|The Five Most Popular Remington Rifles and Shotguns|
Remarkably, Remington has exceeded the one-million-produced mark several times over with each of these five models; here’s a look at the most popular Remington rifles and shotguns, and what makes these guns so popular with hunters and shooters.
A million of something used to seem like more than it does today, but it is still a lot of anything. For a company to even approach the one-million mark in firearms production with several models is quite an accomplishment, and to actually exceed that production goal several times over with a single model is beyond remarkable. Remington has done just that, not once but at least five times! Since Remington is America’s oldest firearms manufacturer, one might logically assume that one or more of the “magnificent five” might have been introduced over a century ago by company founder Eliphalet Remington, but this is not true. Each of Remington’s million-gun models was introduced after World War II. Let’s take a look at each of them, and rather than taking them in the order of their introduction, I’ll begin with the lowest production firearm and work my way up to the all-time best-seller. Space restrictions prevent me from delving into each model in the detail it deserves, so a few highlights will have to do for now.
Autoloading Rifle Series
Remington entered the autoloading centerfire rifle market in a big way at the beginning of the 20th century by introducing the recoil-operated Model 8 in 1906. Chambered for Remington’s equally new family of rimless cartridges in .25, .30, .32, and .35 calibers, the new rifle was upgraded a bit in 1936 when it became known as the Model 81 Woodsmaster. Even though the addition of the .300 Savage chambering gave Remington’s autoloading big-game rifle a boost in performance, the grand old number had one huge shortcoming—it could not handle more powerful, not to mention extremely popular, cartridges such as the .270 Winchester and the .30-06.
Remington discontinued the Model 81 in 1950 and unveiled its modern replacement five years later. Introduced as the Model 740 Woodsmaster with Power-Matic action, the new gas-operated autoloader was initially offered only in .30-06, but by 1958 the .244 Remington, .280 Remington, and .308 Winchester had been added to its list of options. The standard-grade Model 740A with its plain walnut stock sold for $124.95; cut checkering on the stock of its Model 740ADL mate upped its price to $139.95. Back in those days most Remington firearms were available in Custom Shop versions just as they are today, and the Model 740 was no exception. During the mid-1950s special-order grades ranged from the 740BDL Deluxe Special with select hand-checkered walnut at $172.20 to the 740F Premier with hand-engraved metal and exhibition-grade walnut at $995.80.
Remington’s early advertisements in hunting and shooting publications of the day played up the fact that unlike earlier autoloading centerfire rifles with their recoiling barrels, the barrel of the Model740 was fixed and its bolt locked up atthe front just like that of a bolt-action rifle. The Model 740 was neither the first successful gas-operated autoloader nor was it the first to lock up at the front, but it was the first rifle with those features to enjoy great success in the commercial sporting rifle market.
In 1960 Remington made a few minor changes to its Model 740 and renamed it the Model 742. Initially offered as the Model 742A with plain receiver and stock and Model 742ADL with checkered stock and engraved receiver, Remington’s gas gun eventually grew into an entire family of model variations. One of my favorites, one I still own, is the carbine version with a 18 1/2-inch barrel. Other variations included the BDL Deluxe with impressed basketweave-style checkering and left- and right-hand buttstock options and the Bicentennial of which 10,000 were built in 1976.
Even though Remington’s gas-operated autoloader had been in production for 15 years, the tremendously popular .270 Winchester chambering had been absent from its list of options. This was due to the fact that the .270 is commonly loaded to higher chamber pressures than the other cartridges for which the Models 740 and 742 had been chambered and the additional backthrust exerted against their bolts sometimes caused sticky extraction. The problem was solved by reducing the number of locking lugs on the bolt from 19 small ones to four large ones thereby permitting tighter dimensional control during manufacture without sacrificing strength. Also, a solid steel barrel extension replaced the old two-piece barrel design, and a 360-degree counterbore at the breech end of the barrel along with a more shallow cartridge feed angle improved functioning.
When those major improvements along with few smaller ones were made in 1980, the name was changed to Model 7400; it remains so to this day. With just over one million produced to date, Remington’s 740/742/7400 series is the best-selling autoloading centerfire sporting rifle built anywhere in the world.
Slide-Action Rifle Series
Remington was not the first to introduce a slide-action deer rifle, but it was the first to introduce a successful slide-action deer rifle. Called the Model 14, it was introduced in 1912 in .25, .30, .32, and .35 Remington. In 1936 the rifle was upgraded a bit and renamed the Model 141 Gamemaster. Many who know it well consider the Model 14/141 to be the finest centerfire pump gun ever built, but the grand little deer slayer had the same shortcoming as the Model 81 Woodsmaster—it could not handle more powerful cartridges such as the .270 Winchester and .30-06. For this reason, plus the fact that the Model 141 had become incredibly expensive to manufacture, it was discontinued in 1950 and replaced by a new rifle called the Model 760 in 1952.
The Model 760 had everything the post-war big-game hunter wanted and more. It offered plenty of firepower for fast shooting in tight places, it was relatively light, it was easily outfitted with a telescopic sight, it was chambered for some of the world’s most popular cartridges, it was durable, it was reliable, and it was weatherproof. Last but far from least in importance the Model 760 proved to be extremely accurate, mainly due to its front-locking bolt, rigid barrel to receiver attachment, and free-floating barrel. Just imagine, all of this for only 104 1950s dollars.
The Model 760 was introduced in .300 Savage, .30-06, and .35 Remington, but as hunting seasons came and went other chamberings were added to its option list, including .257 Roberts, .244 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, .270 Winchester, .280 Remington, .222 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .35 Whelen. The standard rifle has always had a 22-inch barrel, but quite a few carbines with 18 1/2-inch tubes have also been manufactured. A number of grades were offered during its production life; the Model 760F Premier grade with its fancy checkered walnut and heavily engraved metal topped them all back in the 1950s at $753.40.
When Remington overhauled its Model 742 autoloader in 1980, the same was done to the Model 760; soon thereafter it became known as the Model 7600. By the time Remington ceased production of the Model 760 in 1980, an incredible 1,034,462 units had been built. Add to that the number of Model 7600s produced since then and it is easy to see how the world’s best-selling centerfire pump gun has most likely exceeded the 1.25-million mark as this is written.
Bolt-Action Rifle Series
Remington’s first bolt-action centerfire sporting rifle, the Model 30, was introduced in 1921 in .30-06 only. Nothing more or less than a commercial version of the 1917 Enfield military rifle that Remington had built for Uncle Sam during World War I, the Model 30 was upgraded and renamed the Model 30 Express in 1926. It was offered in a number of grades ranging from the No. 30A Standard, which sold for $59.95, to the No. 30F Premier with its sky-is-the-limit price tag. In addition to Remington’s rimless family of cartridges in .25, .30, .32, and.35 calibers, the Model 30 was also available in .257 Roberts, 7x57mm Mauser, and .30-06. The Model 30 never sold very well, mainly due to its weight and homely looks, and in 1941 it was replaced by a more streamlined version called the Model 720. A few rifle and carbine versions were built in .257 Roberts, .270, and .30-06, but production was brought to a halt when the United States entered World War II. Soon after the war ended Remington officials decided the time had come to introduce a totally new centerfire bolt gun, one designed from scratch in-house. It didn’t take Mike Walker and his engineering staff long to do just that, and by 1948 a revolutionary new rifle was in production. Called the Models 721 and 722, the only difference between the two was the length of their actions. The action of the Model 721 was long enough to house cartridges as long as the .270 Winchester and .300 H&H Magnum; the Model 722 action was made shorter for short cartridges such as the .257 Roberts and .300 Savage, which were its first two chamberings. As thousands of big-game hunters and varmint shooters eventually discovered, Remington’s new bolt-action rifle with its tubular receiver, button-rifled barrel, and three-rings-of-steel breeching design was more accurate than any other mass-produced centerfire rifle built by anyone. This held especially true for the Model 722 in .222 Remington, a combination used by thousands of riflemen back in those days to shoot the first sub-minute-of-angle group they had ever shot in their lives. On top of that it sold for less than $90.
Even though Remington’s Model 721/722 rifle represented more accuracy for the dollar than any other rifle ever built and didn’t cost a lot, its plain-Jane stock andstamped trigger guard made it a lot less sexy than Winchester’s Model 70 Featherweight. For this reason the Wayne Leek-designed Model 725, which I consider to be the most handsome and best-handling standard-production bolt-action rifle ever built by an American arms company, was introduced in 1957. Also made in short and long action versions the Model 725 was offered in a variety of chamberings from .222 to .458 Winchester Magnum, the latter with a built-in muzzle brake. But fine though it was, the Model 725 was discontinued in 1959 and the Model 721/722 got the axe two years later, all discontinued in order to make room for their replacement.
When it came down to both looks and performance, Mike Walker got everything right when he transformed his Model 721/722 into the Model 700. Introduced in 1962, the new rifle had everything the old rifle had and a few more things to boot. Technically speaking, the Model 721/722 and Model 700 actions are the same, but details such as a nicely shaped trigger guard and hinged floorplate assembly, a much better shaped stock, and a gracefully swept-back bolt handle made the new rifle much more appealing to the eye. Some of today’s shooters would be turned off by the white-line spacers and impressed checkering of the early Model 700 stock, but back then those who liked the look obviously outnumbered those who didn’t. On top of all that the Model 700 ushered in one of the most successful cartridges ever introduced, the 7mm Remington Magnum.
"Around 3.5 million Model 700s have been built since its introduction in 1962, which should make it the world’s best-selling centerfire sporting rifle by a wide margin."
From its original ADL and BDL styles the Model 700 family has grown to the point where in 1999 there are around 20 different model variations available in almost two-dozen calibers ranging from the .17 Remington to the .416 Remington Magnum.
Around 3.5 million Model 700s have been built since its introduction in 1962, which should make it the world’s best-selling centerfire sporting rifle by a wide margin. As other American-designed rifles go, the Winchester Model 70, which has been in production 27 years longer than the Model 700, should be in second place at just over two million units.
One - Overview, Rifles (Autos, Pumps, Bolt-actions)
Page Two - Model 1100 Autoloading Shotgun, Model 870 Slide-Action Shotgun
This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in May, 2000.