A vintage rifle in a vintage caliber. Remington introduced the Model 722 shortly after the end of World War II. It was the short-action version of the 722/721 duo and was the gun which was used to introduce the new, soon to be famous .222 Remington varmint and target round. Other rounds, such as the .244 Remington and .300 Savage, were also chambered in the 722. It was a simple, very strong, bolt-action rifle of quality construction which lasted until Remington introduced the Model 700 in 1962.
Dial back 65 years to 1948. America is just three years past the end of the trial of death and destruction known as World War II. Many, many homes have been gripped by the grief of having a friend or family member who did not return, or who returned with crippling wounds. It is difficult to imagine the level of sorrow that must have prevailed for the four years of the war and the years following.
But victorious Americans, together having endured the sacrifice and expended the energy to be victorious, are ready to move on. The first of the Baby Boomers are toddling around their homes and interest in family, work and play grows daily across the country, bringing it to the threshold of the greatest party every thrown in the world, a party we could simply call “The Second Half of the 20th Century in America.” It’s like had never been seen before and will not be seen again.
To this party, the Remington Arms Company brought a new rifle, a good thing to do in view of the role that outdoor sports and conservation activities would come to play in ensuing years. A good thing also because Remington’s existing hunting rifle offerings were based upon the old Model 1917 Enfield military rifle. Following the interruption of WW II, something new was in order.
The new rifle was designed by a team led by Merle “Mike” Walker and it came in two versions, the long action Model 721, suitable for the .270 and .30-06, and the Model 722, suitable for more compact cartridges. The two models were identical in design and function. Both Mike Walker and the rifles he worked on became famous, he as a champion benchrest competitor using the Remington .222 in a 722 action.
The Remington Model 722
A quick look at this gun brings the term “plain rifle” to mind. It is a bolt action with a straight grain, walnut stock and a blue, 24-inch barrel. It came with open, metallic sights and a metal butt plate. The receiver was drilled and tapped
for attachment of a scope base. The example described here is chambered for the .300 Savage. That may seem a little strange, the .300 usually being associated with the lever action Savage Model 99. The 722, however, was certainly not the first bolt action rifle to be so chambered, and remember that the .308 Winchester did not exist in 1948, so the need for a short-action thirty was best filled by the .300 Savage.
Remington’s desire to bring a very affordable rifle to market shows in the stamped bottom metal, very functional, of course, yet cheaper to manufacture.
In general the design of the rifle appears to have taken shape with an eye to
offering an arm that would be very competitive in the market place. Remington’s success showed in the list price of $83, while a contemporary Winchester Model 70 listed at about $120. Indeed, the heart-wrenching demise of the Model 70 in 1964 can be traced back to this point.
In performance, however, the 722 is anything but a cheap rifle. The picture shows one of the cleanest bolts in rifledom. It has dual, opposed locking lugs,
as in Mauser, but does not have the claw extractor adopted by other Mauser descendants, such as the Winchester Model 70. The bolt fits in a very rigid, tubular steel receiver. The long receiver bridge carries the well-fitting bolt and results in very smooth operation. Ahead of the receiver, there is a boss in the barrel that is dovetailed to hold the rear sight. The bottom of the boss fits in a recess in the foreend wood but is not attached by a screw.
The main question for the 722 action, however, is how does it manage to extract a fired cartridge from the chamber? All modern Remington buffs know the answer. Inside the recessed bolt face there is a channel that contains a circular, spring steel clip. When the action is closed on a cartridge, the edge of the clip slips over the rim of the round and secures it for extraction after firing. This is the most outstanding but also the most controversial feature of this Remington action. More about that later.
It is helpful to note that the Model 721/722 was the direct predecessor of the Model 700 and the action is mechanically identical to that of the 700. The fabled strength of the 700 action is therefore present in these earlier guns. The bolt face is recessed and surrounds the head of the cartridge. There is no cutout for an extractor in the rim of the bolt face. The end of the bolt fits in a recess in the barrel, and the barrel is surrounded by the receiver ring. These are the famous “three rings of steel” responsible for the strength of Remington actions.
At the Range with the Remington Model 722
The action seemed to fit well in the wood, although there was no barrel support directly ahead of the recoil lug and the foreend contact with the barrel began a good three inches from the front end. This is not ideal but I decided to see how shooting would go in stock condition. Plenty of time for tuning later. I installed a Simmons 4-14X Whitetail Classic and fired three-shot groups at fifty yards using three factory loads and one handload, all using 150-grain spitzer bullets.
Function was smooth with excellent feeding and ejection. Recoil with the plain metal buttplate was significant but not punishing. I used Winchester and Remington 150-grain loads for velocity comparison using a ProChrono unit, with results as follows:
Winchester Super-X 150-grain Power Point: Average velocity, 2657 fps
Extreme Spread, 48 fps; Standard Deviation 18 fps.
Remington Core-Lokt 150-grain PSP: Average velocity, 2622 fps
Extreme Spread, 92 fps; Standard Deviation, 30 fps.
Hornady Superformance 150-grain SST: Average velocity, 2752 fps
Extreme spread, 92 fps; Standard Deviation 28 fps.
36.9 gr of IMR 3031 and Hornady 150-grain SP: Average velocity 2550 fps
Extreme spread 64 fps; Standard deviation 23 fps.
We see that the Winchester and Remington factory loads produced very good velocity for standard loads and that the Hornady Superformance does deliver on its promise of increased velocity, a good 130 fps faster than the Remington.
The four groups shown in the pic for the Winchester ammo averaged .82“ (1.6 MOA). The Remington average was just slightly larger. The 4-group average for the
Hornady Super was larger, but note the smallest group of .36” fired with this ammo in the pic. The handload also did quite well, coming in at an average .65” (1.3 MOA). All in all, accuracy was quite decent for an untuned piece of ordnance. I think it could be made considerably better. Just might try to work on that in the future.
Many pundits have questioned the extractor design of this rifle and the later Models 700 and 788 which also use the spring clip. While they wonder about its effectiveness and durability, they usually end up saying something like “Well, it seems to work OK.” In this case it worked just great for me, but I will confess that I had one break on me some years ago in a Model 788 chambered for the .222. Why it broke I do not know, but it was easily and economically replaced by my friendly gunsmith. Failure of this extremely simple, clever design is rare, I think.
The 722 was and is a fine performer and this .300 Savage, pushing 150-gr bullets around 2700 fps, would be a superb deer rifle as is. You would never need anything else. The big question remaining for me, however, is just how accurately will the .300 shoot in a good, tuned rifle??? This is to let you know that some tuning and precision reloading are planned, and, as always, the results will eventually be revealed.