By Ralph M. Lermayer
Remington 700 LVSF (Light Varmint Stainless Fluted)
The rapid rise in varmint and predator hunting has not gone unnoticed by the major manufacturers. Usually when they sense a trend, they scramble to modify an existing product to take advantage of it. What’s rare is a total redesign geared specifically to that market. Rarer yet is a quiet introduction of the new product.
Remington designed and built what might be close to an ideal varmint/predator rifle and quietly slipped it into the 2004 mid-year lineup. It’s the Light Varmint Stainless Fluted, and if I’m correct, it’s going to be a home run for them.
The heart of the LVSF is the standard Remington 700 short action, measuring only 5.2 inches. Magazine length is 2.45 inches, which is ample for cartridges in the .17 Rem to .22-250 class, including the latest, the .204 Ruger. Remington sent me a model in .221 Fireball to test. To enable the short round to feed more consistently, a removable spacer was added to shorten the overall magazine length. Cartridges like the .22-250 will no doubt feed reliably without the spacer. Coupled with the blind magazine in the stock, the short and subsequently stiff action creates a stiff, non-twisting platform favored by accuracy buffs for competitive guns.
While that length may be a little close for the .22-250, it leaves ample room for a handloader to seat bullets in .17 Rem, .221 Fireball, .204 Ruger and .223 Rem far enough to touch the lands. With the receiver, you’ll find the standard Remington fully adjustable trigger, tang safety, jeweled bolt and knurled bolt handle - a combination of features hard to improve on in a factory receiver.
Beyond the receiver, however, things change, beginning with a medium-contour 24-inch stainless-steel barrel measuring .657 at the muzzle. That’s a stout barrel, not quite a bull barrel in diameter, but far stiffer than a standard sporter weight. On the barrel are six longitudinal flutes, claimed by Remington to reduce weight and help with heat dissipation. The barrel is finished with a recessed target style crown.
Most unique to the LVSF is the stock, a design I’ve never seen on any Remington, or any factory rifle for that matter. It’s a black composite externally finished with a non-slip, stippled surface. There is no checkering. The butt has a slight cheek piece with no rollover and is fitted with the new Remington 1-inch-thick R3 gel-like recoil pad.
At the forward receiver screw, the fore-end flares to a wide semi-beavertail design. It’s flat on the bottom and sides, with grooves along the upper portion providing a solid grasp for the thumb and fingers. It’s a great design, as the flat bottom sits squarely on bags, yet still provides a comfortable grip for the hand.
The stock has a solid core, not flimsy and flexible like some other composites. Externally, it’s a beautiful and well-thought-out stock for the varminter, but internally it gets better. Both the front and rear receiver screws go through aluminum pillars. The top of those pillars mates solidly with the base of the receiver, providing a solid lock up.
The barrel is free-floated along its entire length save for two contact pressure points about an inch long near the muzzle. That contact is intentional, providing a consistent upward pressure about midbarrel. It’s a technique favored over fully free-floating by many target shooters.
The combination delivers a stable, easy-to-carry rugged rifle of near-benchrest design weighing in at only 6.75 pounds sans scope and bases. It’s solid in the hands, comes to shoulder fast, points well and is equally at home on a set of bags. This is a very well-thought-out design for a varmint rig, and a stock I would like to put on some of my other rifles.
At the Bench
The model sent for testing was chambered in .221 Fireball. Some may deem that light for coyotes, but I’ve not found that the case. My current Fireball, a Contender carbine that lives in one of the ranch trucks, has accounted for over 40 coyotes, countless jacks, the odd fox, skunks and bobcats at ranges from point blank to about 250 yards. When hit solidly, they don’t take a step.
My primary bullet is the 50- or 55-grain V-Max moving at about 3,000 fps. That’s a proven combination and easily achieved with the Fireball case. For those who think they need more muscle, there’s always the .223 or .22-250 available in the LVSF.
I mounted all steel Weaver-style bases from Warne, steel Warne rings, and for testing purposes, a 4-12x Bushnell 4200 Elite with an adjustable aperture. That scope is a bit large for this rifle, but I usually put larger, higher-powered scopes on rifles in testing to better evaluate accuracy. Sitting on my bench is a compact 3-9x Leupold AO that will live on it permanently after the testing. It’s a scope whose dimensions are better suited to the lines of the LVSF, and 9 power is more than enough for field use.
If this chambering suffers at all, it’s in the single factory load available. That’s unfortunate, as the .221 can be an extremely accurate rifle when fed quality ammo. The only choice is a single 55-grain V-Max from Remington. This is an okay load, generally turning in 1- to 11/2-inch 100-yard groups in a variety of rifles I’ve shot it in. It’s not a super-accurate load from a benchrester’s point of view, although perfectly accurate enough for larger critters out to about 200 yards. The prairie dogger or varmint hunter who wants pinpoint performance to save valuable hides will demand better.
This .221 gave predictable results with the factory rounds, holding at about 1 to 1.2 inches with the factory stuff. With handloads, it really strutted, delivering .355 inch with a 55-grain Hornady V-Max over a near-max load of AA 2015 and about the same with a 40-grain Hornady Ballistic Tip over a load of 14 grains of 2400. The accuracy is in there. It’s a potentially super-accurate round, but it takes a handload to get it out.
The .221 Fireball is not a difficult round to handload, and a wide variety of bullets in the 35- to 55-grain weight area are available. Faster-burning powders from 2400 to 4198 work well. Remember, this round was originally developed for the XP100 handgun, so be sure to experiment with small pistol primers. The fact that it has become a great rifle round is just an extra benefit.
As with any small case, pressures can rise fast, so approach full-house loads with caution. Velocities from 2,800 to 3,100 fps are easily reached in a 24-inch barrel, and at those speeds, accuracy can be stellar. The 35- and 40-grain choices from Hornady will easily reach 3,400 plus. This one can be a screamer, despite the small case.
The rifle sat on the bags like it was made for them (and it was!). Recoil was miniscule, and with most loads, I could see the bullet impact, as the scope hardly jumped at all. The LVSF is a sweet-shooting, fun rifle in .221 Fireball, and no slouch in the accuracy department.
In the Field
Field experience to date has been limited to two calling sessions over an e-call and about two weeks of having the rifle beside me as I make my ranch rounds. It has accounted for three coyotes with the factory loads (all one-shot drops) and a pile of jacks. Criticism is minimal.
Crunched up in the brush over the calls, I found the grip a bit thick. Hand position takes some thought, but once you’re on it, it’s solid. That wide, flat forend sets beautifully on a knee and is unusually well suited for resting on the truck window (check legality in your area).
I’ve never been a big fan of stainless barrels. As a photographer, I take many photos of hunters set up over a call. In every case, those white barrels stick out in the photos. I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t appear the same to coyotes, but others have stacked up hundreds of coyotes with stainless rifles and don’t share my concern. No matter. I’ll send this one off for a dark Teflon coating right after I send Remington my check. I’ve been looking to build a light, handy, accurate .221 bolt gun for a while. The LVSF is just the ticket - right out of the box.
Reprinted from the September 2005 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine