The Remington Model 8 and 81: guns I wish I’d bought when they were cheap!

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The Remington Model 8 and its restyled cousin, the Model 81, were once common at gun shows. They’re getting harder to find these days; are collectors finally taking an interest in these fine rifles?

Some years ago I got to know a local gun show fixture by the name of Mike Percival. Mike was a holdover of sorts, because when everyone else was selling Glocks and AR-15s Mike dealt in old iron and walnut: guns of the past. In stark comparison to the average gun show table huckster, Mike knew his wares inside and out. He knew the history, the quirks, and in most cases how the individual examples shot. I bought a number of things from him over the years, some of which I’ve stupidly sold, but always stopped by and chatted about whatever had recently caught his fancy.

For years Mike was just about the only guy at the gun show who would buy (and sell) Remington Model 8 and 81 rifles. The Remington was an early autoloading rifle, very finely made with superb bluing, and pretty good looking for any autoloader. It was available in four proprietary chamberings, and of them only the well-known .35 Remington round can still be found. (Ironically, though it was designed specifically for a semi-automatic with a box magazine, the round is today associated with tube-fed lever action rifles.)

The Remington used the rather uncommon long-recoil system: the barrel and bolt travel backwards during recoil, and the bolt is caught in the fully rearward position as the barrel — powered by its recoil spring — moves forward and back into the battery position, ejecting the spent casing as it goes. When the barrel reaches the front the bolt is released and allowed to move forward, stripping a new round and loading it into the chamber.

I was always impressed with the machining and fitting of the Model 8/81, but Mike (who sadly died just a few months ago) was never able to talk me into buying one. He’d usually have four or five on his table, and I thought it would always be that way! Apparently the collecting world caught onto these neat (though hefty) rifles a few years ago, because prices started to rise and suddenly the supply just dried up. Despite once seeming to be ubiquitous, today it’s a little unusual to see one on a gun show table (at least in my area.)

Ian McCollum recently did a video on the Remington Model 8 and included a tear-down. Watching him take it apart will tell you why the gun didn’t last in the new marketplace: all of those finely machined parts would cost a fortune to make today!

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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