Two weeks ago, NBC’s Rock Center aired an investigative report questioning the safety of the Common Fire Control of over 20 million Remington firearms, including the best-selling Sportsman 12 shotgun, the 870 shotgun, and the 742 semi-automatic rifle. About two years ago, CNBC did a similar report on the Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle. Odds are, if you’ve ever been out with anyone shooting a rifle or a pump shotgun, you’ve been around one of these. If you’re in law enforcement, then you’ve been around them on a weekly basis.
And there’s a big problem with them. A thousands of complaints and over one hundred thirty-five lawsuits problem. These firearms go off without the trigger being pressed, even when the safety is on.
As a plaintiff’s lawyer, seeing a news story about problems with Remington gun misfires is like seeing a story on the dangers of old tires: it’s not news to us, it’s something we talk about frequently, and litigate often as well. The trial lawyers association has a whole litigation group dedicated to firearms and ammunition dangers.
I’m not as familiar with the shotgun issues, but Remington Model 700 misfire lawsuits are so common that lawyers can practically cut-and-paste the relevant pleadings and briefs. (If you’re a lawyer representing a Remington malfunction victim, be sure you read this brief on similar incidents from the Montes case.)
The problem is simple, but takes a minute to explain. The Model 700 (and its variants, the ADL, BDL, CDL, and Safari, as well as the newer Model 710 and Model 770) is based on Merle H. Walker’s “firing mechanism” patent 2,514,981, patented in 1950. In the design, the trigger the operator sees isn’t really the trigger — the real trigger is a piece called the “connector” that’s inside the gun and held against the trigger by a spring.
The Remington-Walker’s ‘trigger’ is not the piece you put your finger on. The part that acts as the trigger under the sear is actually the connector which is ‘flexibly connected’ to the trigger body. The trigger return spring pushes the connector which then pushes the trigger body into position under the sear. The connector offers a complication that is not needed in the trigger. The addition of the connector only adds to the complexity of what is a very simple and amazingly reliable mechanism when its parts are limited to only what’s necessary to do the job.
Is a mechanism that’s called upon to return one lever with one spring more reliable than a spring pushing on an intermediary part and then the lever? Of course it is. The fewer parts, the simpler the mechanism, especially when dealing with simple levers. With the re-positioning of the trigger-connector required after each shot, in the presence of recoil and powder residue and debris, the answer becomes even more certain. More parts means more complications without benefits.
Those “complications” cause a couple problems in the actual use of the Remington Model 700, which Remington itself broke down into Fire on Bolt Closure, Fire on Bolt Opening, Fire on Safe Release, and Jar Off. “Jar Off” is a standard industry term for a firearm discharging when struck or dropped. The rest mean what you think they mean: someone was opening or closing the bolt, or simply releasing the safety when, boom, the gun went off.
Continue Reading Defective Remington Triggers Under Fire Again, Still Not Recalled