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By David Smith

The beautiful plinker and small-game gun was engineered by a man John Browning deemed the best to ever design a gun.

“Long time ago, when I was 11 years old, there used to be a park in Kansas City called Fairyland Park,” one person recalled on a shooting forum. “It had a wood roller coaster and all the other rides. Tucked into one corner was a shooting gallery.

“The guns were Winchester pump .22s cabled to the counter, and for, I think, 25 cents you would be given a rifle with 15 .22 Shorts to shoot at all the moving targets. You even reloaded them yourself. They had the ducks, the pipes, the stars, the cowboys, everything you’ve ever seen in movies and old cartoons. It was the most fun I ever had.”

It would be fair to say that the success of the Winchester Model 1890 directly influenced the development of the Remington Model 12.

Eager to get a piece of the sales that the 1890 was earning–almost 850,000 units sold from 1890 to 1941–Remington enlisted the aid of John Douglas Pedersen to design a similar pump-action rimfire rifle.

Pedersen and the military

Pederson was a gun-designing contemporary of famed firearm designer John Browning. Browning was so impressed with the Remington designer’s abilities that he mistakenly thought Pedersen would be better remembered than himself.

In fact, Browning told U.S. Army Major General and noted firearms expert Julian S. Hatcher that Pedersen “was the greatest gun designer in the world.” Browning’s assessment of Pedersen may have turned out to be true had fate not intervened to deal Pedersen some serious spotlight-stealing blows.

remington model 12
John D. Pedersen courtesy Find a Grave

Pedersen is remembered for a few highly noteworthy firearms innovations and designs. However, his attempts to gain military contracts for his gun designs were marred mostly by bad timing and bad luck.

For example, his .45 pistol design was approved by the U.S. Navy but it ultimately lost out to Browning’s the M1911 pistol already being manufactured for the Army. His semi-auto rifle design also lost out to the now iconic Garand rifle.

Author via Wikimedia Commons

His Pedersen Device was perhaps his most ambitious design and could have made a significant impact during WWI. It was an innovation that attached to a M1903 Springfield bolt-action rifle that allowed it to operate as a semi-automatic. Unfortunately for Pedersen, the device was approved for production just as the war was ending.

But as something of a moral victory, General George S. Patton owned one of Pedersen’s pistols, the Remington Model 51. Patton was thought to have favored the pistol as his personal sidearm and it can be seen in many photographs of the General.

Pedersen also attempted to mass produce M1 carbines for the military during WWII, via his own company, the Irwin-Pedersen Arms Company, but that endeavor failed.

Civilian market

Pedersen actually collaborated with Browning when Browning made the principle design for the Remington Model 17 pump-action shotgun. Pedersen altered Browning’s design before production by the Remington Arms Company in 1921.

The 20-gauge shotgun featured a tubular magazine, bottom-loading and bottom-ejecting ports, and it was hammerless. The Model 17 later became the Remington Model 31, Ithaca 37 and Browning BPS, all very successful shotguns in the civilian market.

Pedersen either designed directly or had a hand in just about every firearm that Remington produced from 1903 to 1940. He was prolific, earning at least 69 patents for his firearms designs. These included the Model 12, 14, and 25 pump-action rifles, and the Model 10 pump-action shotgun.

remington model 12
Remington Model 12

It could also be fairly said that Pedersen had an indirect hand in the design of the famous Remington 870 pump-action shotgun, in that several of his design elements are present in that famous gun.

Pedersen died of a heart attack in 1951 while traveling through Cottonwood, Arizona. He was 70 years old.

Over the course of his career, Pedersen designed many firearms that were popular with hunters and shooting enthusiasts. His designs were lauded for their workmanship and efficiency, although they were sometimes criticized for being more mechanically complicated than they needed to be. Today, his guns are highly regarded by collectors and shooters.

The Model 12 Remington

While the Model 12 design was undoubtedly influenced by the Winchester 1890, Pedersen engineered it to have a much sleeker, less clunky appearance. It’s a trim, more modern-looking long rifle than the 1890, but with enough antique features that make it beautifully distinctive compared to today’s rimfire rifles.

remington model 12
Winchester Model 1890 courtesy Rock Island Auction
remington model 12
Remington Model 12

For one thing, it dispenses with the exposed hammer of the 1890. Featuring an internal-hammer receiver, the rifle looks sleek and efficient. This profile undoubtedly appealed to shooters, and Winchester eventually began producing pump-action rimfire rifles replicating the internal-hammer design.

The Winchester Model 61 .22 WRF was released in 1932 and appears to be, with a few notable exceptions, almost a carbon copy of Remington’s Model 12.

remington model 12
Remington Model 12 (top)
Winchester Model 61 (bottom)

Another identifying component of the rifle is the unique teardrop-shaped ejection port on the right side of the receiver. Chambered for .22 Short and .22 LR, the cartridges are loaded in an under-barrel magazine tube.

Interestingly, the forestock is attached directly to the magazine tube, unlike in other slide-action guns where the magazine remains stationary and separate from the forestock.

remington model 12

remington model 12

remington model 12

remington model 12

Both the Model 12 and the 1890 have a straight grip stock, but the comb on the 1890 is less pronounced on the model 12. The metal butt plate is also gently concave, lending a cool, old timey appearance to the gun.

But the feature I love the most on this Remington rifle is its octagon barrel. Nothing says vintage long gun to me quite like an octagon barrel.

The safety is located at the right rear of the trigger guard. There is also a small button at the top inside of the trigger guard that can be depressed to release the pump should it become locked in place.

The rifle can also be broken down into two parts by removing a screw knob on the left side of the receiver, for ease of transporting or cleaning.

remington model 12

remington model 12

remington model 12

Remington issued a number of variations–Model 12A, Model 12B, Model 12C and so on–that differed in barrel length and ammunition caliber variations, had round barrels and pistol grip stocks, as well as a few customizable features. As you went up in the alphabet–model 12D, 12E and 12F–you could special order one of the pump rifles with higher-quality wood, gold or silver inlays and deluxe embellishments, such as special front and rear sights.

I’ve looked at several lists of the various models and their corresponding features and none of those lists exactly matches the others, so until I can find an actual record from the Remington Arms Company specifically outlining what each variation entailed, I can’t say for sure what exactly is what.

I know my rifle is either a 12A, 12B or 12C, probably a Remington 12A standard model, although there’s some uncertainty regarding that. According to its serial number, I believe it was manufactured in 1913.

remington model 12
Remington Model 12 (top)
Winchester Model 61 (bottom)

All good things must come to an end

The Remington Model 12 was discontinued in 1936. The sleek little rifle saw impressive sales from 1909 to 1936, with more than 830,000 units coming out of the factory. The Model 12 was replaced by the Remington Model 121 Fieldmaster, a beefier pump-action .22.

The Fieldmaster was designed by C.C. Loomis and G.H. Garrison, though it clearly recalled some of Pedersen’s influence. The Model 121 was produced up until 1954, selling nearly 200,000 units.

Carrying and plinking

I love to carry this light, easy-shooting rifle. It’s almost as light as carrying a heavy revolver. I haven’t shot it much, to be honest. For small-game hunting I prefer to use my Marlin Golden 39A .22 lever-action. Mostly I just like looking at and holding that old Model 12.

But when I do feel like taking it out, maybe once a year, I’ll load it with .22 Shorts and do a little imaginary carnival plinking at soup cans, bottle caps and plastic dinosaur toys. It’s surprisingly accurate, given its age and barrel wear.

But most importantly, it takes me back to a time I imagine was simpler…a time where you could have a lot of fun for only a quarter.

Like what you see here? Experience more articles and photographs about the great outdoors at the Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors

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  1. *Reads headline* Browning has always been and will always be the greatest of all time bar none don’t say . . .

    *reads about the Pederson device”* 🤯🤯🤯

    • Peterson device was pointless in a lot of ways. 20/20 hindsight, but equipping half your assaulting troops with sub-guns would have made sooooooo much more sense. Just think about issuing and trying to use a caliber conversion device in the trenches of WW1. You had to remove the bolt from your perfectly good rifle during combat. What could go wrong?

      As for his rifle, the single biggest issue was that it was too complicated (kind of like his device). The true genius in invention is not just getting something to work, but to do it with simplicity.

      • Sub guns sound great, but you are missing an important detail. The German Bergman MP 18 was the first SMG, and only entered service a few months before the armistice was singed in November of 1918. The only person on the Entente side that was working on a SMG that I am aware of was John Thompson, and his gun wouldn’t be ready for another two years.

      • The Patterson device was a sub gun, just jammed into the action of a 1903. If he, or anyone, just took a step back and looked at exactly what they were trying to accomplish, they would have probably realized that if they just stuck a stock and barrel on it they would have a winner.

      • I’m always surprised tnat by now some enterprising maker doesn’t cobble up a copy of the Pederson Device or make another similar object to stuff into the already modified 03s. I’ve also wondered how much gas would still be expanding in that little .32 by the time it finally exited the barrel. Might use a catcher’s mitt as a defense.

        • I remember reading a few years ago in one of the gun magazines someone did make a modern recreation of the Peterson device. I think it was very expensive so it went over like a lead balloon.

    • I suspect Browning was just being modest. Either way, Maxim was probably the most important firearm inventor when it comes to repeating rifles but I think he was no longer around by that time.

  2. I have a model 12A that I got from my grandfather that was likely made in 1920. It had a hard life as a farm truck gun and has a little damage. I plan to do a complete restoration when I get the time so that the gun can continue to be used for the next 100 years.

    • I have a Model 12 made back in 1914 in great shape that belonged to my great grandfather who passed it on down to my grandfather and finally to me and I’m 66. Damn fine gun.

  3. When I was around 12, I lived within walking distance of Ocean View amusement park in Norfolk, VA, whose destruction was documented in the movie “The death of Ocean View”. Just like you described, wooden roller coaster with a shooting arcade in it’s shadow, plus all the other games. But the only one which I *always* wanted to visit was that little rifle range. You forgot to mention the flames, spinning wheels with gas flames spouting out in 3 or 4 places, you ran a bullet right over the jet and the flame blew out, to be relit as it passed the bottom. Pop-dink, pop-dink, god, that was fun! Thanks for the memory.

    • Seriously?
      You just read an article about the man 75 years after he died. He designed more cool guns than you’ll ever touch- or see while you’re touching yourself, as it were.

      I know the TwitterBook says it’s cool to hate on Remington now, but come on. Go get some real-life outside the interwebz, Champ. It’s good for you, and you won’t be able to hear your mom nagging at you to clean up your room for a little while.

  4. Have never owned but have enjoyed shooting one of these old Pedersen designed .22pumpers. Great guns, terrific fun.

    Pedersen’s Remington 53 was a scaled up prototype of the 51. It was in .45ACP with an exposed hammer, per military requirement. It scored better than the 1911 but was too late for WW1. The 1911 was already in production. There was no ready production capability to make a new pistol.

    That is something I would like to see Remington do today. Take the model 53 plans out of whatever drawer or museum case it is in and make it anew.

    I’ll buy one.

    • The problem is that it would have a huge cost for start up, not only normal machining costs, but also legal costs, showing it is safe. The gun would have to retail for $2600 at least, just to get back some of the up front costs. That is enough to put a stop to that tune.

    • If one speaks of standard issue military rifles, then Stoner comes out way ahead of most. But he was too late to the party IMO. Pistols, Rifles, and Shotguns had all been taken from single shot to full auto by previous greats. Even in the Intermediate Cartridge rifle world, what he put out was a great example among many that had been around for decades.

  5. My wife still has her model 12. Got it from her uncle. It shoots great. I looked up the serial record history several years ago. Made around 1920. Outstanding fun gun to shoot!

    We were a free country back then.

  6. I have a Model 12 that my grandfather passed on to my dad and I have killed many a rat at the garbage dump that used to be behind the Veteran’s Hospital in Amarillo.

    I have looked for serial numbers to determine when it was made, but have not have any luck. Any ideas would be appreciated.

  7. The Model 12 pump in .22 RF lead to a centerfire pump-action rifle, the Model 25. It was chambered in .25-20 and .32-20 WCF. My Model 25R in .32-20 is the carbine version and has an 18” barrel, 7+1 capacity and weighs just 4-1/2 pounds.

  8. These are the firegums of my youth. Browning’s, jammed without frequent cleaning, Rems jammed with moderate cleaning and Winchester printed the squirrel’s eye box after box. The most accurate .22 rifle I have ever shot was a Iver Johnson Safety Hammer, my nephew has that firearm passed from my grandfather. These new company’s are bunk, maybe Cz gives it a run on old time quality

    • Well if the Remingtun didn’t jam you’d bend the bullet so bad it wouldn’t shoot straight. We used to shoot .22 short for mist evethin, tried long’s what failure inaccurate, long rifles was about the best. . How about that TTAG somebody that transitioned from shorts and took the big step up to long rifle . ,,,, I still have a buddy who swears by the 22 short as a hof killer, “Seems the .22 LR’s just zip right through and they run off, wirh the shorts it’s knocks them down, you just gotta be quick with a knife.” Thoes dayz r gon

      • I don’t know if they’re still made, but I still have some Aguila copper-washed, round nose .22 short zingers that rated faster than the standard CCI varmint/plinking longrifles I normally use.

        Now, I still wouldn’t choose any .22 to kill a hog, but if one of our animals is set upon by anything nasty, my 1906 is easy enough to use one handed and make contact shots if need be. Had to do it once on a badger tearing up our neighbor’s bull terrier, and there was no way I’d’ve been able to put a clean & quick end to that fight.

        But the fact that it’s laserlike accurate (as long as I can spot the target), makes me significantly less apprehensive about being limited to “only” the .22. It’s usually loaded in ascending order of seriousness. The first is a Federal .22lr birdshot (super loud, looks like crimped blanks) the next two are CB shorts, two after that are subsonic hollowpoints, and the rest are ludicrous-speed CCIs.

        So far I’ve never had to go past the CB shorts, everything’s gotten the hint so far, and the coyotes/varmints learned really quick to stay away from our property & cats.

  9. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with one of those Remingtons, but a Winchester Model 1906 (.22Short, .22 Winchester, or .22LR) is almost my third arm.

    Made in 1911, it’s probably going with me to the grave….. at least until my daughter finds it with the treasure map I’m leaving her when she’s older, shows interest, and proves she has the responsibility

    I hope she does. Both pump .22s are an absolute hoot, especially with the ladies, and especially with .22CB or .22Short sub-sonics.

    However, I prefer the Model 1906 because it’s a take-down model, has an exposed hammer, and will reliably chuck a mix of sizes in the same magazine, except anything with an aggressive SWC shape or non-brass cases.

    But now that the Winchester is featured in RDR2 as the “Varmint Rifle”, I can’t take it anywhere without sorely tempting (or outright insulting) offers being made on it.

  10. Pedersen was a great firearms designer, and like Browning, was one of the very few designers to work on rifles, pistols and shotguns.

    Most firearms designers work on one thing – eg, Gene Stoner, mentioned above. Stoner only worked on rifles and full auto weapons. He didn’t work on pistols or shotguns. Gaston Glock – has really only designed one handgun.

    Browning and Pedersen are two of a very, very small community of gun designers who contributed in most (in Brownings case, all) areas of guns.

    When I heard Remington was bringing out a gun based on Pedersen’s Model 51, I was quite happy. I thought (oh, silly me) that Remington would make a few changes – like bring it out in 9×19, maybe put in a larger magazine or something, and sell a classic, reliable handgun for the CCW market. The Model 51 was designed, in part, as a concealable handgun – it has less mass, smoother lines, etc.

    But no, Remington thought they knew better than Pedersen – and the 51 they brought out was an abortion. All they had to do was copy Pedersen’s original design, and they could have made money on it.

    • In the beginning was the 1911 and it was the pistol and it was good.
      And the Lord said, “Thou shalt not muck with my disciple Jon Brownings’ Design, for it is good” and it workers.
      For John made the weapons from the design which I, the Lord, gave him upon the mountain
      And should thou muck with it and hang all manner of foul implements on it, and profane it’s internal parts, thou shall surely have malfunctions, and in the midst of battle thou shall surely come to harm….
      Do not chamber it with cartridges that do not start with the Holy Number 4.

  11. I once had a chance to buy a very rare Remington 12 that had Merwin & Hulbert stamped on it. I did not know what I was looking at and only found out years later I passed up a very rare sub contract gun that Remington made for Merwin. I contacted the Merwin & Hulbert collectors association and even they had never heard that there was such a model. By the way the price was $40, I should have bought it just for a wall hanger for that price. Not one of my better moves in the gun collecting world.

  12. Got one from my Grandfather a model 12 C hex barrel. In the summer in Kansas they shot Prarie Dogs every Sunday, used 22 shorts and then a long rifle would stick as the chamber was bell shaped. Put a button barrel in it and had it hot blued at cost for all of 20.00 am going to hand it down to my son.

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