

Look close – a cardboard target at 200-yards and teeny white IPSC target at 300-yards

When I made it back to the firing line, I pulled out the heavy-duty moving blanket that I use for prone shooting and got down on the floor. I wanted to use up the worst-grouping rounds, but I ended up shooting almost all of the ammo I had left. Shooting steel is just plain fun, what else can I say? I did make sure, though, that I saved at least two rounds from each box so I can take some measurements. I promised myself that I was going to start reloading this year, so I’ll use these loads as a starting point.

You still reading this?

Overall, I’m really happy with the TLR. It’s obvious – as with any rifle – she likes certain types of ammo over others. The Remington MatchKings showed an amazing 0.32” grouping at 100-yards, but left a bit to be desired at longer ranges. The Federal GMM rounds showed ho-hum accuracy at 100 yards, but started to shine at 200-yards (0.94”) and my Dope Check at 300-yards showed a 2-shot grouping of less than an inch.

After seeing the 200 and 300-yard targets, I wish I had more than one box of the Federal GMM. I guess a re-shoot will have to wait a few weeks. With any luck, I’ll suck it up and buy my own reloading equipment and start reloading ASAP. Did I mention shooting steel at 300-yards is fun? With bore sighting and this set of testing, this gun has a total of 150 rounds down range so far.

The 40X trigger is smooth, crisp and, to be honest, awfully impressive for a factory supplied unit. After this review, I’ll probably tune it down a bit to see how it feels. I like the fact that it can be easily adjusted without taking the stock off, needing only a small flat head screwdriver. There’s no stacking, no over-travel or zero creep. My only complaint would be the actual trigger shoe itself. I prefer smooth triggers on tactical, target, and varmint rifles. The trigger on the TLR is grooved and in my opinion is better suited for use on a hunting rifle. Of course, this isn’t anything I can’t fix with a little bit of work.

Contrary to what some gun forum pages have said (or speculated), the barrel is free-floated all the way to the action. The B&C stock is very stiff and does NOT touch the barrel when using a bipod – obviously Remington wouldn’t do something that silly (would they?) The R3 recoil pad is fantastic and turns recoil into a very manageable “push.”

There are a few other things that I wish Remington would change. I’ve always liked Bell & Carlson stocks, but I wish Remington would have gone with B&C’s adjustable comb tactical stock instead. After all, Remington already uses this stock on their Target Tactical model. Unfortunately, the Target Tactical model isn’t stainless (something I wanted), and has that odd V-shaped VTR barrel – something I certainly didn’t want.

Before testing, I slipped on a buttstock cheek-riser to help, but I would have liked some more height in the comb. The TLR has a 26” barrel, no sights, and is marketed as a “tactical” model – it’s obvious that customers are going to put on some big glass.

Brownell’s sells the B&C stock that Remington should have installed in the first place. If I decide to replace the stock, I’m not sure which one I’d go with. As I said, the B&C stock feels great and an adjustable comb would help, but for the money I may end up going with an AICS 1.5 setup.

By using the AICS 1.5, I would not only get the adjustable comb, but it would also address my second complaint of this rifle. I am a big guy and although I have great dexterity, I’m no piano player. I hate loading short-action rounds into the gun from the top. Long-action guns, like my 7mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag, and .270 Win are much, much easier to load. The larger opening allows me to pointer- and middle-finger a round into the action to “push” it down into the magazine well.

With short action guns like the .223 and .308, I just don’t have that luxury. Remington should have installed a quality removable box magazine, such as Badger Ordnance or Wyatt’s setup. This would make reloads faster and easier – certainly a “tactical” advantage. If I did end up with the B&C varmint stock, a Badger Ordnance trigger guard and some magazines are certainly a requirement.

Some will argue that these upgrades would put the TLR above a certain price point and would limit sales. I say BS – how many price shoppers are weighing options with a $1500 MSRP rifle? The answer is not many, and I’d argue that these additions would actually draw more customers to the TLR series. Take a quick glance through various forums and you can see the dozens of shooters who purchased an LTR rifle and immediately dropped it into an aftermarket stock and added a detachable magazine. The TLR should have been the rifle that LTR shooters wanted in the first place.

Specifications

Brand: Remington Arms
Model: XCR Tactical Long Range
Caliber: .308 Winchester
Sights: No sights, pre-drilled for scope base
Barrel: 26” flutted, 1-12” twist
O/A Length: 43.75”
Weight: 8.5lbs (no scope, bases, or rings)
MSRP: $1510 (street price: $1200)

Ratings (out of five stars)

Style * * * *
The OD/black-web stock looks sharp, especially when combined with that long 26” fluted barrel. The bolt is jeweled and then blackened, adding a bit of class. It looks impressive to most that see it and certainly caught my attention when I first laid eyes on it.

Ergonomics * * * *
Everyone’s face is different, but I wanted more height on the comb. This gun demands big glass and Remington should set it up for that. However, the stock is solid and has a generous LOP. The “grip” of the webbing actually does help and the thumbhook is great for bag or off-hand use.

Reliability * * * * *
It’s a bold action. So all types of ammo and not a single hiccup. The barrel cleans easily with minimal scrubbing and solvent usage. The stainless construction means this gun will hold up in extremely wet weather.

Customizable * * * * *
Well, it is still a Remington 700 so the sky’s the limit when it comes to customizing. This model’s decked out more than, say, an SPS Varmint gun, but still has some room for customization if you choose to do so.

Overall Rating * * * *
Once you finalize a handload, this gun will undoubtedly hold sub-MOA groupings all day long. Add an adjustable comb stock and detachable magazine and I’ll add that 5th star.