Remington Knives Today
By Gary Zinn
Remington 2015 Bullet Knife. Image courtesy of knifecenter.com
Note: This is one of two articles on Remington brand knives and Bear & Son Cutlery, respectively. Remington knives are, in the future, to be made and marketed exclusively by Bear & Son. Accordingly, anyone interested in Remington knives may wish to read the companion article, Bear & Son Cutlery, to gain a fuller understanding of the Remington knives / Bear & Son Cutlery partnership.
Remington (www.remington.com) is one of the most recognized brand names in the outdoor sporting equipment industry. The name Remington immediately conjures images of firearms, ammunition and a range of other products. The brand also has a historical and current place in the world of sporting knives, though the Remington brand has occupied only a niche in the knife market in recent times. Recent developments suggest that Remington brand knives may be about to emerge as a more significant player.
Remington Arms Co. entered the knife industry in 1920, and they entered strong. They built a factory at Bridgeport CT and hired knife artisans from Sheffield, England to oversee design and production work. They were shipping up to 6,000 knives per month within a short time and it is claimed that in later years production sometimes peaked at 10,000 knives per day.
In 1922, Remington began producing the R1123 Jumbo Trapper. This knife had a rifle cartridge shaped shield on the handle, so it became known as the Bullet Knife. In following years, the bullet shield was used on other top of the line knife patterns. This bit of historical trivia is relevant to what came later.
This halcyon period lasted until 1940, with WW II already raging in Europe and Asia, when Remington sold the entire knife operation to Pal Cutlery Co. At this point, the historical record gets quite vague. It is definite that Pal closed the Remington knife plant in 1950.
What happened between 1940 and 1950 is not at all clear. It is probable that Pal assembled Remington designed and branded knives from whatever parts came with the factory when they bought it. Whether or not they were authorized to manufacture any additional Remington brand knives is unclear. Whatever, the flow of Remington knives ended by 1950.
Remington reentered the knife market in 1982, but in a manner very different from what the company had done in 1920. Instead of jumping into the knife lake fully clothed, the company very tentatively stuck a toe in the water. They did this by commissioning Camillus Cutlery Co. to make a single knife model that would bear the Remington trademark, along with the old bullet shield. This was the genesis of the modern Bullet Knife series. The 1982 Bullet Knife was a reproduction of the original R1123 trapper.
It is said that the 1982 Bullet Knife was created to promote the then-new Remington Model Four and Model Six centerfire rifles. However, rifles were produced with those model designations for only a few years, while the Bullet Knife series took on a life of its own. Annual Bullet Knives have been produced every year since 1982.
Also, a number of commemorative knives have been produced during the modern era. Some of these have borne the bullet shield and some have not, but all have been on a quality par with the annual Bullet Knives. Further, an occasional special edition knife is produced that is neither an annual Bullet Knife nor a commemorative, per se.
For instance, the 2015 Remington knife catalog lists a special trapper pattern knife, featuring the words "The Second Amendment" etched on the handle and "The right of the people to keep and bear arms" on one of the blades. Works for me.
I was able to find credible information that Camillus produced the Bullet Knife series through 1990. Then the trail disappeared until 2006, when Bullet Knives began being made by Bear & Son Cutlery. What company or companies made Bullet Knives for Remington between 1990 and 2006, I do not know.
Somewhere along the way, Remington began adding other knife series to supplement the annual Bullet, commemorative and special edition knives. I could find no documentation of when this started or what companies may have made these knives for Remington. In recent years, the lower echelon of the Remington knife line has been imported.
In general, Remington has commissioned and marketed solid quality knives, but there have been some misfires. For instance, the now discontinued (thankfully) Vintage Series, made in China, featured clear acrylic handle scales with cheesy poster art scenes underneath. These knives had a retail price under $10, which says "junk" right there. The Vintage Series knives were ghastly, worthless and I am glad they are gone. (Yes, I feel much better now, and thank you for asking.)
Bear & Son and Remington join forces
As noted above, Bear & Son Cutlery began making the annual Bullet Knife for Remington in 2006. This partnership must have proved agreeable to both parties, because in July 2014 the firms announced, "In 2015, Bear & Son will become (Remington's) exclusive licensee for cutlery."
This changes the game for Remington brand knives. I will go out on a limb and predict the Remington knife line will become leaner, but with better quality knives at the sub-Bullet/commemorative/special edition level. If I am correct, this can only work to the benefit of all concerned parties, i.e., the Remington brand name, Bear & Son Cutlery and ultimately all of us who buy, use and value knives. I base this bold (perhaps reckless) prediction on stated intentions, evidence of performance to date and what I suspect the Remington line will look like when the new Remington / Bear & Son partnership agreement is fully implemented.
The text of the July 2014 announcement of the expanded Remington / Bear & Son partnership contains phrases and quotations that imply much about the intended future of the Remington knife line. Here are the key points from the announcement, slightly edited for brevity:
The knives will be handcrafted at the Bear & Son plant in Jacksonville, Alabama, where tooling, pressing, heat-treating, grinding, hafting, finishing, and assembly occur. "Our factory is unique, because of the extensive in-house work we do, from research and development to hand finishing," said Ken Griffey, president of Bear & Son. "The methods we employ ensure that all of our knives are high quality, yet affordable."
"It was critical for Remington to pick the right partner," said Kevin Graff, senior vice-president and general manager of Business and Consumer Development, Remington Outdoor Co (ROC). "The dedication, professionalism and commitment to quality at every level of Bear & Son have become clear to us over the years of our collaboration. That is why we are excited to take our partnership to the next level, beginning in 2015."
The expanded Remington line will offer several new and innovative products, including an extension of the Remington tactical knives line and some additions to the popular 700 and 870 Series. New knives will also be added to the lower cost Remington Sportsman Series. The Remington knives will be made in the USA, as are all Bear & Son knives, and will be backed by a Lifetime Warranty.
The biggest takeaway from these statements is that all Remington knives will be made in the U.S.A. when the transition to the Bear & Son exclusive line is complete. This includes the Sportsman Series, which at present consists entirely of imports.
Second, with Bear & Son becoming the exclusive producer of future Remington knives, production will be closely controlled. This is because Bear & Son is a one site, do it all operation. Accordingly, Bear & Son will have total control over the design, components, assembly and quality control of the products. Note the quote (above) attributed to Bear & Son President Ken Griffey.
Finally, the Remington / Bear & Son partnership has a track record, since the two firms have worked together producing and marketing the annual Bullet knives, plus commemorative and special edition knives, for some time. The trust that Remington Outdoor Co. has in Bear & Son is reflected in the quotation attributed to ROC executive Kevin Graff.
Performance to Date and Possible Future Direction
The best evidence of where the Remington knife line is going under the new regime is found in their 2015 product catalog. Initially, I will focus on the upscale part of the line, which consists totally of U.S.A. made products. Here is a summary list; the numbers in parentheses denote total number of specific knives and number of new knives, respectively, in each category.
2015 Bullet knife (3 / 3)
2016 Bullet knives (2 / 2); scheduled for shipment autumn 2015
Commemorative and special edition knives (5 / 4)
Advance Combat Cutlery (ACC)
Total specific knife models = 43 (27 new)
Of course, the 2015 and 2016 Bullet knives are new. I list three 2015 Bullet knives because there are three variants or grades of the pattern available. The 2016 annual Bullet Knife, plus a commemorative knife, are shown in the catalog, with a note that they are scheduled for shipment in the autumn of 2015.
All but one of the other commemorative or special edition knives are new. The one that is not is a dressed-up version of the 2014 Bullet Knife. It is available only to members of the Remington Cutlery Collectors Club.
I would characterize the Heritage Line as solid quality, traditional knives. The 870 and 700 Series are well established, with only three new specific models being added to the two together. The green stag bone series is making an encore. It was formerly in the Heritage Line, but was dropped a few years ago to make way for the 870 and 700 series. It is being brought back by popular demand.
The ACC series is apparently a response to market demand for tactical style knives. The series is all new, except for one fixed blade knife. The common denominator of the series is 1095 carbon blade steel with a black powder coat finish. (All but one of the other U.S.A. made knives have 440 stainless steel blades.)
The butterfly knives appear to have been plucked intact from the Bear & Son pattern files, then upgraded with tougher blade steel and handle material. The neck knife is a capable looking piece of steel and the fixed blade appears to be a brute. The assisted and automatic openers are new designs; they all have black finished aluminum handles.
Looking to the future, I think that the groups of knives summarized above are more or less set. There is no end in sight for the annual Bullet Knife, commemoratives and special editions. The specific models offered will change from year to year, of course.
Similarly, the 870 and 700 series seem well established. I see only marginal changes in the models offered over time. The reinstated green stag bone series, featuring jigged bone handles dyed Remington green, will likely be well received.
The ACC series is where I have the dimmest crystal ball. This is partly because I am not tuned in to the tactical market nearly as well as I am to more traditional style knives. More importantly, though, neither Remington nor Bear & Son has an extensive track record in tactical knives.
Bear and Son began making tactical knives in 2011, while the ACC line is the first attempt to market tactical knives bearing the Remington brand. I do not have a strong feeling about how this line will evolve, except that I expect a few more fixed blade knives to be added. I suspect that the ACC series will see more changes in the next few years than will the other series mentioned above.
The downscale Sportsman Series is where the most moving and shaking will occur, as the Remington knife line transitions to an all made in the U.S.A. format. This is because all of the knives in this series are at present imported. Here is a summary of the components of the Sportsman Series in the 2015 catalog.
Fixed blade hunting (5 / 2)
F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Soft Touch)
R51 Assisted opening (4 / 4)
Misc. folders (9 / 9)
Total specific knife models = 45 (28 new)
Given the avowed intention, as stated by both Remington and Bear & Son officials, that all Remington knives will (eventually) be made in the U.S.A., one may wonder why half of all knives listed in the 2015 catalog are imported and further why over half of those are new models. The answer is that these knives have already been made for Remington, or will be made in fulfillment of contracts that predate the new exclusive contract between Remington and Bear & Son.
It will probably take at least a couple of years to purge these imported knives from the Remington line, both because it will take some time to move them through the market and also because Bear & Son will need time to design, tool and begin production of replacement knife models. During the transition, there are likely to be some really deep discounts on these knives in the clearance market.
Since these knife models will be going away, I will not discuss them in more detail here. Rather, I will speculate how the Sportsman Series will look when the transition is complete.
First, I believe that the series in general will be characterized by no-frills working knives. I think that the series will be anchored by perhaps six to ten fixed blade models, with 440 stainless steel blades and molded synthetic handles of Kraton, Zytel, or similar polymers.
To round out the series, I would expect perhaps 12 to 16 single blade locking folders, some of which might feature a simple opening assist mechanism. Again, I would expect 440 stainless steel blades to predominate, though there might be a few knives with 1095 carbon steel. Handles for these knives might be some mix of molded polymer, aluminum, stainless steel, or even powder coated zinc. (Most of the Bear & Son butterfly knives have coated zinc handles, so they know the technology.)
In sum, I expect the future Sportsman Series (if it is still called that) to consist of fewer models than at present. The design of these knives will stress function over fashion, while materials and production methods will be chosen to achieve solid quality for a moderate price.
Another important development in the new Remington / Bear & Son partnership is that Remington has turned over the marketing of Remington knives to Bear & Son. At the time of this writing, there is still a cutlery link on the Remington website, but the page it should lead to has been removed. Meanwhile, the Bear & Son website contains several references and links to Remington knives, the most important of which is the 2015 catalog.
In summary, Bear & Son is taking direct primary control of the design, production and marketing of all Remington brand knives. It appears that Remington is comfortable with handing the reins to Bear & Son, since they have proven they can deliver the goods.
The 2015 Bullet Knife, A Mini Review
The 2015 Remington Bullet Knife (see image at top of page) is a double benchmark. It is the tenth annual Bullet Knife produced by Bear and Son and it is the first produced under the new exclusive licensing contract between the two firms. The knife is based on the Remington Muskrat pattern #4466, from the 1920s. I bought one of these, both because of its double benchmark nature and because I wanted one in hand to examine and comment on for this article. Here are the specs for the base knife, which is designated as pattern R11000 (there are two other variations).
My knife has excellent fit and finish. The fit between handle scales, bolsters and liners is perfect. The only misfit I found is a hairline gap between the center cut and one of the back springs. Otherwise, the springs, liners and center cut match up exactly when the blades are closed. Considering all the opportunities for misalignment in the many parts of a slip joint knife, the one small gap that I found is trivial.
The blades and bolsters are highly and evenly polished, showing only very faint, even polishing marks when they catch the light just so. The dyeing, jigging and finish on the handle scales is impeccable.
In a mini review, I confine function evaluation to cycling the blades and checking the blade grind and factory sharpness. Concerning blade manipulation, my Bullet Knife's blades definitely move smoothly and seat crisply when opened or closed.
One thing to note: the tangs are shaped so that the blades will "half stop" during cycling. (The blades are shown in the half stop position in the image above.) This was quite common on slip joint knives a half century or more ago, but is not often seen today. This is another aspect of the traditional character of this knife.
The blades are hollow ground; honest, they are. The grind starts at the blade spine and is very shallow, so that it appears to be a flat grind until one checks closely. A larger angle edge grind is used to raise the cutting edge.
The factory edge is good. I am sure that a bit of honing would make it even better, but this knife is destined to be a display diva, so I am not going to mess with it.
I was pleasantly surprised by two subtle features of this knife. First, the image of the 2015 Bullet Knife shows "Remington" etched on the clip blade. However, there is no such graphic on the actual knife. I am totally good with this, for I do not prefer billboard art on my knife blades.
In addition, I was not expecting the strength of statement made by the handle scales. The jigging is deeper and bolder than I am used to and this makes the handle both look and feel good. Plus, the dyed color of the bone is rich, without looking gaudy.
During all but five years between 1982 and 2004, the Bullet Knives had a feature that I never liked. The handle scales were duPont Delrin plastic. It was colored and molded to mimic dyed, jigged bone, but it looked and felt like what it really was. To me, this downgraded the knives. Finally, in 2004 the Delrin handles were dropped in favor of genuine bone, which has been the standard material ever since. Much better! The 2015 Bullet Knife is a traditional styled pocket knife, well executed by the folks at Bear & Son.
There are two additional variations of the 2015 Bullet Knife. R11001 is identical to the R11000 model, except it sports Damascus steel blades. Damascus steel is very expensive to produce, so this knife has a much higher MSRP of $270. R11002 wears genuine stag horn handle scales, but is otherwise identical to R11000; its MSRP is $145. It is noted in the Remington knife catalog that production of R11000 is limited to 5,000 units, R11001 to 500 units and R11002 to 1200 units.
The Remington trademark has marketing power. If the Remington / Bear & Son fusion improves the Remington knife line, then there is reason to think that the Remington brand will achieve a higher profile in the sporting knife marketplace. Further, a stronger line of Remington knives, marching beside their close cousins bearing the Bear & Son trademark, should challenge other knife makers to up their game. Where is the downside in this for the knife buying public?
Copyright 2015, 2016 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.