Over the past couple months, I’ve had an opportunity to put 500 rounds down a Remington MSR (Modular Sniper Rifle). This is the same rifle that was awarded the illustrious Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) contract, and now is being used by our elite special ops snipers. And for the first time, Remington Defense is making weapons like this available to civilians!
Update: 10/7/2015: EuroOptic.com already sold out of their first batch of Remington PSR Rifle Kits, but they have another 50 on order and those are scheduled to arrive this month.
The PSR Contract
The Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program launched in 2009 as a US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) sponsored program, which supports Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps Special Operations Forces. The goal of the PSR program was ambitious: to replace all bolt-action sniper rifles used by special ops snipers with a single bolt-action rifle chambered for magnums like the .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua Mag.
USSOCOM defined an exhaustive list of requirements this new rifle must meet. You can read the full 34 page solicitation, but here’s some highlights:
- Sub-MOA accuracy from 300-1500 meters (just under 1 mile!)
- Able to be broken down into major components in under 2 minutes, and reassembled in under 2 minutes … with no change in weapon zero!
- Overall length of 52″ or less (excluding suppressor), with no single component being longer than 40″
- Weigh 18 lbs. or less (including loaded 5 round mag)
- Integral mil-spec picatinny rail on top
- Mean Rounds Between Failures (MRBF) of 1000 rounds
The competition for the PSR contract was a huge catalyst for innovation. Brilliant engineers worldwide pushed themselves to create more modular, adaptable, and lightweight rifles … all with uncompromising precision. Several companies fiercely pursued the large military contract worth up to $79.7 million for 5,150 rifles and almost 5 million rounds of ammo over 10 years.
The Remington MSR was awarded the contract in 2013. … I have to admit, I was disappointed when I saw the contract had been awarded to Big Green over companies like Accuracy International, Sako, and others who’ve built their reputation on extremely-accurate, super-high-end precision rifles. There have been major advancements in the rifle world since Remington’s M24 rifle! I was concerned we’d missed an opportunity to provide our troops with a modern weapon, and instead signed up for more of the same or an incremental improvement at best. I was wrong.
The PSR program was 100% focused on military use. Remington Defense says the rifle was “designed for operators, by operators.” But, the civilian precision rifle community is clearly benefiting from advancements and concentrated research and development this program set in motion. Do you want an accurate rifle that is modular and lightweight? How about a multi-caliber platform with unlimited extensibility options?
Recently, Remington Defense announced that for the first time ever, they’re making a limited number of these rifles available to the public. It’s a rare opportunity to own the exact same rifle carried by our military elite. And I was lucky enough to land one to test! Man, this is a fun gig! 😉
Remington MSR Rifle
Here are a few key features on the Remington MSR:
Action & Quick-Change Barrels
The XM2010 is a rifle similar to the MSR that has been issued to Army snipers since 2010, a couple years before the Remington MSR won the PSR contract. The XM2010 looks similar, but it’s based on a conventional Remington 700 action and doesn’t have interchangeable calibers. To be able to change barrels and calibers on-the-fly, Remington designed a completely new, billet titanium receiver. The MSR receiver features a barrel extension with steel-on-steel lock-up and barrel nut, which automatically sets the headspace for the selected caliber. It features a few other upgrades over a traditional Remington 700 action, like an integral recoil lug and ambidextrous bolt release.
The operator is able to change cartridges from 308 Win (7.62 NATO) to 300 Win Mag to 338 Lapua Mag in just one minute. The barrel nut is accessible without removing the handguard, which allows for barrel changes without disturbing optics or mounted accessories. The supplied torque wrench ensures that barrel installation is consistent, reliable, and repeatable. Remington Defense explains “This patent-pending system addresses the long range and medium range needs of the modern battlefield in one package designed to meet multiple emerging US armed forces requirements. The MSR is mission-adaptable with just a change of the bolt face, barrel, and magazine.” You perform a couple mods, and it’s like you have a different rifle, but with all the familiarities of the old rifle.
Remington points out “this adaptability also makes it possible for the operator to replace a barrel once it has reached the end of its service life without requiring the weapon to be returned to the depot or manufacturer.” No gunsmithing required … self-service at its best. When it’s time to rebarrel, how would you like to be able to do it yourself in less than 1 minute?!
It’s common for competitive shooters to build a “trainer” rifle, which is identical to their competition rifle, but chambered in 223 or 308 to reduce the ammo cost, barrel wear, and time spent handloading. I’ve seen some of the top shooters in the Precision Rifle Series use a trainer rifle to practice improvised positional shooting. In those cases, really consistent muzzle velocity, high BC, and tack-driving precision isn’t as important as getting lots of time behind the trigger sending rounds down range. But since the trainer (ideally) has the same stock, action, barrel, trigger, and optics setup as their competition rig, they’re still building a familiarity with the weapon that is directly transferable. Now duplicating your competition rig for a trainer setup can be an expensive proposition, but think about how the MSR addresses that scenario. You can use 308 ammo to train on the same exact weapon system you’d be using for 300 WM, 338 Lapua, or whatever other cartridge you chambered for. There is no need to duplicate anything, because the platform itself is so adaptable. This seems to be the way of the future for high-end rifles, and I predict many high-end rifles will have this kind of feature within the next 10 years. These rigs are such a large investment, and consumers would love for them to be more flexible. I sure wish my rifle could do that!
The match-grade barrels feature 5R rifling, and a Melonite (ferritic nitrocarburized) finish, which surface-hardens barrels. “The main advantage of Melonite barrel treatment is that it reduces friction in the bore and lessens bore surface wear, potentially extending barrel life,” explains AccurateShooter.com. The 308 and 338 barrels were both fluted, but the 300 Win Mag barrel wasn’t fluted.
The PSR kit comes with twenty Accuracy International (AI) magazines: Five 10rd 308 mags, five 5rd 300 WM mags, eight 5rd 338 Lapua mags, and two 10rd 338 Lapua mags. The magazines are all Teflon coated for positive feeding. The 300 and 338 are long-action cartridges, but the 308 is a short action cartridge. To address that, Remington Defense includes a “magazine block for training or field expedient use” that is used when firing the 308. It forces the shorter magazines to the front of the mag well, so you don’t have to cycle the bolt as far back to pick up that shorter cartridge.
The MSR bolt features 3 radial locking lugs, providing a shorter 60° bolt throw, compared to the 90° bolt throw on the Remington 700 and most custom actions.
Chassis, Handguard, Grip & Magazine
I’d heard the outrageous price tag of this chassis, and I’d almost made up my mind that there is no way it could be worth such an audacious price. $3,000 for a chassis?! But, over several weeks of handling the rifle … it slowly won me over. I like it. I like it a lot. I actually have to (reluctantly) say it could be the best stock or chassis I’ve ever handled. Now, is it worth 2-3 times more than an AI chassis, or a McMillan or Manners stock? I didn’t say that. Really, that’s up to you. But keep an open mind as we look at what it has to offer.
The chassis is a skeletonized and lightweight version of the Remington Accessory Chassis System (RACS), which “incorporates state-of-the-art operator-defined attributes such as a free-float tubular design and a fully featured front handguard section” (according to Remington Defense). Rumor has it that the military wanted further weight reduction over the original RACS, which topped the scales at over 6 pounds. So Remington stripped every stitch that wasn’t adding value, and named it the RACS Lightweight or RACS-LW model.
One great aspect of many chassis designed for the PSR contract is most folded toward the bolt-side of the rifle. This design means the bolt is captured when folded, preventing bolt loss during transport.
The bolt-side fold also means one side of the rifle is flat, minimizing overall profile and making it more convenient to transport. The graphic below shows a couple of popular folding rifle stocks, but notice how much thinner the profile is on the MSR.
The buttstock features a ton of tool-free adjustments. Adjustable features normally add weight, but the skeletonized design meticulously stripped everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Locking throw levers allows you to make quick, silent adjustments and then lock them in. It includes recessed flush-cup sling attachment points and accessory rails for other sling mounting points or a monopod. Not only is this design very functional, but from an engineer’s perspective … it’s elegant. It reminds me of a great quote from Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
I’m personally not a fan of handgaurds, because I prefer to mount my scope as low as possible and don’t find myself running night vision or accessories on the fore-end of the rifle. But, I can certainly see how that can be important for military applications, and this chassis seems to have it all. The handgaurd has an octagonal shape, which allows you to attach accessory rails at any 90 or 45 degree angle. The PSR rifle kit includes several rails of various lengths that can be attached at any position on the handguard. The full-length top rail has 30 MOA of cant built-in, which allows you to make use of more of your scopes elevation adjustment for those long-range shots and allows an operator to install in-line night vision and other optics. The handguard features multiple sling attachment points, good barrel ventilation for cooling, a unique cable management system for electro-optics, and a flat bottom for increased stability while firing.
As an added bonus, the chassis can accept any AR-style pistol grip. A grip is a very personal thing, so the ability to easily swap to any of the 20+ AR grip designs is a nice touch.
The MSR features the field-proven M24 SWS Trigger, which is spec’ed to be adjustable from 3.5 to 5 lbs. This is a two-stage trigger, and while some guys love those … I personally prefer a single-stage trigger. I don’t want to blow that out of proportion, because many accomplished shooters (like David Tubb) prefer a two-stage trigger. Here is an article on the advantages of a two-stage trigger. There is no right or wrong here … it just comes down to personal preference.
I measured the trigger pull weight on the test rifle to be 1.5 lbs. for the 1st stage, and then 3.0 lbs. to break on the 2nd stage. Wait a second … I thought it was adjustable from 3.5 to 5 lbs. Yeah, that’s what Remington has published … but they do say that is +/- 8 oz. I definitely measured a 3.0 lb. break on the rifle I tested, which I liked. I run my hunting rifles around that weight, because it seems like a wise balance between safety and light trigger that won’t pull you off target. The 2nd stage broke crisp, with no perceptible creep.
Materials & Coatings
Remington Defense claims the MSR has “optimal material selection for performance and corrosion resistance – this system truly never has to leave the battlefield.” That might sound like marketing fluff, but it seems like just about everything on this rifle has been meticulously covered with some kind of space-age coating.
- Teflon® coated magazines for positive feeding
- TriNyte® coated action and components are impervious to corrosion
- Cerakote Gen II coating on chassis, which is extremely tough and reduces the infrared signature of the weapon (Color: Pantone 30118)
- Melonite (ferritic nitrocarburized) barrel treatment, which increase surface hardness, wear and abrasion resistance, fatigue strength and corrosion resistance
Complete PSR Kit
Remington Defense is making the complete kit available, which includes a ton of cool accessories.
These kits are available from EuroOptic.com. (Update 10/7/15: EuroOptic.com already sold out of their first batch of PSR Rifle Kits, but they have ordered 50 more and expect to receive those this month.)
Here’s a list of what it includes:
- 3 Match-Grade 5R Barrels
- 27”.338 Lapua Magnum (1:9.5 twist)
- 24” .300 Win Mag (1:10 twist)
- 20” .308/7.62 NATO (1:11.25 twist)
- 20 Teflon® Coated Accuracy International Magazines
- 338 Lapua Mag: 8 @ 5rd Mags, 2 @ 10rd Mags
- 300 Win Mag: 5 @ 5rd Mags
- 308/7.62 NATO: 5 @ 10rd Mags
- 308 magazine block
- Bipod: Atlas PSR Bipod with American Defense Manufacturing AD-170S Quick-Detach Auto-Lock mount, plus many accessories for the Atlas bipod like leg extensions, ski feet, and cleat feet to make it adaptable to any terrain.
- Viking Tactics Sling: Padded, adjustable sling with flush cup attachments and quick-release features
- Tool Kit: Pelican 1120 case with spare firing pin assembly, torque wrench, Snap-On bit driver, 1/8″ hex bit, 3/16″ hex bit, trigger adjustment wrench, T15 TORX bit, 1/2″ socket, 3/8″ drive, stock adjustment allen wrench, spare screws, and cable clips
- Barrel Torque Spanner Wrench
- 7+ Accessory Rails: Includes the integral 30 MOA monolithic rail, 2 integral rails on the buttstock, and then 7 other user-adjustable rails that can be attached at various locations.
- 2 Recoil Pad Spacers: One 0.75” spacer and one 1.5” spacer allows you to extend the length of pull even further.
- Cleaning Tools & Kit:
- Dewey 40” cleaning rod
- Dewey adjustable bore saver rod guide
- 30 & 338 caliber-specific bore brushes, chamber brushes, jags, and patches
- Barnes CR-10 Copper Bore Cleaning Solvent, Shooter’s Choice MC #7 Bore Cleaner, Shooter’s Choice FP-10 Lubricant Elite, Shooter’s Choice All Weather High-Tech Grease Syringe
- Armageddon Gear Precision Rifle Soft Case: At risk of sounding like a complete fan boy, this is an awesome rifle case. It has a removable, full-length, zippered pouch inside, a lightweight shooting mat that can be laid out and attached to the case, internal MOLLE pouches for mags and other accessories, and backpack shoulder straps and belt. This just shows the level of detail and thought that went into every component of the kit.
- Hardigg Hard Case: Includes custom high-density foam inserts, and seems to be built like a tank. I’d bet it could be dropped out of a helicopter without damaging the rifle.
These are all the accessories, tools, and spare parts you typically buy over time to compliment a rifle like this, but this kit includes them all. And honestly, I’m impressed with the product choices. Someone clearly put a lot of thought into this. It’s all really high-end, field-proven gear, and the fact that most of the accessories are painted to match the rifle gives it a very polished, custom look.
I carried this kit with me on an annual trip to the NRA Whittington Center recently, and have to say it was very nice having everything I’d possibly need neatly organized in one case. On that trip, we shot for groups on their 1000 yard pits, rang steel targets out to 2228 yards, and competed in their sporting rifle match. I actually took several rifles, but I might have been able to do all that with this one setup. The only thing that would make it better is if I could trade the 308 barrel for a 6.5 Creedmoor. Now that would be one rifle to rule them all! (In related news, if you’ve never visited the NRA Whittington Center, you should! It’s the largest range in the world, and like Disney World for a gun guy.)
The price tag on the Remington PSR Kit is $21,000. Sticker shock? Consider a couple things: the kit includes around $2,000 of AI mags. I’d bet the Hardigg hard case it comes in would sell for at least $1,300 (here is a similar case, but it’s smaller and has less handles). The RACS-LW chassis alone sells for $3,000+. It includes 3 match-grade barrels that have all been Cerakoted and Melonited, and have the special shank to work with the quick-swap system. Those finished barrels could cost over $1,000 each. There is a $300 AAC Titan muzzle brake on each of the 3 barrels. The bipod and related accessories total up to almost $500. The soft case from Armageddon Gear retails for $440. There is a lot of gear included in the kit, and it adds up pretty quick.
Clearly most of us are priced out by this kit … but I’m sure Remington Defense isn’t expecting to sell thousands of these to civilians. This is a rare opportunity to own the same exact gear carried by our elite Special Forces snipers. I bet there are some guys out there that can appreciate that, and have the discretionary income to support such a purchase. I wish I was in that position! Hey, if you’re one of those guys … please buy two of them, and ship one to me in Texas! 😉
Results from the Field
I fired 500+ rounds of match-grade ammo from this rifle over a few months, and got really comfortable with it. As I mentioned, I was originally put off by the huge price tag of the Remington RACS-LW chassis, and may have started off a little biased against it because of that. But it slowly won me over, and at this point I have to admit that it could be the best stock or chassis I’ve ever handled. I don’t say that lightly. Now, is it worth 2-3 times more than an AI chassis, or a McMillan or Manners stock? Honestly, that’s up to you. I personally own custom precision rifles with AI, Manners, and McMillan stocks … and I’d gladly trade any of them for this RACS-LW chassis.
The barrel-swap system was surprisingly quick and easy. The first time I did it, I bet it took me 5-10 minutes, because I was reading the instructions, fumbling around, and checking and double-checking everything. By the end of my review, I’d swapped cartridges over 10 times and could do the full conversion in less than 1 minute.
If you take a barrel off and put the same barrel back on, there is no change in Point Of Impact (POI). But, in my experience, if you change cartridges, there is still only about a 2 MOA POI shift, and that seemed repeatable. That made it quick and easy to rezero the rifle after a cartridge change. Only seeing a 2 MOA shift between cartridges surprised me, because you could have that much variation with different bullets and loads of the same cartridge. So that’s pretty impressive, and says a lot for the precision and repeatability of Remington’s barrel swap system. I hope it catches on and becomes more widely available.
When it comes to precision, the MSR easily delivers on the sub-MOA requirement for the PSR contract. I fired over 20 five-shot groups at 100 yards with the Remington MSR. I measured all those groups, and the results are shown below.
|Cartridge||Avg. Muzzle Velocity (fps)||Best 5-Shot Group (MOA)||Avg. 5-Shot Group (MOA)|
|308 Win Federal Premium Gold Medal 168gr Sierra MatchKing||2564||0.37||0.61|
|300 Win Mag Applied Ballistics Munitions Match Ammo with 230gr Berger Hybrid||2715||0.52||0.70|
|338 Lapua Mag OCD Match-Grade Handloads with 300gr Berger Hybrid||2710||0.33||0.53|
I always try to add a disclaimer to results like this by saying that I’m not a benchrest shooter. Although I’ve never used a true benchrest rifle, the smallest group I’ve ever recorded with a tactical rifle is 0.1 MOA, and I’d bet that is about what I’m capable of holding. I’m a practical/tactical shooter, so I’m sure some guys could coax better precision out the MSR. But I loathe reviews that speak in generalities like “it shot well, as long as I did my part.” That isn’t helpful. So I always try to provide real numbers over a large sample size. The numbers above are based on 110 rounds sent downrange, so hopefully they adequately represent what you can expect from the Remington MSR.
One downside of the PSR kit is the case with all the accessories is a back-breaker. The case does include everything you need, but the downside of that is everything you might need is in one case. 😉 I weighed the whole package with rifle to be 103 lbs! I’m a younger guy and still fairly active, but I struggled to lug this case around. I loaded up the rifle and case several times to head out to the range, and I found myself dreading to lift it into my truck. It does have wheels, which worked great if I was on somewhat even terrain. Of course, you could always break out the lightweight soft case if you just needed the rifle. The rifle itself weighed in at 14.8 lbs with the 300 WM barrel (before optics, unloaded, no bipod), which is relatively light for this kind of precision rifle. But if you have to lift or carry the whole kit very far, you might hire a Sherpa to help.
One of the things I got most excited about through this review was knowing that we’re equipping our soldiers with amazing weapons like the Remington MSR. It is a very capable weapon system that I’d love to own personally. I’ve never said that about the M24 or M40. Don’t get me wrong … those are legendary workhorses that I have immense respect for, but the MSR is very different.
The thought that went into every detail of the MSR and related kit is staggering. I know this review was long-winded, but I could’ve pointed out several more cool features on each aspect of the rifle. I had to stop myself from turning this into a book! Well done, Big Green. Thank you for serving our soldiers well.
We’ve already started to see innovation set in motion from the PSR contract infiltrate down into precision rifles intended for the civilian community. I’m sure we’ll continue to see those advancements be integrated into more mainstream rifles over the next few years. While your guess may be as good as mine, I’d bet we see more chassis-based precision rifles.
I also hope to see the industry move to multi-caliber platforms. We put so much money into our precision rifle rigs, and each of my rifles have a slightly different feel and purpose. I’d love to have one primary setup that I could swap out with a 6mm or 6.5mm cartridge for competitions, then a 7mm magnum when I’m hunting, and a 338 when I’m wanting to really stretch out beyond a mile. Would it be possible to do all that with one rifle? The MSR makes me want to believe that could become a reality. If that were to happen, it could usher in an era where barrels were more standardized.
It’s funny to think how the firearms industry was where the concept of interchangeable parts was born, but most custom rifle barrels are still fitted to a specific action, one at a time by highly-skilled gunsmiths. When I need to rebarrel, I usually have to ship off the action it will be used on. What if barrels became so standardized they became a commodity you could buy pre-chambered at your local gun shop like you’d buy a scope or trigger? What if the operator could order a barrel online, receive it within a couple days, and screw it on themself in just a minute or two without worrying about headspace? The MSR could be a precursor of what’s to come. And if so, the future looks bright. 😎