When it comes to sniper rifles, typically what is being designed and developed today are rifles that use the latest technologies and trends to accomplish the ultimate in accuracy and deployability for tactical sniper teams or competitive shooters. These rifles are extremely capable and many non-snipers purchase them because they want the ultimate in capability and functionality. Some of these owners are enthusiasts and great fans of the historical side of sniping as well. To satisfy the needs of these historical fans of sniping, there are the original sniper rifles that are available on the collector market as well as occasional reproduction rifles that are built by companies such as Remington with their M40 commemorative rifles from about 10 years ago. Today there are companies such as GA Precision, Texas Brigade Armory and others that will also produce exact replica’s of rifles such as the M40A1. The rifle we are reviewing today is more along the lines of a “Product Improved” version of an old classic rifle, the original USMC M40 adopted in 1966. The rifle being reviewed is built by a new company called, appropriately, the M40 Rifle Company.
The M40 Rifle Company offers several different models of the M40 rifle pictured here. The model we are reviewing is known as the M40-66 which draws reference to the year the M40 was selected and adopted by the USMC, 1966. The first thing that should probably be mentioned is that the M40-66 rifles are not intended to be a perfect replica, and we will illustrate some of the differences later in this review. But these rifles would be considered a continuation or re-imaging of the original. For you car guys and gals out there, it is like the Ford GT from 2005 or perhaps the Singer Porsche 911 that are built today. The traditional idea, looks, and concept of the original M40 is preserved, but it has been updated to modern standards using the latest rifle building techniques. The result is a tribute to the original and its place in history, but the rifle now performs like a fully up to date and modern sniper rifle. In this review we will be drawing some comparison’s to the original M40 to illustrate some of the differences and similarities and especially to point out areas that have been improved over the original. For those comparisons we will be using an original Remington M40 commemorative rifle that we have here at the shop.
The stock on the M40-66 is a traditional high grade walnut stock with all of its beauty and warmth that has always been associated with wood. The original M40 from 1966 utilized a standard Remington 700 Varmint rifle with its BDL style wood stock and the first obvious difference is that the M40-66 has a much higher grade wood quality than the older basic M40 rifle had. The M40-66 stock also has a padded Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad which is an improvement over the original M40’s hard steel buttplate. Both the old and new stock incorporates the traditional Monte Carlo raised cheekpiece to help align the shooters eye with the scope. While this Monte Carlo cheekpiece is configured for right handed shooters, there is not a pronounced curvature onto the opposite side of the cheekpiece which allows the rifle to still be fired left handed if needed.
The pistol grip area of the stock is pure traditional BDL shape which means it is more hunting rifle than tactical rifle. The pistol grip may not be tall enough to allow a full grip with all four fingers and depending on the size of your hand and fingers, the pinky may have to curl under the pistol grip. It is also a further reach for your trigger finger than a modern vertical pistol grip stock, especially for those of us with semi-small hands. This can make it difficult to get a really nice trigger pull, but it is very traditional and period correct for the rifle. There are no palm swells and there is just a slight depression for the thumb behind the tang of the action. The pistol grip area of stocks is where some of the modern era advancements becomes obvious when looking at a modern sniper rifle compared to an older classic design like this.
The fit and finish of the stock to the action is very nice with good contours for the ejection port and tight fitting all around the action. At first the hinged floorplate appears to be a standard Remington BDL floorplate, but upon further inspection it becomes evident that a high quality steel floorplate has been used instead of the cheap Remington pot metal version. This is a very nice and welcomed improvement and the floorplate itself has some very nice engraving on it stating “The ’66 Company”. The stock maintains a thin traditional profile through the action area and up into the forearm. There is not a wide beavertail style forearm nor is it tall. If one thinks of a standard hunting rifle, then that pretty much describes the style of the stock. It is considerably different than a modern tactical stock design used today.
The finish of the wood is a low luster hand rubbed oil finish that is intended to reduce glare and reflection. The overall appearance of the stock is actually quiet beautiful and the oil finish is certainly a higher quality than the original M40 stocks were back in the 1960’s. The feel of the wood is very nice and the legendary “warmth” of a wood stock is there in full force. Obviously the walnut wood will not hold up nearly as well as a fiberglass or kevlar stock will with hard use, and the finish will undoubtedly get marred and scratched. But it certainly is beautiful. There is a sling swivel stud up front and one in the rear as well.
The stock is pillar and glass bedded to the action using all the latest techniques and in an effort to counter the effects of the wood swelling and contracting during different weather conditions, including humidity and heat/cold, the M40 Company has also lined the inside of the forearm with glass bedding compound along its entire length. That bedding only stiffens the forearm and does not touch the barrel, which allows it to remain free floated all the way back to the action. We also checked and discovered that the hinged floorplate is also glass bedded to the stock.
The action itself is a standard Remington 700 short action that has been blue printed and trued in all of the custom rifle builder ways. This includes squaring the face, truing the threads, truing both the action and bolt lugs, squaring the bolt face, and using a precision high quality trued recoil lug, which in this case is thicker than the factory one. It is a complete rebuild and blue printing to maximize accuracy. These are the standard processes done by most all of the custom rifle builders these days and when combined with a high quality match barrel, it leads to impressive accuracy.
Beyond the truing work that is performed on the bolt, it is a standard Remington 700 bolt and extractor. As mentioned, the lugs and face are trued, which is obvious when you inspect the bolt. The bolt knob is the traditional Remington knob with knurling on top. Just like the original, there is the four round internal box magazine that can be unloaded by dropping the hinged floorplate using the finger lever toward the front of the trigger guard. The standard Remington trigger has been replaced with a Timney 510, one of our favorite triggers. We really like the wide trigger shoe with ribs on it as it provides a good feel. The trigger also breaks very clean and consistent. This one broke at 2.9 lbs on our trigger scale.
The barrel is a stainless match grade barrel with 1:10″ twist. The contour is a straight taper heavy contour, probably what most would consider a #7 contour. The original M40’s used the Remington factory heavy weight barrel which has a stepped profile and was not a straight taper like the M40-66, nor was it as thick. The original also used a 1:12″ twist but the 1:10″ here is more suited to heavier weight bullets like some of the newer 180+ grain LR bullets. Because the USMC was in a hurry in 1966 to field the a sniper rifle, they selected an off the shelf Remington varmint rifle and then had Remington clip slot the action and then parkerize the entire barreled action for corrosion protection. Those was pretty much the only changes made to the factory rifle. So when comparing the original M40 to the M40-66, it becomes obvious that all of these changes to the newer M40-66 were done to improve performance. The clip slotting of the M40 action was always a head scratcher as there was no possible way to actually use stripper clips on the rifle with the scope mounted, and without the scope, the rifle was unusable because there were no auxiliary sights. The M40-66 does not incorporate clip slotting, which is probably a wise decision as it is not a 100% replica anyway.
The crown on the barrel is a deep recessed crown used to protect the crown from damage. It was interesting to note that the recessed portion on the M40-66 was unfinished and shiny silver. Because the barrel is stainless steel this will not be an issue for corrosion, but it was just a bit different than a typical tactical rifle. The original M40 does not have any sort of recessed crown at all, so this is another improvement made to the rifle. The length of the barrel is the proper 24″ to match the original M40. The markings on the side of the barrel are quite prominent and indicate “M40 7x62x51 NATO Match”. The font is large and the marking is high quality, though it does stick out brightly.
The overall quality of the rifle is high and the appearance looks like an original M40. It is not until you sit one side by side with an original, or in this case one of the Remington M40 commemorative rifles, that the differences stand out. As seen in the picture below, the finish on this M40-66 is much higher quality and the fit and finish is also more precise, which would be expected compared to the non glass bedded, factory produced rifle. The top of the action is not clip slotted like the original and the barrel is thicker with a different profile. Beyond the finish and the recoil pad, the shape of the stock is close to the original, with some shape differences in the forearm area and around the monte carlo cheekpiece. The wood is also a much higher quality of walnut than the original rifle. Because of the heavier barrel profile, glass bedding, steel floorplate and some other changes, the M40-66 is about a pound heavier than the original rifle, weighing in at just a tad over ten pounds. The metal finish is a high quality modern cerakote finish versus the parkerizing on the original.
We point out the differences not as a critique, but rather to illustrate that improvements have been made and not to expect an exact replica of an original M40. As we mentioned at the start of the review, this is more of a product improved tribute of the original classic. So as an improved version with all of the additional work done, we would expect that it would perform better as well, and there was only one way to find out if it does, and that was to head to the range.
When ordering a M40-66 there are several options to choose from in regards to the optics. The rifles are available as a package that includes a few scope options and/or scope mounting options. Not knowing what to expect with this rifle when we specified the mounting options, we ordered it with a more traditional dovetail style mounts that are similar to what was originally used on the M40, though with two-screw ring caps and not the original 4 screw caps. Knowing what we do now about the rifle, we would have opted for a modern 20 MOA picatinny rail, but as it was, we had to make due with what we had. We also ordered the rifle with a replica scope made by Hi-Lux that is intended to be a recreation of the original Redfield scopes. Open inspection and reflection on what we had here, the Hi-Lux was not going to work to test the capabilities of the rifle, so we instead used the already mounted base and rings and then mounted a Leupold Mark AR 6-18x40mm scope with mildot reticle. This would provide us with a good quality scope to see how the rifle would perform while utilizing the already mounted 1″ rings.
As seems to be common with our reviews in Montana, we had plenty of snow at the range during our shooting sessions with temperatures ranging from 17-25 degrees with light snow falling on occasion. The winds were light and the sky overcast. As is normal for testing a rifle, we brought along several different types of match grade ammo with different weight bullets to get a feel for the rifle. We also included one make of ball ammo just to see how it would do with that as well. All of the accuracy tests were conducted at 100 yards using a sandbag at the front and a sandsock at the rear and fired from a bench. The results are included below:
|Ammo||Avg. Group||Best Group|
|Federal GMM 168gr||.714″ (.682 MOA)||.358″ (.342 MOA)|
|HSM 175gr HPBT Match||.571″ (.545 MOA)||.421 (.402 MOA)|
|HSM 168gr HPBT Match||.673″ (.642 MOA)||.590″ (.563 MOA)|
|PMC 147gr ball||1.369″ (1.308 MOA)||1.056″ (1.009 MOA)|
As you can see from the complied table, the rifle shot very well when combined with any of the Match loads we brought. Of course, using a vice of some sort would produce even better accuracy, but we like to use a traditional setup that provides a bit more realistic real world results. We still always use the Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr ammo as our base line test load we use for every 308 rifle review and it performed very well again. It was not as consistent, group wise, as the other two HSM loads, but it had the tightest single group at .358″. The HSM 175gr also had some very nice tight groups and while the HSM 168gr didn’t have the tightest groups, it had the most consistent. True, the consistent groups part is largely in part to the shooter, but it is obvious that the rifle delivers sub .5 MOA accuracy when combined with good ammo and a good shooter. The 1:10″ twist seemed to digest the different weights without issue and will like do just as well with heavier bullets as well. We included the PMC ball ammo to see how the rifle does with non match grade ammo, and obviously, it did not do very well. It is still under 1.5 MOA which can work in a pinch, but will cut your effective range down. There are some better ball ammo loads on the market than the PMC which we’ll be doing a writeup on in the next few months.
We also shot the rifle off hand where its light weight and slimmer profile worked very well. While the large and heavy sniper rifles of today are extremely consistent and accurate in all conditions, they are a chore to try and shoot from unconventional positions. The ten pound M40-66 has a distinct advantage here which allows it to be suitable for hunting excursions. It is still not a light weight, but it is at least manageable.
We do wonder how the cold effected the wood stock and the accuracy of the groups, if at all. There is a very real reason why tactical rifles went away from wood stocks as there is no denying that the wood swells and contracts with the temperature and humidity. This movement of the wood causes different pressures to be applied to the action. The barrel is completely free floated so that prevents the wood from effecting the barrel on the M40-66, but there is still the bedding on the action that will experience changes in pressure. The use of pillars as well as bedding the action and the floorplate will help mitigate these problems, but not completely eliminate them. For these reasons, it would be difficult to recommend this rifle for actual tactical work, but that is not what this rifle is designed for.
So if its not recommended for duty as a sniper rifle, where does it stand? If you are an enthusiast of the classic sniper rifles, or if you want the traditional look and beauty of a wood stocked rifle, than the M40-66 is an excellent choice. It is a true custom built rifle with sub .5 MOA accuracy so it can shoot with the big boys while still looking good and unique. It would also work well as a hunting rifle due to its lighter weight and where the liability of a wood stock is not as important. Overall, this tribute rifle is finely made, beautiful to look at, and a excellent performing rifle.