With good rifles of traditional quality now closing in on the thousand dollar mark, manufacturers’ have come to the realization that a lot of hunters and shooter won’t, or can’t, spend that kind of cash on a new gun. So, to keep their production lines busy, a flurry of no-frills, inexpensive rifles have hit the market over the last few years. Gun companies may not make as much profit from each of these guns, but they are apparently hoping to make it up in volume.
I think it’s a good trend, simply because it gives the gun-buying consumer more options. And now the choice starts with a good selection of entry-level rifles priced under the magic $500 price point. There are still lots of options hovering around the $1000 threshold, and even more alternatives going up in $500 steps, as far as your credit card can reach.
Over the last year, I’ve bought and/or borrowed four of these value-priced rifles and have spent some quality trigger time with each. As you’d expect, I’ve found they all have good points and bad points, with the most recent rifle to pass through my hands, the Remington Model 783, being no exception. And I’ve actually had the opportunity to work with two of these rifles.
This no-frills Remington is a bolt-action repeater which feeds itself using a detachable all-metal magazine. It’s available in eight calibres, with .223 Rem. and .300 Win. Mag. occupying the smallest and largest points on the calibre scale. The other six offerings are the most popular and practical chamberings in use by North American hunters. The rifle is sold as a package, complete with a mounted and bore-sighted 3-9X40 scope. Prices seem to vary widely, depending on which country the rifle is being sold in, which simply reflects the strengths and weaknesses of national currencies. But if you’re looking for an international benchmark, it’s fair to say the 783 is in the same price bracket as some basic .22 rimfires.
The Remington 783’s I’ve been working with are both chambered in 223 Remington and both had to tolerate what I’ve been doing with everything mechanical since I was old enough to hold a screwdriver—taking it apart to see how it works.
The black injection moulded stock is standard fare for rifles at this price level, but pillar bedding isn’t and I was pleasantly surprised to see two aluminum pillars surrounding each of the action screws.
However, the barrel was not free-floating on either rifle, as promised in Remington’s advertising. A situation which was resolved with a channel rasp and fifteen minutes of work. At the other end of the stock, a soft recoil pad provides shoulder traction and cushioning. Instead of conventional metal studs for detachable sling swivels, Remington has moulded integral “studs” which serve the same purpose. Although they didn’t initially give me a warm fuzzy feeling of security, with about ten miles of carrying on them now logged, they seem to be working just fine and a fuzzy feeling is starting to creep in.
The action set into this black stock is tubular in design and uses a two lug bolt similar to the Remington 700. However, the Model 700 similarity ends with a notably different extractor, which is a spring loaded claw.
Another exception is the floating bolt head which looks very much like that used in Savage rifles. Another nod to Savage is the use of a nut to clamp barrel and action together. And why not? It’s a system which works well when looks are secondary, because it allows headspace to be set accurately and quickly. And Remington isn’t the first one to copy the idea.
The trigger is a compact self-contained unit, bolted to the underside of the action, and it includes the safety lever. The trigger is adjustable for weight of pull only, so I tested its extreme limits and managed to get it down to 2.1 lbs. At the other end of the trigger’s adjustment, I couldn’t get it to discharge. Finding a happy medium, I set the trigger at 3.0 lbs and went shooting. I found a small amount of creep, with a consistent let-off, concluding it’s not the trigger you’d hope for on an expensive rifle, but it’s excellent for a rifle of this price.
Other stats include a length of pull of 13.5 inches, an overall length of 42 inches, barrel length of 22 inches and an empty weight of 7 lb, 9 oz, with scope. That weight indicates the rifle has some heft to it, and a lot of that weight is in the barrel. I stuffed a bore scope inside the barrel of Rifle 1 and was surprised to see a lack of reamer or machine marks of any kind. The second rifle’s barrel had a few of these marks. Several shooting and cleaning cycles have confirmed barrel 1 doesn’t collect copper and is easy to clean. Barrel 2, takes a few more patches to clean, but it’s still completely acceptable.
Rifle 1 was the first gun I shot, using two factory loads and two handloads. Shooting two groups of five shots each at 100 yards gave me a 1.41 inch average for Winchester 55 grain Varmint-X. Remington’s 55 grain soft point averaged 1.17 inches, while a handload using Varget powder and Nosler’s 60 grain Ballistic Tip managed a 0.97 inch average. This rifle’s barrel has a twist rate of 1-9″, so it’ll handle heavier bullets, including Sierra’s new 69 grain Tipped MatchKing. With Varget powder pushing them, these bullets shot groups of 0.77 and 0.82 inch, for a 0.80 MOA average. That’s excellent accuracy for a low-priced rifle. I quickly sent it hunting with a friend and he started piling up coyotes in short order.
I wanted to try handloads using Hornady 55 gr. V-Max bullets in Rifle 2, so I started working up a load. I hit a sweet spot with 26.0 grains of Varget when the rifle pulled off a 5 shot group measuring 0.56 inches. Moving the target to 200 yards put another 5 shots into 1.80 inches. That averages out to 0.73 MOA. Obviously these rifles both shoot extremely well for budget priced guns.
The accuracy I was able to attain is even more surprising considering the optic with which the rifle is packaged. The factory supplied scope is best described as poor. But then, if you pay this little money for scope and rifle, what kind of scope do you expect to get? I like nice optics, so I gritted my teeth and used the package scope for all the accuracy testing and some of the hunting I did. The scopes worked and never let me down, so there’s no question they are functional. But, although both these rifles are staying in the family, the scopes are not. The optics are less than clear, the reticle is too big for fine shooting and the ocular focus keeps rotating out of position. The old rule of thumb about buying a scope equal in value to the price of the rifle, comes to mind, and that’s what has already happened. Rifle 1 is now wearing a Leupold 3-9X scope and Rifle 2 has a compact Bushnell 2-7X. The 783 is a budget priced rifle which is easily worth the scope upgrade.
With the scopes upgraded, I thought I might as well try a stock upgrade too. And since MDT makes several chassis systems for this rifle, I bolted one of their LSS units to Rifle 2. A quick check at the range showed no change to point of impact, and continued accuracy well under minute-of-angle.
With winter locked in place in my part of the world, and a new rifle to try, it was time to go coyote hunting. Doubling the magazine capacity to 10, a better grip angle for trigger control and a buttstock which can be adjusted for length all proved to be desirable changes brought on by the chassis system. On it’s first trip out, two coyotes fell to this rifle, just as the sun was coming up. They both were trying to escape, after a night of foraging in a herd of cattle. The furthest met his V-Max at 266 yards.
It’s appropriate to ask whether it’s worth putting a quality chassis system like this on a budget rifle. I think it is, but only if the rifle shoots well enough to warrant the swap. Both of these rifles do. Even so, one is keeping the MDT chassis, the other is staying with the factory stock, at least for now. It’s always good to have options. Because if these two rifles are any indication, with the Model 783, Remington is doing the budget rifle right.