The Remington Nylon .22 Rifles:
By Chuck Hawks
Illustration from old Remington catalog courtesy of Remington Arms.
Back in the 1960s Remington produced a line of synthetic stocked autoloading, lever action, and bolt action .22 rifles. These were, except for some civilian rifles and shotguns built by Savage Arms during WW II when stock wood was in short supply, the first successful synthetic stocked sporting rifles from a major manufacturer. Unlike those earlier Savage/Stevens guns, the Remington Nylon series of rifles used synthetic (plastic) injection molded stocks by choice, and the promotional advertising for these arms touted the advantages of their synthetic stocks.
The Remington nylon stocks were made of a DuPont Nylon 66 series plastic called structural Zytel-101 that Dupont developed specifically for these rifles. (Remington Arms was then owned by DuPont.) The basic DuPont Nylon 66 polymer leant its name to the rifle. Just as with today's synthetic stocked rifles, the Remington Nylon series rifles were advertised as having lightweight, waterproof, essentially unbreakable stocks that would not warp, crack, chip, fade, or peel for the life of the rifle. Also, just like today, they carefully avoided all mention of the fact that these molded synthetic stocks were excessively flexible and resulted in a rifle that was too light, so that although intrinsic accuracy was good, practical accuracy in the field suffered.
The first, most successful and best known of the series was the Nylon 66 autoloader, introduced in 1959. Produced until 1991, it became the most popular Remington .22 of all time. Like the other Nylon series rifles to follow, it was a hunting and plinking rifle. This was a blowback operated, tubular magazine fed semi-automatic rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge (only). The receiver of this rifle was actually nylon, with the bolt running on "self lubricating" nylon rails. (The Owners Manual advised not to lubricate the action with gun oil.) A slipover blued sheet steel cover was used to give the receiver a more normal appearance and also concealed a pair of stock reinforcing machine screws and nuts. The 19-5/8" barrel was also blued.
Its structural nylon stock was injection molded in two halves that were mated together. It was a sleek stock with very slender and attractive lines, a fluted comb, long and graceful forearm with a black plastic schnable tip and a curved pistol grip with a black cap. The buttplate was also black plastic and it was set off by a white line spacer, as were the forend tip and grip cap. Both the pistol grip and forearm wore molded-in checkering in a conventional point pattern and there were white diamond inlays in the center of the checkering pattern on both sides of the forearm that concealed another reinforcing bolt and nut.
The standard stock color was a "Mohawk Brown," a walnut brown with black streaks that vaguely resembled wood grain. This was the Nylon 66 MB model, by far the most popular of any of the Remington Nylon rifles with over 721,000 sold in .22 LR. From 1978-on the Nylon 66 MB could be purchased with a rimfire scope and the previous figure includes over 46,500 so packaged.
For the first few years the Nylon 66 was also available with an OD green, "Seneca green" stock that never really caught on and the green stock was discontinued in 1962. The total sales of Seneca Green Nylon 66 rifles was a little over 45,000.
For those who wanted something even more unusual, in 1961 Remington introduced the Nylon 66 AB rifle with a black ("Apache Black") stock and chrome plated barrel and receiver cover. This was supposed to be the deluxe version of the Nylon 66, but most customers felt that the Mohawk brown version was actually more attractive and it was certainly a more practical hunting rifle. Never the less, Nylon 66 AB models accounted for almost 221,000 rifles sold. There was also a Gallery Special version, the Nylon 66 GS, set-up to run on .22 Short cartridges only. Less that 17,000 of these were produced.
The last variation, the Nylon 66 BD, was introduced in 1978 and came with the AB's black stock mated to a black barrel and receiver cover. The diamond inlays in the forearm were also black. Some 50,600+ of these rather austere rifles were produced between 1977 and 1990
The streamlined trigger guard was made of black nylon plastic, as was the trigger itself and the bolt cocking handle. The bolt was a machined steel forging and most of the internal parts were fabricated from steel stampings.
Iron sights were provided. The front blade was a streamlined shark fin shape and the open rear sight was screw adjustable for windage and elevation. The steel receiver cover was grooved for tip-off scope mounts. The comb was straight and featured minimal drop at heel, allowing for something close to a common sight line for both iron sights and low mounted scope.
The brass tubular magazine ran through the butt stock of the rifle, not under the barrel as is more common. It was loaded through a recess in the plastic buttplate. Magazine capacity was 14 Long Rifle cartridges. The "shotgun" type safety was a slider at the top of the pistol grip and very convenient in use. The Nylon 66 measured 38.5" in overall length and weighed only 4 pounds (empty).
The list price in 1959 was $49.95 and that remained the price for about 10 years. Around 1970 it went to $54.95. My 1968 copy of the Gun Digest shows the Nylon 66 MB still priced at $49.95. For comparison, that same year Remington's Model 552A Speedmaster, a standard walnut stocked .22 autoloader, carried a list price of $59.95 and the deluxe 552 BDL version cost $69.95. (The 552 BDL is still offered!)
The Nylon 66 action was a good one, very reliable in function. This was proven by Remington's extensive testing, in which over 100,000 cartridges were fired through individual rifles. It was capable of an extremely high cyclic rate of fire. I remember reading somewhere of experiments where a number of popular .22 rifles, including a Nylon 66, were converted to fully automatic fire. It was found to be the speed king of all the .22's tested, with a cyclic rate of fire that far exceeded that of any conventional machine gun in the world.
A Nylon 66 was used by a Remington professional shooter Tom Frye to hit, in the air, 100,004 hand thrown wooden blocks (about 2" square, if I remember correctly) out of a total of 100,010 thrown. This was (and probably still is) the world record for breaking wooden blocks, and was used in Remington advertising copy to illustrate the reliability of the Nylon 66.
I have dwelt on the Nylon 66 because it was produced for many years and sold in good numbers, unlike Remington's other nylon stocked .22s. A Nylon 66 was my first real gun, given to me by my Mon and Dad for Christmas after I had qualified for my High School ROTC rifle team in my freshman year. Before that I had only been allowed to own BB guns.
A gun crazy kid, that Nylon 66 immediately became my most cherished possession. Equipped with a Weaver fixed four power .22 scope and Remington's accessory sling swivels and nylon sling, I couldn't count the number of squirrels and small varmints I took with that rifle over the next few years. This in spite of its rather creepy trigger that broke at about 5 pounds, which was typical of these rifles.
The intrinsic accuracy of my Nylon 66 was good. From a bench rest it would shoot groups comparable to the best my friends' Marlin Model 60 and Winchester Model 77 .22 autoloaders could do. However, due to its ultra-light weight and (compared to wood) flexible stock, its practical accuracy in the field was probably not as good. However, it was more reliable than other autoloaders and it would feed reliably in any strange orientation, including upside down.
Using the sling as a shooting aid, for example, would move the point of bullet impact a couple of inches to the side at 25 yards due to lateral stock flex. The springy Zytel stock made the Nylon 66 shoot away from any hard surface against which it might be rested against in the field (rocks and stumps, for example). This is true to some extent of all rifles, of course, but the effect was exaggerated by the nylon stock. And the rifle was so light that it was very hard to hold steady from unsupported positions.
Having achieved commercial success with the revolutionary Nylon 66, Remington proceeded to expand their line of Zytel stocked .22 rifles to include bolt and lever operated rifles and a detachable magazine fed autoloader. I am familiar with these relatively obscure models because my first gun "collection" included samples of each basic type.
The Nylon 76 was a lever action version of the Mohawk brown Nylon 66 dubbed the "Trail Rider." It was billed as the world's fastest lever action rifle. It retained all the features of the Nylon 66, but replaced semi-automatic operation with manual, short stroke, lever operation. There was also an Apache black/chrome version of the Nylon 76.
Being a lever gun fan, this was actually my favorite of the Remington Nylon rifles, although I cannot remember ever taking my example hunting. I don't think I ever mounted a scope on it, which is probably why I didn't use it much. I do remember rumors at the time that the 76 was not as reliable as the autoloading 66, but mine worked fine.
And then there were the bolt action Nylon 10 (single shot), Nylon 11 (detachable clip magazine), and Nylon 12 (under barrel tubular magazine). Unlike the Nylon 66 and 76, the bolt actions had conventional tubular steel receivers. The chromed bolt handles were of the flat Mannlicher type. I remember them as simply being synthetic stocked versions of Remington's inexpensive 581 and 582 (wood stocked) rifles, with a single locking lug at the root of the bolt handle. My examples of these Nylon bolt action rifles were no more accurate than my Nylon 66.
The Nylon bolt action rifles had stocks of an entirely different shape than the Nylon 66 and 76. The Mohawk brown color was the same, and included the same sort of decoration and white diamond inlays (this time in the stock below the receiver), but the stock's shape was bulkier. It had a more squared-off, slab sided look, and the forearm terminated in a blunt, angled tip. The pistol grip had a sharper curve--shades of Weatherby stock design. It wasn't a bad looking stock, but it lacked the elegance of line that characterized the Nylon 66 stock.
The Nylon 76, 10, 11, and 12 only survived in the Remington line for a very short time. They were introduced in 1962 and dropped in 1964. I still occasionally spot a Nylon 66 in a used gun rack, but I cannot remember ever seeing a used Nylon 11, 12, or 76 for sale in a local gun shop. I don't know what the production numbers were for these models, but they must have been pretty low.
The last of the Remington Nylon .22s to be introduced was the Nylon 77. This was merely a clip magazine fed version of the Nylon 66 MB introduced in 1970. Its standard removable magazine held 5 rounds and a 10 round accessory magazine was available. Even the standard 5 round magazine projected well below the bottom of the stock, ruining the rifle's sleek look. I could never see much point to the Nylon 77. Priced about the same as the Nylon 66 MB, after two years the Nylon 77 was renamed the Mohawk 10C and it is so listed in the 1974 Gun Digest. The 77/10C models remained in the line for eight years.
The Nylon 11, 12, and 76 did not survive the middle 1960's and the 77/10C was born and died in the 1970s, but the Nylon 66 soldiered on and on. It remained a strong seller through the 1970's and well into the 1980's, finally being discontinued in 1991. (Some sources say 1989.) Total Nylon 66 sales of all models exceeded 1,058,000 rifles.
I sold my little collection of Remington Nylon .22 rifles in the late 1960's, in order to move on to better things. Now I wish that I had kept them, the historic rifles that pioneered the modern molded synthetic stock. They were far ahead of their time.