September 23, 2010
Remington's Model 14 pump-action centerfire rifle might not compare to a tricked-out and tuned bolt gun in the accuracy department, but going afield with this sweet, trim classic induces a feeling that's hard to beat.
The author's Model 14 is a "C" grade with checkering on its figured wood, red rubber recoil pad, and quick-detachable sling-swivel posts.
The slide-action big-game rifle has been with us for a very long time. Colt introduced its Lightning model in 1885 in two action lengths: short for cartridges such as the .38-40 and .44-40 Winchester and long for cartridges ranging in length up to Winchester's .50-95 Express.
Another early pump gun was introduced by the Standard Arms Company of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1909. It was offered in two versions. As its name implied, the "M" model was operated manually by sliding its forearm to and fro. Then there was the Model "G," which was basically the same rifle except the twist of a valve would convert it from a slide-action rifle to a gas-operated autoloader. I have never owned a Colt Lightning, but a Standard Arms Model G in .25 Remington has been in my collection for many years, and I have taken several deer with it.
Another slide-action rifle was also introduced in 1909, and whereas those introduced by Colt and Standard Arms had rather short lives, the one designed by J.D. Pedersen of Remington Arms stayed around for many hunting seasons. Pedersen, by the way, also designed other firearms for Remington, but he is probably best known for inventing a device that replaced the bolt of the 1903 Springfield service rifle, thereby converting it to semiauto operation.
The Remington pump rifle was called the Model 14, and it was chambered for a family of rimless cartridges that had been introduced earlier in the Model 8 autoloader. Available in .25, .30, and .32 calibers, they were Remington's answer to the .25-35 Winchester, .30-30 Winchester, and .32 Winchester Special. In 1915 a new cartridge called the .35 Remington was added in both the Model 14 and the Model 8. Although smaller in overall size than the .33 Winchester, it pretty much duplicated its performance.
Due mainly to fired case extraction problems suffered by the Colt Lightning rifle, the slide action had a poor reputation among hunters, one that J.D. Petersen was determined to overcome. And he did just that by incorporating a camming action in the bolt that was capable of snatching a fired case from the dirtiest of chambers with total reliability.
A brass insert imbedded in the receiver wall indicates the cartridge a Model 14 is chambered for. The hole through its center vents propellant gas in the event of a ruptured case.
Pedersen also designed a safety feature into the Model 14 that was nonexistent in the Colt rifle--the trigger has to be released after firing before the next shot can be fired. In addition, the firing pin is blocked from forward travel until the bolt is fully locked into battery, and the bolt can be unlocked only by firing the rifle or by pressing inward on a bolt-release button located on the side of the bolt.
Further, as the release button is depressed, both sear and trigger travel are blocked to prevent the rifle from firing as the bolt unlocks. The safety, a transverse button located at the rear of the trigger guard, can be left in its engaged position while the rifle is being loaded or unloaded.
The Model 14 has a number of other interesting features. One is a receiver that protects internal parts from rain, snow, and field debris. The enclosed receiver also protects the shooter from escaping propellant gas in the event of a ruptured case, not exactly an uncommon event in those days.
Grooves formed into the wall of the Model 14's magazine tube cant cartridges to prevent bullet noses from contacting primers.
What appears to be the head of a cartridge imbedded in the left-hand side of the receiver and adjacent to the breechface of the barrel serves two purposes. A vent in its center extends all the way through the receiver wall to allow gas to escape if a case blows, and markings on its surface indicate the cartridge the rifle is chambered for.
Another interesting design detail is a tubular magazine with spiraled grooves formed into its wall. In those days Remington offered its line of rimless cartridges with both softnose and full-metal-jacketed bullets, and the special magazine design cants each round, thereby preventing the nose of its bullet from contacting the primer of the cartridge positioned ahead of it. It also prevents the cartridges from rattling in the magazine as the rifle is carried.
The magazine holds five rounds and is loaded through a hinged gate located at the bottom, just ahead of the receiver. On most pump guns the magazine tube is fixed and the forearm alone travels backward and forward, but the forearm of the Model 14 is firmly attached to the magazine tube, causing both to travel to and fro when the action is cycled. This eliminates the need for a separate cartridge carrier as seen in most lever-action rifles and is one reason why the Model 14 action operates so smoothly.
In the old days, hunters traveled a lot by horse and buggy and by train, so various manufacturers offered rifles that could be taken down into a smaller package. Taking down the Model 14 involves nothing more than turning out a coin-slotted screw located on the left side of its receiver and pulling the buttstock/trigger guard assembly downward and out of the receiver.
Unlike takedown rifles that utilize an interrupted thread system on barrel and receiver, the Model 14 is not likely to become loose through the years due to numerous takedowns and reassemblies. Remington advertisements of the day emphasized this by stating that "the Model 14 action is as strong as any solid-frame rifle and will not become loose under the hardest usage." Another advantage to a takedown rifle is that its barrel can be cleaned from its chamber end rather than from the muzzle.
The Model 14 has a 22-inch barrel, and like most big-game rifles of its day, its front sight ramp was machined integrally with its barrel. Open sights were standard, but various tang-mounted aperture sights were available at additional cost. In those days
most hunters used iron sights, but years later when the telescopic sight became popular, the receiver with its solid top and side ejection of cases made the Model 14 perfect for the mounting of one. A carbine version with an 18½-inch barrel called the Model 14R was also offered.
The Model 14's tubular magazine is loaded through a hinged gate.
The standard field-grade Model 14-A is rather plain with no checkering on its stock, but higher grades were offered by Remington. One step up in price was the Model 14-C Special with its figured walnut and checkering; next in line above it was the Model 14-D Peerless with European walnut and lightly engraved receiver. Then came the Model 14-E Expert with even fancier finish and engraving, and at the top of the heap was the Model 14-F Premier, which has more engraving and the finest Circassian walnut stock replete with a gold nameplate containing the lucky owner's initials.
Rifle buttstocks had curved grips, and those above the standard grade were available with no grip cap or grip caps made of steel or horn. The rifle I continue to hunt with, and the one featured in this report, is a Model 14-C in .35 Remington. In addition to cut checkering on its nicely figured wood, it has the optional red rubber recoil pad, quick-detachable sling-swivel posts, and a Lyman tang sight.
With most loads my rifle averages less than 4 inches at 100 yards and comes close enough to 2 inches with the Sierra 200-grain bullet pushed along by IMR-4895. I fired the smallest group ever with my Model 14 during the past deer season with the Federal 200-grain factory load. Two shots went into practically the same hole, and the third cut into the first two. I love being in the woods with this rifle.
The author loves spending time in the deer woods with his sleek Remington Model 14 in .35 Remington.
Around 1910 another variation called the Model 14½ was introduced. Available in both rifle and carbine configurations, it was chambered only in .38-40 and .44-40 Winchester. The rifle was available in a half-magazine version with a capacity of eight rounds or with a full magazine that held 11 rounds, the latter quite popular among prison guards.
One of the more unusual Model 14½ variations I have owned through the years was a rifle in .44-40 with what collectors describe as a "thumbnail" safety. Rather than having the usual button in the trigger guard, it had an up-down sliding plate on the side of its bolt with grooves machined horizontally in its surface. Difficult to operate while wearing gloves or with a cold wet hand, it understandably proved to be less than popular among hunters, explaining at least in part its rarity.
Not many Model 14s were built after World War I, but the Model 14 lived on until 1935 when it was "upgraded" a bit and renamed the Model 141 Gamemaster. By that time the .35 Remington had become the most popular chambering, whereas the .25 Remington, which had always been a slow seller, was discontinued. Barrel length was increased to 24 inches, and the front sight ramp was attached with screws. The increase in barrel length along with a larger buttstock and a more hand-filling forearm increased nominal weight from 7 to 7.75 pounds. The Model 141 is a great deer rifle, but I have always preferred the trimness and lighter weight of the Model 14.
Another unusual gun I owned years ago was a transition carbine in .30 Remington with a Model 14 barreled action wearing a Model 141 stock and forearm. As I understand, Remington still had a few barreled actions left over after Model 141 production began but no Model 14 stocks, so rather than scrap all that beautiful metal, they fitted them to the stocks in production and shipped the rifles to various dealers.
The Model 14 and the Model 141 were used with great success by hunters all across the country, but their stronghold was the Northeast, where most shots on deer and black bear were and still are inside 200 yards. More were sold in Pennsylvania alone than in all other states combined, mainly because semiautomatic rifles have never been allowed there, and when it comes to getting off a well-aimed follow-up shot at a whitetail bouncing along through thick timber, a pump gun is about as fast as an autoloader. The Model 141 was discontinued in 1951, shortly before its successor--the Model 760--was introduced. The new rifle was not as handsome as the old rifle, but the fact that it was offered in .270 Winchester and .30-06 assured its success.
The smallest 100-yard group the author has fired with his Model 14 was with Federal 200-grain factory loads. Two shots went into practically one hole, and the third cut into the first two. Note the transverse safety button located at the rear of the trigger guard. Pushing the small button at the back of the bolt unlocks it.
To peek inside a Model 14 is to marvel at a level of quality, intricate machining and hand-fitting that will never be seen again on a rifle the average deer hunter can afford to buy. About 10 years ago a friend who was working for Remington at the time told me that in order to duplicate the Model 14 and make a decent profit, it would have to retail for over $3,000. Fortunately for those of us who love rifles made the way they used to be made, a search of the used-rifle market today will usually turn up a Model 14 or a Model 141 for a lot less. Believe me when I say the one you buy will be worth every penny paid, and it will likely be worth more tomorrow than it was yesterday.