My New ‘Custom’ Rifle
S ome time ago I purchased an old, but extremely well kept Remington Model 721 (The forerunner of the Model 700), in .270 Winchester.
I bought the gun because it appeared to have almost never been fired. The 24-inch barrel was pristine; the trigger was sweet and crisp, breaking at about three pounds.
It had been fitted with an aftermarket stock, probably a Bishop. The stock was overly long and heavy, but fitted the gun very well. I took the gun home, loaded a few rounds for it, and shot it for group. I was very happy then; the groups ran right at one inch.
I kept the gun around for a couple of years, but never took it hunting. The stock made the gun too heavy, and I just didn’t want to lug it around. Then one day I had an epiphany. Why not put a new stock on the old gun; something that would make it look modern and would drop a pound or two off the weight?
I called Brownell’s and asked the media rep what he recommended. He told me to sit tight and he would do some research to see what they had that would fit the 60-year old gun.
In a very short time we decided on a Hogue over-molded stock with pillar bedding, and a new floor plate and trigger guard to replace the old, cheap, stamped-metal job that came on the gun. In less than two weeks the stock and bottom metal showed up, and I began the job of fitting it to the gun.
I actually expected to have some trouble fitting the stock. It was made for a Model 700, but the Brownells rep. said it would fit the 721 and it did.
The only problem turned out to be with the new bottom furniture. The Remington 700s and 721s have a pressed metal box inside the magazine well that fits between the gun and the floor plate. The box in the 721 was much too long from top to bottom to work with the new floor plate. Some judicious grinding was indicated.
I pulled my big bench grinder down and started working on the box. I ground and ground, trying it every few tenths of an inch. Eventually I got it close and started to take off hundredths of an inch at a time. Finally it fit, and I put the screws in the gun and got everything settled into place.
At this point I began a serious load work up. I would load three rounds, fire them, and check the cases for excess pressure signs. After a while I was finally up to my old maximum of 62-grains of H-4831 with a 130-grain Speer soft point.
This was the load that Jack O’Connor originated many decades ago. It is still one of the best. Not all .270s will take a load this heavy, but most will.
If you’re going to try it in your gun, start with 58 grains and work your way up just like I did—slowly —a grain at a time, until you get to 60. then a half-grain at a time until you get to the absolute maximum of 62.
Do not exceed 62 grains of Hodgdon’s #4831 under any circumstances. I am not being politically correct or safety conscious when I say that is maximum—and only with 130-grain Speer bullets. For other bullets, check your loading manuals. Do not substitute IMR 4831. It is a faster powder and 62 grains is a tremendous overload. Be safe. Use only Hodgdon’s H4831.
When I had everything like I wanted it, I took the “new” gun to my range for some testing.
The first three-shot group went into right at 1/2-inch. I thought at first that it was just a lucky group. Nope, no luck involved. After several more groups the average was still about 3/4 of an inch, including a couple of shots that I pulled slightly. This gun will shoot!
Now consider this: My Model 721 is over 50 years old. At that time, a three-shot group of two inches was considered okay. If your gun would shoot into one inch, you had a rare and wonderful rifle that should be petted and loved and made a family heirloom.
A gun that would shoot a half-inch was usually a figment of the owner’s imagination. Half-inch groups were cut out and carried in the owner’s wallet as proof. Most 1/2-inch groups fired from hunting rifles were accidental, one-time affairs. Most still are.
The reason for this level of accuracy from a old gun is the pillar bedding. This is nothing new to us, but was unheard of 50 years ago. We have learned a lot about building rifles in the last 50 years. It was an unusually accurate rifle from the beginning, but with the addition of modern technology, it is great.
Now I am not saying that putting a pillar-bedded stock on your old gun will make it shoot half-inch groups. That probably won’t happen. However, it may make the old gun shoot considerably better. It will almost certainly make it into a better looking, more durable, weather resistant rig.
Note: The loading data mentioned here is safe only in the author’s gun. Neither the author nor Texas Fish and Game magazine are responsible for use of this data. Always consult your loading manuals for loading data.
Email Steve LaMascus at
Email Steve LaMascus at ContactUs@fishgame.com