Handloading the Model 8 .35 Remington
Date: Nov 30 2016
Modern bolt-action and lever-action rifles would be instantly recognizable to anyone living 100 years ago. Self-loading rifles, on the other hand, have undergone change. The appearance of turn of the (previous) century examples is quaint to modern shooters. As for myself, I enjoy Remington Model 8 and Winchester 1907 rifles. Some enjoy the period look; others find it odd. I appreciate the rifles and their history.
By far the most practical of early self-loaders for modern use is the Remington Model 8, a product of John Moses Browning, who took the basic operating principles of the recoil-operated Browning Auto 5 shotgun and applied them to a light rifle. The design features recoil action; there is no complication from a gas system. Its innovative bolt with two locking lugs locks securely into the rear of the barrel. During the firing cycle, the bolt, bolt carrier and barrel all recoil together. The action remains locked until the bullet exits the barrel. With pressure abated, the bolt remains to the rear while strong springs force the barrel forward. Next, the bolt runs forward, stripping a cartridge from the magazine. A sheet-metal cover extends over the operating parts in much the same manner as the Russian AK-47 rifle. There is a long wing safety on the side of the receiver that locks both the trigger and the bolt. The sheet-metal cover and the safety design are so similar to the AK, I cannot help but think Kalishnikov must have been influenced by the Remington design. The Remington is fed from a five-round fixed magazine and uses a stripper clip for speed loading, just the same as the bolt-action military rifles of the day. An 8mm Mauser stripper clip works just fine.
The rifle was offered with a variety of options during its production and evolved into the similar Model 81. It came in .25, .30, .32 and .35 Remington calibers. Only the most powerful, the .35 Remington, has survived and was chambered most commonly in Marlin lever actions. The .30 Remington is basically a rimless .30-30 WCF. The Remington rifle was intended to compete with the Winchester Model 94 and other light, handy sporting guns, but the lever action was simply too entrenched in America for a newfangled self-loader to offer stiff competition. Still, the Model 8 sold well enough.
When the Remington was introduced, transportation was much more difficult. Travel by horseback and buggy were common. A light, handy rifle was an advantage. When high-velocity cartridges began overtaking the .45-70 in popularity, few were offered with long, heavy barrels for this reason. The Model 8 was competitive with lever-action rifles in this regard. A popular feature in rifles of the day was a takedown option. All Remington Model 8s were takedown rifles. The forend screw simply twists out. It is captive and cannot be lost. A lever under the barrel is twisted to allow the rifle to be taken down. This lever would apparently also take up slack if the action became well worn and loose. The rifle is 41 inches overall, and when broken down the stock and action are 19 inches long and the barrel assembly is 22 inches, making for a compact package.
My Model 8 is a .35 Remington, a respected cartridge that has a reputation for power beyond its paper energy. A 200-grain bullet at over 2,000 fps is effective against light-skinned game including deer and wild boar. In its heyday, it was praised for its effect on black bear as well, but the rifle’s fast-handling characteristics were its strong suite. It was very popular with lawmen and prison guards, and quite a few rifles were modified with extended magazines. Gilt-edged accuracy is not in the cards, but the rifle will put all its shots into one ragged hole at typical combat ranges, often delivering about 4 MOA for three shots at 100 yards. I prefer the Remington to any AK-47, but the comparison is striking.
To load the Model 8, begin with the bolt locked to the rear. Without a stripper clip, it is a simple matter to load the magazine one cartridge at a time by hand while holding the bolt back. After loading the magazine, allow the bolt to run forward and load the chamber. There is a bolt release on the left-hand side of the receiver that will manually release the bolt when it is pulled downward. Never load a round in the chamber and then drop the bolt. The Remington is designed to strip rounds from the magazine. In common with the M1 Garand and other self-loading designs, the Remington Model 8 is subject to a slam-fire if the bolt is dropped on a loaded chamber. The floating firing pin may take a run forward, hitting the primer. I do not like to force the extractor over the cartridge rim in this manner either but prefer to allow the bolt to run forward and load the rifle in the proper manner. When unloading the chamber, occasionally there will be a slight dimple in the primer caused by the firing pin running forward. This is not a defect, simply a mark of the firing pin typical of the design. Similar results will be had with the M1 Garand, M14 and even the AR-15. Once the Model 8 is loaded, the safety may be applied.