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Bad gun handling kills, but doesn’t excuse negligent design

Remington 700I’ve been reading some of the recent allegations that the Remington 700’s “Walker” trigger system is unsafe. The news stories are the result of a CNBC documentary that came about after “two dozen deaths, more than 100 injuries and 75-plus lawsuits, all alleging the gun fired without the trigger being pulled.”

A print version of the  CNBC story provides some of the background of the claims against the Remington mechanism. I’m not going to pretend to be a Monday morning gunsmith and presume to have enough knowledge to argue for or against the Walker trigger, but I will note that CNBC quoted Walker himself as having created a “trigger block” mechanism in 1948 to address the problem, and that Remington passed on the upgrade because of the $0.05 per gun cost the part would add to the rifle’s total manufacturing cost.

Here is a clip that CNBC has been using to publicize their documentary.

Remington has a web site dedicated to defending against the CNBC claims (and others made against it).

I’d suggest going through the claims brought against the 700’s Walker trigger, then following up with Remington’s response before drawing your own conclusions. I hunted for years with a second-hand Remington 721 that my father bought from another hunter. We have no way of knowing if the original owner attempted to tune the trigger and thus made the gun susceptible to this bolt closure discharge problem… and that is a problem.

In my mind, a company that makes and inherently lethal product such as a firearm has an obligation to make certain that the weapon will only discharge when the operator intends it to fire. It is also my opinion that a company bears moral responsibility for addressing common shortcomings in the design, such as Walker trigger-equipped guns being prone to discharges after the trigger mechanism is tuned. Watching the SWAT team operators that managed to film one of their 700s firing by merely touching the bolt sent a chill down my spine.

The alleged defects with the Walker trigger doesn’t excuse the poor gun handling practices that left Gus Barber dead, or many others killed or wounded. The individual examples seem to be shooter safety errors compounded by mechanical design defects.

Remington still uses the Walker trigger in new production weapons, insisting that there is nothing wrong with it.

You can decide for yourself who is right and who is wrong and whether you feel comfortable with the Walker design.

I can tell you that my father’s Remington 721 sits unused since he no longer hunts, and that as much as I love that old rifle, I’ll never use it again without having the mechanism upgraded.

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Posted in News, Rifles.

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One Response

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  1. Tam says

    I can make most any bolt-action rifle fire on closing the bolt. Certainly any military bolt-action rifle of the last two hundred years. Making sure a rifle "stays cocked" on bolt closure is Gunsmithing 101. (Incidentally, have you checked your 1911 for hammer follow to make sure it won't go full-auto? Shall we sue John Browning?)

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