Head over to the bolt action rifle section of any internet shooting forum and you are bound to stumble into the Savage and Remington rifle debate. While the Remington 700 is more refined (and expensive) than the Savage, Savage rifles have one big advantage- an easy way to change barrels without machining. Unlike a Remington 700, the Savage system is head spaced using a barrel nut.
Savvy endusers noticed that cutting a similar thread to a Savage barrel and using a special recoil lug, barrels on a Remington 700 could easily be swapped. This system is known as a Remage (REMing savAGE) conversion (sometimes you’ll hear the barrels referred to as Remage barrels).
McGowen precision barrels, in Kalispell Montana, manufactures Remage barrels and barrel nuts. Using the McGown Remage barrel, Remage nut, and a few other simple tools, a Remington 700 can be barreled without using a lathe. This is one of the simplest bolt action barrel jobs that can be performed.
Alternatively, a Remington 700 can be barreled using a short chambered barrel without using a lathe. With this method, a reamer is used to adjust headspace. It requires more tools and a more sophisticated skill set than a Remage conversion.
My interest in McGowen barrels piqued when I placed 2/80 shooters at a match because of one. First place was a Remington 700 with a McGowen Remage barrel.
McGowen sent me a 6mm Norma BR Remage barrel and nut to install on a short action Remington 700. McGowen recommends their barrels are installed by a professional gunsmith. This post shows what that process looks like.
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The following items were ordered from Brownells:
- Remington 700 action wrench
- Barrel vise
- Go and Nogo gauge
- Recoil lug alignment tool
- Savage barrel nut wrench
- Remington 700 short action
First step is to remove the barrel from the action. I would argue this is the hardest part of the process. For this you’ll need a Remington 700 action wrench and a barrel vise. I installed the current barrel on this rifle so removal was fairly simple. Removing a factory installed barrel is more difficult.
For a factory barrel, an action wrench, like the Brownells, which wraps around the action would be a better choice than the Surgeon wrench used above. Heating the receiver would also help release the thread locker installed at the factory.
The recoil lug needs to be aligned on the action. The recoil lug can either be pinned in place or secured with an alignment tool. For this project I am using an alignment tool (above), however, most Remage conversions are pinned. If I pin a lug, I drill it on a Holland fixture, you can see how here. Some Remage conversions have a slot cut into the bottom of the receiver ring (instead of a drilled hole) to align the recoil lug. While I wouldn’t use this method, those who do seem to like it.
The barrel is secured the vise and the barrel nut is screwed all the way on.
The barrel nut wrench is placed on the barrel and the go gauge is inserted into the chamber.
The action, with the bolt closed, is threaded onto the barrel until it snugs up against the go gauge. The barrel nut is tightened against the action. Warning: since the ejector presses against the headspace gauge, it can be removed for this part of the process. If it isn’t, care must be taken to ensure the ejector is depressed and the go gauge is seated firmly against the bolt face for a true and accurate reading. Failure to do this can result in improper headspace or cartridge support potentially resulting in injury or death.
The go gauge is removed and the barrel nut is torqued against the action with a barrel nut wrench.
A no go gauge is placed in the chamber. The handle should not close. If it does, the head space is incorrect and the above steps would need to be repeated. In this case, the bolt closes on the go and does not close on the no go. The action is ready to place in the stock. How easy was that?
I’m really impressed with the simplicity and ease of installation of the Remage system.
The Remage barrel nut is 1.285″ in diameter. Most barrel shanks are 1.200-1.250″ in diameter so minor inletting of the stock may be required.
What are the downsides of Remage system? The two I have identified are cosmetic. Some shooters who don’t like the way the Savage barrel nut looks, however, it doesn’t bother me. Also, the factory cartridge markings may not index properly with your receiver.
According to Dan at McGowen, “The alignment of the cartridge/twist and company has always been somewhat of an issue. In the past we have engraved the barrel every 120 degrees, but found that in some cases, based on the stock the customer was using, they might have one of the engravings showing and then a partial of another. That is when we decided to do it just once. If all Remington receivers were created equal, we could just use a Remington receiver to index before engraving, but we have found over the years, and I’m sure that you’ve seen it, that you’d be lucky to find 2 receivers that align exactly the same.”
The Remage conversion is a good option to rebarrel your old Remington 700 rifle. McGowen offers a wide range of chambers, as well as lengths and finishes. It’s also a less expensive way to build a custom rifle on a stripped Remington action without machine work.
For more information about McGowen barrels, visit their website.