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I am now the proud and somewhat surprised owner of a Remington 760 Gamemaster. Every once and a while, I buy something because it is just too good to pass up. Part of it may be the price. Such was the case with my recent purchase of this, my first and only pump action, high powered rifle. It just seemed to reach out and grab me, as I wandered down the racks of rifles and shotguns on display for sale. This rifle was never on my list of desirable firearms (yes, I have a list), and I had never considered purchasing one. The dealer was only asking $180 - for a 30-06 rifle with a scope. Even at their more normal asking prices of $300 - $400 (maybe $500 for a really good example), the 760 is one of the great firearms bargains these days.
Why so cheap? The dealer told me that he had this rifle sitting in the store for almost three years, and just wanted it out. He had originally been asking around $400. Its too bad really; but I can see why. For years, I had seen these rifles in catalogs, and in stores, and not given them much thought. Stereotyping is not exactly unheard of in the firearms community, and I certainly stereotyped. Pump actions are for shotguns, as everyone knows, or perhaps for gallery guns. Rifles are either semi automatic, bolts, or lever actions. I assumed that everyone else felt the same way; but it turns out I am wrong. There were approximately 1.03 million of these guns produced, between 1952, and 1981, making them quite popular. They were replaced by the very similar model 6 and model 7600. These continue to be made today. Still, they appeal only to a certain market niche.
The controls are lifted largely intact from the Remington 870 shotgun. There is the familiar cross bolt safety, just behind the trigger, as well as the slide release just in front to the right. Ordinarily, the slide will be locked when the gun is cocked, making the slide release necessary to check and unload the chamber. The pump action is cycled through a slide on the forearm.
Unlike the classic pump action shotgun, there is no tubular magazine housed within the pump. Use of such a magazine precludes loading with anything but blunt nosed bullets. They are also rather complicated, and can be difficult to load. This is a drawback common to lever action rifles, with their own tubular magazines. The four round detachable magazine of the 760 is released by depressing a lever to the left in front of the trigger guard. Because this is a box style magazine, larger capacities are possible. Some aftermarket manufacturers make ten round magazines for this rifle, though they are not flush fitting.
The bolt of this rifle is a thing of beauty. It is housed within a bolt carrier, and operation is somewhat reminiscent of the bolt of the M-16/AR-15 series of rifles. The 760 bolt has FOURTEEN locking lugs, in four rows forming an interrupted spiral pattern. They fit into a matching set of recesses in the chamber. This is similar to the interrupted thread pattern used in artillery pieces, and makes for a pretty secure lock, and a fairly smooth action. A close up of the bolt, chamber, and carrier is in the photo to the right. In the photo, the bolt is partially withdrawn from the chamber, so that you can see the details. The intricacy and quality of manufacture is marvelous to behold. They don't make them like this any more - literally. The newer models (7600 and Model 6) have only three locking lugs.
The bolt, carrier, and chamber are similar to those of the semi automatic 740, with the difference being that the bolt carrier of the 740 is worked by a gas piston, rather than a slide. On the 760, the slide actuates a pair of action bars, similar to those in the 870 shotgun.
Once the bolt carrier is acted upon, it causes the bolt to rotate and unlock from the recesses in the chamber. This permits the bolt, and carrier to be forced back. This extracts the empty, and expels it from the ejection port on the upper right hand side of the receiver. In the 760, the slide moves the bolt carrier back and forth. in the 740, and most other semi auto rifles, a gas piston moves the bolt back, and a powerful spring forces it forward. When the bolt and carrier move forward, they push a cartridge from the magazine into the chamber. The carrier then rotates the bolt and locks it in place.
From the description, it might seem that there is no point in designing a pump action rifle. Why not just go with a semiautomatic, since the bolt and much of the operation is the same? There is the matter of cost, of course. While it certainly cost more to make the semi auto 740, as well as the model 4 and the 7400, the cost difference was not that great. There is a market for the pump guns, based upon their own merits, and having nothing to do with costs. There are hunters, sportsman, and firearms enthusiasts, who prefer the certainly of a manually operated rifle, over a semiautomatic. In many ways, this is similar to the preference that some handgun enthusiasts have for a revolver over a semi auto pistol.
Semi automatic rifles can jam. Their gas systems can get clogged, and they need to be drained carefully after being in water. Their actions can be affected by bullet weights and operating pressures. They early problems with the M-16 were caused by a simple move from extruded to ball powder in the ammunition. Obviously a semi auto will not cycle if it misfires. In addition to this, some shooters are not comfortable with a rifle which is essentially always carrying a chambered round. Semi automatic firearms are inherently just a bit more dangerous than other types. They are also widely considered to be inherently less accurate than other types, though there are some pretty accurate examples out there. The one consistent advantage that the semi auto has is its speed.
There are other types of manually operated repeating firearms. There are bolt action guns; but these can be slow to operate. There are also lever action guns, which are quick; but not as quick as a slide action. Both the bolt and the lever gun needs to be taken off target to be cycled. The slide action does not. In truth, a slide action loses little in speed to a semi auto. It also has the distinct advantage of not being vilified, as are many semiautomatic rifles these days. You are unlikely to see these guns banned anywhere, any time soon. In point of fact, there are companies which charge a tidy sum to convert semi automatic rifles to slide actions, in order to stay within the law of certain jurisdictions. DPMS, and some other companies make slide action versions of AR-15 rifles, to be sold to people in places where semi autos are not allowed.
Even in places where there are no legal issues, this might be a better choice due to its less threatening look, and its seemingly less militaristic mode of operation. For a survivalist, the light weight of the rifle, less threatening appearance, and hard hitting cartridge might be ideal for scouting or ranging. The simpler, more foolproof design would also stand up a bit better. The fact that the mechanism is not dependant upon the cartridge for cycling permits use of very heavy, or very light loads, without the worry of jamming. The more thought given to the virtues of these guns, the more desirable they become.
According to the barrel codes, this rifle was manufactured in 1969. Other than a thinning of the bluing, it is in excellent shape. Everything seems tight, and the gun doesn't rattle when I shake it. The gun is chambered in 30-06, which was the most popular of the many chamberings for this model, and one of the most popular rifle cartridges ever loaded. This makes it a long action. A short action was also produced, which was chambered in the 308, and other cartridges of that length. The basket weave on the slide makes it appear that this is a BDL model. The rear iron site was removed for scope installation; but the gold bead ramped front sight remains. I doubt I would ever use iron sights with a 30-06, so they will not be missed.
The rifle came with a medium quality Tasco scope. This is a 2.5-10 x 42 scope with a mil-dot reticle. It also has an adjustable objective for parallax. The scope doesn't excite me much - you can pick up something like this for $50 - $75 anywhere. I do like the idea that the rifle is all set up with a mount and rings, though.
The 30-06, even though it is one of the most popular cartridges ever made, is usually not given the respect or credit it deserves. This is largely because the magic word "Magnum" does not appear anywhere in its description. There is also no belt at its base. Still, on its own merits, this is quite a cartridge, and is capable of delivering nearly magnum round performance. To the military, this is now known as the 7.62 x 63 cartridge, to differentiate from the 308, now known as the 7.62 x 51. With proper loads, the 30-06 can generate 3000fp of force. Compared to the 2500fp generated by the standard 308 NATO round, or the 3400fp - 3500fp generated by the 300 Winchester Magnum, it can be seen that the old 30-06 is right about in the middle - perhaps being a bit closer to the magnum round. Compared to the classic 30-30 round's 1500fp - 1600fp, or the 1300fp of the M-16's 223, the old 30-06 seems like a giant.
This is my second 30-06 rifle. My first is an M-1 Garand that I bought years ago. A comparison of the two is interesting. The Garand weighs almost ten pounds, compared to the 7.5 pounds of the 760. Though the two rifles are of approximately the same length, the Garand is a much bulkier gun. The eight round clip of the Garand is more difficult to charge and to load, than the four round box magazine of the 760. The 760 was designed for the woods, and the Garand for the battlefield. Lugging the 7 1/2 pound 760 through the woods is effortless. The weight is only a pound more than that of a 30-30 lever action, and a pound less than that of the newest M-16/AR-15 type rifle. Yet the 30-06 cartridge far outclasses the 30-30 and .223 cartridges fired by these two rifles.
Firing this gun at the range, even with the questionable scope, gets me a group size of about an inch and a half. Not too bad for a forty year old rifle, fired by a fifty two year old rifleman. The trigger helps. It is not particularly crisp; but has a pull of only 4 pounds, according to my trigger gauge. The trigger itself is smooth, and a bit narrow. It is set within an anodized aluminum trigger guard. Recoil of the 30-06 from a 7.5 pound rifle is noticeable, but not horrible. I can empty the four round magazine in about two or three seconds. With practice, I am sure I can do it even faster, but why bother?
Having had some time with this gun, and being able to familiarize myself with it has made me a bit embarrassed at my oversight. For me, this will probably be a back up gun or knock around gun. This gun is light, fast firing, hard hitting, and accurate - everything you could want from a field gun. It is not romantic, threatening, or expensive, and is thus often given little regard. This is just as well. There are always a few of us out there willing to take advantage of the misjudgment of others, and get ourselves a bargain.