This is page two of an article concerning recent allegations by CBS News regarding the Remington Model 700 rifle's dangerous defective trigger and safety. They say the Remington Model 700 rifle possesses an inherent flaw - that its safety can act as a trigger, and cause the gun to fire when it's disengaged.
According to attorney Rich Miller (who has handled many cases against Remington), all Remington bolt-action rifles - not just the Model 700 - built since 1950 contain a trigger group known as the Walker Fire Control System. Miller says "At one time, and maybe still today, the Remington 700 was the world's best selling bolt action rifle. They knew from day one they had a fatal flaw. The downside is that the same mechanism can fail and that was recognized on the face of Walker's patent in 1950 that if you don't do this right the gun might fire on safety release."
According to an internal Remington memo, the actual sequence required to make a gun malfunction, or "trick," is to place the safety between the "safe" and "fire" positions, pull the trigger, and then place the safety in the "fire" position - which causes affected guns to fire. I can't make my model 700 fire in this manner, but it is allegedly possible.
CBS News had a link to the patent document in .pdf format, but it is unreadable. Here is a link to a pdf of the original Remington/Walker firing mechanism patent document
Even if Remington wasn't aware of the alleged flaw from the beginning, however, evidence exists which indicates that they have known about this problem since the mid-1970s at the latest. Here's what Miller has to say on this:
"They [Remington] started analyzing the problem in '75 because they were getting some additional returns from the field. They realized the Walker fire control system with this trigger connector [sic] and on January 2nd, 1979, there was a meeting with the product safety subcommittee and a decision was made. The 700 at that time was the world's best selling bolt action rifle, may still be today. They knew they'd made 2 million of them at that time — they were doing about 100,000 a year — and they had studied that gun over the last 3 or 4 years and deciding what to do. And their estimates[sic] of the 700 problem was only 1% can go off.
"And so they decided on the 700, 'we're not going to recall'. 2 million guns is too many guns if you have only 20,000 bad ones. And that was the decision — it was an economic decision.
"Now the key thing to understand here is this: every single 700 has the Walker fire control system with a trigger connector in it. If you own a 700, you've got it. And that is the problem — all of these guns have this design defect in it.
"And such things as age, wear, contaminates [sic] lubricant, things like that will enhance over time, so that the older guns will tend to have more problems than the newer ones."
Miller has an internal memo from Remington (dated January 2, 1979) which states their decision not to recall the guns. I have read the memo, which states that "Remington is confident because of the checks instituted in 1975, that bolt action rifles made during and after 1975 will not trick."
According to this memo, during the period of time between June, 1978 and January, 1979, Remington received for service some five hundred post-1975 Model 700 rifles, and none could be tricked. During that same time frame, they dealt with two hundred pre-1975 Model 700s, two of which could be tricked - one due to a warped connector, and one due to insufficient clearance between sear and connector (one of the design changes made in 1975 was increased clearance between sear and connector).
Based on the above two out of two hundred, Remington guessed that 1% of their older (pre-1975) rifles were affected. Remington instituted a recall on Model 600 rifles, which were found to have a 50% occurrence of tricking before post-1975 Model 700 standards were used to correct this. While two hundred out of two million is not what I'd call a huge cross-section, if we accept Remington's estimates then in 1979 there were about 20,000 rifles out there which could be tricked. That's a lot of rifles, if you ask me.
There is merit in Remington's viewpoint in their 1979 memo, that "an attempt to recall all bolt action rifles would undercut the message we plan to communicate to the public concerning proper gun handling. It would indicate that the answer to accidental discharge can be found entirely within the gun, when in reality only proper gun handling can eliminate injuries resulting from such occurrences." That sounds a bit like what I said earlier in this article, and it is worth considering.
Update: October, 2010
When I originally wrote this article, I stood with Remington on this issue because safe gun handling is really the basis of all gun safety. However, after learning much more about this, and about Remington's handling of this issue, I believe Remington is wrong, that all Remington Model 700 rifles should be recalled, and that the "remedy" they finally implemented is weak at best.
The company offered a Safety Modification Program, which unless it receives another extension will expire on December 31, 2010. Basically, they will take your gun and, at your expense, remove the bolt lock mechanism to allow the bolt handle to be opened with the gun on safe. This applies to Remington models 700, 721, 722, XP-100, 600, 660, and 40-X bolt action rifles and pistols.
This is a weak response, in a number of ways. For one thing, they are admitting that there is a problem, but they are not approaching it decisively. With the modification, you can open the bolt to unload your gun with the safety on - but if it's defective (as many are), operating the safety may still cause the gun to fire. Also, they require their customers to foot the bill ($20 plus shipping & handling) to pay for a stop-gap measure to guard against a very dangerous design defect which is not being corrected.
I, for one, am very disappointed in Remington's treatment of this issue. What do you think?
Page 1 of 2 > CBS News Targets Remington M700
- Russ Chastain