Remington: Finally Making Good on Model 700 Trigger Defect?
Russ Chastain 12.06.14
More than 13 years ago, I wrote an article about the Remington Model 700 and a CBS news segment that alleged the trigger could be fired by switching the safety to the “fire” position. At the time, I concentrated on the sad case of Gus Barber, who was killed when his mother switched a Model 700 rifle from “safe” to “fire” and thus fired a round through a horse trailer and into her son.
She should have pointed the gun in a safe direction, says Remington. So said I, and I still do. But since then, I’ve learned that Remington knew there was a problem with this trigger, even back in the 1940s when it was designed. The more I learned, the more it stunk. And after I published that article, I was contacted by more than one person whose Model 700 had fired via the safety, including one hunter I knew personally. It was clearly a real and widespread problem, which Remington continually downplayed.
The same trigger design was used in Model 600 rifles, but stamped housings were used in those. These failed so often that Remington was forced to recall them. The design was to blame, and the loose tolerances of stamped housings exacerbated the problem.
The Model 700, however, had been built by the millions, and internal company memos revealed that the company opted, in the name of money, to keep building the same trigger–even though they did R&D and developed a new one in the early 1980s–and settle lawsuits when people were killed or injured rather than recalling the Model 700 and/or changing the trigger.
Various lame “solutions” were implemented as more and more of this came to light largely thanks to the efforts of Gus Barber’s father, who dedicated his life after the passing of his son to unsealing court documents that had been sealed when Remington did behind-closed-doors settlements.
Remington finally changed the manufacturing process to allow the Model 700 bolt to be opened with the safety engaged. This did nothing to cure the problem, but it did allow folks to unload their rifles without having to switch the safety and possibly fire a round without ever touching the trigger. And they would, at the expense of the gun owner, alter older 700s to allow them to be opened with the safety engaged.
And Remington finally began installing a new trigger mechanism on new-production M700 rifles.
Meanwhile, they spent piles of money in denying the problem, going as far as producing a misleading video to counter a 2010 documentary exploring the issue even though they reportedly admitted receiving 3,273 complaints about the problem between 1992 and 2004.
And now, almost six decades after the trigger’s designer issued a 1946 memo warning of a “theoretical unsafe condition,” Remington has finally been forced to do something about it.
A recent article notes that a “nationwide class settlement” is being worked out. While details are not yet finalized, the article reports the following details:
Remington has agreed to retrofit the rifles in question at no cost to the owner. Many users had new trigger mechanisms installed on their own, and Remington will reimburse them as part of the settlement. For guns that cannot be retrofitted, the company plans to offer vouchers for Remington products.
The settlement covers more than a dozen models, specifically the Model 700, Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600, 660, XP-100, 721, 722, and 725.
Given their recent manufacturing problems with the Model 887 shotgun, I can’t say my trust level is very high these days when it comes to Remington.