I am not sure how much experience is enough when testing a new rifle, but I think I crossed the threshold with this one. I carried the Remington Model 700 American Wilderness Rifle (AWR) in float planes, boats, trucks, swamp buggies and on my shoulder for more miles than I care to think about. I used it in constant rain, high humidity and at the extremes of this continent.
I hunted with the rifle for two weeks during a 10-day grizzly hunt in Alaska. You read that right; we were “weather stuck” for four extra days. The outfitter promised heated and dry tents, but he lied. Instead we had tiny tents with no heat and no place to hang wet gear. With the constant rain that is the Alaska experience, we were wet most of the time with no possible way to dry anything, including our guns. (That outfitter lied about a lot of other things, too, like having bears and enough food and toilet paper, but that story is for another time.)
A month later I hunted in northeastern North Carolina for black bears, again in a hard rain for a while, followed by high humidity. In this case the hunt was outstanding and I actually shot a huge black bear with the AWR. (You can catch up on that story here.)
The AWR is designed for the toughest conditions North American hunting can throw at it, including trips to Alaska, which is about as hard on a rifle as it gets. I once spent 28 consecutive days in the field there over several hunts before I saw a day without rain. On one of those hunts I carried a wood-stocked, blued-metal gun. In spite of my best efforts to keep it clean, the rifle looked like roadkill by the time it was over.
Bottom line, rifles are abused when you hunt in Alaska—it’s simply unavoidable. Rest assured that if any production rifle can withstand such rigors, it’s the AWR. I proved that on my disastrous grizzly hunt when the rifle came through in better shape than I did. It was fine; I was water-wrinkled and hungry for weeks.
It’s my policy to know a rifle well before I hunt dangerous game, so I spent a lot of practice time shooting at targets before heading north for grizzlies. I shot a pile of ammo through the AWR while testing for accuracy, and I hit steel targets out to 500 yards. With several hundred rounds through the gun and nearly 20 days of hunting with it, I can say without reservation that Remington got this one right. The AWR is a production rifle, but despite its workingman’s price tag it has several features usually found only on custom guns.
The barrel has 5R rifling, which is one of the custom features. This five-groove rifling changes the angle between the lands and the grooves from the conventional 90 degrees to a gentler 110 degrees so that the bore fouls less and remains accurate longer between cleanings. (After all, who likes to clean guns?) The 416 stainless steel barrel and action are treated with black Cerakote to protect against the elements. This is another feature usually reserved for custom rifles.
From coyotes to brown bears, the AWR is available in chamberings suitable for just about any game in North America. Remington offers it in several standard and magnum chamberings, including the .300 Rem. Ultra Mag. and .338 Rem. Ultra Mag. The barrel length is 24 inches on everything except the Ultra Mag. rifles, which have a 26-inch barrel. The barrel on my rifle, chambered in .338 Rem. Ultra Mag., measures .650 inch at the muzzle and has a recessed crown to protect it from damage.
A hinged floorplate permits easy unloading of the internal box magazine, which holds four standard cartridges or three magnum cartridges. Remington puts its X-Mark Pro adjustable trigger in the AWR. The one in my test rifle breaks cleanly at 3.5 pounds of pull weight.
The Model 700 action is pillar bedded in the Grayboe epoxy-based, fiberglass stock, and the barrel is free-floating. Fit and finish of my sample rifle are excellent. One of the most important aspects of dealing with recoil is stock design. During testing I recognized that the Grayboe stock mitigated felt recoil, which of course was especially welcome with a powerful cartridge like the .338 Rem. Ultra Mag. The stock is fitted with a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad, which also helps take the bite out of recoil, and sling swivel studs come installed.
I believe the .338 Rem. Ultra Mag. is the unsung hero of the Remington Ultra Mag. family, and it’s a fitting cartridge for the AWR. I have owned or tested several Model 700 rifles in this cartridge, and all have been outstanding shooters. The .338 Rem. Ultra Mag. is like a bludgeon, and it’s perfect for elk, moose and bears. I once faced off with a big, grumpy grizzly on a narrow trail in Montana and was glad I had a .338 Rem. Ultra Mag. We came to an agreement and I didn’t have to shoot, but I had confidence in the cartridge if the bear had not abided by the arbitration.
The AWR is very accurate and fully capable of sub-MOA groups with ammo it likes. My test gun prefers the Barnes 225-grain TTSX handloads I used on the bear hunts. (Barnes has since introduced factory ammo for the .338 Rem. Ultra Mag. with a 250-grain LRX at 2910 fps. I expect the load to be outstanding as well, but I was unable to obtain it for testing.) Throughout testing and in the field, the action of my sample rifle ran slick and smooth.
I’ve been a fan of the Remington Model 700 all my life, and I am not exaggerating when I say the AWR is one of the best hunting models I have tried. It’s light, accurate, good looking, affordable and designed to handle the worst Mother Nature can throw at it without breaking a sweat. A hunter looking for one rifle to hunt North America would do well with the AWR.