Remington's 200th Anniversary
By Gary Zinn
Remington Arms Company is America's oldest gunmaker, and indeed is among the oldest businesses in the U.S.A. Founded in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington as E. Remington & Sons, a maker of rifle barrels, the firm still primarily engages in the manufacture of sporting firearms and ammunition.
The year 2016, marking the bicentennial of Remington, has been noted in various ways by the Company and the shooting media. Senior writers for leading shooting periodicals have written several articles about the Company and its notable historical benchmarks and products. Reading some of these motivated me to share my own modest thoughts on the subject with the readers of Guns and Shooting Online.
I was born in 1944, and by the mid to late 1950s I was beginning to gain experience hunting varmints, small game and whitetail deer. Thus, I feel most confident about commenting on my experience with and evaluation of Remington products since that time. Following are some comments on what I feel are the most significant firearms and cartridges introduced by Remington within this time frame.
Modern flagships: the Model 700 rifle
If one were to ask a random sampling of shooters and hunters what firearm they most readily associate with the Remington brand name, I suspect that the majority would cite the Model 700 rifle. The Remington Model 700 was introduced in 1962, mostly to compete with the highly popular Winchester Model 70. However, the Model 700 was not just another sporting rifle based largely on the Mauser 98 design. It featured some significant innovations in design, manufacturing techniques and styling that made it new and unique at the time.
In my opinion, the Model 700 is best represented by the BDL variant (image above), which was the top of the line production offering for many years. I owned one of these, chambered in 270 Winchester. It was my dream rifle as a young adult, but I soon sold it to help finance the purchase of a badly needed new car. When the car engine blew four years later, I was bummed that I was left without either the car or the rifle. Such is life.
The BDL is one of twenty-three Model 700 variants offered in 2016, according to the Remington website (www.remington.com). In terms of stock materials and detailing, cartridges, barrel lengths, metal finishes and sight mounting options, there is a Model 700 variant that should suit the needs or whims of virtually any hunter or shooter. With over 5,000,000 sold and still going strong, the Model 700 has become the best selling of all American bolt action rifles. I do not foresee any end to the run of the Model 700 as one of the leading bolt action sporting rifles on the market.
The Model 870 shotgun
Turning to shotguns, I must confess to a double bias that I acquired at a young age. A 20 gauge Winchester Model 12 shotgun was the first centerfire firearm that I ever used and I used it a lot for hunting small game and birds over a period of many years. My father purchased this gun in 1923 and I inherited it; it is now retired to a place of honor in my gun locker. The point is that I am a pump action shotgunner, born and bred, and the smooth, reliable Winchester Model 12 is the standard against which I judge all other repeating shotguns.
However, the Model 12 fell victim to the great Winchester bloodbath of 1964 and was discontinued. Fortunately, the Remington Model 870, introduced in 1950, was well established by the time the Winchester Model 12 disappeared. The Model 870 became the leading pump action shotgun on the market, a position it still holds.
The original Model 870, called the Wingmaster, was (and is) a classy firearm, with a polished blued steel barrel and receiver, a nicely checkered walnut stock and generally excellent fit and finish of both the steel and walnut components. The action uses double action bars and is noted for slick, smooth and extremely reliable operation. The Model 870 design also features easy barrel interchange. The image below shows the current Wingmaster in its most elegant form, called the American Classic.
There were only a few variants of the Model 870 Wingmaster (primarily trap, skeet and field models) until 1987, when Remington introduced the Model 870 Express. The Express was designed to be produced more economically than the Wingmaster. It introduced matte finished metal and (initially) a stained birch wood stock and fore end. Models with synthetic stocks and other special purpose configurations or accessories were added later.
With the fit and finish of the Express models well below that of the Wingmaster, and thus less labor intensive and requiring requiring less machine time, the Express series guns could be marketed at a much lower price point. The sales of the Express version soared.
Currently, Remington offers twenty-four variants of the Model 870. Four of these are upscale (Wingmaster level) guns, while the remainder are mass market (Express level) offerings. As I mentioned regarding the Model 700 rifle, there is a Model 870 variant that should suit virtually any need or preference.
Remington states that they have produced over 11,000,000 Model 870 shotguns and two of those are mine. I believe this makes the Model 870 the most produced sporting firearm of all time. If another model beats that number, it is a secret that has eluded my notice.
As an owner and user of Model 870s, I understand why they are so popular. The gun is simple and reliable, easily disassembled for maintenance, and affordable. Functionally, it stacks up well against my cherished Winchester Model 12.
The Model 1100 shotgun
I mentioned that I grew up with a Winchester Model 12 shotgun in my hands. Later on, I switched my allegiance to the Remington Model 870. Having a high comfort level with pump action shotguns, I have never felt motivated to own an autoloader. I have shot borrowed ones from time to time, mainly during recreational trap shoots at my local shooting club. Autoloading shotguns generally feel bulky and ungainly to me, relative to the pump guns with which I am so familiar and comfortable.
Despite my lack of credentials for evaluating the merits of autoloading shotguns, I must give the Remington Model 1100, a truly revolutionary design that ushered in the modern era of autoloading shotguns, a mention here. This is the lighter, more reliable gun that changed the autoloading shotgun world by popularizing the recoil reducing gas operated action. It made all previous autoloading shotguns obsolete.
Like the Model 870, which it strongly resembles, the Model 1100 was (and is) another classy firearm. It also featured a polished blued steel barrel and streamlined (roll engraved) receiver, a nicely checkered walnut stock and generally excellent fit and finish of both the steel and walnut components. Compared to the clumsy, long recoil operated, Model 11 and Browning Auto-5 guns with their hump-back receivers and hard, double-shuffle recoil, which had long been the standard of comparison in autoloading shotguns, the svelte Model 1100 was a revolution and it quickly came to dominate autoloading shotgun sales.
Introduced in 1963, the Model 1100 is still in production, with five variants available (including 28-gauge and 410-bore models, which are rare in the autoloader market). A lot of autoloading shotgun models have come and gone since 1963, but the Model 1100 keeps soldiering on. With over 4,000,000 produced, it is the all-time best selling American autoloader.
For a thorough evaluation of the Model 1100, see the article Remington Model 1100 Sporting 20 Autoloading Shotgun by Chuck Hawks. As a teaser, here is the conclusion of that review:
"The Remington Model 1100 Sporting 20 (LT) is a handsome and versatile shotgun of which its owner can be proud. It naturally excels at sporting clays shooting, but could serve nicely as an all-around upland shotgun. I feel that the Sporting 20 represents an excellent value for the price and should be a top choice for anyone who wants a deluxe autoloading shotgun."
Honorable Mention: the Model Seven carbine
Think of the Remington Model Seven carbine as a Model 700 that has been working out at a fitness center. The Model Seven is based on the Model 700 short action design, with the action shortened an additional 1/2-inch. Most current Model Sevens come with 20 inch barrels, with a few at 18-1/2 inches. (Model 700 barrels for standard cartridges are normally 22 inches long.) Thus, a Model Seven will generally measure about 2-1/2 inches shorter overall than an equivalent Model 700 rifle.
Further, Model Seven stocks have been redesigned to be a bit lighter than Model 700 stocks. With less metal and trimmer stocks, Model seven rifles weigh between 6-1/8 and 6-1/2 pounds (depending on stock material and barrel length), while equivalent Model 700s generally weigh about a pound more.
The Model Seven was introduced in 1983. It, along with similar scaled-down designs offered by other major rifle manufacturers, is obviously intended to appeal to hunters who prefer trim, lightweight rifles. I am one of those hunters.
I have never owned a Model Seven, but I have a Winchester Model 70 "Lightweight Carbine" from the era when Winchesters were built by USRAC. This was a direct competitor to the Model Seven. Chambered in .308 Winchester, it is my go-to rifle for still hunting and stalking deer in the hills of my native state of West Virginia.
Like a Model Seven, this little carbine is light to carry and easy to maneuver in the brush. It mounts and points like a good shotgun. It has never failed me at the moment of truth.
The Model Seven, although a popular rifle, has never sold as well as the Model 700. This is because the Model Seven and other rifles like it are ultimately niche market products.
The Model Seven is currently offered in five variants, chambered for the short action .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 7mm-08 Remington, .308 Winchester and .300 WSM cartridges. (Not all cartridges are available in all variants.) The special attributes of the Model Seven make it worthy of an honorable mention in my evaluation of the best Remington firearms of the modern era.
The best modern era Remington cartridges
The Remington name is attached to several modern centerfire cartridges that have become mainstays on the commercial cartridge scene. I will list these in order of their year of introduction and comment briefly on each. (Refer to the Guns and Shooting Online Rifle Cartridges index page for a fuller discussion of each of these cartridges.)
.44 Remington Magnum (1955): The .44 Magnum is the high performance handgun/carbine cartridge of the modern era. I will not repeat the well documented story of its development and popularization, other than to mention Elmer Keith, the Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver and movie detective Dirty Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood).
Currently, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Taurus, among others, produce SA and DA revolvers chambered for the .44 Magnum, while Magnum Research offers the autoloading Desert Eagle pistol. Nimble lever action carbines chambered in .44 Magnum are made by Henry, Marlin, Rossi and Winchester, while Ruger currently offers the bolt action 77/44 rifle and has previously offered autoloading and lever action .44 Magnum carbines.
The cartridge has very practical applications for hunting and protection in the field, as well as just being a hoot to shoot. I have a lever action Ruger 96/44 carbine that I use to shoot steel from time to time, and occasionally I have shot Smith & Wesson and Ruger revolvers owned by friends. Shooting full power .44 Magnum loads in a revolver is not for those with weak wrists or faint hearts, but it is a lot of fun in small doses.The 44 Magnum is alive and thriving. The spirits of Elmer and Dirty Harry are pleased.
7mm Remington Magnum (1962): Any knowledgable and fair evaluator would have to put this cartridge at or very near the top of a short list of the most capable and versatile small bore rifle cartridges. Without getting into technical detail, I will suggest that the 7mm Remington Magnum is suitable for pursuing any big game animal on the globe, except the very largest, toughest and most dangerous Class 4 species. (Assuming intelligent choice of bullet type and weight, working within sane shooting distances and hitting the vital zone.) Further, the cartridge can do this without unduly punishing the shooter, as it generates recoil levels that are similar to those of a .30-06 shooting bullets of comparable sectional density.
Given its virtues, it is no surprise that the 7mm Remington Magnum is very popular and it is offered in virtually every make of production hunting rifle that can handle it, including single shot, bolt action, lever action and autoloading models. I was able to verify over a dozen well known brand names of rifles chambered for the cartridge in less than five minutes on the Internet. Some makers offer multiple models. Browning, for example, offers Remington's Big 7 in their X-Bolt action, BAR autoloading and BLR lever action rifles.
I have no direct experience with the 7mm Remington Magnum, but I have a nephew who has. He is an avid elk hunter and has taken several elk in Colorado, including a trophy 6x6 bull that is mounted in his living room. He uses the 7mm Remington Magnum exclusively and swears by it. He uses the same rifle, a Remington Model 700, with light loads for West Virginia Whitetail deer.
Given its ballistics and road tested reputation for effectiveness and versatility, I submit that the 7mm Remington Magnum is the best rifle cartridge ever commercialized by Remington. Period.
.223 Remington (1964): This is simultaneously the most popular and, in certain ways, the most controversial Remington cartridge. It is, without debate, a fine varmint and small predator hunting cartridge (Class 1 game). It is mild to shoot, compared to the larger .22-250 and .220 Swift, and good for about 90% of all such hunting when chambered in highly accurate single shot and bolt action rifles.
The .223 Remington is also, of course, the civilian cartridge the US military and NATO subsequently adopted as the 5.56x45mm. The cartridge and AR15-type rifles for which it is chambered have become wildly popular in the civilian market. AR15s chambered in .223 Remington are legitimately used for recreational and casual competitive shooting, serious competitive shooting, home and ranch protection, and varmint hunting.
As a cartridge for larger creatures (up to human being size), the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO cartridge is controversial at two levels. At the risk of being overly simplistic, I will call these the "mouse gun" and "assault weapon" controversies.
Within the shooting community, the debate is whether the cartridge is adequate for military, law enforcement and personal protection purposes, or is it simply an over-touted, but underperforming, mouse gun. This internal debate has raged for many years, with no end in sight.
To me, this debate is ultimately silly. The cartridge, like any other, has merits and limitations. Anyone who owns and uses a firearm chambered in .223 Remington should understand and accommodate these. Get over it, everyone!
The assault weapon controversy is both broader and more significant. The issue here is not the cartridge, but the AR15 rifle. As an autoloading firearm that may be fitted with such vaguely sinister features as a collapsable stock, high capacity magazines, flash hider and bayonet lug, the rifle has been demonized by the anti-gun segment of our society. This group neither understands nor is willing to tolerantly coexist with those of us who understand firearms and the responsibilities that come with their legal ownership and legitimate use.
The AR15 rifle (and the issue of whether civilians should even be allowed to own it) has become emblematic of the broad anti-gun versus pro gun political controversy. This controversy will continue to rage for the foreseeable future. Anyone who cares about this should stay vigilant, informed and involved.
Returning to the main topic, I am among the many shooters who own rifles chambered for the .223 Remington and enjoy shooting them. I have owned an AR15 for a decade and I have had two other rifles chambered for the cartridge even longer.
The first of these is a Savage Model FP10 bolt rifle, the most accurate rifle I have ever owned. This rifle will shoot 1/2-MOA or better groups with virtually any decent ammo. I once shot a three shot group with it that measured 3/8 inches at 200 (!) yards, firing a handload I developed for the rifle.
Second, I have an NEF Handi Rifle (a break-action single shot) that I use mainly to introduce neophyte shooters to centerfire rifles. Between these and my AR15, I have shot about a pickup load of .223 Remington ammunition over the last fifteen years.
I am pretty sure that the .223 Remington is currently the most used civilian centerfire rifle cartridge in the world. The popularity of the AR15 type rifle has put the cartridge in this position and I hope that political hysteria will not sink the rifle, and the cartridge with it.
.22-250 Remington (1965): This cartridge started out circa 1930 as a wildcat, based on a necked-down .250/3000 Savage case. Before 1965, Winchester's .220 Swift reigned as the queen of .22 caliber varmint cartridges, but when Remington commercialized the .22-250, it quickly surpassed the .220 Swift in sales (although not ballistics). No other large cased .22 caliber cartridge has successfully challenged the .22-250 Remington's popularity. It is the second best selling .22 centerfire cartridge, behind only the .223 Remington. The cartridge simply has a blend of ballistic performance and good behavior that outshines everything else in the big case .22 caliber varmint cartridge niche.
The .22-250 Remington reaches its potential for consistent accuracy in sturdy bolt action rifles that are built with relatively heavy barrels and actions solidly bedded in good stocks. Most of the major rifle makers offer just such rifles chambered for the cartridge. Choose the make and model of rifle you like, add a good riflescope, determine what cartridges give the most precise and consistent results in your rifle, and go have some fun.
My closest personal knowledge of the .22-250 comes via a grand nephew. Some years ago, he bought a Savage rifle chambered for the cartridge in order to rid his farm of pesky woodchucks. He succeeded admirably, for the land is mostly free of the critters and whenever one shows up, it does not last very long.
As unlikely as it might seem, he also uses the rifle for hunting wild turkeys. Rather than trying to call gobblers into shotgun range, he scouts strutting grounds in his hunting area and then snipes preening gobblers with his .22-250. This has proven to be an effective hunting strategy, especially when the birds are not responding well to calling.
Cartridge Honorable Mentions: Though not nearly as popular as the cartridges listed above, the .280 Remington (1957), .25-06 Remington (1963), 7mm-08 Remington (1980) and .260 Remington (1997) are capable Class 2 game cartridges. Each of them has its advocates.
For example, Guns and Shooting Online's Senior Editor Randy Wakeman greatly admires the 7mm-08. Yours truly and Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks favor the .260 Remington, as did the late (G&S Online Editor) Gordon Landers. I also have relatives or friends who use and like all of the cartridges on this list.
Our main use of these cartridges has been for deer hunting, in which role the capabilities of these four cartridges are not actually that different. The .280 and .25-06 are based on necked-down .30-06 cases, while the 7mm-08 and .260 are based on necked-down .308 Winchester cases.
I own a Ruger Model 77 Mark II rifle chambered in .260 Remington. I bought this rifle in 2001 and since then have split my deer hunting time between it and my pet .308 Winchester rifle. I have taken four deer with the .260 and can attest to its effectiveness (two shots for a kill in one case, one shot in all others.) It works as a deer cartridge!
Remington Core-Lokt rifle ammunition
Ammunition tends to get overlooked or taken for granted when hunting rifles are discussed. However, it is the in-flight and terminal performance of the bullets fired from any gun that ultimately determines its effectiveness. Terminal performance is especially important for big game hunters. With this in mind, I want to express my respect for Remington's Express Core-Lokt hunting ammunition, "the deadliest mushroom in the woods."
There is a back story. When I was 12-1/2 years old, an uncle surprised me to speechlessness by giving me a Remington Model 14 pump action rifle, chambered for the .25 Remington cartridge. I did not even know he owned that rifle. He explained that the gun was on "indefinite loan" to me and that I should practice with it over the summer, so that I could hunt deer with it the following fall. He gave me several boxes of Remington Core-Lokt ammunition to go with the rifle.
During the summer, I learned how the gun shot by using it to plink woodchucks, which made for great practice and familiarization. The following autumn, I took my first whitetail deer with that rifle and ammunition, and two more over the following three seasons. Having learned to shoot the rifle accurately, I had no trouble felling deer with the very mild .25 Remington cartridge. I became convinced that Remington Core-Lokt bullets were very good performers.
After my fourth deer season, my father bought a .30-30 Winchester Model 94 rifle for my use and I returned the Model 14 to my uncle. Naturally, I continued using Core-Lokt ammunition in my new rifle.
In over a half-century of hunting deer, I have used rifles chambered in .25 Remington, .30-30 Winchester, 8mm Mauser, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester and .260 Remington. Most of the deer I have harvested have been with Remington Core-Lokt ammunition. The stuff works. The "cup and core" construction of these bullets may seem old fashioned in the modern era of highly engineered bullet designs, but I repeat: Core-Lokt bullets work.
Remington began marketing ammunition tipped with Core-Lokt bullets in 1939. Today, the Core-Lokt line is still the lynchpin of Remington cartridge offerings, with one or more loads listed for 39 different calibers, from 6mm Remington through .45-70 Government. Remington claims that, "since 1939, more hunters have relied on Remington Core-Lokt than any other big game ammunition." I have no reason to question that claim and, indeed, have made a modest contribution to its credence.
It is remarkable that Remington has survived and generally prospered for two centuries, while maintaining focus on its core business. The economic ebbs and flows, social and political changes that have affected the firearms market since 1816 have been astounding, yet the firm has somehow endured.
There are gaps in my Remington resume. During my lifetime, the firm has not marketed any .22 caliber rimfire rifles that blow me away, although they have made some popular rimfires. Nor, until very recently, have they been more than a token player in the handgun market. These are minor voids, however, given the success and influence of the products I have discussed in this article.
The Remington Arms Company has a storied history as a business enterprise and has held a position of leadership in the firearms industry for decades. I hope that the same may be said of the firm for the next 200 years.
Copyright 2016 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.