Disclaimer: It looks like some people come here expecting a professional review, then end up disappointed and post angry comments. So let me be clear: I am not a firearms expert. This is not a professional review. I’m some dude who happens to own both the rifle and a blog. These are my personal opinions. Yes, there may be factual errors in my review. If you want a professional review, go elsewhere.
The VTR is one of the latest additions to the venerable Remington 700 series, with a rather silly TLA: Varmint Tactical Rifle. If you like going prairie dog hunting in ninja outfits, this is apparently the rifle for you (well, not sure ninjas are tactical, but you get the idea). Anyway, let’s take a closer look at this ninja rifle.
Aside from its silly name, one of the most noticeable characteristics of this rifle is the triangular barrel, and built in muzzle break.
The guy at the gun store claimed this triangular cross section added rigidity to the barrel, but I’m not sure that’s true. I’m no structural engineer, but I’m pretty sure you can’t make something stronger by removing material, but you can remove material in such a way that rigidity or tensile strength isn’t compromised, so you get the same or similar strength with less material (if I’m not mistaken, that’s the theory behind i-beams).
On various forums, I’ve heard people claim (or at least guess) that the triangular barrel would help cool the barrel; kind of like a fluted barrel, but with bigger flutes. Again, I am skeptical of this claim. Fluting helps cool a barrel by increasing the surface area. The triangular barrel on the VTR has less surface area than a cylindrical barrel of similar dimensions. My following masterpiece in abstract art may help illustrate:
Imagine this is the cross section of a barrel, and compare the line segments A (fluted) and B (normal), and it is obvious that A is longer (ergo greater surface area). Now compare C and D and it is clear that D is longer than the straight cut. The cuts on the VTR barrel are straight and more like C, so it clearly reduces surface area.
The drastic cuts in the barrel do reduce weight, and probably does so without sacrificing too much in rigidity (and at its thickest, it’s equivalent to some heavier contour barrels, so it’s probably pretty strong). It also looks pretty cool (or at least different), but I’m not sure it otherwise adds a whole lot of value. The built-in muzzle break also looks cool, but it’s mostly cosmetic, especially for rifles chambered for .223. (Note: Some people question the accuracy/validity of my analysis on the barrel’s design and effects. Read the comments to see what others have to say.)
Do the twist
While not entirely off the topic of barrels, the one redeeming, nay, attractive feature of the VTR barrel in .223 is the 1 in 9″ twist. For some reason, all the civilian (e.g. not “Police”) model Remington 700s chambered for .223 other than the VTR have a 1 in 12″ twist, which will stabilize up to 55 grain bullets, but not much higher. Maybe people prefer super light (30-40gr?) bullets at shorter ranges, but if you want to shoot beyond 200yrds, you need at least 1-9 or 1-10 to stabilize heavier bullets. From what I’ve read, a 1 in 9″ twist barrel should stabilize bullets up to 69gr and possibly even 75 or 77gr, so that should increase the effective accurate range of the .223 VTR out to 500yds and beyond. Now, I’ll be honest. I’ve never shot at a range greater than 200yds, and I haven’t started reloading yet so it’s not like I even have any 75gr bullets. But I hope I’ll get around to both shooting at greater ranges and reloading, so I’m glad I have a rifle that has the necessary twist out of the box.
Now let’s move a little back from the barrel and look at the trigger. Like many of the new R700 models, the VTR comes with the new X-Mark Pro trigger. I don’t have enough (well, any) experience with older R700 triggers, so I can’t tell whether they’re better or worse. All my other rifles have 2-stage triggers, so personally, I’m a little put-off by the mere fact that it’s single stage. It might just be the one I have, but there’s definitely some creep, and it also feels really heavy, though not consistently so (but then, maybe my trigger pull is inconsistent, not the trigger). I might try and adjust the trigger, or possibly replace it with a Timney.
The VTR in .223 has a 5 round capacity, which is great, especially when you’re trying to shoot 5 shot groups, or 5 cans, or 4 cans and you missed one, or… well, whatever. However, I’m thinking of upgrading mine with either a mag extender to increase capacity to 9 (couldn’t they just have gone to 10?), or a detachable magazine kit (though they’re kinda expensive, and in short supply).
How they kept costs down
Now we come to the stock. As the sub-heading suggests, it’s probably the one thing they sacrificed to keep the VTR relatively affordable. I believe it’s the same stock as the SPS but in a different color. Anyway, it’s made of plastic (injection molded?), is mostly hollow, and generally feels cheap. There’s obviously no bedding, and doesn’t free-float the barrel or anything. It does have dual QD studs, but the Harris bipod I got only attaches to the rear stud and renders the forward one unusable, so I don’t think that’s really a plus. As soon as I save up some money, I’m going to buy a H-S Precision stock, although I’m not sure whether the ADL or BDL stocks will fit the VTR (leave a comment if you know the answer).
I guess when people buy cool looking bolt action rifles, they want to know how accurate it is because they must, absolutely must have a sub-moa rifle. People are weird like that. Well, dear reader, I’m afraid I’m not the right guy to comment on accuracy because I’m not good enough of a shot to know whether I’m a 2 MOA shooter or the rifle is. I’ve shot a few hundred rounds of remanufactured Black Hills 55gr ammo over the last several weeks, and I’ve consistently gotten 1.5-1.75″ groups, and occasionally get 1.25-1.5″ groups. One time, a couple of weekends ago, I got the following, which I believe is pretty darn close to 1″ (at 100yds = 1MOA).
Now, given that I myself am likely not a sub-moa shooter, it’s entirely possible (if not likely) that the rifle itself shoots sub-moa out of the box. With a better stock, and good ammo it’ll probably do better. I’m afraid that’s the best I can say for now.
I’ll withhold any pretentious pseudo-objective judgement of this rifle, and just say that I’m happy with it. I wanted a Remington 700 in .223 with a 1 in 9″ twist, and my options were either the VTR or a 700P. The VTR was significantly cheaper, although it would probably come out to be about the same (or more) if I buy a replacement stock. The VTR does have a 5 round magazine as opposed to the 700P’s 4, but then with after market options, that might not be a huge difference. If you must have the best and can afford it, go with the 700P. But the VTR is pretty good for what you pay for.