Gun Digest Greatest Guns: Remington’s 40-XB

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Author's Remington 40-XB, ready for testing. Hollywood tool, set up at the bench, allowed reloading at the range. The rifle delivered excellent groups, favorite loads beating the factory guarantee. Scope is a Bausch & Lomb 6x-24x.
Author's Remington 40-XB, ready for testing. Hollywood tool, set up at the bench, allowed reloading at the range. The rifle delivered excellent groups, favorite loads beating the factory guarantee. Scope is a Bausch & Lomb 6x-24x.

Much of my shooting in recent times has been with the shotgun, more particularly the trap gun — one year I spent 50 Sundays shooting the clays and only lousy weather prevented my going out the other two days.

One day not long ago, though, I read with renewed interest an article in a recent Gun Digest by Field & Stream’s gunscribe, Warren Page, called “Half-Minute Rifles.” In it I learned that Remington had a centerfire rifle available, guaranteed as to accuracy. My ears perked up, my interest increased, and I knew I’d have to have one of ‘em! After much hard thought on caliber choice I ordered a 40-XB heavy barrel model in standard 6mm Remington caliber, with a twist of 1–10″.

I was, of course, impatient to have the rifle in my hands as soon as possible, but because the 40-XB is a special order rifle it takes time — in my case it was close to 8 weeks.

Specifications

The 40-XB can also be had with a light or “standard” barrel. The heavy barrel model weighs in at 111⁄4 lbs., less sights, the standard is 11⁄2 lbs. lighter. Both barrels are about 271⁄4″, and for some $20 extra, stainless steel barrels can be had. They’re recommended, by Remington, for such hotter cartridges as the 7mm Rem., 30–338, etc., and they will also give increased barrel life for the 6mm Rem. and 22–250. This is something for the varmint hunter to consider.

Most 40-XBs supplied are single shot; repeaters can be had, again for an extra $20, in cartridges up to the 7.62 NATO, better known as the 308 Winchester. The SS style has a slight edge in accuracy usually, the action being stiffer because there is no weakening cut-out through the bottom of the action and stock.

One other option is a $40-extra trigger with a 2-oz pull, for bench-rest and target shooting. It is generally considered too light for field use. However, the trigger on my 40-XB can be adjusted down to about 8 ounces, with safety, and it’s a joy to use.

Every Remington 40-XB, before it leaves the factory, must fire three 5-shot groups at 100 yards, these not to exceed a certain accuracy standard for the cartridge being fired:

Test groups and loading data are furnished with each rifle, the targets with my rifle averaging .47″, well under the .60″ maximum average allowed. Interestingly, these groups were fired with custom made bullets, not factory! Whether this will continue now that Remington offers match grade bullets in 22 and 6mm (the Power-Lokt stuff) is moot. Note that Remington doesn’t guarantee that the user of their 40-XB rifles will obtain the same accuracy shown by their test targets, and in watching some reloaders at work I can well see why.

All 40-XBs have scope blocks attached, but some short target type scopes, at least, are too short to reach the bases. My 10x Unertl Varmint scope wouldn’t fit. The base separation is 10.6″ instead of the older 6.8″ or 7.2″ dimension, with one base on the barrel and the other on the receiver bridge. The receiver ring, also tapped, comes sans base, and would allow a 7.2″ separation. The longer target scopes present no problem, of course. The 10.6″ separation has an advantage; it takes 6 clicks instead of 4 to equal 1 MOA (1″ at 100 yards), giving more precise impact adjustment.

The walnut stock is of target type, the wood plain and straight grained for strength. Barrel and action are hand-bedded, with the barrel free-floating. A barrel bedding device at the front end of the stock controls tension between barrel and fore-end, and can also be used with electrical bedding devices. The underside of the stock has a rail inletted flush with the wood, permitting adjustment of the attached front swivel and handstop, designed for target shooters. The handstop is easily removed for field or bench shooting.

The Cartridge

Some of the bullets and powders used by Horton in testing. Speer’s Loading Manual provided basic handload data.
Some of the bullets and powders used by Horton in testing. Speer’s Loading Manual provided basic handload data.

The 6mm Rem. is nothing more than the 244 Rem., given a new name, different bullet weight and a change in barrel twist. To go a little farther back, the 244 came from the 257 Roberts, which first saw the light of day using the old tried-and-true 7×57mm Mauser case. The bullet diameter is hardly new either, as it dates back many years, both here and abroad. You never heard of the 6mm Lee Straight Pull rifle?

The 244 Rem. and the 243 Win. came out about the same time, but the 244 lost the race rather early when it was found that the twist used, 1–12″, wouldn’t stabilize bullets of 100 grains or heavier if spitzer pointed. The 244 was first loaded with 75- and 90-gr. bullets while the 243 was available with 80- and 100-grainers. With the 243’s 1–10″ twist no troubles were had with 100-gr. sharp pointed bullets. Remington had looked on the 244 as mainly a varmint cartridge, but the public found the 243 a pretty good deer cartridge, so much so that 250–3000 and 257 Roberts sales hit rock bottom as a result. Regrettable, too, for both loads make darned fine cart ridges when reloaded.

Remington finally saw the light and changed the twist of the 244 to 1–10″, but for some reason they never did say much when this was done. Probably too late to do much good anyway. With the introduction of the Remington 700 rifles a “new” cartridge, the 6mm Remington, also made its appearance. There are no specification differences between the 244 and the 6mm Rem., but reloaders should reduce the 244 charges a bit before using them in the 6mm Rem., if only because of the faster twist of the latter.

6mm cartridges were originally loaded only with 100-gr. bullets, but late in 1965 an 80-gr. loading was announced. Pleasing news to the non-reloading varmint hunters.

Sighting Equipment

Because my Unertl wouldn’t work. I snapped up a B&L 6–24x scope when it was offered at an attractive price. It does add to the weight and bulk of the rifle no little bit, but then this isn’t a rifle anyone would want to carry in the field for any great distance.

This B&L variable is a great work of art, and optically won’t take a backseat to anything, but there is room for improvement, mainly in the method of adjusting parallax. The Parallax Adjustment Selector Ring, as B&L calls it, moves the objective (front) lens elements back and forth. The higher the power setting the more precise this adjustment must be. If one makes an adjustment at low power and the scope is then zoomed to high power it will be out of focus, so always adjust for parallax at the maximum power setting you intend using.

The variable-power aspects of this B&L scope give it advantages over fixed power scopes. You can, for example, seemingly dial away mirage by lowering the power setting. The mirage is still there but it isn’t as noticeable. The glass can also be used as a spotting scope.

Reloading

Before the rifle arrived several different makes and weights of 6mm bullets were ordered, along with 100 unprimed cases, 40 factory loads with 100-gr. bullets, and a set of RCBS neck sizing dies. In a rifle mainly to be used for target work there isn’t much sense in getting a full length sizing die. Resizing is also easier, as only the neck is worked. As of now some cases have been reloaded 20 times and still slip easily into the chamber.

The unprimed cases were first trimmed lightly on a Forster trimmer to make the mouths smooth and even — most looked as if they had been factory trimmed with a dull hacksaw, one with several teeth missing! This seems to be a common situation with all makes of primed and unprimed brass, not an exception. All cases were chamfered, then primed with Remington large rifle primers. Alcan primers were also used later, but my shooting could detect no difference between the two, which speaks rather highly for a newcomer to the rifle and pistol primer field.

All loads were assembled on a Hollywood Senior Turret Tool, a product I can’t praise enough. Workmanship is top notch, as it is on all Hollywood tools, something that seems to be disappearing from the American scene. A Hollywood micrometer powder measure was also used throughout, and it performed without a hitch. No loads were weighed, though the measure was first set using the big Ohaus scales, a fine machine but rather too large and bulky to take afield.

The Remington 40-XB centerfire rifle as factory delivered. It is made in two barrel weights and twelve calibers, from 222 to 30–338, all with guaranteed accuracy levels. Trigger pull is easily adjusted on the 40-XB by means of an Allen wrench, making removal of barreled action from stock unnecessary. Standard trigger was set at 8 ozs. for test shooting. A 2-oz. trigger is available at extra cost.
The Remington 40-XB centerfire rifle as factory delivered. It is made in two barrel weights and twelve calibers, from 222 to 30–338, all with guaranteed accuracy levels. Trigger pull is easily adjusted on the 40-XB by means of an Allen wrench, making removal of barreled action from stock unnecessary. Standard trigger was set at 8 ozs. for test shooting. A 2-oz. trigger is available at extra cost.

Bullets

6mm bullets are available in a large array of types and weights. 60, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 100 and 105 grain sizes, and hollow point, spitzer, semi-pointed and round-nosed, in flat and boat-tail design, are offered. All point and base types aren’t available in every weight, of course.

Aside from the new Remington Power-Lokt bullets, there are no factory 6mm match grade bullets on sale. Gardiner of Rockford, Ill., now specializes in 6mm bullets, match and hunting types, and Col. Hollidge is well known for his match bullets, 6mm as well as 224, etc.

My 40-XB was factory tested with Crawford Hollidge (Marstons Mills, Mass.) bullets, so a supply of these was ordered. These are soft swaged, hollow pointed and run about 70 grains. Later on some heavier Hollidge bullets were also purchased.

Shooting

My first groups were fired, after sighting in, with factory 100-grain ammunition. It would be a gross understatement to say that accuracy left something to be desired, for the last three 5-shot groups averaged about 1½”.

However, as it was about 15 months since I had done any serious rifle shooting I laid part of the blame on being out of practice. Such didn’t prove to be the whole case though, because after I had become used to the rifle and shooting from a bench again, groups with the other box of factory loads didn’t improve much, going about 13⁄8″ average for four groups.

After all cases had been fire-formed I began loading and shooting in earnest.

Without a doubt the best shooting load was the one used at the factory for testing accuracy, i.e., 40.5 grains 4064 and the 70-gr. Hollidge soft swaged bullets. This load averaged .380″ for a series of groups.

It became apparent that the lighter weight bullets were the shooters, because for the most part anything over 75 grains didn’t perform well. Also that 4064, combined with light bullets, gave the best accuracy.

I like boat-tail bullets, but the Sierra 85-gr. BT just won’t shoot in this 40-XB, groups running around 1″-1¼”.

Remington has two new 6mm bullets on the market — on the market if you can find them, that is! One is a hunting type, the other target style, both 80 grains.

So far the only one that I have had a chance to shoot has been the hunting bullet. This is rather odd looking in that it could, in all truthfulness, be called a full metal-jacketed hollow point, with a dimpled bottom! How does that grab you?

The nose of the jacket is folded over and in and, looking closely, you’ll see 5 cuts in the nose for quick expansion. Do they shoot? You’re darned right they do. The first load, using 40 grains of 4320, gave a 1⁄2″ group. Going up and down (very little up, though) in ½-gr. jumps neither hurt nor helped group diameter. With its small diameter hollow point, this should be a flat-shooting bullet.

The Norma 75-gr. HP bullet shoots well too, though not quite as good as the Remington. 40 grains of Norma’s No. 203 gave an average of about 3⁄4″, and I finally settled on the Norma recommendation of 42.3 grains of 203, with groups wavering between 5⁄8″ and 11⁄16″.

Of interest to me was the velocity consistency of the various loads. Some were markedly better than others. Lowest variation came with the 80-gr. Remington bullet ahead of 40 grains of 4320 — a mere 11 fs. 35 grains of 3031 with the 80-gr. Speer was almost as good, 19 fs. Least consistent was the load using the lightweight 60-gr. Sierra — 89 fs. Remington’s factory load varied only 30 fs, good results with machine-loaded ammo.

Odds & Ends

I could have decreased the 40-XB groups, I imagine, by sorting cases for uniform capacity, checking bullets to see that they weren’t out of round, and other tricks of the trade that the serious benchrest shooter has up his sleeve. However, I was more concerned with doing things as the average reloader would — loading good ammunition without being a perfectionist about it. As far as the results are concerned I’m more than happy with the outcome.

One thing I did do that helped maintain bore condition was to clean the barrel with Jim Brobst’s J-B Compound after every shooting session. This is a paste-like very mild abrasive which rids the bore of any fouling. A little bit really makes the bore smooth and shiny, but it isn’t at all damaging to the bore. All traces of it, of course, must be re moved before shooting.

This article is an excerpt from The Greatest Guns of Gun Digest


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