Friday, October 29, 2010

CNBC Attacks The Remington 700

First produced in 1962, more than 5 million Remington 700 rifles have been sold. It’s currently available in more than 900 different configurations across 40 different calibers. With numbers like these, it’s easy to see how the Remington 700 has become the most popular rifle in the world. Sniper versions of the rifle are in use by police forces throughout the world as well as highly customized versions in use by the US Army and Marine Corps.

In 1962 Remington redesigned the action of the Model 700 to be able to be easily mass produced at a low cost. In the past, crafting a precision rifle action required a significant amount of hand finishing. In 1964, following Remington’s lead, Winchester made the mistake of changing the trigger on their Model 70. This mistake allowed Remington to dominate the rifle market. Serious rifle shooters who had been happy with the older Model 70 trigger found the newly designed action to be lacking in precision and crispness. The Remington Model 700 by comparison used a floating trigger design that maintained the crisp feel that traditional shooters loved.

The Remington 700 trigger is also easy to adjust. The fact that anyone with a few tools and a bit of knowledge could adjust the trigger themselves is a two edged sword. Straight from the factory, the Remington 700 comes with a trigger pull of about 5 lbs. Many find this to be too heavy and set about reducing the trigger pull to 3 lbs. or less. The problem here is that if not done properly or set too light, the modified trigger can cause accidental discharges.

Recently, CNBC put out a hit piece accusing Remington of knowingly producing faulty rifles. The reporting portrayed the Remington Model 700 rifle as unsafe in any hands and blamed Remington for deaths and injuries that could have easily been avoided had the users followed proper muzzle discipline.

It’s interesting to note that there are a total of 75 lawsuits filed alleging that a Remington 700 rifle had without the trigger being pulled. Even if true, by the numbers, that means that 0.0015% of all of the rifles produced over the years have had a problem. Put another way, 99.9985% of all of the Model 700 rifles produced DO NOT have a faulty trigger. Are numbers like these indicative of an inherent design flaw? One would suspect that if there was a design flaw that it would be found in every Remington Model 700, or at least a more than 75.

This quote is telling:

“Both Remington and experts hired by plaintiff attorneys have conducted testing on guns returned from the field which were alleged to have fired without a trigger pull,” Remington’s statement says, “and neither has ever been able to duplicate such an event on guns which had been properly maintained and which had not been altered after sale.”

So, despite claims that the situation is easily duplicated, and despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on experts, nobody has EVER been able to cause a Remington 700 to fire without the trigger being pulled.

One of the experts featured on the CNBC show, one H.J. Belk, claims that the Walker system is unsafe even if it never malfunctions, and that the fact none of the experts have been able to duplicate the claims doesn’t mean that the trigger doesn’t have a design flaw. The analogy he uses is that “The fact that the plane you’re flying in has not crashed is no evidence that crashes don’t occur.” Which while true, is really not applicable to the allegations made about the Walker trigger.

Every trigger design, and in fact every mechanical device, can fail if not properly maintained. If you neglect the brakes on your car, they may work fine for a while, but eventually they will fail and you could be killed in a crash. Does this mean that they are defective? Of course not, and to say such a thing would be preposterous. Some of the tests Mr. Belk discusses to determine if your rifle is unsafe rely on the trigger being damaged or parts being pushed out of alignment. Could you get the trigger to malfunction in this manner? It’s quite possible for any device to operate in undesired ways if it is damaged or out of spec due to neglect or poor maintenance. Keeping the action clean and free of debris is probably the best way to ensure any trigger functions as designed.

Let’s go back to gun safety 101 here: Colonel Jeff Cooper’s second rule of firearm safety is “Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destory!” Without fail, each and every one of the injuries or deaths that happened in the cases where a Remington 700 discharged happened because the rifle was not pointed in a safe direction. The fact is, accidents can and do happen. People make mistakes all the time- it’s one of the hallmarks of being human. By observing Cooper’s 4 rules of firearm safety if you make a mistake while handling a firearm the chances of killing or injuring someone are much reduced.

It should be noted that Remington no longer utilizes the old Walker trigger system that was criticized by CNBC. Beginning in 2006 Remington stopped making Model 700 rifles with the Walker trigger system and instead had all of their new 700s made with their X-Mark Pro Trigger system. This is not necessarily because of a defect in the Walker trigger. Improvements in machining and industrial design have simply allowed Remington to produce an even better trigger at an even lower cost than before.

With proper care and maintenance, the older Remington 700s with the Walker trigger system are no less safe than any other trigger design. More importantly, with proper muzzle discipline and by following the other rules of firearm safety, even if your firearm discharges through human error or mechanical failure, you can ensure that no one is hurt or killed.

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