by Stanton Wormley - Thursday, March 29, 2012
Anyone who depends upon the very best in precision rifles is likely to be familiar with the Surgeon Rifles marque. Started by machinist and long-range enthusiast Preston Pritchett of Prague, Okla., Surgeon Rifles introduced its first product—the Surgeon standard action—in 2005.
Although visually and dimensionally similar to the Remington 700 short action, the Surgeon action was more than another clone of that famous design. It was intended to be the ultimate tactical action, optimized for accuracy, simplicity and ruggedness, with an integral recoil lug and 20-m.o.a. Picatinny rail, one-piece bolt and handle and bench-rest tolerances throughout. The Surgeon has the same footprint as the Remington short action, to take advantage of the wide variety of stocks already available for the latter action. Since its introduction, the Surgeon action has become one of the most sought-after actions for custom tactical and competition guns.
Pritchett recognized that larger-capacity, more powerful cartridges—particularly the .338 Lapua—were increasing in popularity among professional snipers and long-range target shooters. The .338 Lapua provided ballistic potential out to 1,500 yards and beyond, while allowing reasonable gun weight and size. Moreover, heavy 0.338-inch-diameter match bullets not only have high ballistic coefficients (B.C.s), giving them trajectories that are flatter and less subject to wind deflection, but also possess greater terminal energy. In 2007, Pritchett brought out a new, beefier action—the Surgeon XL—to handle the .338 Lapua and other cartridges of that class. This action became the basis of a new class of Surgeon rifle, the Remedy, chambered in .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Lapua Mag.
Unlike the original Surgeon action, the XL—the heart of the Surgeon Remedy .338 Lapua rifle—resembles no previous design. Its massive receiver, CNC machined from 4340 steel, is a flat-bottomed design 1.45-inches wide, 9.5-inches long and 1.81-inches high, and weighs in at 2 pounds, 14 ounces. The rounded profile of the upper half of the receiver is created with a series of angled flats rather than a smooth curve, and the front end of the receiver has an integral 0.44-inch-thick recoil lug and a 1 1/8-16 tpi barrel thread. A 3.35-inch-long ejection port is sufficient to accommodate the .338 Lapua and other cartridges of similar size. Like the original Surgeon design, the XL receiver features an integral Picatinny rail, but with a steeper 30 m.o.a. angle.
The XL’s bolt is also oversized, with a body of 0.745 inches in diameter and a length of 0.655 inches, and two large lugs measuring 0.50-inch long, 0.47-inch wide and 0.15-inch high. The left lug has a slot for an anti-bind guide rib in the left receiver wall. At the rear, the bolt features an integral 0.55-inch-long threaded stub, onto which bolt handles of three different design can be threaded. Three bolt faces can be had: standard (nominal 0.473-inch case head), magnum (0.532-inch head) and Lapua (0.580-inch head). Standard bolt faces use a Remington-style spring clip extractor, while larger bolt faces make use of a 0.20-inch-wide Sako-style extractor that is set into the right locking lug to give a low ejection angle. A pivoting bolt stop set into the left side of the receiver, protected by a raised fence, serves to release the bolt from the action.
The XL action is made in both single-shot and repeater versions; the latter have a fairly narrow cut in the receiver floor to accommodate the gun’s single-column five-round Accuracy International magazine. The bottom of the receiver is also relieved for Surgeon Rifles’ aluminum trigger hanger, available pre-drilled for Remington-style triggers, or blank for custom trigger installation by a gunsmith. The tang of the receiver is relieved for a Remington-style safety.
For its Remedy guns, Surgeon Rifles matches the XL action with a Jewell trigger and a 28-inch medium-heavy Krieger stainless-steel barrel cut-rifled in a six-groove, 1:9.5-inch right-hand twist, which is sufficiently fast to stabilize even 300-grain .338-inch bullets. At the muzzle, the barrel is equipped with a Surefire muzzle brake, which also allows installation of that company’s sound suppressor. All metal surfaces are given a non-glare Cerakote finish, in a choice of black, dark earth, gray or olive drab.
The standard Surgeon Remedy stock is the McMillan A-5, which is pillar-bedded and comes with an adjustable comb, Decelerator buttpad, optional length-of-pull buttpad spacers and two flush-mounted quick-detachable sling swivel cups. Also available are Tom Manners’ T4 fiberglass tactical stock, with features similar to the McMillan A-5, and McRee’s Precision modular aluminum stock, which features multiple Picatinny rail sections for lights and other accessories, and an optional folding buttstock. Recently added are stocks from Accuracy International, which use a magazine allowing a 0.100 inch longer overall length for the .338 Lapua cartridge.
The test Surgeon .338 Lapua rifle came with a 2.5-pound Jewell trigger and a McMillan A-5 stock in a dark reddish-brown color. Given the power of the cartridge and the size of the action, I expected the rifle to be larger and heavier than it was. At 49.8-inches long and 16.5 pounds in weight—about the same as the Browning BAR carried throughout World War II—the XL rifle was judged to be eminently portable for tactical use in the field.
I mounted a Harris S-type bipod on the fore-end, and installed a U.S. Optics SN-3 3.8-22X44 scope on the integral Picatinny rail, using U.S. Optics rings. My test ammunition included 250-grain HPBT loads from Black Hills and Swiss Munition (RUAG), and a 250-grain Lockbase FMJBT load from Lapua. Test-firing was done at 100 yards, using a Protektor sandbag at the rear.
Surgeon Rifles states that all its rifles, including the .338 Lapua Remedy XL, are capable of 1/2 m.o.a. five-shot groups. My test-fire session bore that out, with the Black Hills .338 load giving a 0.49-inch average. All three loads grouped creditably, well below 1 m.o.a.—truly impressive accuracy given that the .338 Lapua produces around 2 ½ tons of muzzle energy. Recoil was unexpectedly light, roughly equivalent to firing a .260 Rem. or .308 Win. rifle without a muzzle brake. Bolt manipulation, feeding, extraction and ejection were smooth and positive, and accurate shooting was promoted by the rifle’s crisp, light trigger pull. There were no malfunctions of any sort during the firing session.
The Surgeon Remedy XL in .338 Lapua is just about an ideal combination of accuracy, durability and reliability, and is reportedly a contender in the United States Marine Corps’ search for a new .338-caliber ultra-long range rifle. One of the requirements for such a gun is the ability to engage targets out to a mile. In various tests, both the gun and cartridge succeeded in meeting this standard, an accuracy level of about 1 m.o.a. at that distance.
Though not relying upon a completely novel design or unusual materials, the Remedy is noteworthy for the way it optimizes the conventional turnbolt action, eliminating virtually every potential weak point and unnecessary component. From the point of view of reliability, rigidity, strength and precision, the Surgeon XL action represents perhaps the pinnacle of bolt-action design. And when that action is combined with quality components, as in the Surgeon Remedy XL, it is no surprise that exceptional performance is the result.
Manufacturer:Surgeon Rifles; 405-567-0183; www.surgeonrifles.com
Caliber: .300 Win. Mag.; .338 Lapua Magnum (tested)
Action Type: bolt-action repeating rifle
Receiver: 4340 steel
Barrel Length: 28”
Rifling: 6-groove, 1:9.5” right-hand twist
Magazine: steel box magazine, 5-round capacity
Sights: none supplied; integral 30-m.o.a. steel Picatinny rail
Trigger: Jewell two-stage, 2 lb., 7-oz. pull
Stock: McMillan A-5 fiberglass stock with adj. comb and length of pull spacers; Manners Composite, McReesPrecision and Accuracy International stocks available as options
Length of Pull: 13” to 14 1/2“
Drop at Heel: 1 ¾”;
Drop at comb: 1 ¾” (with comb fully lowered);
Overall Length: 49 3/4”
Weight: 16 lbs, 9 ozs.
Accessories: hard plastic case, Harris bipod
Suggested Retail Price: $5,050
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