Long-range varminting specialist Tim Pilbeam gets his hands on a rifle that’s tailored to his favoured discipline: the Remington 700 VSSF in .220 Swift
Edgar Brothers, importer of the Remington brand, asked me which rifle I wanted to review. Well, which should I choose? On my wish list were the models that are at the top end of the range, so I asked for either the Sendero chambered in .300 Win Mag or the VSSF. As I unpacked a variety of rifles, scopes and mounts, I immediately saw I had been sent a Remington 700 VSSF II in a sizzling .220 Swift. Immediately, I took pity on any foxes, crows and rabbits around the farm, as long-range varminting is my passion. Indeed, the VSSF stands for Varmint Stainless Steel Fluted.
Most shooters are familiar with the Remington rifle and I will not harp on about the standard features other than the easily recognisable bolt knob and action, as this rifle has most of the bells and whistles generally associated with more expensive custom rifles. This is not a budget build. We have a stock designed and made by a specialist maker, and a great-looking fluted barrel that tells me this should be a very capable varminter.
I like to concentrate on how a rifle feels, shoots and performs when used for the application it is intended, so I will try not to get too bogged down with technical details. If you like detail, go to the Remington website and fill your boots.
As soon as I lifted the VSSF out of the box, the imposing H-S precision varmint styled stock made me want to grab hold of it and quickly lift it to the shoulder. In short, it felt great. The composite stock is reinforced with green aramid polyamide fibres that result in a stiff and hard-wearing chassis, aided by an integral aluminium bedded block system. I would call the stock a chunky functional design – the ambidextrous palm swell is very prominent, as is the wide, target-styled forend. Wrapping my hand around the pistol grip, I immediately felt that perfect fit of the palm and trigger finger. A great start.
Moving to the ironwork, both the standard length Remington action and fluted barrel are made of high quality 416 stainless steel. The 26in spin polished barrel is made with six black powder-coated, 20in long flutes, designed to help heat dissipation if not to reduce a little weight. The .220 Swift barrel is hammer forged and comes with a 1-in-14in twist, 0.8in at the muzzle, and is finished off with a shallow target crown. This rifle also came with a 18mm x 1 thread for a moderator or muzzle brake.
The bolt has a great looking jewelled finish, making it stand out from the more common models. It cycles smoothly, with the ammunition fed from a floor-plated system. The release levers for the bolt and floor plate are located to the front of the trigger assembly, but within the trigger guard. Both are reasonably easy to find and press.
Another surprise was the new X-Mark Pro trigger, which is now fitted as standard across the Remington range. It can easily be adjusted with the aid of a 1/16in hex-headed key, supplied with the rifle. A screw is located within the trigger blade, making adjustment easy from two to five pounds. When dry firing, it seemed to be very crisp with no creep whatsoever, so it felt like a high-quality mechanism.
Supplied with the rifle was a Weaver Super Slam 3-9×56 scope with a 30mm tube. In common with most Remingtons, the base mounts had to be screwed into the action first before fitting the rings, all of which are made by Millett. The Millett Angle-Loc rings are able be adjusted sideways, which is useful if you are having problems in centralising the windage of your scope.
As the .220 Swift is a noisy round, I borrowed a MAE T12 Standard moderator from Julian Savory of JMS Arms. For the ammunition, I used Norma 50-grain soft-nose bullets and Hornady 55-grain V-Max Super Varmint, flying out at 4,000 and 3,680fps and supplied by RUAG and Edgar Brothers respectively. Considering they are very flat, fast-moving projectile bullets, I settle for a 200-yard zero – a 225- to 250-yard zero may suit it even better, but I am used to this set-up with my other rifles.
I adjusted to zero in five rounds, with the Weaver Super Slam tracking logically without any large jumps. With the use of a bipod and no solid rear support, emulating being in the field on live game, the Norma achieved a 1.5in grouping and the Hornady a shade smaller at 1.2in with a 200-yard zero. I have no doubt that groups of less than 1in or 0.5MOA could be easily accomplished without the light winds and more secure support to the rear of the stock. In short, it shoots better than me – although I suppose that’s not that hard.
Since the VSSF is a varmint rifle, it was rude not to take it out to 300 and 400 yards and try it out on my side-facing fox target. This resulted in groups of 2.5in and 3.5in (6in and 15in drop respectively).
As soon as I was confident of the accuracy, and more importantly, I was fully conversant with the trigger, bolt and ammunition feed, it was off to do a bit of night shooting. This resulted in one of the best looking dog foxes I have dispatched for years. After I had spotted a couple of very lamp-shy Charlies, this one just sat on the top of the river bank some 200 yards away, letting me gain a safer position in terms of backdrop without any concern about the noise of our shooting wagon. I picked a spot just above the white blaze his chest to lethal effect from 150 yards. Interestingly enough, the bullet did not exit the animal, demonstrating the fantastic fragmentation of the Hornady 55-grain V-Max bullet.
So how does the Remington VSSF feel? I adjusted the trigger down to 2.7lb, which was as low as I could get it, but despite me being used to very light triggers, the X-Mark Pro was predictable and a delight to use. Recoil was minimal owing to the rifle’s unladen weight of 8.5lb – heavier than many hunting rifles, but this is a varminter. The only niggle, which caused me to be too slow on my first fox, was the Hornady ammunition not loading from the magazine. The Norma soft-nosed bullets were fine, but the pointed ballistic tips seemed to foul before entering the rear of the barrel chamber. I expect this would be the same for all ballistic-tipped ammunition, not just Hornady.
The palm swell and pistol grip gave me total control, and the texture of the finish enhanced the feeling of the rifle. Ok, a 26in barrel is not the easiest rifle to shoot in confined spaces – but this is a specialised rifle and is not really designed for deer stalking.
With an recommended retail price of £2,030, the VSSF, in my opinion, offers a fantastic alternative to those who feel that accuracy can only be guaranteed with a custom build. It is also available in .204 Ruger, .223 and .22-250 – and I am certainly tempted to buy the. 204 for shooting crows out to 300-400 yards. Overall I was very impressed with the quality and performance of VSSF. In my opinion, it ticks all the boxes.