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Small September 2004
Gerhard Schroeder  

There was nothing better to do anyway. Why not go to the gun show in July, where they run the air conditioning to lure folks with interests like you and me out of the Phoenix heat! ‘Herr Oberst’ and I succumbed to that temptation, paid the steep admission fee, and entered what you could label either the danger zone, or paradise. Whatever your emotions might be when so many big boy gadgets are compactly arranged in such a small area that you can not even check them all out.

Sure enough, after some strolling, I found trouble. Hidden in an array of racks full of long guns stood this homely little rifle, a bland Remington Model 7, handicapped with a cheap tube some guys actually refer to as a scope, chambered in 7-08. The trouble was printed on a little piece of cardboard dangling from its trigger guard. Its asking price was way low for a Mod 7.

I summoned the Oberst over for a “what’s wrong with this thing” evaluation. After thoroughly checking out its bright spots, as in barrel wall and locking lug engagement areas, and testing the trigger, we gave this poor thing a clean bill of health. I then had the nerve to offer even less without the scope, and in amazement received acceptance. Little ugly went home for less than three bills.

The 7-08 falls between two very successful contenders from Winchester, the .243 and the .308. I see it as a modern version of the 7mm Mauser, and who could argue with that oldtimer! As such, the 7-08 is a strong member in the ‘ideal for deer’ family. It would have little margin on elk.

True for all critters, hit ‘em where it counts, and none would know if the diameter of that lethal chunk of jacket and lead was designated in millimeters or inches, or if it was traveling a couple of hundred feet per second slower than the latest magnum number. 7-08 data will not set the ballistics charts on fire. So, just get a little closer. I’d prefer the .308, but one can’t have it all.

Remington 700’s are cool! What makes them the best bargains to go after (if you want functionality, reliability and strength) is the ability to adjust the trigger yourself, and easily. No matter how tight the tolerances are, and therefore how accurate a firearm could be, you won’t be able to harvest that in real use if the trigger sucks. Soon this shortie endured the same treatment I dish out to most newcomers: adjust the trigger from lawyer to hunter domain, free-float the barrel, and lap in the locking lugs.

With a Nikon three by nine on top, bullets landed in about an inch and a half. There was no real effort on my part to try for the spectacular sub-inch result. I’m convinced the rifle can do that, but I didn’t want to spend too much time at the bench.

This lightweight allows some of the 7-08 power to escape rearward, for the shoulder to deal with. Our shoulders much prefer that we shoot offhand, where they easily give way to any kicking or shoving. Besides, the real treat with a new gun is to take it for a spin, to learn it. That’s also the best way to prepare for hunting. So, once the scope was dialed in, it was time to get onto the hind legs. To fully load its magazine, to bring it from the carrying position into action, to make quick follow-up shots, to fire with the scope set at 3X, then at 6X, then at 9X, to guess holdover at longer ranges - those are the elements of joy, of blasting away a bunch of reloads.

This compact is more of a challenge to fire unsupported, simply because its short barrel makes it so dynamic. But that was the fun of it, to tame the little beast. There’s just something neat about this Remington. It’s not specialized, the basic Model 700 roots are undeniable. The Model 7 seems a successful compromise. It is a meat gun, and onepointfive inches give or take is plenty deadly.

In the fall of 2003 the compact Remington drove that point home. There used to be two mule deer bucks near Prescott that can no longer argue about it.

The Model 7 is not the tool to perforate a jack rabbit’s brain several football fields away. It could, but that would take considerably more effort than what its bigger varmint sister requires in such a situation. I see this small weapon as an improvement to a lever action. It’s at home in the woods, yet can easily reach across a considerable canyon.

I prefer to carry rifles over my left shoulder, scope upside down, barrel pointing forward and down. In that position the left hand rests naturally on the same piece of stock it’ll be grabbing when firing the thing. When carrying the Model 7 that way I can get it on target quicker than with a sidearm yanked out of a holster. The small Remington is ideal here because of its short barrel. In uneven terrain the muzzle stays way clear of any obstructions, therefore it won’t accidentally fill with nature’s offerings. A short tube also allows swinging the gun at game faster, and easy operation around trees or through brush. The rifle is simply a joy to maneuver through the woods with.

You pay for this handiness somewhat during off-hand shooting, where some balance is robbed. But since we carry our darn rifles all season long, and only fire (hopefully) once, it’s a really appealing compromise.

left to right:

150 gr. Nosler Ballistic Tip,

110 gr. Speer HP,

experimental 78 gr. Sako SP

Off-hand, by the way, it shoots rather pleasantly. Three ladies, all fairly or totally new to centerfire rifles, uttered zero complaints when unleashing 110 grains of Speer metal propelled by 35 grains of IMR 4198. A low-power load, yes, but with 2830 fps brutal enough to bust head-sized rocks. And those ladies hit ‘em. No problems with bolt operation, either.

That then, is the bottom line. I do not like the way it looks, BUT the Model 7 is simply fun. Easy to carry, easy and very fun to shoot, easy to hit with, easy to maneuver through brush and timber, fast on game, a favorite with the ladies. It is enjoyable to shoot standing up, but I don’t get to shoot it much. You’ve been warned.

In 2004, we are blessed with fall turkey tags. I’m tempted. I’d mix up a mild load to confidently hit either the neck-body junction, or go for a ‘high in the back’ placement. Then, if the bullet should unintentionally find breast meat anyway, may it leave most on the bone. The load I came up with is a Remington 140 grain softpoint over 15 grains of IMR 4227, for a sedate 1490 fps.

The 7 may also see deer action in 2004, even though this will be out of the woods. In the challenging desert hills in area 31 those whitetails are known to escape from ‘ditch’ to ‘ditch’, where quickness with the rifle could be just as important as sniping one from across a sizeable canyon. Nosler Ballistic Tips, 150 grainers, would be called for this job. Propelled by Reloader19, they exit 18.5 inches of barrel at 2620 fps. God willing, you’ll hear the rest of the story.

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