Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader Review, Part One

The Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader was formally announced by a wide-spread press release from Remington dated April 23, 2014, right before its loud introduction at the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits of April 25-27, in Indianapolis. It has already been reviewed in the May issue of the American Hunter magazine, so at this juncture far from being a secret is common knowledge. The rifle itself isn't cutting edge at all, for it is essentially a re-release of the tragically over-hyped and overpriced “BP Xpress” muzzleloader that is really old news, having been in retail production since 2001.

The “BP Xpress” starts at $2500 in its cheapest configuration, going up to a comedic $4450 starting price for the “Carbon Stealth Model,” richly deserving of the “BS Xpress” title some have bestowed upon it. The Remington 700 Ultimate, by comparison, is a tremendous bargain, at $1295 M.S.R.P. The Remington Ultimate comes in two versions, a synthetic Bell & Carlson stocked version with no iron sights and the model I'm testing, a grey laminated edition that has a front ramp sight and a peep sight pre-installed. The idea (apparently) is that those who hunt Utah or Colorado will opt for the laminated / iron sight edition as scopes are not allowed, and everyone else will go for the synthetic. For the so-called “Western States” legal hunting requirement of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State that mandates an ignition system “open to the elements,” this rifle will not qualify. Further, as the Remington Ultimate has locking lugs on the bolt, you won't be able to get this rifle mail-order directly, as it is a Form 4473 rifle that must be shipped to an FFL.

The Remington brand has had muzzleloaders before, most notably the 700ML that was on the market for something like eight years. I reviewed a pair of 700MLs eleven years ago and featured one on my earlier VHS muzzleloading videos. The review stated, in part, the text that follows.
“The Remington .50 caliber muzzleloader was one of the first inline bolt-action muzzleloaders on the scene. These rifles are built on the Model 700 short action. The receivers are drilled and tapped for scope mounts.

The 700 ML features a matte black synthetic stock, a carbon steel action and 24" barrel with a satin-blue finish and a 1 in 28" rate of twist. The 700 ML weighs approximately 7 3/4 pounds and is 42.5" in overall length. The instruction manual states that the maximum charge should be held to 120 grains of black powder or Pyrodex in .50 caliber rifles and 90 grains in .45 caliber rifles.
The 700 MLS Magnum model is similar but features a satin finished stainless steel barreled action with a 26" barrel and a fiberglass reinforced synthetic stock. The MLS is 44.5" long and weighs about 7 7/8 pounds. According to the Remington Catalog 2003, the 700 MLS earns its "Magnum" nomenclature by being rated for up to 150 grain charges of either black powder or Pyrodex.

Remington has had some eight years to "perfect" what is currently the most popular muzzleloading action. They had gold in their hands, and they had it first. The notion behind bolt-action muzzleloaders was the faster lock-time afforded by the bolt/hammer versus the plunger type action, and the familiarity offered to those migrating to black powder from "centerfire land," building upon the success of the popular Remington Model 700 centerfire cartridge rifles.

Unfortunately, the 700 ML / MLS rifles have some serious flaws. As supplied, the trigger varies from over 6 lbs. to in well in excess of 7 lbs. as measured by my trigger pull gauge.

The buttstock is hollow, which helps to explain the rifle's muzzle heavy feel. The ramrod is poorly designed and painful to use. Worse yet, the barrel can easily be lifted away from the flimsy plastic forearm no matter how tightly the lug screws are tightened.
The hex-head bolt stop screw on the tested model is fussy. Finger-tight, the bolt falls right out. Tightened firmly with the supplied wrench, the bolt is locked in place and does not move at all.

The instruction manual suggests that you stick a coin in a vise to disassemble the bolt. A coin, and a vise to hold the coin, is not included in the supplied tools. These Remington muzzleloading rifles are the only ones I have seen that do not come with all tools necessary for disassembly. The front trigger guard screw is a very small hex-head, much smaller than the other two 5/32" Allen head stock screws. To remove the barreled action for a though cleaning you'll have to hunt for a wrench, as well as your vise.
The 3-way ignition (#11 caps, musket caps, and 209 primers) breechplug comes with a 209 shotshell primer nipple installed. Unfortunately, the blow back with 209 primers is fierce, the worst I have encountered. This is due to large vents that surround the primer. And the 209 primers stick in the 700ML after virtually every shot. Included with your new Remington is a green handled primer pick, so you can pry out the spent primers.

The supplied weather shroud is a tube that fits over the end of the bolt, then ensconces the primer nipple. Currently, the Remington WebSite states "NOTE: The Model 700 ML Weather Shroud is not intended for use with 209 primers." This information has not yet filtered into the instruction manual (!), but it is good advice. Firing the rifle with the weather shroud in place directs most to the gas right into your face. If you must shoot a Remington 700ML / MLS with the weather shroud in place, the #11 cap ignition is the least painful option.

A 700 MLS was test fired for this article. With the feel of flaming sand impregnating itself into my face, this gun truly is a pain to shoot. It kicks like a mule, is decidedly muzzle heavy, and the barreled action is poorly fitted to the molded stock.”

So, that's where we have been with the older “take a short action and turn it into a muzzleloader” method. Remington was in the market longer than others, though, for example the Ruger 77/50 originally shipped with a #11 cap nippled breechplug, eventually a musket cap breechplug was made available, but the Ruger was briskly discontinued before it made it to 209 shotshell primer ignition.

These models became undesirable when the Thompson Omega and the Savage 10ML appeared around 2000-2001, as all the scope-burning filth that no one liked was abandoned in favor of sealed action models. But, times have changed, Savage has abandoned their smokeless 10ML-II, and Thompson (now owned by S & W) has abandoned their black powder line in large measure, discontinuing all of their side-locks and also the Omega that was once a red-hot seller and still is a very good muzzleloader that is now out of production. Knight Rifles, once the industry leader, more or less self-destructed by deciding to introduce some really poorly designed, ugly muzzleloaders, like the “Knight Revolution” that my late friend Tony Knight has absolutely nothing to do with. Remington committed their own muzzleloading crime as well, briefly re-entering the muzzleloading market with the junky “Remington Genesis,” a Spanish Bic-lighter quality frontstuffer made by Ardesa of Spain, imported by Traditions, and eventually stuffed into a Remington box. Those dark days are over with, and I'm glad for that. I'm much, much more optimistic about the Remington 700 Ultimate.

I'm testing the laminated 700 Ultimate primarily because it is an extremely good-looking rifle. My only niggle about the laminated version is that the stock is uncheckered, so is a bit slippery to handle under cold, snowy, or wet hunting conditions.

The test gun ships in an unnecessarily large plastic hard case, and UPS ripped open a side of the outer box, although fortunately neither the case or the rifle were damaged in shipment. Saboted bullets and primed brass are just thrown into the box in their own packaging: it would have better if there were dedicated compartments in the case for them, including a couple of plastic boxes along the lines of choke tube cases to keep these components better organized.

The supplied owners manual is lackluster, filled with typos, spelling mistakes (PRYODEX) and giving no specific load information at all. Rather than a printed manual that few read (except when all else fails), an instructional DVD would be more helpful.

Out of the box, the test gun weighs 8 lbs., 12.5 ounces via calibrated electronic measure and the trigger breaks at 5 lbs, but is adjustable. However, the trigger is a superb one, with no take-up and a very, very crisp break. The wide trigger face makes this 5 lb. trigger seem light, without adjustment.

Out of the box, naturally the gun isn't ready for any range work. It is remove the peep, add bases, rings, scope, secure propellant, and then it is off to the range, as we will report in part two and part three of this review series. My initial impressions, overall, are quite positive, it is priced right as well, and it looks be an outstanding high-horsepower long range muzzleloader with enough substantial mass to make it enjoyable to shoot with higher-intensity loads.


Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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