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Bernie Revering column: Remington; America's oldest gun maker

American folklore has long circulated the tale that a frontier lad wanted a rifle. Money was tight, so the young boy was said to have fashioned a barrel at his father's forge and foundry on the frontier, which at the time was on the Erie Canal, near Ithaca, New York. According to the story, he had made a rifle and that neighbor, seeing the finished firearm, wanted one like it. So, supposedly was the birth of the great Remington Arms Company, as the lad was Eliphalet Remington.

A fine tale, but it probably wasn't true. Perhaps concocted in the imaginative fancy of dime novel writers of the day, such as Ned Buntline or someone else, in those times of early America.

The forge and foundry of the Remington family did indeed become a gun maker, along with other steel items used in farming, by households and other factories on the frontier. Remington made barrels and guns.

Remington was able to patent guns and military equipment, with the very talented aid of a man named Beals and a dentist named Eliott. The pair of inventors had not been successful in interesting Samuel Colt or Tyier Henry, who were gun makers of the period. It was all before the birth of the Winchester Company, but they were big and prominent. It did not take long for the new Remington products became well known. Gun making at Remington began about l840. America was breaking away from its founding roots of thirteen colonies, hunting was excellent with deer, turkey, and waterfowl aplenty, and hunting guns were needed. Military production arose, and Remington provided muskets for the Union army. A line of pistols was developed and sold well. Among these was a small gun, named after the inventor, John Derringer. Remington made this model in great numbers.

Winchester fared well, using the patents of gun genius John M. Browning, which were bought outright. Remington weathered the storm, and its line of sporting firearms won medals at a Paris exposition in 1893. Other gun designers who assigned their patents over to Remington were Arthur Savage, H. Crawford Loomis, and John Pederson.

John M. Browning had invented and began marketing a brand new concept. It was a semi-automatic shotgun, using recoil energy to work the mechanism, chambering a fresh cartridge every time one was fired. Browning, this time, wanted a royalty on guns produced but Winchester refused. The result was Remington's manufacture and sale of the new gun, which was named the Model 11. It was a revolutionary design, had great appeal among sportsmen and sold well.

Remington's engineers adapted the Browning patents and used them with great success in developing a line of center fire semi-automatics and pump shotguns for hunting and clay target shooting.

In about 1947, Remington decided that its entire line needed a study. The result was the development of a family of guns, with parts from several being adapted to other models. The result was a huge success with the Model 870 slide action shotgun being the first. It soon overtook Winchester's established Model 12 hunting and trap shooting gun, along with many others.

Among these was the Model 1100 semi-auto, which was the sales leader among target shotguns for decades. Guns for target, hunting, in rimfire and center fire rifles came next. Remington made pistols, cutlery, and in its earliest days, typewriters, sewing machines, cash registers and a host of other industrial and household products.

The U.S. Army relied upon Remington to produce millions of re-vamped Springfield 30-06 rifles and the Model 1911 Colt pistol in 45 caliber.

DuPont Corporation was a prominent owner of most of Remington, but the company divested itself of arms and ammunition in 1990. There was always a growth at Remington, and the company became prominent in production of ammunition for sporting and military use.

Remington Arms Company retains its main firearms plant at Ilion, New York, but has moved its headquarters to Madison, South Carolina. The move to diversify has lead to the establishment of other plants in the southeastern areas of the United States, along with other factories which make ammunition and clay targets. Cutlery continues to be a mainstay with the company, with an annual model of what they've named "the bullet knives."

From an inconspicuous start, contrary to the legend, Remington has become America's oldest gun maker, and is a worldwide leader in arms.

The turkey hunting tragedy

When is a boy too young to be afield during hunting season? Sportsmen everywhere were saddened when the news broke that a father had mistaken his nine-year-old son for a torn turkey. The accident happened on Saturday, April 19, near the Sibley County town of Belle Plaine in southeastern Minnesota.

Taken afield by his father, enabling the boy to be in on the kill of a wild turkey, it is probably easy to reason that he shouldn't have been there in the first place. But parents do strive to have their kids enjoy the sports that they like. Tragic as it is, the father probably couldn't be charged with anything more than an error in judgment. Perhaps, some have now learned and more caution will be used in the future. Every situation is different; some kids are, perhaps, old enough to be afield when firearms are in use. Accidents do happen -- all to frequently. Personally, I was in the game fields with my father when I was twelve years old. No, I didn't carry a gun until I was two years older, but when I was 15, I owned a Winchester single shot 22 rimfire, a single shot 20 gauge, and a High Standard 22 pistol. I was able to use and carry them alone, with my buddies, and miraculously, no incidents occurred. Today, I'd reject the idea of a person under l6 being in the range of a hunting gun. Training should begin at age 15, as our youth groups are now enjoying, with permits to go afield with our great youth hunting programs available to them.