A few months ago I was skimming through some of TTAG’s older posts. I re-spotted Nick’s 1000-yard rifle for $500 project. Like many of you I’ve been anxiously awaiting the results, to see what could be pulled from a stock rifle with zero gunsmithing work and a scope that costs less than a decent bipod. Unfortunately, Nick is mid-move and having some troubles getting onto a 1000-yard range. Meanwhile, his efforts however have inspired me. A little background . . .
In my review of the Remington XCR TLR I neglected to mention that I’m turning the Remy into a long-range gun: a rifle that’s more faithful to its “tactical” moniker. My goal: to get a “factory gun” to shoot accurately at long-distances.
The XCR will get the normal bolt-on precision accoutrements: an AICS stock, bedding, and trigger tuning. I’m also going to swap out the Trijicon Accupoint scope for something a little more conducive to long-range (600+ yard) work. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Accupoint (and will be putting it to good use). But the thick reticle makes really long shots difficult; it covers up so much of the target.
After that, I’m going to see what gunsmithing procedures (if necessary) have the biggest “payoff.” I’ve found a local gunsmith with a national (and even international) reputation. I’ve seen the work they do first hand; it’s nothing short of amazing. Marty’s mob will square the action, true the bolt face and lugs, and cut a new crown. But I’ll consider anything that Marty recommends.
Since I’ve been patiently waiting for my AICS 1.5 stock to come back into inventory at Brownell’s, I was trying to figure out what I should do with the XCR’s OEM-installed Bell & Carlson A2 Light Tactical stock. I could save it for a future reinstall, should I decide to sell the rifle. But that’s unlikely; the XCR is posting sub-MOA groups with factory ammo and the action is as smooth as butter. I could put the stock up for sale on eBay; they’re going for a pretty penny even on the used market.
After Nick’s re-inspiration, I decided the stock is going to be the basis for my own “budget” precision project rifle, something that I could compare to my XCR project rifle.
Notice I didn’t set a price ceiling like Nick did. I just said “budget.” As we’ve learned with firearms, cars, appliances, lawn equipment and everything else in the home, building to a price point can hinder a potentially great item with a very fragile “weak link.” I’ll keep this within a reasonable price as much as possible and I will also share my tips on how to save – and actually recuperate – some money.
So I started my search for that perfect test specimen. The nice thing about not needing something is the ability to search and shop without any internal pressures to buy. I ended up with a lightly used Remington 700 AAC-SD. And when I say lightly used, I mean lightly used.
A middle-aged gentlemen posted an ad on backpage.com and we met in the parking lot of a grocery store. He had the original box, receipt, owner’s manual, scope box, and even that little rubber-band tag thingy that Remington puts on the barrel. He swore that it only had a single box of ammo through the barrel… and I believe him. More on that later. After some wheeling and dealing, I purchased the rifle for only $550.
Many members of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia will be familiar with the AAC-SD. I’ve handled one and ogled its 20” threaded-barrel coolness in the past. What I didn’t know: Remington offered a “limited edition” part number. Most of the AAC-SD rifles come with a Ghillie-green Hogue Overmolded stock and a thread-protector over the barrel threads. Mine, which is Remington Product# 85542, came with a black Hogue stock and a factory-installed AAC 51T muzzle brake (it also comes with the thread protector in the box).
Of course, I’m taking all of this on the word of internet chatter. There isn’t a lick of proof that this gun was even manufactured by Remington – not on their website or in their “archived” firearms list.
Out of the box or, uh… trunk
For the most part, the gun looks, feels, and handles just like any other Remington 700. In fact, it’s nearly identical to the Remington 700 SPS Tactical (RF’s gun). The main difference between that gun and the Remington 700 AAC-SD: Hogue stock and threaded barrel with a 1-10” twist (as opposed to a 1-12” twist with no threads).
I declared my fondness for the Hogue Overmolded stock in Project Elk Slayer Part II. The stock isn’t too bulky or heavy, free-floats the barrel and makes for a great all-weather hunting rifle. However, that gun’s stock sat a standard magnum contoured barrel. When the AAC-SD is supported by a bipod or sandbags, the Hogue stock touches and “presses” on the barrel While these rifles are still capable of acceptable accuracy, it’s not an ideal setup by precision-shooting standards.
The AAC-SD’s finish is a durable not-quite-matte, not-quite-satin black oxide. It looks good but it’s too reflective for me. That said, the finish seem to “suck up” oil pretty well and it’s stayed clean after a few trips to the range.
As I mentioned, the AAC-SD’s barrel has a 1-10” twist, which is better suited for 168-grain and heavier bullets. Internet chatter says the gun was designed for 175-grain Sierra MatchKings. After doing some heavy research, I found that it was actually designed for heavier (200-grain plus) sub-sonic rounds. I haven’t gotten into shooting sub-sonic rounds yet, so I will take the manufacturer’s word on the twist rate’s effectiveness. I do know that 168-grain and heavier rounds shoot well out of tighter twist barrels.
The rifle came with a Bushnell Tactical Elite 3200 scope with a fixed 10x zoom, 40mm objective, 1/10 Mil adjustments and a Mil-Dot reticle. It was mounted using a Leupold 1-piece base and Redfield rings. The Bushnell is cheap—around $225 if you catch it on sale—but it’s surprisingly clear. The turrets aren’t as smooth as a high-end piece of German glass but they are positive and can easily be manipulated with gloved hands.
I headed to the range with some factory match-grade ammo and some handloads. Much to my delight, the AAC-SD shot better than I expected. Considering that the stock puts quite a bit of upward pressure on the barrel, I was happy with the results.
The best factory-ammo 5-shot grouping came from the Federal Gold Metal Match (FGMM) 168-grain cartridges, shooting a 1.32” group. The FGMM 175-grain, Hornady Match 168-grain, and Remington Premier 168-grain MatchKings all grouped between 2”-2.5”. I was able to squeeze a 1” group from a 175-grain Sierra MatchKing (SMK) handload using IMR 8208 XBR powder (3-shot group). Nothing exemplary, but considering the 10X scope and stock and it is obvious that we have room for improvement.
I don’t have a 1000-yard range close by, unless you consider open desert shooting. But I prefer something a bit more formal. Desert plinking is one thing, but trying to get an open 1000-yard lane in between Jumping Cholla’s, Golden Barrel’s, and 50-ft. tall Saguaro’s isn’t easy. However, we do have a few 600-yard ranges locally and I located a 1000-yard range just two hours away.
So there’s a hurdle cleared. There are many more to go. Keep an eye out for Part II…