Gun Review: Remington 700 ADL Varmint

 

Back in November, TTAG ran a post about a Black Friday “doorbuster” sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods. They were offering a Remington 700 ADL Varmint for $350.00. As it turned out, I just so happened to be in the AO about a ½ hour before midnight when the sale started so at the last second I decided to partake in the Black Friday madness. For reasons still unknown to me, I picked up one of these “doorbuster” 700s, and after putting 200 rounds through the rifle I can report to the Armed Intelligentsia . . .

In the interest of laziness, I’ll assume the reader is already familiar with the basic workings of a Remington 700, since over 5 million of them have been produced. Rather than rehash the basics or give you a history lesson on the evolution of the design, my goal here is to simply give you an unbiased, critical assessment of the specific features of the package offered by Dick’s, as well as a little G2 on its accuracy, fit, and function. I’ll also tell you some details on the Nikon Coyote Special scope that now adorns the rifle.  Let’s get started.

The Dick’s Sporting Goods 700 ADL Varmint is an exclusive package consisting of an “ADL” version of the 700 SPS Varmint and a crappy scope (not shown in above photos).  The distinguishing feature of an ADL rifle is the internal (aka “blind”) box magazine, which lacks a hinged floorplate on the bottom of the rifle. ADL stands for “A Deluxe,” and was Remington’s “no frills” economy line until it was discontinued in 2004. From what I understand, Remington now only produces ADL rifles as special runs for the various big box stores, etc.

Despite the fact that the ADL is the low-end of the production line, I was hopeful that I might still score a decent rifle for cheap. My fellow TTAG writer Chris Dumm has a skinny-barrelled Remmy ADL in .270 Win that he picked up for $250, and I have watched him shoot a ¾ inch group at 300 yards with that rifle using cheap Wally World ammo.

The rifle features a full-floated 26-inch heavy contour barrel (.820 in. at the muzzle) and a polymer stock with vented beavertail fore-end.  The stock is finished in Mossy Oak™ “Brush” camouflage and the the Remmy weighs in at 8½ lbs, most of it in the barrel.

Dick’s offers this rifle in .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, and .308 Win and I went with a .22-250 Rem. Why? Well, I already have a good TC Icon in .243 Win. and some super-nice precision rifles in .308 Win. I don’t think the .223 Rem. benefits much from a 26” barrel. And the .22-250 Rem has a reputation as being a very flat shooting round that can zip out of the muzzle at 4000 feet per second.

I admit that the .22-250 isn’t the most versatile of the calibers that Dick’s was hawking. The .308 would be a great low-price tactical precision rifle or big-game gun, and the .243 would excel at anything from groundhogs to deer and antelope. The .223 version would do most of what the .22-250 does, but it would do it with cheaper and (until last month) more available ammo. Let’s face it, a 26″ barreled .22-250 is built for just two things: target shooting and varmint hunting.

There’s a downside to .22-250, though, and that’s that it will often toast a barrel in just a few thousand rounds, especially if you shoot the fast loads. But a Remington 700 action can be rebarreled fairly easily, so it’s not the end of the world if and when that happens.  Besides, even if it only lasts 2500 rounds, that’s a lot of dead coyotes!

PETA types routinely soil their diapers over any type of hunting, but their hysteria is completely illogical when you think about it. Coyotes typically end their lives in starvation, hypothermia, or the gnashing jaws of other predators. And rodent varmints face the additional horrors of Bubonic plague and hemorrhagic fever. The instantaneous explosive deprogramming of a 4,000 fps .22-250 bullet is a swift and merciful deliverance, compared to these grim and grisly fates. Considered in that light, popping a squeaker with a .22-250 is one of the most “ethical” things you can do for the poor creature. Or so I justify it, anyway. I figure God put those things on this earth to be targets.

One thing that really attracted me to this rifle is the Mossy Oak™ “Brush” camo stock.  It’s a very effective pattern for the central Oregon high desert scrub lands in which I hunt coyote. Maybe it’s the military guy in me, but I like my camo to match my duds. So to have a gun that coordinates with my camo huntin’ clothes, well . . . that frickin’ cool. You gotta be fashionable when out in the bush; you never know who you’ll run into out there in the high desert. At some point, I’m gonna have to Duracoat® the barrel, action, ARD, and Harris bipod in coyote brown and desert tan to match.

 

Remington does a pretty good job on these stocks, all things considered. They lack the aluminum bedding system featured on the HS Precision stock that came with my 700 PSS. As a result, I figured that such a cheap stock would have a negative effect on accuracy. I expected I’d eventually need to replace it with a Manners, McMillan, or Bell & Carlson stock if I wanted to get really fine accuracy. But this gun shoots so well with the factory stock I don’t think it really needs to be upgraded. That’s just fine with me, because I doubt I could find an aftermarket stock in that same Mossy Oak™ camo pattern in any event.

The trigger guard is made out of plastic, but that seems to be the way of the world these days. Sigh.

 

And speaking of personal preferences, I really prefer detachable box magazines.  Given that even a hinged floorplate makes me feel like I’m slummin’ it, it should come as no surprise that I think the ADL set-up is pure ghetto: the worst-of-the-worst arrangement.  I hate it and here’s why: you have to really pay attention when you load an ADL, because any mistakes in how you load the rounds will cause the gun to jam. Trust me on this one.  And it’s difficult to load with gloves on, especially if you are situated in a shooting position. Unlike a BDL, you can’t easily fix the mess by dumping the mag out the bottom.  But, for $350, beggars can’t really be choosers, eh? So be it. Just pay close attention when you load ‘er up and you will be good to go.

If you’re familiar with the Remington 700’s action, this “economy” version offers no surprises. The action is noticeably less smooth and refined than a Remington Custom shop 40-X, but I think it’s only slightly less smooth than the 700 PSS and other “mid-range” 700s. It certainly doesn’t feel rough, or overly cheap like some entry-level guns.

The triggers that come on modern hunting rifles are sweet. Seems like thirty years ago, the gun manufacturers made their factory triggers suck on purpose. It was almost as if gunsmiths around the country were giving kickbacks to the gun makers to ensure that the ‘smiths would get the extra business.More realistically, I think the product liability lawyers were the real culprit.

But times have changed, and these days it seems as if the standard for triggers is set pretty high.  Guns are rolling out of the major factories with excellent triggers that don’t typically need extra work. This gun features the “low-end” version of the new X-Mark trigger, which isn’t intended to be adjustable by the consumer. But honestly, I see no need to have a ‘smith adjust this trigger, nor do I see any need for an aftermarket unit from Jewell, Timney, or Rifle Basix. The factory trigger breaks at approximately 3½ lbs. and has no creep or overtravel. I’m very impressed, especially considering its price point.

 

At the end of the day, a bolt gun with a long bull barrel is really only intended to do one thing really well, and that is to allow the shooter to fire lots of bullets into small groups at long range. So does the 700 ADLVarmint deliver? Yes, yes it does – in spades. In fact, this rifle shoots sub MOA all day long. It especially likes the 45 grain Winchester JHP Varmint loads (4000 fps), which consistently fired ½ inch or smaller groups. My personal best with the rifle so far is a .39 inch group using Wally World Winchester White Box. Using Hornady’s 55 grain V-Max (3680 fps), my groups seemed to average in the .6 to .8 inch group range though I did manage to shoot one 3-shot, .44 inch group with it.

The fact that the barrel has a 1:14 twist rate does limit the type of ammo you can shoot out of this rifle. Some of the 60 grain factory loads may exceed the limits of the rifle.  Certainly, anything over 60 grains will be a no go.

The Scope, Bases, and Rings  

The 4 x 12 scope that comes with the Dick’s Sporting Goods package is branded with the Remington name. Remington does not, to my knowledge, actually manufacture scopes.  Although this scope is shown on the Remington website mounted on a few 700 models, no information is provided on the scope on the website. It appears to be some sort of cheap, no-name, made-in-China optic. Tasco maybe? Who knows. It feels pretty solid, but I tested it out and found it to be marginal at best. At both 50 and 100 yards, I couldn’t get the reticle and the background to be in focus at the same time: it was a one-or-the-other deal. I still managed to shoot a few ½ to ¾ MOA groups with the scope, so I guess it would do in a pinch. But it wasn’t ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

The two-piece aluminum scope mounts that came with the guns are from Leupold’s “Rifleman” series which is their “economy” line made in Singapore. These mounts retail for $10. Normally I prefer one-piece scope mounts due to the better alignment they achieve, but with the ADL I want as much room to access the magazine and chamber as possible. There isn’t a whole lot else to say about the mounts; they seem to work well, and I don’t see any need to replace them.

The scope rings that come with the rifle, on the other hand, appear to be extremely cheap.  I am not exactly sure who makes them, but I’ve seen identical rings marketed under the Simmons brand name, retailing for less than $8. But the rings do not appear on the Simmons website or catalog, so I can’t be sure as to their origins.  

I’m certain, however, that the rings need to be replaced with something more rugged.  There is no way I’m going to have a hunt ruined by an $8 pair of rings, when I can get a decent set for $30-50.

The Nikon 4.5 x 14 x 40mm “Coyote Special” scope seemed like the perfect optic for this gun, especially when mated with matching Nikon (Warne) scope rings. I’ve seen the same Warne rings in black sell for $30, so you pay a hefty premium to get the Mossy Oak camo version, but hey, I gotta match, right?

This scope originates from Nikon’s popular “Buckmaster” line, which is their mid-range offering. It focuses in the second focal plane and gives a respectable 92% light transmission, which is comparable to the Leupold  VX 1 and VX 2s. I also appreciate the side parallax adjustment as well.  Overall, it’s an impressive scope for the asking price ($299.00 on sale at Cabela’s). 

It is worth mentioning that for most people, Nikon’s BCD reticle is either going to be a love-it-or-hate-it affair.  According to Nikon, the “unique, open circle design doesn’t obscure the target, making shots on a moving coyote simple.”  Well, that’s true for the most part.  Obviously, you will experience some variation in trajectory for every different load.  Plus, even assuming your bullet matches the “design specs” of the reticle, if you have to take the shot at 300 yards or 400 yards, then you have to aim in between the circles, with is a bit odd.   I have not taken a shot yet at those distances, so for me the verdict is still out on this reticle.  Given that the .22-250 will shoot Point Blank Range to over 200 yards, you will not likely even need to worry about using the bottom two circles in most instances.

At 100 yards, the largest circle (i.e. the one in the middle of the reticle) measures 3 inches when the scope is set to 14x.   In the top photo, above, I tried to show how the reticle appears on a 100 yard target at 14x.  For reference, the red circles on the Sight Bright™ target are two inches in diameter. In the bottom photo I dialed back the power setting to 4.5x and took another photo. The reticle’s top circle covers approximately 8 inches at 100 yards when set to 4.5x.  I initially thought that this reticle design would make it difficult to shoot precise groups on paper targets, but I found it to be quite easy, especially when shooting at circular targets. After all, it’s pretty easy to line up a circle in a circle. In fact, I shot a few .4 MOA groups at 100 yards with the scope set to 4.5x.

It occurred to me that with a little effort, it would be possible to use the three circles for range estimation, in the same manner as a mil-dot reticle. Although it would probably take an afternoon of testing at the range to work out and tests the charts, Nikon could do its users a service by posting this type of info on their website.

 

The Coyote Special scope comes with an “ARD” device, which is a screw-on honeycomb grid filter that prevents sunlight from reflecting off the front glass. BTW, “ARD” stands for “anti-reflective device.”  Originating from the military, these devices are a “tacticool” alternative to barrel-style sun-shades.  However, they do have the downside of somewhat decreasing the amount of light that’s transmitted through the optic. The reduction is definitely noticeable, especially in low light situations.

Parting Thoughts on Dick’s “Black Friday” Sales

Overall, I’m really happy with the Remington 700 ADL Varmint. Was it worth going through the Black Friday sales experience just to save a $100.00? Honestly, no.  I arrived on the scene at 11:30, and the doors opened a few minutes before midnight. I ended up being the second guy in line at the gun counter. The sales staff were friendly and personable, but it was pretty clear that the store wasn’t really set up to handle the deluge of customers.  Even though I was second in line, it took over an hour to complete the purchase.

Not only that, but Dicks made you pay for the gun that night, even though you had to come pick up the gun later the next day. WTF? In any event, I’d have thought that they would have had the background check completed by the time I came back two days later, but I ended up having to wait around for over another hour to get that done. Overall, I thought the experience was a complete Charlie Foxtrot. Although I’m glad I tried out the “sport” of the Black Friday shopping experience, I can honestly say I wouldn’t do it again.

Specifications:

Caliber: .22-250.  Also available in .223 Rem, .243 Win, and .308 Win.
Barrel: 26 inches, with a 1 in 14 right hand twist.
Length: 46 & 1/2 inches
Weight: 8 &1/2 lbs. empty.
Operation: Bolt action.
Metal Finish:  matt black oxide finish.
Capacity: 4 +1, internal box magazine.
Price: Typical street price for 700 ADL Varmint is in the $550.00 range, but it is commonly seen on sale at Dick’s for $450.00 to $475.00.   Dick’s 2012 “Black Friday” doorbuster price was $449.99 plus $100 factory rebate (net: $349.99).

Ratings (Out of Five Stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
Can’t beat the accuracy (½ MOA with some factory loads) for the price.

Ergonomics: * * * *  
Although a little muzzle heavy, the stock is very comfortable. I’ll take a one point reduction for that annoying 90° bolt throw.

Reliability: * * * 
The ADL’s internal blind magazines are easy to jam up if you don’t exercise care when loading. Be sure to have a visual on the breech when feeding this model.

Durability:  * * * * *
I don’t know of any aspect of the Remington 700 series of rifles that’s failure prone: 5 points.

Customization: * * * * *
This is probably the best reason to go with a Remmy 700 over any other brand: tons of aftermarket parts and accessories.

Overall Rating: * * * *    
In this price range, there isn’t much competition out there. The Savage Axis series is closest. Although I’m a huge fan of the Thompson Center Venture Predator line, the price of the Remmy comes in two to three bills cheaper.