When you have a firearms company on the cusp of beginning its third century in continuous operation, it is expected to have a host of guns that were home runs with sportsmen everywhere. If that company is Remington, there were a number of rifles that not only made it around the bases, but knocked the ball out of the park. These guns found a niche not only with the market place, but also brought something new and fresh to the table, earning them an enduring legacy in firearms history.
M1917 EnfieldWhen World War One broke out in Europe, the U.S. managed to stay out of the fighting for the first three years of the conflict, preferring to let the Europeans settle the matter among themselves. However, Remington produced a bolt-action service rifle in .303 on contract for the British Army. Well, all the King’s men thought so much of the gun that they had the fine folks at Remington produce some 685,000 of these P14 series rifles to be used in the fighting.
Then in 1917 when the U.S. was pulled into the war and Uncle Sam found out that there was not enough Springfield 1903s in the whole world to equip the huge force of Doughboys being trained to go to France, Remington redesigned the P14 rifle in 30.06 as the new M1917. The rest, as they say, is history.
The gun had a strong, Mauser-style action, a five-shot internal magazine, and lock-up as solid as a bank vault’s door. With some 1.7 million of these guns produced in just two years, the majority of the American soldiers in the “War to End all Wars” were equipped with these rifles. It was in the hands of Sgt. Alvin C. York that a M1917 proved enough muscle to capture 132 German soldiers and help York receive a Congressional Medal of Honor.
These guns proved so popular in fact, that they continued to be used in some military situations into World War Two while surplus weapons became the bargain deer rifle for decades after. Remington even produced the M1917 in the 1920s and 30s as the Model 30, and was their first high-powered hunting rifle sold on the civilian market. In short, without the Model 1917, there would have been no Model 700 today.
The SpeedmasterIn 1957, Remington designers L.R. Crittendon and E.W. Hailston came up with the idea to create as perfect a rimfire rifle as possible. Their gun, officially dubbed the Model 552, is best-known by its “Speedmaster” title– awarded to it for the fact that its lightning fast semi-auto action will zip out .22 caliber rounds as fast as you can pull the trigger. Unlike many of today’s .22’s that feel cheap and light-duty, the Speedmaster had nice walnut furniture, tight action, and deep blued carbon steel barrel that gave it a feeling of solid dependability.
The gun also had a number of features that set it apart from the crowd such as a left-handed bolt and a shrouded ejection port to keep ejected brass from the shooter’s face. An underbarrel tubular magazine held a decent handful of either .22 shorts, longs, or long-rifles, able to use any of the three interchangeably. When you weigh all this, its easy to see why the Speedmaster is still in production nearly sixty years later.
Model 8At the dawn of the 20th Century, John Browning was the preeminent firearms designer in the country if not the world. While he invented a number of classic guns for Winchester, Colt and others, he also came up with a gem of a rifle for Remington.
This gun, the Model 8, was a very simple semi-auto that used a long-stroke recoil method of operation that proved both extremely reliable as well as durable in action. Unlike direct gas-impingement actions used in many of today’s auto loading rifles, Browning’s recoil method was cleaner. Between 1906-1950 Remington sold these guns, first as the Model 8 and then as the slightly updated Model 81 in short-action chamberings such as .35 Rem and .300 Savage.
Reliable enough to take on bear hunts; they were a favorite of lawmen of their time, with the legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer carrying one in the last shootout that Bonnie and Clyde ever attended.
Today, the Model 8 highly sought after on the collector’s market.
The Nylon 66While today many believe that the Austrian-born Glock pistol introduced the world to firearms that used polymer to bring down costs while delivering a durable, low-maintenance gun, Remington beat them to it by a few decades. In fact, the Model 66 rifle, commonly referred to as the “Nylon 66” due to its Nylon Zytel stock designed by DuPont, was introduced in 1959. As such, it was one of the first mass-produced firearms manufactured with a material other than wood or metal.
With a weight of just 4-pounds, the handy .22LR rifle could be carried comfortably and fired by younger shooters. This fact led these Atomic-age guns to become a hit with plinkers and small game hunters, keeping the ’66 in production for a decent thirty-year run.
Model 760You may not realize this, but the pump-action is one of the fastest, non-autoloading, methods of reloading a long arm in existence. While it seems odd today on a rifle when you compare it to the more common semi-auto and bolt-action varieties, the pump, or slide-action Remington has actually been around for a century.
As far back as the 1900s, early Remington slide-action rifles such as the .44-40 caliber Model 14 and the .25-20 chambered Model 25 saw hard service as brush guns. Their handgun-caliber chamberings, large magazine capacity and rapid reload with the pump of the forearm made them popular. In 1952, Remington stretched the receiver out to accommodate larger, more modern caliber choices and the Model 760 was born.
Chambered in more than a dozen options from as small as .223 all the way up to .308, the Model 760 weighed just over 7-pounds and allowed hunters to carry a viable hunting rifle with a fast reload in restrictive areas where semi-auto rifles and similar guns were frowned upon. In addition, with its overall receiver and action based on the popular Model 870 shotgun series, if you have one, you can figure out the other almost instantly. Although out of production by the time Reagan took office, the Model 7600 is but an upgraded version of this classic design.