What Remington Can Learn From Savage…At Least For Now

courtesy accurateshooter.com

Reader Tim Olmstead writes:

As you’ve probably heard, Remington Arms, the oldest gunmaker in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy. It appears they won’t be closing their doors. Most reports indicate they’ll just be able to shed most of their debt. As a result, you’d have to think that selling off or even shuttering some brands will be part of the restructuring.

Aside from the financial restructuring, what about their core products?

Well, if modern history is any guide, they could stand to learn a thing or two from Savage.

Anyone who reads David Petzal’s columns in Field & Stream will have probably heard this one already, but we’ll just go ahead and rehash it for those who haven’t. Back in the 1980s, Savage Arms was facing a crisis. They were foundering, headed for a complete shut-down.

At the time, they had a number of different products but hardly any of them sold worth a darn and quality wasn’t up to their previous standards. By 1988, they were hemorrhaging cash to the tune of almost $25 million per year, according to Field & Stream.

Newly hired CEO Ron Coburn asked if they had any products that were actually worth a darn.

He was told that the 110 bolt action rifle was pretty good so they focused on that. They were determined to make it as accurate as humanly possible and sell it for a competitive price.

A couple decades later, they added the AccuTrigger. And they didn’t have to wait for a lawsuit compelling them to revise the safety features. All these years later, the 110 is still the core of their business. It’s still one of the most accurate off-the-shelf rifles you can buy today for its price point. And that price point is still very reasonable.

Despite dozens of models on Big Green’s roster, Remington’s bread is buttered by a relatively few guns. The 700 and 783 bolt action rifles, the 870 pump and 1100 semi-auto shotguns (though the VersaMax and V3 sell well too) and the odd 7600 for good measure.

After they emerge from bankruptcy protection, they need to go on a diet. Spin off a few brands that aren’t performing (hopefully they let Para be Para again) and focus on their core models. Presto – they’ll have a decent business plan. Re-focusing on quality and customer service, they’ll a core of the half dozen or so guns that work and that the public wants to buy.

Except there’s a looming problem on the horizon.

The number of hunters is declining, and has been declining for some time. And while Remington offers a variety of variants on their base models, hunters make up a significant portion of the market for 700s, 870s, 1100s, and 783s and 7600s. Oh, and VersaMaxes and V3’s, too. There are exceptions, of course, but the non-hunting crowd tends to buy more guns that are tactical, not practical. That or they buy competition-specific firearms.

So a newly lean Big Green will have to figure out how to fit in more with today’s gun buyers, those who aren’t hunters. How will they do that when they’re seen as more of a go-to brand for the folks who have reasons to wear camo? They’ve apparently been working on that lately.

And they’ll need to do more to appeal to the modern gun-buying public while keeping their loyal hunter base. Because if they can’t, this might not be the last time we see them file.

 

Tim lives in the Spokane area. He grew up around guns and the outdoors and spends as much time around both as he can. 

comments

  1. avatar Flinch says:

    Big Green is dead. Let it go. Time to move on and clear the playing field for the innovators who actually care about their customers more than their lawyers.

    Let’s just say that Remington went out with a self-inflicted bang, not a whimper in sight.

    1. avatar Carny Trash says:

      Ding ding! We have a winnaaahhhh!

  2. avatar GS650G says:

    new owners would make a difference , it did for S and W.
    I think they have a chance with the 700 and 1100 but the 870 needs to be improved. The latest models are POS compared to mossberg and the turkish guns coming over.
    R51 needs to go away. And a few other handguns that don’t sell well.

  3. avatar TX in MI says:

    With any luck they’ll sell off Marlin and someone with a clue will pick them up. I’m aware its pretty easy to find a used 336, but it’d be nice to have a new option other than the overpriced Henrys and worth every penny but too much for my blood Miroku Winchesters. You can even make them tactical! Just don’t go full potato like Mossberg did with that failed abortion they called the 464 SPX.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      Henry isn’t cheap but they are accurate , well made, and stood behind.
      Marlin used to be.

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        Henry’s are great (I have one in .22), but lack a side loading gate (which I want for a 30-30,.357,.44,.45,45-70, etc.).

        1. avatar George Reed says:

          Henry’s are heavier than crap. The opposite of a great lever gun. They will kill off lever guns that way. An AR should way less than 7 lbs. a 30-30 should be a fast instinctual airweight. Not a 9 lb anchor

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      As a Marlin fan I hope the DON’T sell the brand off. It took a while but the Marlin I bought a couple years ago and the ones I’ve seen lately are of pretty decent quality. The problem started when they brought the old worn out Marlin equipment over to the Ilion plant and placed their Remi ngton employees in charge of making Marlins. Well now they’ve got new equipment and experienced employees making a product of reasonable quality. If they sell the brand, the new owner isn’t going to use the Ilion plant and workers, so you can bet the whole thing will happen all over again, and I don’t think Marlin survives another debacle like that.

    3. avatar Bloving says:

      I’m gonna take issue with the assertion that Henrys are overpriced – given the level of craftsmanship and 100% made in the USA quality that goes into a Henry (even their “economy” models) I’d say they are somewhat underpriced… but don’t tell Mr. Imperato that.
      🤠

      1. avatar PWinKY says:

        I agree with this completely. I bought a base model 22 lever gun for less than $300 and feel like the quality is excellent. If I’m plinking outside it’s one of my favorites!

  4. avatar Ralph says:

    As long as Cerberus is in control, Big Green will continue to suck.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      They destroyed Chrysler. They destroy for a living.

    2. Cerberus has lost ownership of the company as part of the pre-packaged filing. The banks and other creditors will own Remington if it gets court approval.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Yes, the creditors own it, but Cerberus still runs it. That’s what “debtor in possession” and reorganization mean.

        1. avatar OpposedtoCraziness says:

          No they won’t. Once the bankruptcy is approved, Cerberus loses all share ownership, the BOD is removed and replaced by the banks (or new owners), and any one from Cerberus is gone.

  5. avatar Nanashi says:

    Even with non-hunters there was plenty of shotgun sales by people who wanted something for home defense, which a 12 gauge is still pretty good option for the cost (though recoil, weight, capacity and short stroking are still an issue) as a reliable AR would be about 200 bucks more. With Remington’s current quality control everyone would rather buy a Mossberg or a Chinese clone of a Remington/Winchester than a Remington (It’s really sad when a literal Chinese copy of something is now better made than the real deal).

    If I was put in charge of a new, new Remington I’d go with keeping the shotguns (try getting a bundle with working light and mount as “home defense ready”) and lever actions in popular calibers (To avoid competing with Henry, make them have loading gates for revolver cartridge and 1895 Winchester style stripper clip fed box magazines for rifle cartridges.), provided the quality control could be brought to extant levels. Any design team would be focused on finding and exploiting NFA loopholes, because those are the only new product designs selling. Then I’d go crazy and make a modernized 1858 (modern spring style like the New Army, safety notches so it can be carried with all 6 loaded, modern sights, quick release/attach cylinder) and advertise it as self defense for minors and felons (no background check needed! Ships directly to your door! No license need to carry in most states!) just to bring in free advertisement from the outrage and to establish the New, New Remington loves the 2nd Amendment more than the NRA does.

    1. avatar ironicatbest says:

      A thing I’ve noticed here on TTAG is a misconception that black powder firearms are legal for a felon, they are not, in most states a bb gun with a rifled barrel and a velocity over 630fps are restricted for a felon.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        You are generally correct, except that black powder firearms that are readily convertible are restricted. According to the ATF. those restricted firearms include:

        “• Savage Model 10ML (early, 1st version)
        • Mossberg 500 shotgun with muzzle loading barrel
        • Remington 870 shotgun with muzzle loading barrel
        • Mauser 98 rifle with muzzle loading barrel
        • SKS rifle with muzzle loading barrel
        • PB sM10 pistol with muzzle loading barrel
        • H&R/New England Firearm Huntsman
        • Thompson Center Encore/Contender
        • Rossi .50 muzzle loading rifle
        This list is not complete and frequently changes.”

        The ATF adds: “even though a prohibited person may lawfully possess an antique firearm under Federal law, State or local law may classify such weapons as “firearms” subject to regulation.”

        Every state has its own rules about this.

    2. avatar TX_Lawyer says:

      “and advertise it as self defense for minors and felons” – That’s pretty brilliant and obvious. I wonder why no gun company has ever done it.

      I have pointed out to felons I’ve known.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        In California, ALL firearms, including black powder firearms, are strictly prohibited to felons. No hunting for our bad boys.

    3. avatar Mark N. says:

      The Winchester lever guns are made by Miroku in Japan, not China. I have one from the U.S. Firearms Co. period of Winchester history; the new Mirokus are better, despite having a rebounding hammer, a stiff trigger, and a wrist mounted safety. Winchester clones are made by a few Italian companies, as well as an 1892 from Rossi of Brazil, and are true to the original Browning design. So far as I know, the only Chinese “period” guns are double barrel shotguns that are pretty rough.
      The 1858 Remington is available in modern steel reproductions from both of the main Italian manufacturers, Pietta and Uberti. Although minor tuning is usually required, they are generally well made and lighter than the originals. The guns are available in both the original .36 caliber, as well the nonhistoric .44, and in both steel and bronze frames. I believe Kriss makes cartridge conversion cylinders. The cylinder removal system is unchanged.

      1. avatar Nanashi says:

        I was talking about Chinese clones of the Winchester 1300, such as the Stevens 320.

  6. avatar Stereodude says:

    Maybe WOM wants to buy them.

  7. avatar ironicatbest says:

    IGOTS decease, look what I gots, flying Lear Jets instead of driving Cadillacs is costly

  8. avatar ColdNorth says:

    “…and the odd 7600 for good measure”

    A mag fed pump-action rifle- this will become increasingly relevant for many states where semi-autos are under attack. Another area would be a refined and revised 7400-style semi-auto rifle (again, for states and countries where the more common types are being legislated out). Wood stock, detachable mag, slips past most of the new rules. For revision, they could use the V3 as the base design for the gas system, as it’s reliable and tough.

  9. avatar KMc says:

    At last count, I own over 30 Firearms. They are a mixture of revolvers, semi auto pistols, shotguns and rifles. Old and new, not a one of them a Remington.
    As a gun store owner, I can’t begin to keep the doors open and lights on based on the few Remington’s we sell. And we are in the heart of Deer, Turkey and Pheasant country.
    In short, no one cares if they are around. Except for the 45-70 Marlins, they sell great!!!

  10. avatar Steve says:

    I would buy a magazine fed 1100 but I won’t but a mag fed 870.
    I have lots of Remington shotguns and I love my Wingmasters but……they do kick.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Yes, they do. Generally, gas guns are more shoulder-friendly than pumps, and shooting full-on 12 gauge slugs and 9-pellet 00 buck from a pump or most non-gas guns requires a degree of pain tolerance. 1 oz, 2.75 dram #8 birdshot is less of an issue.

  11. avatar Lazerbeam says:

    Oh, Lordy, I do miss the Remington Nylon 66’s. Got one for my 13th X’Mas many, many moons ago. Have 4 now. I just love them IF it’s possible to love an inanimate object. Wish Remington would manufacture them again. Then I’d have MORE!!

  12. avatar Kenneth says:

    All correct about Savage. The 110 in its many form is one of my favorite bolt action rifles, and has been since 1976 when it was the first center rifle I ever purchased. That one, in .30-06, would print apx one inch groups at 100 yards with virtually any ammo, and a half inch with the ones it liked.
    I’ve had many another 110s since, and while none were quite as good as that first one, they were are excellent, in every way except being pretty. As I got older, I went for prettier rifles, but noticed that despite their better looks, most would not perform so well. That was a good lesson on life: Pretty does NOT necessarily equal good… or even acceptable.
    BUT… Savage corrected their problems BEFORE they were dead. In the case of Remington, it’s just too little, and too late.

  13. avatar Ironhead says:

    Its a shame that they let it get to this. 870’s and 700’s used to be the benchmark for price and quality. I hope they can fix the issues they have, and get back to making a decent product. If they cant, then they go the way of the dodo bird.
    Meanwhile i will stick with my savage model 10t and mossberg 590a1.

  14. avatar kap says:

    Funny how Mossberg and Savage live on and the touted names get buried, its called Management

  15. avatar Gun Owning American says:

    Sadly, a once great American company ma be heading for the dustbin of history.

  16. avatar z says:

    “There are exceptions, of course, but the non-hunting crowd tends to buy more guns that *are tactical, not practical*.”

    why are tactical and practical mutually exclusive?

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