At the beginning of 1940, Remington and its subsidiaries employed nearly 4,500 workers, and by year’s end 6,700 were employed on commercial and military projects.
Owing to its greatly expanded sporting arms line, and the increasing confidence in America’s economy, sales by all subsidiaries of Remington in 1940 were thirty-four percent greater than in 1939. This improvement also depended on the export of military arms and ammunition to foreign governments, a five-fold increase over the prior year.
During the latter half of 1940, following many conferences with the British Purchasing Commission and after consultation with officials of the U.S. State and War Departments, Remington decided to expand its facilities at Bridgeport for the production of military small-arms ammunition for Great Britain.
A number of vacant buildings, including those of the recently vacated Cutlery Works, were remodeled for munitions manufacture. Concurrently, Remington agreed to work with the U.S. government to establish munitions manufacturing facilities in Lake City, Missouri, and Denver, Colorado. These were to be G.O.C.O. (“Government Owned, Company Operated”) plants. Remington and all of America were preparing for the inevitable—World War II.
When the signs had begun in the 1930s of impending major wars in both Europe and Asia, a residual atmosphere of isolationism in the United States had created a policy of maintaining neutrality in these conflicts. That attitude changed abruptly with the sobering fall of France to the German armies in June 1940, leaving only Great Britain still standing. America realized it had to come to the aid of its European allies with military supplies. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, we now had to arm ourselves as well. The nation mobilized and our government once again turned to Remington for help.
Remington Model 720 Bolt-Action Rifle
Interestingly, one of Remington’s transitional and short-lived bolt-action rifles played an early role in the war. As part of a DuPont-inspired gun modernization program in the last half of the 1930s, Remington designers Oliver H. Loomis and A.L. Lowe had developed a replacement for the Model 30 Express rifle, which was costly to manufacture.
By 1940 Remington had completed tooling for a new bolt-action sporting rifle, the Remington Model 720 high-power rifle, and announced it in January 1941. The new rifle utilized a modified Pattern 14/Model 1917-style receiver, somewhat different from the Model 30 receiver. This hunting rifle was chambered for .30-06, .270 Win., and .257 Remington-Roberts cartridges. A wide array of model variations were planned, and some were built, including the Model 720R with a twenty-inch carbine-length barrel.1
No sooner had production of the new rifle begun than the United States was drawn into the all-consuming World War II, requiring Remington’s full conversion to the manufacture of military weapons. Consequently, only an initial run of 4,000 Model 720 subassemblies had been completed when production was halted for the demanding military commitment.
At the beginning of the war, the U.S. Navy, in dire need of high-power rifles, contracted with Remington to acquire most of the initial production run of Model 720 rifles chambered for the .30-06 service cartridge, some with twenty-four-inch barrels, but most with twenty-two-inch barrels. The Navy acquired about 1,000 of these rifles from the inventory in Ilion and many others that had been shipped to jobbers and wholesalers.
Factory records indicate that 427 of these rifles had been sold commercially in 1941, another 1,022 had gone to the Navy in 1942, 973 had been sold to parties unknown in 1943, and a final five had been sold in 1944. Evidently the 1,000 or so Navy Model 720 rifles were not issued to sailors or marines during the war and they remained in naval inventory.
Starting in 1964, the Navy began awarding new-in-the-box Model 720s as marksmanship trophies by the Navy and Marine Corps under the title of “Secretary of the Navy Trophy” or “Secretary of Defense Trophy.”