September 23, 2010
The rifles produced by America's oldest gunmaker provide a fertile field for the collector.
When it comes to collecting, I would place Remington in the No. 3 slot behind Colt and Winchester. While its products have been every bit as good as--and in some cases even better than--its two major competitors, its arms have never achieved the stratospheric prices we see in some of the others.
To the collector--especially the beginner--this is actually a good thing because a good number of Remington's products are still available for a reasonable tariff, although the high-roller can still find expensive, exotic goodies. Let's take a look at a selection of both types.
Remington traces its origins back to 1816 when the founder, Eliphalet, and his blacksmith father decided that they could built rifles with better barrels than were then available. After checking out the competition's wares, young Eliphalet began turning out rifled barrels of exceptional quality, to be sold as separate components to those who wanted to fabricate their own guns.
The next logical step was to produce a complete rifle, and the resulting flintlock half-stock performed so well in local competitions that demand for Remington's rifles turned the father and son from blacksmithing into full-time gun manufacturing. By 1828 the company became so successful that it moved to larger quarters in Ilion, New York.
Early Remington rifles employed locks supplied from other sources that were stamped with the Remington name. Because of this, there is much question as to when the first long arms wholly produced by Remington really did appear. The Jenks breechloading carbine built under government contract in the late 1840s holds that distinction--even though, like other contract pieces the company would subsequently produce, it was not a Remington design.
Other early military arms made by Remington include the Model 1841 "Mississippi" rifle, which the company made from around 1850 to 1854, and Model 1861 Rifle-Muskets built during the latter part of the Civil War.
Remington also cataloged some interesting rifle canes based on the patents of J.F. Thomas. Designed to look like walking sticks, they featured various decorative handles depicting a dog's head, a ball and claw, as well as a number of simple shapes. Percussion models were made c. 1858-66 and cartridge versions from 1866-88. These are among the most collectible of Remington firearms.
One arm of the period peculiar to Remington--considered one of the most beautiful martial American arms, ever--was what eventually came to be called the Model 1863 "Zouave" rifle. As far as I can tell, the Zouave moniker came into being in 1961 when Navy Arms founder, Val Forgette, attached the catchy name to his Italian-made replica of the arm.
Today most original '63s turn up in such fine condition that it is questioned whether or not they actually saw combat. To date, no bona fide photograph of an 1861-65 period soldier with one has surfaced. Even so, they are highly popular with Remington and Civil War aficionados.
In 1857, Remington entered the handgun market and over the years turned out everything from percussion revolvers to .45 autos. In 1866, the company curiously adopted its New Model Revolver to a rifle. Probably less than 1,000 were ultimately built, making it one of the company's more elusive collectibles.
In 1865, Remington introduced an unprepossessing little breechloading cartridge carbine called the Split Breech. The mechanism was soon improved by Remington designer Joseph Rider, turning it into one of the most important rifles ever designed: the Remington Rolling Block.
Click for Remington Company Timeline
The U.S. Model 1917 was one of two Enfield-pattern rifles built by Remington under contract during World War I. Joseph Rider tweaked an existing design and turned it into one of the most important rifles ever designed: the Remington Rolling Block.
Produced in many styles and calibers, the Rolling Block is important in that it introduced armies in such widely dispersed locales as Denmark, Sweden, Egypt, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Colombia and Chile to the metallic cartridge. Though a number were actually manufactured by Remington, countries such as Denmark and Sweden opted to manufacture their rifles indigenously.
The Rolling Block lent itself to sporting use, too, and was also highly popular as a target rifle. As such, it was offered in many calibers from .50 on down to .22. The Rolling Block is a collector's delight, allowing one to spend as much or as little as he wishes, depending upon area of interest.
During the latter part of the 19th century, the folks at Ilion also came out with other innovative long arms, to include the sophisticated Remington-Hepburn--a gun that was considered one of the top competition rifles of its time, and the Remington-Keene and Remington-Lee (designed by James Paris Lee of Lee-Enfield fame) bolt-action repeaters.
Both the Keene and Lee were tested by the U.S. government and issued on a trial basis, but neither was adopted. Originally produced by Sharps, Remington eventually took over production of the Lee to fulfill government contracts.
By the turn of the century, the company's main thrust was again directed toward sporting arms. Two guns--the Model 8 semiauto (1906-36) and the Model 14 pump (1913-35)--deserve special attention.
With semiautomatic firearms still in their infancy, Remington took the bold step of introducing the Model 8 recoil-operated repeater to a skeptical public. The John Browning-designed gun was unlike anything seen at the time. Calibers were .25, 30, .32 and .35 Remington. Sales were initially sluggish but improved to the point where in 1936 the company introduced in a slightly improved version, the Model 81, which continued in production until 1950.
To hedge its bets on the Model 8, Remington also came out with the Model 14, a high-end pump-action repeater available in the same calibers as the Model 8, plus a rimfire. Designed by Danish inventor John Pedersen, it was offered in several grades and variations, such as the Model 14R Carbine and 14 ½ in .38-40 and .44-40.
With the onset of World War I, Remington again began accept
ing military contracts, producing Model 1907/15 Mannlicher-Berthiers for the French and Model 1891 Mosin-Nagants for the Russians. Remington's Eddystone and Ilion factories also contracted for pattern 14 "Enfield" rifles in .303 for the British as well as the U.S. Model 1917 version of the same rifle in .30-06 for Uncle Sam.
After the war, production of the Model 17 was carried on by Remington, which, beginning in 1921, offered it as the Model 30. Though of sporting configuration, the gun retained the Enfield's curious dog-leg bolt handle--a feature that would be resurrected in 1964 with the interesting Remington Model 600.
Model 30s were made in several calibers and versions from 1921 to 1940. Today they don't command high collector's prices, making them an excellent choice (along with the parent P14 and M17 Enfields) for the beginning collector.
During World War II, Remington made military arms including the 1911A1 Government Model auto pistol and (along with Savage Arms) the 1903A3 Springfield. Though 03A3s didn't see a lot of active service, the scoped variant--the 03A4--was the U.S. military's primary sniper rifle during the war.
Remington's lineup of bolt-action hunting rifles also provides an excellent collecting area--one in which the enthusiast will find himself confronted with a dizzying selection. Beginning with the Model 720 and running through the Model 721, 722 and 725 there are a number of interesting models and calibers to choose from.
Click for Remington Company Timeline
The Model 8 was the first major attempt by any major maker to sell semiautos for the sporting market.
Take the Model 700, one of the world's most successful sporting firearms. Over the years the basic platform has been turned to civilian, military and police use in a staggering array of calibers and configurations--and it's still going strong. If you want to collect Model 700s, it's just possible you may never get caught up.
While bolt actions dominated Remington's sporting output since the war, the autoloader and pump-action were not forgotten and the Model 760 Gamemaster and Model 740 and 742 Woodmasters, among others, are also fair game. Some of the premier grades bringing some pretty serious bucks, but most can be bought for shooter prices.
On the rimfire front, starting in the early part of the 20th century, Remington introduced an extensive line of .22 single-shot and repeating rifles in Rolling Block, bolt action, slide action and semiauto. The early Model 12 pump action and Model 16 auto rifles are fairly hot with collectors and can command some surprising prices, as can bolt actions such as the Model 37 and later pump and semiautos like the Model 24 and 121. The spectrum of Remington rimfires is so great that one could accumulate them for a lifetime and still never come up with a complete collection.
Most of the Remington .22s are of fairly standard configuration, but the Nylon 66 autoloader and its later variants--the Model 10 and 77 autos, Model 10-SB single-shot, Model 11 and 12 bolt-actions and Model 76 lever gun--provide an interesting sub-genre of Remington collecting.
Introduced in 1959 (the 66) and noted for their all-plastic stocks, the guns were far ahead of their time. It would be a lot of fun to try to track down a complete set. While most sell for under $350 in good shape, the 10-SB can be elusive little devil, and you might have to spend upwards of a grand or so for a nice one.
In almost 200 years of operation, Remington has churned out such a huge inventory of firearms that it's almost an embarrassment to even attempt to cover even one facet of the company's production in a short magazine article. If I left out any of your favorites , such as the Model 40 series or any of the later long guns such as the Model Seven or Model 78, well, maybe we'll just have to revisit the topic down the road.
One nice thing is that Remington is still very much a going concern, and every day it's producing another batch of tomorrow's collectibles. Accommodating of them, isn't it?
Along with Savage Arms, Remington produced Springfield 03A3s during World War II.
Click for Remington Company Timeline