For over 50 years Remington Arms has hosted an annual event whereby writers/editors are given the opportunity to learn of and use those new guns slated for introduction the following year. This year’s venue was Bienville Plantation in White Springs, FL. If memory serves, this was my 34th seminar, my first going back to the early `70s when they were held at Remington Farms in Chestertown, MD on the Chesapeake Bay. Those days were so much simpler because Remington made only rifles, shotguns and ammo. A three-hour presentation was enough for all the proud department heads to show off their new goodies for the coming year.
Those days are long gone. Today, Remington is just one member, albeit the largest, of the Freedom Group of Companies comprised of Marlin, H&R, Dakota, Nesika Bay, Parker Guns, Bushmaster, DPMS/Panther and Barnes Bullets. It’s gotten to where there is just too much to cover in three days time, so these last few years there have been two seminars, one covering sporting arms and ammunition, the other tactical/law enforcement. The latter convened in December at the famous Gunsite Academy in Paulden, AZ.
Anyway, the biggest news from Big Green for 2014 is not simply a gun, but a shooting system designed around a digital optical instrument which Remington claims to be “…the greatest advance in targeting, tracking, and ballistic computing since telescopic sights were introduced. Combining the capabilities and functionality of multiple devices into one package, the Remington 2020,” as they’re calling it, “allows you to immediately improve your accuracy and confidence at distances up to 500 yards.”
Like I said, the 2020 is a system consisting of the digital optic, and a hand- selected Remington rifle that can be had in a choice of three models/calibers — the BFI Varminter based on the company’s AR-platform R-15 rifle in .223 Rem.; a Model 700 SPS Tactical in .308 Win., or a Model 700 Long Range in .30-06. Also part of the system are three specific loads in each caliber for which the optical systems are programmed and calibrated.
To explain all the things this rifle/scope/ammo combination is capable of would take more space than I’m allotted here. Besides, I don’t think I could do an adequate job of it because, quite frankly, I’m not savvy enough to tackle such technology. Hell, my sons recently talked me into joining the 21st century by getting a smart phone. After a month, all I’ve learned is that it’s much smarter than I, as I haven’t begun to learn all the things it’s capable of. All I can do so far is to make a call, answer a call, and store photos.
Anyway, I can t least tell you some of the things this system can do, assuming one can understand the instructions and how to do it. First off, it has a 3-21x zoom range and an onboard laser that can measure distance on a deer target up to 750 yards away. Once the specific load is entered into the computer and zeroed-in as per the instructions, it determines the range to the target, then computes the aiming point based on built-in sensors that determine temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, wind velocity and direction, inclination, and whether the rifle is canted. Along with all that information, it also tracks moving targets and computes the necessary lead.
There’s also a still/video camera on board, that automatically begins recording 1/54 of a second before the shot is fired to determine if indeed it was
as good a hold as one thought the moment the trigger was pulled. Then there’s the WiFi capability that allows everything that appears in the scope’s heads-up display to live stream to an I-Phone, I-Pad or Android, so others can see what the shooter is seeing (this feature will settle those “I’m telling you guys it was a perfect shot. He should be lying right around here somewhere!).
We all got to use to use the 2020 system on steel targets at 380 yards. I chose to use the .308 SPS Tactical and had no trouble hitting the 10” diameter target every time. If truth be told, however, I could have done the same thing with and ordinary scope and a simple crosshair reticle, just as I’ve been doing for more than 50 years. As long as I know the distance — no longer a problem with today’s laser rangefinders — and my downrange impact points, with a steady-enough rest I’m pretty confident out to 350-400 yards. Beyond that, I just don’t shoot.
Don’t get me wrong, this 2020 system is a tremendous advancement and it’s going to appeal to the younger generation of shooters who cut their teeth on computers and smart phones. Besides, I think Remington is perfectly okay knowing this thing is not going to appeal to relics like me. To me it’s just another incremental diminishment favoring shooting and technical savvy over hunting skills.
Considering the price of the 2020 system ranges from $5300-$5500 depending on which rifle is chosen, it’s not something we’re going to see in a typical deer camp! That price includes a supply of ammo and a wheeled hard case.
Though the 2020 gizzy was the star of the event, there were several other interesting extensions rolled out at Bienville. One of the coolest guns in my opinion is the Model 700-VTR; that’s the one with the triangular barrel and a built-in muzzle brake. Though I hate muzzle brakes, somehow I can live with it on this model. Go figure! The current VTR line is being replaced for 2014 with two new models, a blued steel version with a Dark Earth synthetic stock with black overmolded grip panels, and an all-stainless version with a black stock and gray grip panels. Both guns will come with a new, tactical-style bolt handle, a Pickytinny rail, and a short Harris Bipod.
For the 2014 version of the Model 700 CDL Limited Edition gun, Remington has chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the .223 Rem. cartridge. As with other LE 700s, only one limited production run will be made, so when they’re gone, they’re gone. Distinguishing the model is the word “Limited” on the left side of the receiver, and a special 50th Anniversary floorplate.
There’s nothing in the way of new models from Marlin, but what is new is the quality of the guns themselves. For decades the old Marlin organization refused to keep up with advancements in manufacturing technology like numerically controlled machines and EDM processes. Although the flagship Model 336 has always been highly reliable, they were on the rough and hitchy side. Now under the Freedom Group, they’re finally made the transition to modern machinery. As a result of the tighter tolerances possible, the new Model 336 represents a dramatic improvement over the previous version. You only have to cycle the action once to appreciate how much smoother it is. It is at last, all the gun its design allows it to be.
Lastly, the Nesika Bay folks rolled out three brand new rifles, a Sporter, a Long Range, and a Tactical, all based on the company’s highly acclaimed benchrest action on which many a record-setting rifles have been built. Heretofore, Nesika Bay only manufactured the action; now they’re building complete rifles using Douglas match-grade barrels, Timney triggers, and hand-laid composite stocks with integral aluminum bedding blocks. I shot a .308 Win. Sporter version at the seminar on the 100-yard range and both 5-shot groups were well under an inch.
On the ammunition front, 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the Core Lokt bullet, one of the best production grade hunting bullets ever. There are many additions to the ammo line, far too many mention here. Perhaps the biggest news, however, is the 32 million dollar expansion of the company’s Lanoke, AR facility, which promises to nearly double the ammo output. That should help relieve somewhat the ongoing ammo shortages we’re all come to live with these past couple of years.
To find out all that’s new from Remington and the Freedom Group of Companies, go to www.remingtonvault.com— Jon R. Sundra