I was sitting at my desk, looking out of the
shop window into the woods, and wondering exactly what kind
of big, bushy,
snarling mammal had just dragged a wild turkey down into a
hole under a nearby birch tree. Living in Maine, home to Stephen King, can
be interesting. I couldn't see down into the hole, but I
could see enough. There was an explosion of feathers,
some brief but desperate gooble-goobling, a
thick red spattering of blood, and what I could only
describe as a protracted muffled
belch. It was somewhere in the midst of this commotion, I
decided it might be time for a kick-ass thirty magnum
I like working with big guns. It's like
listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama"...twice.
as much as I have fun with cartridge like the
.500 Jeffery and the
.17-357 RG, I accept
there are times when 8,000 ft-lbs of muzzle energy may
be a bit much and there are times when bullets can get so small that shot
game looks more confused than injured.
the past couple of years, I've done a
pretty good job of paring down my selection of hunting
rifles. This focus has allowed me to work on my field
shooting proficiency and to develop some very good
A very light and compact
Remington Mountain Rifle took the place of firearms
chambered for the .243 Winchester, .30-30 WCF
and .45-70 Gov't. A 270 WSM replaced all of my .257" through 7mm
magnum rifles. This commitment to a couple of cartridges
allowed me to make much better choices in scopes and
shooting accessories and to come up with some very well
needed to select one more rifle, a nudge up from these
firearms, that would cover the largest North American
game, something that would work well for close up and at
extended range shots. Unfortunately, everything I owned
was either an overkill or not able to cover long range
shooting. The .416 Weatherby would be an example of the
first case, the 325 WSM would be an example of the
second. It was time for a well thought out .308" gun.
Good, better and best...
The .300 Ultra Mag
is a terrific cartridge. If I was going to carry one rifle,
that would be the cartridge, however, for my purposes I
needed something with a little more thump and range. The
original .300 Winchester Magnum has never appealed to me; too little real
world gain over the .30-06. The .300 Weatherby could have been my cartridge choice,
however, my enthusiasm for the cartridge does not carry
through to the current Weatherby Mark V rifle.
Each year, more and more Weatherby innovation
seems to be displaced by process and technology purchased
from outside companies. About the only thing remaining from
the company's early philosophy of "Weatherby
- Tomorrow's Rifles Today" is the big price tag.
Quality and finish have been on the decline in recent years, and there hasn't
been a cartridge introduction since 1999 with the .338-378
Weatherby's price leader, is an OEM version of the low cost Japanese
Howa, a firearm that has been around for many years, sold in a
derivative forms and under a number of brand names. In this case,
the Howa gets a Weatherby profile stock and bolt shroud to
justify the use of the Weatherby name. Of greater
consequence, a Vanguard won't deliver Mark V
performance, not as an issue of inferior quality, but rather because
Weatherby insists on producing Vanguards chambered for
Weatherby Magnum cartridges with barrels 2" shorter than their
more expensive Mark V counterpart.
leaves a potential
customer with the options of paying an excessive price and getting
the real deal Mark V, or paying a more reasonable price and getting a Weatherby in
name only. Insult to injury, there is a substantial extra charge
for accurate versions of either. I chose option number three, a Remington Model 700 CDL .300 Ultra Mag
- more performance than the Weatherby, at a consumer friendly price and accuracy is included with every
A little...OK, a
lot of Ultra Mag rehash
.300 Remington Ultra Mag has been tagged as being too long, too large
and too extreme of a chamber. In reality, it is about the same
length as any full length H&H based magnum, but it does have approximately 20%
greater capacity. The increase is the result
of a 0.040" taller shoulder and a larger case body diameter.
The belt diameter of an H&H magnum is 0.531", but the
actual body diameter at the case head is only 0.512". The
beltless Ultra Mag body diameter is 0.550".
A case belt does not actually
strength, nor does brass do much to contain pressure. Brass is,
more or less, a really good gasket between case pressure and a
firearm's breech and chamber walls. It was added to magnum cases
as a headspace reference point in the early 1900's. This was a
time when manufacturers' ability to hold chamber dimensional
tolerances was iffy and
cartridges had long tapering shoulders that were
not the best for establishing headspace. With today's manufacturing precision and
sharper shoulder angles, the belt is superfluous.
The Ultra Mag converts
chamber space that would normally be filled with excess
brass into additional room for powder. Unlike short
magnums that make powder selection a challenge, where most
popular types are too fast or too slow, the Ultra Mag's112 grains of case capacity
seems just about right. Popular slow powder types from all
of the leading producers produce case full loads that
extract the potential of the cartridge at virtually every
bullet weight. Without the belt producing part of the
manufacturing process, brass is relatively inexpensive
within the context of magnum cartridges and the .308" bullet
selection is second to none. Which brings me to the next
point and the real reasons I felt it was finally time to
move to a high performance .308" gun.
that make the Ultra Mag work as intended...
Bullet Analyzer" and
"Metric Rehab - Handloads for the 30-06 Springfield"
projects led me to Barnes
TTSX and MRX bullets. They fly straight, hold up with
controlled expansion and recovered bullets retain close to original
weight at almost any range. Both of these Barnes products
seem to function properly over a much wider velocity range
than conventional jacketed lead bullets where fast magnums can
really challenge a bullet's design.
Even at .30-06 Springfield
performance levels, basic jacketed product from Nosler, Speer, Sierra and
Woodleigh often demonstrated less than satisfactory results. Impact
inside 50 yards sometimes converted jacketed lead bullets to shards
of copper and lead. At 200-250
yards expansion was sometimes marginal. Nosler Partition bullets,
at very near distance, tended to
be recovered as a whole shank and a blown away nose. Hornady
did better, but shed a lot of weight inside 100 yards. The .300 Ultra Mag
was going to be pushed over a wide variety
of distances and with all useful hunting bullet weights.
The Barnes line has really
evolved over the years to keep pace with cartridge and
firearm development. Their basic TTSX triple shock is very
accurate and expands reliably. The MRX Silvex core is a real piece of design work.
While I am not privy to Barnes' definition of their proprietary
Silvex, Silvex is typically defined as containing a
non-toxic combination of heavier than lead tungsten, tin and
bismuth. Both center of gravity and center of pressure are
shifted aft to the shank, which increases a bullet's
tendency to remain at a neutral angle and stabile. That's
why the MRX is capable of very tight groups at extended
ranges. Because the bullet is made for long range
applications, the nose cavity is cut differently to promote
full expansion, even way out there where velocity has
diminished. This subject will be covered extensively in Part
II of this series.
Improving the product since 1816 and it
.300 Ultra Mag
7 lbs 10 oz
Stock - Drop
Stock - Drop
Stock - Pull
The rifle selected for the project
is a Remington Model 700 CDL Ultra Mag, walnut stocked with a
matte blue finish. It is more than a just a nice looking rifle. The
lines are classic and pleasing. It isn't a lightweight, but
then its well balanced modest heft puts recoil in the
neighborhood of 35 ft-lbs and dampens that with a truly comfortable R3 recoil pad.
I broke the CDL down to its major assemblies,
hopefully on a temporary basis, to clean
and have a look around in there. The outside of
the gun was flawless, both metal and wood, and the parts uncovered in
disassembly were just as nice; perfect metal finish and clean
machine work and castings. I've grown accustom to finding bare metal
rough welds and finishes and lots of plastic parts on other brands, so this was
a pleasant surprise.
The Remington receiver is cylindrical; no torque twisted flat surfaces or unpredictably stressed wood to metal contact that could have an adverse affect on accuracy.
The chamber is surrounded by barrel steel
and receiver and the case head is surrounded by the bolt on lock
up; three rings of steel. I think a lot of folks don't realize how strong these actions are. A Model 700 barrel shank is 0.062" greater in diameter than a Ruger,
identical to the barrel shank of a big magnum Weatherby Mark V.
are clean, surfaces
square and uniformly contoured, everything is sealed
and smoothly finished even though only the cradling radius
supports the action.
In other brands, it is very common to find bare wood, chunks missing out
of supporting surfaces and uneven metal to wood contact. The
magnum CDL has a large surface area vertical recoil lug as
hardwood plugged, double cross bolts to provide
additional support at critical recoil absorbing points.
barrel floats in the forearm with the exception of contact
with the two raised pads in the barrel channel, just behind
the forearm tip. The barrel channel is
completely finished, sealed and smooth. The benefit of this
attention to detail is the assurance that the stock's
moisture content will be constant, rendering it dimensionally
Touches like those I've just mentioned use to be check list
items on a custom gunsmith's guide to assure firearm
accuracy, and now they appear in every Remington production
rifle. They take a little more time, they cost a little bit
more but, ultimately, they make for a firearm worth owning.
the most interesting design touches are the simplest. I
don't know what was in the mind of the designer who decided
add this 0.025" poly shim stock under the trigger guard , but I can hazard a guess.
The shims provide large pressure pad surfaces near the
fasteners and lift the long run of the trigger guard between
fasteners off of the stock inletting. This would assure
maximum vertical clamping force while eliminating torsional
distortion of the aluminum guard caused by out of parallel
surfaces. My alternate theory is that
the poly shims prevent the guard from cutting into the wood.
My alternate, alternate theory is that it would be really
nice to have access to the engineering staff and be able to
ask all sorts of questions.
The bottom metal compliments the rest of the
rifle; clean, light aluminum castings for the hinged floor plate
and guard, steel latch works, spring and follower. The hardware
is Allen head which I always appreciate as they are about the
only type that allows me to properly tighten the screw without
chewing them up. Torque value for the wood stock Remington is 30
- 35 inch pounds and, yes, I really do use a torque wrench to
secure these. Accuracy is better and they are less prone to
The Remington has a two position safety, safe
and fire, and a X-Mark Pro trigger. The trigger have no
creep, very smooth and hard friction surfaces, they break very cleanly, and the pull is uniform even
after extensive use. This one broke at 4 ˝ lbs which is great
for me. The X-Mark Pro is not an owner adjustable trigger and
the procedure for gunsmith adjustment is different from a
standard Model 700. Personally, I only go to work on a trigger
when they need help and this one is perfect as produced.
The dog leg bolt handle and flattened knob
make for some extra room in clearing large diameter scope
eyepieces. The push feed Remington action is
smooth in cycling, devoid of rough spots or annoying drag so
common in other designs such as Mauser type actions.
It helps to see the target...
As I mentioned earlier, a more
careful selection of cartridges and rifles permitted better
selection of scopes and other accessories. This is an
example of being able to select a scope that is optimal for
a cartridge/rifle combination, a Bushnell Elite 6500. The scope has an exceptionally large
magnification range, from an up close 2.5x with a huge field
of view to
cross canyon and prairie shooting 16x. The 30mm tube and big
50mm objective make for a bright sharp image and the
mechanical design makes for stay put settings and a scope
that is impervious to foul weather. The scope is covered in
detail elsewhere on Real
Guns, but I did want to note that after over a hundred
rounds of full tilt loads, the scope never moved out of adjustment.
The Mil Dot reticle is perfect for this application.
the Remington and Bushnell
Elite's geometry, the large objective lens scope
hugs the gun's barrel with medium height mounts, but still
has plenty of bolt handle
cycling clearance. Aesthetically, the finish and markings on
the Bushnell scope compliment the Remington
Steel Warne Maxima
rings and bases were purchased from
Brownells for $32.
They are really
tough, finely finished and soundly designed. A scope mounted
with these will stay put under heavy recoil and there is
the added bonus of a nice scope not being chewed up by
rough and uneven clamping surfaces. Four
socket head cap screws hold each ring set together and a
hardened recoil control key locks the ring to the steel base to prevent
fore and aft movement. The rings are wider than typical for
an increased contact surface area. Warne also produces quick
disconnect rings and bases and ring sets to fit proprietary
mount systems such as Ruger, Sako, CZ, etc.
The return of the Latiiiigo...
I like rifle slings.
They make carry comfortable and they provide excellent
support in almost any shooting position for steady, well
Brownells' Quick Set Latigo sling has made it onto a number
of my rifles and this Ultra Mag combination seemed like a great place
for another. At $69, it is a quality piece of leather and I
don't have to worry about finding a steady rest in the field
or carry shooting sticks. The Latigo sling in
particularly good because it converts from carry sling to
shooting sling quickly.
In the words of John Lee
Hooker - Boom, boom, boom boom
Every major die manufacturer makes several versions of dies
for the .300 Ultra Mag. Some are basic, some have micrometer
adjustment, then there are neck sizers and full length
sizers. For this project, a set of Hornady New Dimension
dies were selected...for a number of reasons. I like the
threaded collet shaft on the decapper. It stays put and
never gets tugged out when pulling the case from the die. I
also like the tapered expander, it makes for smoother press
operation. I also like the floating seater die that does a
great job of centering the bullet in the case mouth. I also
like the small diameter lock rings that allow the dies to be
installed and adjusted even with small circle turret heads.
Lastly, I like the quality of finish and the dimensions held
in sizing. They are not very fancy, but they certainly take
care of all of the fundamentals.
This is working out better than I anticipated, and I already
had some relatively high expectations. I like the rifle and
scope combinations and they passed the visitors check. In
this case, the Remington rifle and Bushnell scope
combination where leaned up against the wall with three
other rifles of different manufacturer with different
scopes, each an attractive firearm in its own right. Then I
asked visitors which they preferred. This area is loaded
with hunters and shooters and folks who take a lot of pride
in their firearms. Everyone picked up the Ultra Mag. Next
and last, handload work up and shooting assessment.