This is a review I have been wanting to do for a while. As many of you know, I carried a M24 SWS for a number of years while operating as a sniper in the 1990s, so it is a rifle that is near and dear to my heart. But as we all know, our memories of times past are some times better than perhaps the reality actually was. Several years ago as the US Army began migrating some of the M24s to the M2010 platform, Remington began to take some of those old worn out M24 rifles and refurbish them. They then made those rifles available as the M24 SWS Collector Edition rifle. Priority as to who could purchase these rifles started with current active duty snipers and then went down through several layers of priority. The one we are reviewing here came to us from a friend of Sniper Central who has graciously let us put it through a full review. The question that we wanted to answer was whether the M24 was really as good as we remembered it being, or was it just nostalgic?
The Collector Edition M24s arrive in a standard, albeit larger than normal, Remington cardboard rifle box without any extra documentation. When you first open the box up you may be a bit shocked by the appearance of the rifle as it really doesn’t look new, at least not initially. This is because Remington went to the effort to leave the original stocks just exactly as they came back from the troops in the field when it was turned in. So the stock likely is painted in some oddball and random scheme that the sniper wanted it in. For this particular test rifle it was a pretty tame desert tan color that had been worn and marked in several places. When you look at the rest of the rifle though, it does have the appearance of a new rifle.
As is our normal procedure for rifle reviews, we start at the rear of the rifle and work our way forward. The buttplate on the M24 is adjustable via a unique turn knob system that HS Precision developed way back in the 1980s for the M24. (Well, honestly, it may not have been specifically FOR the M24, but that was the first big use of it). The buttplate itself is thin and hard with little to no padding to help absorb recoil. The rotating knob has a locking ring as well and that needs to be loosened to allow the large knob to rotate and extend, or retract, the buttplate to adjust the length of pull. It works well enough, but the lock rings never really have locked the knob very well and they tend to work their way loose, so be sure to check it routinely. The full range of adjustment covers about 2.5″ (63mm) before the buttplate gets a little too wobbly for comfort. With the buttplate adjusted all the way in, the length of pull is 12″, which means the longest it adjusts out to is about 14.5″. This is a large spectrum of length of pull and should fit just about anyone.
The cheekpiece on the stock is not adjustable and has a straight comb. If the scope is kept mounted low, like the M24 SWS attempts to do with the Leupold Mk4 10x40mm scope, then it is almost tall enough to align your eye with the scope. But for a majority of shooters, a slight cheek rise is needed to get a good cheekweld with proper eye alignment. Eagle or TacOps strap on cheekpads are a common addition and were included on later rifles. Back when I carried one all over the mountains, there were no such devices, so we typically used a piece of poly-pad cut to size and then taped onto the stock with “hundred-mile-an-hour” tape. Usually some mole skin was then stuck onto the tape so your slick face-paint covered cheek would not slide around as much. Today… just buy a strap on cheekpad.
The pistol grip has the notorious HS Precision palm swell, which some people love and some hate. The pistol grip does fill your hand very well and is nearly vertical. The pistol grip is about .2″ taller than a standard 700P pistol grip, but it is still fairly short. Some shooters with large hands may need to curl their pinky finger underneath the pistol grip as there is not room for it, but that is not as common as it is with 700P shooters. The groove behind the tang is not very deep, but it is wide enough to provide a good resting position for your firing hand thumb. The comb area has a slight depression in it to allow room for the long action bolt to come all the way back when being removed from the rifle in the standard Remington way. The pistol grip itself is not completely vertical, but it is enough to align the trigger finger with the trigger for a good trigger pull.
The traditional Remington commercial floorplates are made from their normal pot metal alloy materiel that is lightweight, but not entirely durable. So when the US Army was developing the M24, it had to have something more durable. The floorplate is made of steel and the trigger guard has a slightly different shape and size than the commercial Remington 700s. You will also notice that the hinged floorplate release lever is different and located further down in the trigger guard to more conveniently operate. These M24 floorplates are much more durable and while the changes are minor, they are welcomed. If memory serves me correctly, the original floorplates were manufactured by Dakota Arms, but I may be mistaken there.
As you might imagine, the triggers are not the standard run-of-the-mill XMarkPro trigger, but rather they are the old original 40X triggers that are found on the Remington 40x custom target rifles. They are externally adjustable with a small Allen screw that runs up through the top of the trigger. (You can barely see the screw in the picture above.) The trigger shoe is the old traditional Remington trigger shoe, slightly wide with nice vertical grooves. The shoe is finished in black and the 40x triggers have always been nice and this one is as well. From the factory this trigger was set at 2 lbs 6 0z (2.375 lbs) and was extremely consistent. There was a tiny bit of over-travel after a very nice break. These triggers have a good reputation for a reason and there is not really any compelling reason to replace it.
When you examine the action and bolt, it is pure Remington 700 and looks and operates the same, but there are a few things of note that are worth mentioning. The actions themselves were a 40x action which means not only were they built to higher tolerance standards, but they also include the drill and tapped holes on the left hand side of the action where the auxiliary sight base is attached. These Collector Edition M24s come with the bases mounted for both the aux sights as well as Leupold Mk4 two piece scope bases. Through the production life of the M24, two different precision auxiliary sights were used, the Redfield International Palma and then with the second run of rifles, O.K. Webber. This rifle is obviously a second run rifle due to the O.K. Webber base and the two piece Mk4 scope bases. The early rifles had the one piece Mk4 base, which was not a Picatinny compatible rail back then as those had not been developed in the 1980s.
The left hand side of the action contains the markings, that are half covered by the stock, that reads “Remington 700 M24”. As was mentioned, the actions were actually 40X actions, but rumor has it that Remington wanted the publicity and marketing clout of having the Remington 700 marked on the rifles, which is completely understandable. The rear tang and two position Remington safety are all located in their normal location and operate in their normal fashion. The safety does not lock the bolt so the action can be cycled while the rifle is on safe when electing to unload the rifle by cycling the bolt. The standard Remington C clip extractor was used as well.
Of course, perhaps the most notorious “feature” of the M24 SWS is the fact that it was a long action when it was chambered in a short action 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Win) cartridge. We have heard conflicting reports as to why that is. When going through the US Army Sniper School at Ft. Benning, we were told that it was so the rifle could be easily re-chambered to .300 Win Mag in the future, and indeed some Special Forces units did exactly that. When you think about everything that was required to re-chamber to .300 Win Mag, that was not really a feasible proposition. Not only would a barrel change be required, as you would want a faster twist rate than the 1:11.2″, but the bolt would have to be changed as well because the case head diameter is the larger magnum case head diameter. At that point, a whole new barreled action would likely be cheaper and easier. We have heard that this was a requirement during development to be able to chamber it in .300 Win Mag.
The other conflicting report is that the rifle was originally intended to be chambered in .30-06 Springfield as this was an already adopted U.S. military cartridge with a bit better ballistics than the 7.62 NATO. Then the last minute in the development cycle the decision was made to stick with the NATO standard cartridge. Because it was so late in the development phase there was not time to change the rifle to a short action and meet the deadline of production, so it remained a long action. Of course, it had the added benefit that it “could” in theory be chambered in .300 Win Mag later… or even .30-06. The funny thing about all of this is that we have heard both of these reports from reputable sources, so we are not positive which it was?
As can seen in the picture above, when a .308 round is loaded into the magazine, there is PLENTY of room in front of the round, which is a bi-product of the long action. One of the first things we were taught at Sniper School was to insure all of the rounds loaded into the magazine were pushed all the way to the rear of the internal magazine as this would prevent any jam ups when cycling the bolt and chambering rounds from the magazine. When this is done, the rifle does indeed operate without problems. Notice also in the picture that the follower is a different and more durable design than a commercial Remington 700.
The recoil lug between the action and barrel is the normal thickness recoil lug, but we would assume that Remington insured they were ground and finished to tighter tolerances than a normal Remington recoil lug. The stock is a traditional profile and width through the action area, which is where the full aluminum bedding block is embedded into the Kevlar reinforced HS Precision stock. In front of the action though, the stock widens out to a 2.27″ wide semi-beavertail forearm to provide a stable platform for the rifle. There are the traditional two sling swivel studs up front, one for the bipod and one for the sling. The Collector Edition M24s come with the M1907 leather sling that came as a part of the full M24 SWS kit, but it does not come with the Harris bipod that was also a part of that original kit.
One of the other distinguishing features of the M24 was its unique, and very heavy, barrel contour. Remington did not utilize their traditional Palma style heavy barrel contour on the M24 but instead opted to use a straight taper profile. At the recoil lug the diameter of the barrel is 1.20″ and over the next 23.2″ it tapers down to .910″ at the muzzle. The barrel is listed as 24″ in length, but that includes the shank that threads into the action. This is a very heavy profile barrel and is one of the things that leads to the heavy weight of the rifle.
The muzzle has a stepped down recessed crown to protect it from damaging nicks and dings. Also, mounted up near the muzzle is the front auxiliary sight base that is one of the other distinguishing features of the M24. We appreciate that the Army was insistent on having the ability to mount auxiliary sights. Though they are seldom, if ever, used. Of course, we cannot talk about the barrel and not mention the unique rifling and rate of twist. When the US Army was developing the rifle, they went the mathematical route and decided to calculate the ideal rate of twist for the then standard issue sniping ammo, the M118 Special Ball, and its 173gr FMJ-BT projectile. Their calculations came up with a 1:11.2″ rate of twist, and so it was done. Additionally, instead of the standard Remington 6 lands and grooves, they decide on the use of the 5R rifling with its 5 lands and grooves. There are scientific reasons why this is a better way to go to improve accuracy, though it is hard to prove just how much of a difference this rifling actually makes. Regardless, the M24 is the big reason why the 5R rifling and 1:11″ twist became popular, and it started way back in the 1980s.
The metal finish is another thing that changed on the later M24s. The original early rifles had a thick black powder coat finish on the metalwork that was durable, but could chip if struck hard. The new rifles, including this refurbished Collector Edition, uses a more traditional and modern Cerakote style finish. We do not have confirmation of exactly which finish Remington uses on it, but it is nice and evenly applied over the entire barreled action. Fit and finish is good for a military sniper rifle, though not to the same standards as a custom built rifle, and we would expect and even prefer it this way. These are combat rifles, make them good and durable, not pretty and fragile. It carries a very purposeful look without bells and whistles… its effective.
The rifle was designed at a time when snipers were being used in the more traditional role. This meant two man teams, sneaking and peaking and taking single shots from concealed positions and then moving on. This was before the newly morphed role of snipers that involves fast moving larger teams that do a fair amount of their work in urban environments. Because of this, the M24s are large and designed for precision accuracy. With the stock fully collapsed the rifle measures 43″ long, and will grow to about 45.5″ with the stock extended. Add to that a 12.1 lb (5.5 kg) weight without optics, and over 14 lbs with optics and ammo, and you have a rifle that is long and heavy. This is especially noticeable on road marches and long insertions.
As we understand it, the M24s had to be able to do .35 MOA from a machine rest before they left the Remington factory. We as snipers do no use machine rests, so we were interested to see how the rifle does with a new barrel, refurbished and with us behind it with a sand bag and sand sock.
For our shooting evaluations we wanted to evaluate the rifle as a complete Sniper Weapon System (SWS), as it was developed way back in the day. So to do that we mounted a Leupold Mk4 10x M3 scope just as it would have came. Yes, using a fixed 10x scope would limit us a bit when it came to the accuracy portions of our testing, but we felt it would be a more worthwhile review to do it as the original system would have came. With the scope mounted we headed out to the range on a cool January day in Montana. There was snow on the ground and the wind was blowing from 2-4 mph with the temps right around freezing.
Because the rifling was originally tailored to the 173gr bullet, we decided to select ammo around the 175gr class as it would be a good fit for the rifle. The ammo selection consisted of the standard Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr that we always use, followed by some Choice 178gr and HSM M118LR 175gr ammo. Of course, we trailed it all up with some M80 ball ammo just to see how it does with not so great ammo. The M24 actually could have a real possibility of having to use M80 ball ammo in combat if supplies of M118LR ever became scarce. We would train with it several times a year to insure we had some usable DOPE in our logbooks just in case of this eventuality. The M80 we used for our test here was the Federal XM80C. If you are not familiar with how we test rifles, check out our “how we review” article. The results for our 100 yard accuracy tests are listed below:
|Federal GMM 168gr||.516″ (.493 MOA)||.321″ (.307 MOA)|
|Choice SC 178gr||.688″ (.657 MOA)||.524″ (.500 MOA)|
|HSM M118LR 175gr||.696″ (.665 MOA)||.597″ (.570 MOA)|
|Federal XM80C 147gr||1.531″ (1.462 MOA)||1.014″ (.968 MOA)|
As you can see from the results, this M24 is very accurate, even without using a machine rest! For any rifle to average under .5 MOA for all the groups with the Federal GMM, it is a very good accomplishment. Doing it while shooting with a 10x scope is even more impressive. Yes, we know we left some accuracy on the table because of this. The Choice and HSM ammunition were both extremely consistent, though the groups were just a bit bigger than the GMM. As is expected, the M80 ball ammo did not shoot nearly as well, but even then, it is still probably capable of 500 yard shooting in a pinch. The recoil was extremely well mannered and light, especially for not having any sort of muzzlebrake on the rifle. A lot of that has to do with the rifle being so heavy and for a majority of that weight coming from the heavy barrel. One nice thing about the rifle is that with the adjustable stock mechanism in the rear of the stock, the weight is more evenly distributed along the length of the entire rifle versus some other thick barreled rifles we have handled that were more nose heavy.
The bolt stroke is longer than normal due to the long action that is utilized with the rifle, but it was not to noticeable when operating the rifle. As we mentioned, the trigger is very nice, though a pull less than 2.5 lbs might be a bit light for combat duty. The bolt is traditional “Remington smooth”, though as it wears in it’ll likely even become smoother. Obviously the weight of the rifle is a burden when lugging it around, but it is an asset when firing the rifle and the M24 is a very stable platform. This become very apparent when running the rifle through our 300 Yard rapid fire headshot test. We decided to use the Federal Gold Medal Match ammo for this test since it had done the best in the rifle. The 10x scope on the rifle handicaps it even a little more for this test, but again, we needed to know if it could perform in its original SWS form, so we left the system as was and fired it.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (16 secs)||60|
|Accuracy Score (1.027 moa)||58.4|
Being able to fire 3 shots in only 16 seconds is very impressive and demonstrates just how stable the rifle was during firing, again, even without a muzzlebrake. When we checked the target, the group was well centered on the head and measure 3.227″. While we would have liked to have seen a little better group, we had to remind ourselves that we were using a fixed 10x scope and fired the group in only 16 seconds. The shots were also horizontally strung which was likely a product of the difficulty of identifying a precise aiming point with the lower magnification scope and obscure head target. This is actually one of the reasons why we designed this test, we did not want an easy to see aiming point. The total score of 118.4 put the M24 right in the middle of the leader board, but that 16 second fire time is the fastest time yet.
So what are our final views and conclusions? Yes, we love this rifle. It performed every bit as well as I personally remember, and in some regards even better. While in the US Army National Guard I carried two different M24s, plus the one I used at Sniper School, plus others I have shot over the years and they have all been just as good. They all seem to shoot excellent and for the purpose these rifles were designed, they work great. Yes, they have their shortcomings with their cheek alignment, adjustable stocks that don’t lock solid and of course their size and weight and the long action. But doing this test brought back many great memories and it was nice to see the rifle stack up so well against modern competition. Chambered the M24 in .300 WM and use a newer modern scope, and the rifle would be even more effective. In fact, to end this review, I will just say that if it ever came down to it and I had to grab one rifle to go to combat with, I would have a very hard time picking something other than the M24 I have sitting there… though some of that decision would still be based on nostalgia.
Sniper Central 2018