It’s one of the most popular firearms in the industry, and it is about to be recalled. The Remington Arms Co. has reached a nationwide settlement of claims that the majority of its Model 700 bolt-action hunting rifles have a faulty trigger mechanism.
The settlement notice, which was filed last Wednesday, is in a class-action lawsuit filed January 2013 in U.S. District Court in Missouri, by Ian Pollard. Pollard’s claim is filed against Remington and two affiliated companies, Sporting Goods Properties and E.I. DuPont.
Pollard had purchased a Remington Model 700 rifle in 2000. He says his rifle fired three times without him pulling the trigger, twice when the safety was released and once when the bolt was opened.
“Defendants have known since 1979 that at least 1% of all Model 700 rifles at that time would ‘trick,’ allowing them to fire unexpectedly without a trigger pull,” the claim states. “(Pollard) contends that this percentage is vastly understated and that all Model 700 rifles are subject to unexpected firing without a trigger pull.”
It is estimated that more than 5 million Model 700 bolt-action rifles have been sold to the public since 1962.
The Pollard suit is just one of several class-action suits filed in federal court against Remington involving the Model 700. It asks the court to declare all Model 700 bolt-action rifles with a Walker Fire Control to be defective and to order Remington to recall those models. The suit also asks for compensatory and punitive damages against the company.
Just last year, two major manufactures issued voluntary safety recalls for their handguns. On August 22, Smith & Wesson issued a major consumer safety alert for all M&P Shield pistols made before August 19, 2013. The safety alert identified a condition where the Shield’s trigger bar pin could damage the trigger’s drop safety feature, which could enable the pistol to fire when dropped.
Six days later, on August 28, Springfield Armory issued a voluntary safety recall for their .45 ACP and 9mm XD-S pistols. While no injuries had been reported at the time, the company publicly stated: “Springfield has determined that under exceptionally rare circumstances, some 3.3 XD-S 9mm and .45 ACP caliber pistols could experience an unintended discharge during the loading process when the slide is released, or could experience a double-fire when the trigger is pulled once. The chance of these conditions existing is exceptionally rare, but if they happen, serious injury or death could occur.”
Those who had long suspected a defect in the Model 700 are relieved. This is especially true for Richard Barber, a Montana man who has been saying for over a dozen years that these firearms should be recalled.
“It does accomplish what I want to accomplish,” said Barber to the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. “I guess it’s safe to say, it’s better late than never.”
The issue is not merely about a failure to deliver a quality product, it is very much about safety.
“As a whole, (the settlement) represents the best interest of the public. It will save lives, it will save limbs,” Barber continued.
In 2000, Barber’s 9-year-old son, Gus, was killed by a Model 700 rifle in a hunting accident in Montana. The family says that the rifle suddenly fired when Barber’s wife, Barbara, released the safety as she went to unload the weapon. The bullet passed right through a horse trailer and hit Gus, who was standing on the other side.
For the next decade, Barber worked tirelessly to prove the Model 700 defects caused the rifle to fire without anyone pulling the trigger. He compiled company internal documents, and worked as a consultant on lawsuits from Model 700 owners whose rifles also fired without the trigger being pulled.
Barber came to his own conclusion that a defect in the Walker Fire Control on the trigger mechanism caused the rifle to sometimes fire when the safety was released or the bolt was open or closed.
If the settlement is approved, Barber will finally get the closure he has been searching for. The nearly 14-year investigation of his son’s death will be put to rest as the party responsible is identified and held accountable, and any future accidents caused by the defective firearm will be avoided.
“I’m preparing to walk away from this and not look back,” Barber said. “If these things come to pass, then Remington is doing what it needs to do for them to move forward, and I want to move forward as well. I think my work will be completed.”
A settlement agreement is expected to be submitted to U.S. District Court in Missouri by October 30, after which the court will make its final decision.