Remington electronic rifle

Never will it be said that Remington came to the Millennium Table without a full plate. Some 16 new rifles and shotguns were unveiled by Big Green in October of last year, including the EtronX electronic ignition Model 700, an over/under 12 gauge called the Ideal 300, a re-designed 11-87 Super Mag. that shoots all 12 gauge shells, and a .338 Ultra Mag for big game.

Although the “firing pin” of the E-rifle looks a lot like a conventional one, in reality it is a stationary electrode that rests against the primer of a chambered cartridge.

Space limitations preclude any sort of in-depth coverage of the aforementioned, let alone the 12 other guns, so we’ll limit this report to the EtronX or “E-rifle” as it’s already being called, and the .338 Ultra Mag.

The Cutting Edge
I’ve mentioned Remington’s electronic ignition rifle several times here in the pages of GUNS. Indeed, it was expected that the E-rifle would be introduced in 1998, but at the last minute Remington decided to postpone the introduction for another year to make absolutely certain it was right.

In retrospect, it’s probably just as well they waited, for it’s only fitting that such a — dare I say “revolutionary” — rifle be introduced at the dawn of a new millennium.

As this is written, the EtronX 700 is not yet available for testing, so my review is based upon one brief range session.
Surely there is no centerfire sporting rifle more familiar to GUNS readers than the Remington 700. If handed an EtronX version of it, about the only things you’d notice as being different are 1) a small “ignition key” sticking out of a slot in the center of the grip cap, 2) a toggle switch in place of the safety’s normal serrated thumbpiece, and 3) a red LED recessed in a 3/16″ hole atop the grip just behind the rear tang.

Other than these three visible features, the EtronX looks and feels virtually identical to a Model 700 Sendero SF (Stainless Fluted). It even wears wearing the same H-S Precision stock. On the inside, however, the gun is dramatically different.

A Shocking Change
Before we begin dissecting the gun, however, let’s first examine the rationale: Why electronic ignition? Simply put — virtual instantaneous ignition.

What’s so great about that, you ask? After all, a plain ol’ percussion Model 700 has one of the fastest lock times of 3.2 milli-seconds — faster than any other sporting rifle. But the E-rifle has a lock time of 27 micro-seconds. How fast is that? Well, from the time the trigger breaks to the instant the bullet exits the muzzle of the EtronX 700, the sear on a regular 700 would not have started moving!

The E-rifle’s lock time represents a 99 percent reduction from that of the regular Model 700. That’s because there’s no trigger/sear connection; no inertia of a heavy cocking piece and firing pin to overcome; no mainspring to expand, all of which contribute to gun movement.

The only “movement” going on in the EtronX is that of a 150-volt electrical charge along wires connecting an ordinary 9-volt battery in the buttstock to an electrode that looks a lot like a conventional firing pin, but doesn’t move. Of course it’s a lot more complicated than that; hell, there’s a circuit board in the buttstock that could probably launch a moon rocket!

During those 27 microseconds from the time the trigger breaks to when the bullet exits the barrel — “aiming time” if you will — there’s 64 percent less shooter-induced muzzle movement with an E-rifle. That holds true whether the gun is sitting atop sandbags on a bench or being fired offhand under field conditions.

“From the time the trigger breaks to the instant the bullet exits the muzzle of the EtronX, the sear on a regular rifle would not have started moving.”

A Matter Of Inches
Numbers-oriented shooters know that a bench-rested rifle will move around 0.12″ per second during the period between let-off and bullet exit. On a conventional percussion rifle that degree of muzzle movement will account for .17″ of shooter-induced dispersion at 200 yards; on an E-rifle the dispersion would be only .06″.

For the average guy shooting from the standing offhand — the unsteadiest of all positions — muzzle movement is around .5″ per second, which would result in a dispersion of .7″ at 200 yards; for the E-rifle it would be only .25″.

Obviously, the E-rifle will have the most impact in those disciplines where shooting is done from the unsteadiest platforms — silhouette and position shooting, and hunting. For varminting and benchrest applications, on the other hand, E-rifle technology will be less noticeable. But with just a few ten-thousandth of an inch usually separating the winner from the also-rans in a benchrest competition, who could afford not to use this technology?

The Same But Different
It is ironic that such a seminal development takes place inside a rifle that outwardly is so similar to a percussion Model 700. The bolt looks the same; works the same; feeds a conventional cartridge from magazine to chamber, then extracts and ejects in the same way. The only difference is in the primer itself, and of course, the ignition system.

Even at that, the EtronX electronic primer is of the same dimensions as a standard 9-1/2 Large Rifle percussion primer; it’s seated in the same manner using the same tools.

In short, if you now own, say, a .22-250, you can whump up a handload for the E-rifle using the same brass you’re now using; load the same powder, charge weights and bullet; and get the same velocities and pressures you’d get in your rifle. The only difference would be in the primer. If primed with an EtronX primer, you couldn’t fire the round in your percussion rifle. This is probably the area where Remington spent the most research and development time, for the system had to be foolproof when it came to the question of safety and the interchangeability of cartridges.

Crisp And Quick
As for shooting impressions, the only discernable difference between firing a conventional Model 700 and the EtronX is in the trigger. Though it looks like a conventional unit from the outside, it is of course a micro-switch. Talk about crisp! However, the 3 lb. setting used on the test gun was too stiff. I can see where safety considerations would be a big factor, but when you have the positive on/off characteristics of a micro-switch, you should take advantage of the potential by making it lighter — say 1-1/2 lbs.

The EtronX primer provides the same performance characteristics as a non-electric primer — equivalent velocity and chamber pressure, equivalent shelf life. EtronX primers are ESD insensitive (meaning they will not detonate from static sparks, nor from induced electrical current from AM, FM, TV, microwaves, etc). They are also impact insensitive and will not fire in a conventional percussion firearm. As to the viability and reliability of the system, some 2 million rounds had been test fired successfully prior to last October’s introduction.

The E-rifle is being offered in three chamberings: .22-250, .220 Swift and .243 Winchester. Suggested retail price has been set at $1,999. EtronX ammunition will cost about 20 percent more than conventional ammo, and virtually all of that additional cost is in the primer. Primers will be available to handloaders at a cost roughly five times that of percussion primers.

“The .338 Ultra Mag. boasts 29 percent greater powder capacity than the .338 Win. Mag. – where the latter sends a 250 gr. bullet out at 2,660 fps, the Ultra Mag. gets 2,860 fps.”

Destiny In A Cartridge
Turning now to the .338 Ultra Mag. — this cartridge was a foregone conclusion from the moment the .300 Ultra Mag. was introduced last year. The big new beltless case simply had too much potential for Remington to sit on their hands while people like me were already necking the .300 up, down and sideways.

From a marketing standpoint, the .338 caliber probably makes the most sense. For one thing, Remington didn’t have a .338 in their stable, and they already had a high performance 8mm and a .416. A .35 caliber would have been a classic case of too much cartridge for all but our big bears, and not enough for Africa’s dangerous game.

As for a .375, that probably was Remington’s second choice, but a .338 will appeal to a larger market simply because it’s a more useful cartridge. So a .338 is what we got.

Like everyone else, I assumed Remington would simply neck the .300 Ultra Mag. up to .338 with no other changes. That would be great for me, ’cause all I’d have to do to get brass for my wildcat .375 Ultra Mag. is neck the .338 up in one simple step. But that’s not what they did; they shortened the overall case length by .99″.

The minute I saw that the .338 case was shorter than the .300, I wanted to know why. The reason was that there are some component .338 bullets out there with cannelures. If these bullets were seated in the normal manner to where the case mouth aligns with the groove, the resultant overall cartridge lengths would have been too long for the 3.6″ Remington magazine. To avoid potential problems, the design team decided to shorten the case.

Be that as it may, the .338 Ultra Mag. still boasts 29 percent greater powder capacity than the .338 Win. Magnum. Where the latter sends a 250 gr. bullet out at 2,660 fps from a 24″ barrel, the Ultra Mag. gets 2,860 fps. At 300 yards the new round delivers 20 percent more energy on the target. Indeed, the Ultra Mag. delivers more energy out to 300 yards than a .375 H&H. With 46 ft./lbs. of recoil to contend with, I didn’t have to be dragged away from the bench after firing a couple of groups.

Only one factory load will be offered initially, a 250 gr. Swift A-Frame in Remington’s Premium Safari line. Five production-grade Model 700 rifles are being chambered for the new cartridge — the BDL, the BDL-SS, the LSS (laminated) in both right and left hand, and the Sendero SF (stainless fluted). Four Custom Shop models can also be had in .338 UM — the Alaskan Wilderness Rifle, the African Plains Rifle, the Kevlar-stocked KS and the KS stainless.

 

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