A Look at the Remington Model 1100

By Randy Wakeman

Remington Model 1100 Sporting 20
Illustration courtesy of Remington Arms Co.

1963 was the inaugural year for the gas-operated Remington 1100. Unlike the very slow start of the eventually wildly successful 870 pump action (1950), the Remington 1100 came out at what seems to have been the right time. Shotgun aficionados initially scoffed at the stamped-part "tin-can" 870 vs. its handcrafted predecessor, the "ball-bearing" Model 31.

There was no such outcry directed at the Model 1100. Its streamlined receiver and recoil-reducing gas operated action found immediate acceptance with North American shooters. Remington got it right the first time with the Model 1100. Note the long parade of Beretta, Browning, and Winchester autoloading shotgun models that have come and gone during the Model 1100's long reign.

By 1983 over 3,000,000 Model 1100's had been produced, making it a runaway hit by any standard. The 1100 did more to popularize the gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun than any other. It set skeet records like mad, and was affordable enough that those who wanted them could normally have one. It was also a reliable gun, introduced at a time when reliable autoloaders were few and far between. Most of all, the 1100 was (and is) a handsome gun that looked right and handled exceptionally well for an autoloading shotgun. It was so good that for 43 years Remington has found it difficult to field a legitimate successor.

By 1987, the 1100 was getting a bit long in the tooth. Beretta's AL-1 and Al-2 shotguns had matured into the Model 301 (1977-1982) the A302 (1982-1987), and the A303, which was introduced in 1986-1987. Beretta offered the ability to shoot 2-3/4 in. and 3 in. shells interchangeably, a magazine cut-off, and a simpler gas system. Berettas buttstocks were also shim-adjustable for drop (and later for cast).

The 1100 was losing some sizzle and Remington responded with the Model 11-87 (1987). The 11-87 was, and remains, essentially a modified 1100 with an adjusted gas system that promised 2-3/4 in. and 3 in. shell interchangeability. It never seemed to work as well as expected, and the 1100 remained in the line.

While Remington vacillated between trying to decide whether to continue to make the 1100 or the 11-87 or both, Beretta and Browning continued to move forward. Browning finally got it right with the speed-loading, magazine cut-off equipped Gold 12 gauge with a self-compensating gas piston system that really worked. Browning has added shim adjustable stocks to their ever-blossoming line of Golds.

I've owned several Remington 1100 12 and 20 gauges over the years, with many more passing through the hands of family and friends. For me, it has been a mixed bag. Remington quality control has varied tremendously; some 1100's and 11-87's have been horrible O-ring eaters, some seem to have few problems.

The Remington 1100 was not the first gas-operated semi-auto shotgun. It was, however, a glorious bright spot in the long history of Remington, and influential beyond compare in its day.

So far Remington has been unable to come up with a replacement that equals its appeal. Perhaps the new for 2006 Model 105 Cti will be that replacement--or maybe not. If the new gun is to successfully replace the storied Model 1100, it had better be good!

Note: Two reviews of Model 1100 Sporting 20 shotguns can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.