September 23, 2010
According to Paul, the Remington Model 760 GameMaster was the most popular pump-action rifle of all time. His father purchased this .35-caliber M760A in 1958.
In an earlier column, I made the argument that the pump-action rifle is a uniquely American development that never quite caught on among hunters and sporting shooters outside of the western hemisphere. While the first pump-action--slide-action or trombone-action, as some refer to it--firearms were developed in Europe between 1866 and 1880, they were not successful and had extremely limited production. But shooters on this side of the Big Pond have always had a thing about firepower, and the 1880s saw the development of several pump-action rifles and shotguns: the Colt "Lightning" rifles and the Spencer and Burgess shotguns.
These were successful to varying degrees and introduced Americans to the fact that a lever-action was not the only way to obtain rapid repeat shots. The inventions of that great firearms genius John Moses Browning only added to America's affection for pump-action firearms. His .22 repeaters and the famous Model 1897 Winchester shotgun paved the way for a flood of similar firearms that appeared on the American market in the following decade.
In 1907, Remington Arms Co. introduced a pump-action shotgun designed by John Pedersen, but Remington desired a pump-action rifle in its line to compete for a share of the lucrative market dominated by the Winchester and Marlin lever-action rifles. So in 1912, Remington introduced another Pedersen design, the Model 14 rifle. It was based upon an enlarged version of Remington's Pedersen-designed Model 12 .22 pump-action repeater.
For this rifle, Remington introduced a new line of rimless cartridges: the .25, .30, .32, and .35 Remington. The Model 14 used a unique spiral, tubular magazine to prevent bullet noses from resting on the primers of the cartridges in front of them. Between 1912 and 1925, Remington also produced the Model 14½ rifle and 14½ R carbine, which were chambered for the .38-40 and .44-40 cartridges.
The year 1925 saw a new small-frame pump-action rifle, the Model 25, chambered for .25-20 and .32-20 cartridges. In 1935, the Model 141 was announced, and it was chambered for the .30, .32, and .35 Remington. It was available in rifle or carbine versions and remained in the catalog until 1950.
The Model 760
In 1952, Remington introduced the Model 760 GameMaster, a rifle that was to give the company a virtual monopoly on the pump-action, centerfire rifle market. Designed by L.R. Crittendon and William Gail Jr., it used a machined-steel receiver, removable box magazine, and rotating bolt with fourteen interrupted thread-type lugs that locked into an extension of the barrel. The latter feature made for a much stronger lockup while allowing the receiver to be lighter. It was a feature common to a number of Big Green's pump and semiauto rifles and shotguns.
The bolt assembly rode inside a carrier that was attached to twin action bars mounted to the forearm. Lugs on the inside of the bolt carrier matched up with helical grooves on the bolt itself. So when the forearm and carrier moved rearward, they caused the bolt to rotate, unlock, and move rearward with the carrier, extracting and ejecting the spent case and recocking the hammer. Pulling the forearm forward chambered the next round and rotated and locked the bolt. The forearm moved on a separate tube attached to the front of the receiver and did not bear on the barrel
The Remington Model 760's bolt locks into an extension of the barrel by means of fourteen interrupted thread-type lugs.
The action proved capable of using cartridges whose length and working pressures had before now limited them to bolt-action rifles. Over its production life, the Model 760 was chambered for such popular cartridges as .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, .257 Roberts, .270 Winchester, .280 Remington, .300 Savage, .308 Winchester, .30-06 (the most popular), .35 Remington, and .35 Whelan.
Early-production rifles were fitted with a ribbed, aluminum buttplate that was replaced with plastic in 1968. As was the standard practice at the time, Remington offered various deluxe versions of the rifle: the Model 760B Special Grade, D Peerless Grade, and F Premier Grade. In 1954, Remington introduced a Model 760 ADL and a Model 760 BDL that featured cut and basketweave checkering, respectively.
In 1960, a carbine version with an 18.5-inch barrel, the Model 760C, was introduced in .270, .280, .308, and .30-06, again in both standard and deluxe grades. The carbine introduced the Williams ramp rear sight, which replaced the earlier spring-leaf pattern. To address the increasing popularity of telescopic sights, later Model 760s came from the factory drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
The Model 760 proved very popular with American hunters and, to a limited degree, law enforcement agencies. Beginning in 1965, the FBI purchased Model 760s in .30-06 and .308 to equip its agents. The multi-lug, rotating bolt and free-floating barrel allowed bolt-action-like accuracy. The 760 proved especially popular in those states that did not allow semiauto rifles for big-game hunting, as it gave the speed of a lever-action with the advantage of more powerful cartridges. The 760 remained a steady seller in the Remington line, often being promoted as the natural companion rifle for the Model 870 pump-action shotgun shooter, but times and technology changed, and by the late 1970s, Remington thought the Model 760 design was in need of being updated. Production ended in 1980 after an impressive 971,712 rifles and 67,726 carbines had left the factory.
The Model 760 line was replaced by a pair of new pump-action rifles: the Model Six and the Model 7600 (a plain, economy version of the Model Six). At first glance, there appeared to be little to differentiate them from the earlier Model 760s because most of the changes were internal.
The fourteen interrupted thread-type locking lugs on the bolt were replaced by four more substantial lugs. The bolt carrier and operating bars became a one-piece unit that provided more rigidity and smoothness to the manually operated action. In the late 1980s, the Model Six designation was dropped, and all rifles were thereafter referred to as the Model 7600. Today, it is available chambered for .243, .270, .280 Rem., .308, .30-06, and .35 Whelen.
Shooting The Model 760
My father purchased a .35 Rem. Model 760A GameMaster rifle in 1958, and it served as his regular deer-hunting rifle for almost two
decades. It has proven to be very practical for hunting in heavy cover, and my father dropped a number of bucks with it over the years. Also, my two brothers and I each killed our very first deer with it.
Several weeks ago, I took the old 760A out of the gun safe and headed to the range. Other than sporting a well-used Weaver 4X scope and a set of quick-detach sling swivels, it is exactly the same as when Dad purchased it almost a half-century ago.
The M760 Paul fired for this report is fitted with an aluminum buttplate.
After setting up a series of targets at 100 yards, I settled down and shot it for score. Despite the fact that this rifle had not been fired in years, the Weaver scope was still perfectly zeroed and enabled me to produce a half-dozen well-centered groups that ranged from 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Even though the Remington 150-grain Core-Lokt load has a reputation for mediocre accuracy, it proved slightly more accurate than the more popular 200-grain loading out of this particular rifle.
Another nice feature is that the box magazine allows much faster reloading and safer unloading than a tubular magazine. It also allows a hunter to quickly switch to different loads for specific conditions.
Despite its age, I found Dad's old 760A to be a very pleasant and accurate rifle to shoot. While it bears the nicks, dings, and scratches of many years of hard use, it is a highly regarded family heirloom, and it is my heartfelt hope that it will continue to provide venison for generations of Scarlatas yet to come.
The M760's safety button is located at the rear of the trigger guard, and the bolt-release catch is positioned at the front of the trigger guard.