BREAKING: Documents Confirm Remington Refused to Fix Defective Triggers Over PR Concerns

Rem 700 ADL Vmt courtesy Joe Grine

Over the course of the last few years we have been watching as a lawsuit against Remington Arms Company (and its corporate overlords Freedom Group) has slowly worked its way through the court system. The main allegation is that the trigger design in the Remington 700 model rifle can cause the gun to fire unintentionally, even when the safety mechanism is engaged. New documents uncovered by CNBC seem to indicate that not only did Remington know about these issues (and even duplicated them in their own testing) since at least 1989, but that Big Green has made a conscious choice not to change the mechanism due to concerns that the change would be an admission of guilt . . .

From the article:

So on a chilly March day at Remington’s main plant in Ilion, New York, the engineers met with the lawyers. Topping the agenda, according to notes by engineer James Hutton: coming up with a new firing mechanism that would allow the company to continue defending the old one. It would need new safety features, the notes say, including a design that keeps debris from getting inside, and a way to keep customers from making dangerous, do-it-yourself adjustments.

The meeting took place in 1989. It would be another 17 years, thousands more complaints and about 100 more lawsuits before Remington would finally put a new fire control for the Model 700 on the market. Many of those lawsuits blamed Remington for serious injuries, as well as multiple deaths.

Secret documents from inside the nation’s oldest gun manufacturer show corporate attorneys heavily involved in multiple attempts by Remington engineers to develop a safer rifle. The apparent fear: changing the design would be seen as an admission of guilt.

The documents, obtained exclusively by CNBC, come to light as the company and plaintiffs’ attorneys seek final court approval of a landmark class-action settlement in which Remington has agreed to replace the triggers in as many as 7.5 million guns. A hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but within hours after this report was first published, the judge postponed it indefinitely.

The root cause of the majority of the claims against Remington’s trigger have come as a result of end users tinkering with the factory-supplied products. Trigger groups that have been modified to be dangerously light or even have certain functions disabled are usually the reason for concern. But there have also been a couple claims about factory-fresh Remington guns showing the same worrying symptoms. If the report is correct, it sounds like Remington wanted to change the trigger design to keep people from messing with their product, but the lawyers and public relations people overruled the engineers on this matter of safety.

It’s more than a little concerning that Remington would choose not to make a design change that would increase the safety of their firearms purely because of PR reasons.

comments

  1. avatar TwinReverb says:

    And then people complain that I buy non-American guns?

    There is no perfect company, but this certainly makes me unlikely to buy Remington in the near future.

  2. avatar Fury says:

    Uhh, this is not good – for Remington…

    1. avatar CJ Minnesota says:

      And then follow it up with the R51 and the newly released RM380. Both future candidates for gun “buy back” programs!!!

      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        I’m no fan of Remington these days, but what’s wrong with the RM380?

    2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      It’s bad for the whole industry and for 2A rights in general. The left is always selling “the gun lobby” as the boogie man, so concerned with profits that it’s pushing a deadly product and fighting against “common sense” gun regulations. Well, it looks like Remington may have been more concerned about sales, liability, and image than actually being responsible for injuries and deaths. That’s bad for more than just big green.

  3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Remington just learned a lesson several other companies have learned, including several auto makers. Letting lawyers dictate solutions to engineering problems costs a company twice: First on the legal fees/salaries up front for the unsound advice, then inevitably on more legal fees/salaries and settlements when the irresponsibility of using lawyers to solve a technical issue blows up in their face.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      It costs three times: don’t forget the loss in future sales as customers lose confidence in your products.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        People died.

      2. avatar Wiregrass says:

        Plus they still have to do the recall and the rework they were trying to avoid in the first place.

  4. avatar jwm says:

    One of my hunting partners has a Remington bolt rifle and 870 shotgun. The rifle has been worked on twice, once at the factory, and it still ain’t right. The shotgun is ammo sensitive and will lock up at least once every outing.

    My son bought a new extended mag security 870 and gave up on getting it to work right. He uses a mossberg now.

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Mossberg 500, all the way!

      The only Remmy stuff in my safe are two boxes of .30-06 Core Lokt.

      Once those are gone, I’m switching to Hornady. Screw the Freedom Group.

    2. avatar Sixpack70 says:

      I’ve had similar issues. My 870 has not been very reliable. It chokes often on different loads. This is even with the mossberg 18.5″ barrel. It will sometimes puke shells into the receiver from the tube locking the gun up. It’s a real pain. I bought a Mossberg 590A1 and it has been flawless! I love, love, love shooting the thing!

    3. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      The shotgun is ammo sensitive and will lock up at least once every outing.
      But that is a manufacturing not a design problem. I have an old well used 870 Wingmaster from the early 1960s that runs like a top.
      I did buy my daughter an Escort pump shotgun, which is a clone of an 870, and it functions very well.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        The Remington shotguns and .22s of yesteryear were indeed a whole other animal.

        1. avatar Milsurp Collector says:

          I can vouch for this. My 870 is a police trade-in from the late 1970’s. The finish is worn and the stock is chewed up, but after three years and countless rounds it hasn’t had a single failure to anything.

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          It is remarkable, and not just a little sad, to see the difference of early 870’s and 870’s today, side-by-side.

  5. avatar Mike S says:

    Well, I was already very hesitant to buy Remington- but this just took the Model 7 out of the running for my next long gun. F**k Remington. Seriously.

  6. avatar Mr. AR-10 says:

    I will say to their credit, I had a Remington 750 (semi-auto version of the 700 basically) that had a problem with the trigger resetting after about 50 rounds. Remington sent me new trigger assembly with no hesitation and it fixed the issue.

    Then, heh heh, the gas block on this rifle, apparently was spot welded to the barrel, and it just fell off one day shooting it.

    At that point they refunded my money, but again there was no hassle.

    I also have a Remington R1 1911 which I am quite happy with, zero issues, excellent function and fit. I like this gun.

    I won’t be buying any Remington long rifles I think… But I will say they were attentive to me when it came to after the sale service.

    All that said, none of my issues were around a trigger that fires unintentionally. Um, that’s a super unacceptable thing I think.

  7. avatar RandallOfLegend says:

    Guess this solidifies my 870 vs 500 debate

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Over the years I’ve used a wide variety of shotgun brands and types. Since I’ve gotten older and the hills have gotten steeper and further across I like the weight saving aluminum reciever of the mossberg.

      I got a beretta pintail with a steel reciever. By the end of the day it feels like I’m hauling a mosin nagant around with me.

    2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      If you want to spend a little more the Browning BPS is a little nicer than the 500, but if you want to spend less the H&R pardner pump currently makes a better/beefier 870 then Remington. But there will be a 20 guage 500 waiting under the tree for my little one in a few weeks.

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        Browning BPS is a much better gun than a 500 and is really overlooked; same for the Ithaca 37. Benelli Super Nova is a decent gun as well.

        1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

          I have shot them all except the Super Nova, but have shot other Benelli shotguns. If I was taking a shotgun into combat it would be the H&R or the Ithica, if I was going to buy one shotgun to hunt with it would be the 500. If it was going to be a safe queen pump… there are some really nice BPS and engraved Ithica’s.

        2. avatar Indiana Tom says:

          Ithaca 37s have been in combat with the Navy SEALS in Vietnam for point and break contact team uses. I would rather have the Ithaca for combat than about any other shotgun.

      2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

        Funnily H&R is another Freedom Group company.

        1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

          Yes but fortunate for the consumer the pardner pump is made in China, and only imported by Freedom Group. I try to only buy American, even my Korean car was built in Georgia and has parts in it built by my mother in law in Michigan. Actually my Korean car is more American than my last Ford :(.

      3. avatar DrewN says:

        Another cheapie but goodie: The Rock Island Flite King clones . They are an exceptional value and run great.

  8. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    They are in a worse PR nightmare now.

  9. avatar Fester says:

    What a mess you have made of the story.
    1) the fact that the triggers malfunctioned after people messed with them is not surprising,
    2) the very document cited by the story for the proposition that they didn’t change to a Tang safety for plaintiffs atty reasons discusses a number of factors on why the change might be a good/bad idea.

    Btw – I don’t buy Remington products because the QC has gone to pot. But, the “new” story is just a rehashing of an old one.

  10. avatar Kris says:

    Wait, so they’re in trouble because the pages and pages of bright red WARNING labels that accompany the rifles wasn’t enough to keep idiots from modifying the trigger to their own detriment? Sounds like an operator problem, but maybe I’ve missed something.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    A long time ago in a career far, far away, one of my clients met with me to advise the company on a potential safety problem — potential, but not actual as far as anyone knew — that an engineer had discovered.

    My two word answer was “fix it.”

    In retrospect, I didn’t charge enough for that sage advice.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Indeed. You’re a rare lawyer for giving that advice. I won’t recount my encounters with corporate lawyers on various issue I could mention; let’s just say that fellow members of your profession didn’t acquit themselves well in my instance – or Remington’s.

      Perhaps you should teach at a law school and teach budding lawyers that sometimes, the best legal advice isn’t going to generate lots of billable hours…

  12. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    I have some good Remington guns, but they are older models.
    Just not enamored with Cerebus.

    1. avatar Wiregrass says:

      I picked up a 1990 vintage 7600 30-06 several years ago. It was a little beat up, but a damn fine shooter for what I paid for it. I’m very happy with it. People don’t think pump action rifles have the accuracy of bolt guns, and that might be true of your stronger bolt guns but it’s as good as any $500 hunting model.

      I’d still be suspicious of any new production.

  13. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Remington could come out with a perfect series 70 clone and MSRP it at $99.00 and I still wouldn’t buy it.
    Let the company tank. There are plenty of companies that put out quality products that shoot just as well.
    Heck, CZ makes a fine line of rifles. Winchesters are still pretty darn good. The Ruger M-77 line is timeless. If you want to step up in price, Blaser makes a phenomenal rifle in the R8 line.

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      M77, FTW!

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        With the right ammunition, my M77 Predator in 6.5Creedmore was a 1/2 MOA gun, right out of the box. Zero modifications. I was very surprised and I am very pleased with the gun.

  14. avatar Wade Garret says:

    I have 4 savage Axis rifles (243, 270, 308, 30-06). They are all accurate out to 225 yards ( all the farther my club range goes to). I put Redfields on 3 of them, and a Nikon on the 270. I have never had a problem with any of them and they are easy on the wallet. If you were looking for an inexpensive option other than Remington, I would recommend them.

  15. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    If Remington loses this class action suit does that mean that mean they’ll be reimbursing me for the Timney I put in my VTR?

    1. avatar JP says:

      +1. The Timney is so much better than the factory trigger….I guess. Never pulled the factory trigger. I bought my son a youth model 700 last Christmas. Never thought I’d have to drop the money for a Timney for his very first rifle. On the bright side, it should help to keep him from developing a flinch.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        The Remington trigger was about a pound heavier, thinner and the pull weight adjustment screw would sometimes dig into your finger under recoil. It was very crisp though. I was fairly impressed until I installed the Timney.

  16. avatar Andrew says:

    Because the Big Green boat wasn’t sinking fast enough, let’s rip that duct tape off those old holes, too! At this rate, not even the buildings themselves will be salvageable, tainted and haunted with the ghosts of lawyers and CXOs past.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      Ironically, the old Remington ammunition plant in NY is said to be haunted. It has been featured on more than one of those paranormal investigation shows.

      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        Haunted ammunition plant, eh? Maybe it’s haunted by the ghost of EtronX…

  17. avatar Southern Cross says:

    If I want a gun to shoot with out-of-the-box, I’ll buy a Savage.

    The only reason to buy a Remington is to go nuts with a Brownells’ catalog. Remingtons are the rifle equivalent of a Harley-Davidson.

    In my state’s firearms safety awareness test there is mandatory question about using a safety device. The correct answer is not to rely on it because being a mechanical device, it may fail.

    Nothing is more safer than an empty chamber.

  18. avatar Doc Montana says:

    Worked with three 700s that all fired with input other than the trigger. Funny thing is the owners defended the guns. WTF? Just being around a Remington 700 is like standing next to an IED.

    I hope Remington get sued to high Heaven. And all you filthy Remington apologists that blamed the users and blamed the parents of children killed by 700s, I expect a full apology in the media!

    1. avatar 16V says:

      Funny thing, this was ‘common wisdom’ back when I was a kid. In the ’70s. The grownups always said to believe a loaded 700 could go off at any time – even though they had theirs for years, they had heard the stories that floated around gunshows and clubs before the interwebz.

  19. avatar JEFF HOSER says:

    My every (admittedly few) experiences with Remington Arms has been extremely positive – even when I was at fault ! But having worked for a major OEM I’m quite familiar with the “logic” portrayed. As an on-site tech rep I couldn’t tell customer personnel “don’t do that” with or to a piece of equipment or machinery. It would be an admission of liability if things went wrong. I had to couch my warnings in innocuous terms such as, ” doing that voids the warranty”, or “operation in the manner you propose, or are doing exceeds our documented test parameters” . Thats the way product liability law works. Don’t blame RA, blame the idiots enacting “consumer protection laws” that prevent manufacturers from effecting product changes as issues appear without incurring liability for end user actions beyond their control. BTDTGTTS for over two decades !

  20. avatar TruthTellers says:

    I refuse to give Remington any of my money. They don’t deserve it. Norinco cares more about their customers and safety than Remington.

    And it’s really sad because you think of what innovations Remington gave to the world of firearms, the New Model Army, the Rolling Block, the over/under derringers of the Wild West… and now they’re just a shell of themselves. Not even a shell.

  21. avatar Bdk NH says:

    Long time Remington user and my son’s first rifle was a 700 in 308. Then we had to send it back for the trigger upgrade and it was gone for many months right through hunting season. Bastards. I still own a few but I will never buy another Remington.

  22. avatar David says:

    If anyone has a Rem 700 in 300blk check your twist rate, mine is stamped 1:7 and is actually 1:10. I called and they have offered to change barrels but couldn’t answer how it was possable for this to escape their quality control or why they hadn’t sent out a recall when it was discovered. I found out about it while researching why Lehigh Defense had a “not recommended for use in Remington 700” on their web site. Google sent me to 300 blk talk .com (I think it was)

  23. avatar Peter says:

    Ford Pinto.

    1. avatar Matt says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Mistake # 1 was allowing the lawyers in the room. Ford and Lee Iacocca did the same thing in the 70’s. Rather than spend the $11 per vehicle to fix the problem (est $137m total) they let it ride and rather face total estimated lawsuit payouts of $49.5m – all on the advice of counsel.

  24. avatar Austin Knudsen says:

    Legally, this doesn’t make sense. Had Remington fixed the design, that is inadmissible in civil court as evidence of wrongdoing . It’s called a “subsequent remedial measure” under the Rules of Evidence (and the Rules of Civil Procedure), which govern court proceedings. In other words, fixing a possible design problem cannot be used as an “ah-hah!” to prove Remington was negligent. Any second year law student knows this. Sounds to me like this was a corporate PR decision, not a lawyer decision.

  25. avatar James69 says:

    So the 700 VTR in .308 I bought my wife is a “Kaboom” waiting to happen??? WTF….

  26. avatar Other old guy says:

    As for 700,s I have I put Jewel triggers in them. If your going to pony up the money for new trigger why put in a chevy when you can have a Cadillac. 870,s have 2 never had any problems with them. Remington sure screwed up a fine old firearms manufacturer when they bought out Marlin. Most guys wont touch the new ones made on cnc machines instead of old fashioned milling machines

  27. avatar DetroitMan says:

    All of my Remingtons are reliable and accurate. However, the newest one in the safe was made in 1995. My 11-87 and my 742 Woods Carbine are my go-to hunting shotgun and rifle, respectively. I won’t give them up over this, but I don’t think I’ll purchase any new Remingtons for a while.

    I don’t own a 700. I prefer a Mauser controlled round feed action.

  28. avatar Brian M says:

    They were afraid of LOOKING BAD!? Did it ever occur to them that they’d look infinitely worse for letting a deadly design defect go uncorrected just to avoid having to admit that not only they screwed up, but that they also didn’t have the balls to fix something when lives were on the line!?

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