Remington Model 31

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The Model 31 is very pleasing aesthetically, but also very spartan in styling. The short length makes for very quick handling

 

 

 

 

 

It is no secret to those who know me well that firearms are my passion, specifically, shotguns. More specifically, 12 gauge American-made repeating shotguns from the early and mid 20th Century. I have a plethora of old pump, bolt, and auto shotguns made by just as many manufacturers that have seen years of varying use . The best part about this hobby of collecting old shotguns is that it is fairly inexpensive as firearm collecting goes. With the current “tacticool” and black polymer trends in the firearm industry, it leaves a lot of beautiful, old shotguns on the gun racks, languishing in loneliness, begging to be loved, waiting to shoot one more round of clay pigeons, longing to go home with me.

That’s exactly how I found this beautiful brunette, just sitting on a rack at local pawn shop, with a price tag that definitely did not reflect the true, intrinsic value of a piece of American history. Even though I had never seen one in person, just pictures in books, I quickly recognized the long, sleek lines of the classic Model 31. The barrel seemed awfully short and the gun needed a good cleaning, but I didn’t care. I quickly snatched up my newest love, took her home and introduced her to the fold. It was at home in my usual thorough disassembly and cleaning, that I realized this was no normal shotgun that sat in a closet corner for years. This was a warhorse, with a tale to tell.

History

The Remington Model 31 was introduced in 1931 as a successor to the Remington Model 17 (which was bottom ejecting shotgun and the predecessor to the Ithaca 37) and was designed as a direct competitor tothe Winchester Model 12. Like the Winchester, the Remington used a milled receiver and was fairly expensive to produce. The Model 31 was, and is, known for one of the slickest and smoothest pump actions called, rather erroneously, a “ball bearing action” even though there are no ball bearings to speak of. The Model 31 was discontinued in 1949 with less than 200,000 made.

Because of the smooth action, the Model 31 found success on the trap circuit where it dominated the classes. In 1935, in the wake of the Kansas City Massacre, the FBI ordered a large quantity of Model 31s in the Riot or Police configuration. In this capacity, they proved reliable and continued to serve in to the late 1970’s when they were replaced by the venerable Remington 870.

During World War 2, the need for shotguns as trench guns on the front lines meant that most of the War Department’s available supply of Winchester Model 97s, 12s, and Stevens 320s were issued to those Army and Marine units that needed them the most, leaving the Navy and Coast Guard empty handed. When Remington tooled up for war production they used the Model 11 Autoloader, and the Model 31 to fill the void left. The Model 31 is most known during the war for being used by Naval gunners who would simply shoot clay pigeons with them as practice for leading targets. However, Remington did produce a select few shotguns that were not marked as Riot or Police models but had short, 20 inch long cylinder bore barrels. These were sold to the U.S. Navy and used as guard guns for shore patrol, port construction, etc. There are a few isolated claims of some of those Model 31s making it into the hands of Marines in the landing crafts, but I do not know if that can be 100% verified.

As I was thoroughly going through this old shotgun of mine, I noticed that the barrel was exactly 20” and was marked CYL on the left side. At first I thought it was might have been an old police shotgun, but it wasn’t marked with the customary “R” for riot or “P” for police. On the butt stock there seemed to be some writing or carving that was obscured by mud. As I cleaned it off, the three letters “USN”, neatly stamped with a four digit butt stock inventory number, popped out clear as day. That is when I realized I had scored quite a find. I then looked up the serial number and found that it was manufactured in late 1942. Upon doing quite a bit of research on the topic, the summation of which you have just read,

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The USN and stock number can be plainly seen stamped into the pistol grip of the Model 31

I have come to the conclusion, (and I would be happy to entertain criticism) that this old shotgun was one of the few Model 31s that could have served overseas as a guard gun in the Navy. There is also a possibility that it might have seen active conflict during the Island–Hopping operations that the Navy and the Marine Corps conducted.

On the Range

The shotgun has a dull grey finish, not bluing, over all the metal surfaces except for the bolt, which is in the white. The stock has a lacquer that is flaking in some places, but still retains its sheen. The short 20” barrel has a rather large gold bead atop the muzzle that is just about the biggest bead I think I have ever seen on a shotgun, but makes for quick and instinctive shooting. The magazine holds 4+1, which seems downright silly today, but at the time was pretty standard for shotguns. The controls are exactly the same as a Remington 870, down to the crossbolt safety and the slide release in front of the trigger guard. The shotgun is a trim 39” package and weights about 2 ounces less than 7 pounds.

Of course, the

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Despite 70+ years of use, the author’s Model 31 has held up well mechanically and is well suited for a variety of tasks

most memorable feature of the Model 31, the slick action, is definitely without compare. Imagine velvet gliding on tile. Yes, that smooth. The Model 31 also has a very high quality barrel ratcheting system that allows for very secure lockup to the magazine tube, but also quick removal if it is necessary to change barrels.

Shooting the Model 31 is a blast. It is great shotgun for shooting clay pigeons with if you are fast enough to hit them before they can fly farther than 15 yards. As this was probably a working gun in an austere environment, I also wanted to see what she could do with some more serious fuel. This old gal works splendidly with 00 and #4 Buck; I even fired five Winchester 1oz slugs through her and was able to keep them all in a pie plate at 50 yards. Mind you, the recoil with slugs in that tiny shotgun was downright painful, and I probably won’t entertain another notion to do it, but it is always good to now that she can be mustered into service again if need be.

Conclusion

The Remington 31 is one of those lesser known shotguns that never got the limelight that its more famous contemporaries received. With a short lifespan in a time period when the most innovative shotguns ever designed were being produced, the Model 31 was just another wave in the big, blue, ocean. Its time is over, but its legacy has been passed on in the form of the Remington 870, the best selling shotgun in history. Regardless of what history says about her, mine will always have a home with me.

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The Remington 700 ADL: the Ugly Duckling

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She won’t win any beauty constests,but don’t let that dissuade you, the Remington 700 ADL is a solid buy and shooter

As the leaves begin to turn and deer season is upon us, I felt that it would be fitting to review an old standby, the Remington 700.

The 700 has been around officially since 1962, but its simple push feed bolt design originated with the Model 721 in 1948. Touted as the “most accurate out-of the box production rifle on the market today” with its “three rings of steel” bolt and receiver the 700 has more than its fare share of lovers and haters. Since its inception the rifle has undergone many changes, cosmetically speaking, but the design remains the same. However, it wasn’t necessarily a slam-dunk when it was introduced half a century ago; it first had to contend with the Winchester Model 70.

The Model 70 was “The Rifleman’s Rifle” and was considered the ne plus of American-made bolt guns. Many parts were handfitted, it was made in calibers ranging from .22 Hornet to .458 Winchester Magnum, it was unfailingly accurate and reliable with its Mauser-style controlled round feed bolt, it was also downright beautiful. The Model 70 was the standard by which all bolt guns were measured. However, for the 700’s benefit, that was soon to change.

In 1964, Winchester unveiled their new Model 70. The rifle had undergone numerous cosmetic and design changes that were intended to reduce the cost of the firearm and increase production numbers. The resulting product was poorly received by hunters and shooters all across the world who bemoaned the death of their beloved Model 70. Even to this day, Model 70s are separated into two categories, the Pre-64, and Post-64 models, with the Pre-64 Model 70s bringing a considerable premium. Remington in their wisdom capitalized heavily on this opportunity and began to outsell the competition. They have never looked back.

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You can see the push feed style bolt clearly in this picture, as well as all the scratches, dents, and dings on the stock and scope. This is a well-used, working rifle!

My 700 is one of the ADL variants. This means that it is an economy version of the 700. The biggest difference between this and say, a BDL or a CDL, is that the ADL has a blind magazine and no floorplate. In all truth, it isn’t even marked as an ADL, it just has “Model 700” stamped on the receiver. I purchased this rifle for my 22nd birthday from Cabelas several years ago as a package deal. It came with a scope and was boresighted already for the low, low price of $399.99. I wanted a deer rifle that was in a hard hitting, versatile, and accurate chambering that was easy to find ammo for. With a few years in the Army already under my belt, I knew that the .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm was a very capable round out to 1200 meters, had excellent terminal performance, and was easy to find cartridges and reload for. So that is what I chose.

This rifle has a standard contour, 24” free-floated barrel mated to an ugly black composite stock. This rifle with the factory 3-9x40mm scope weighs a fair 7lbs and 10 ounces, which is reasonably light actually. Speaking of the scope, it has no name on it. It is completely bare except for the adjustment dial. Like I said before it came pre-mounted on the rifle, but as we will see, it is more than adequate. The trigger is absolutely exquisite and breaks like a glass rod at 4lbs even. All metal surfaces are coated in a matte finish -“dura-coat” -like substance that certainly reduces glare but does nothing to increase the attractiveness of this wall-flower rifle.

Something I find interesting about these 700 ADLs is that Remington does not acknowledge their existence. There is no mention of them on their website, if you go to a dealer and ask, they will respond with “out of stock/and or production”. According to the to all the company reps, the SPS has completely replaced the ADL as the economy version of the 700. However, if you go to any big box store, e.g. Wal-Mart, Cabelas, Dick’s, etc. they have tons of these ADL package rifles on the shelves and in the back room. Hmmm…

Anyways, I don’t think there is some huge conspiracy against the ADLs, I just find it somewhat interesting.

Shooting the 700 

I have owned this rifle for a number of years and am very pleased with its accuracy. It was not until recently that I became aware of the prejudice against these big-box store package rifles. As I was reading up on the Remmy, deep in the bowels of the interweb amongst the shooting and hunting forums, there seemed to be a consensus against the package deal ADLs. Numerous people seemed very dissatisfied with the accuracy of the 700 ADLs purchased at these big box stores, with some people claiming they couldn’t get these rifles to consistently group shots at all, and others claiming the best groupings they could attain were in roughly 4 MOA area. There wasn’t a hate against the other 700 variants, just the big box store package deal rifles. I found this to be very peculiar, as I have not found this to be true in my own experience. Even a very respected gun writer on a well known firearms review website, whilst testing a 700 ADL in .243, produced rather “meh” results with both handloads and factory ammunition.

Anyways, on to the range!

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To field strip. with your bolt open and the rifle unloaded,simply press the button in front the trigger, and the bolt should fall out.

For testing this rifle I used Winchester 150 grain Powerpoint rated at 2820 fps, Remington 180 grain Core Lokt at 2620fps, and Hornady Superformance Match 178 grain at 2604 fps. The Winchester’s average velocity was 2902 out of my chrony, with a 3 shot group of 1.17inches, The Remington’s average was 2541 with a 1.71 inch group. Here comes the ringer: the Hornady averaged 2650 fps, with a standard deviation of only 5fps between the high and low, and my best group measured a mere .52 inches. Yes, you read that right. A smidge over half an inch. That is downright scary, and as I found out later, very repeatable. A man could get a big head shooting a rifle like this too often.

To be honest, I had often wondered if that no-name mystery scope was worth a hoot. In the past I have often contemplated selling that ugly rifle or trading it if something better came along, but now, I’m not so sure…

Conclusion

 

The Remington 700 has become one of those iconic American firearms that will probably last another century. From police marksmen, to Army snipers, to deer hunters here at home, the Remington 700 has definitely earned the respect of its users and continues to outshine its peers in design, modularity, accuracy, usability, and affordability. The ADL variant, if you can find it, remains a very affordable option for the user who wants a Remington 700 with no frills, but all the sass. Mine is probably gonna stick with me for a while; after all, I do like venison.