Jay Bunting of Remington, who shot skeet with 1100s for many years, recently pointed out to me that the Lightweight 20 was made in two versions. The LW-20 offered from 1970 to 1976 had a short barrel extension much like the Model 870, while the LT-20, which replaced it in 1977, had a standard-length extension with integral ejection stud and an enlarged ejection port. Both versions were originally chambered only for the 2 ¾-inch shell, but in 1971 the LT became available with a 3-inch chamber.
The one-millionth Model 1100 came off the production line in 1972. During that same year, left-hand 12- and 20-gauge Field and Skeet guns with the ejection port on the left side of the receiver and the safety reversed for the southpaw shooter were introduced. Model 1100 production reached the 2,000,000 mark in March 1977. The left-hand gun in 20 gauge was discontinued in 1978 and the 20-gauge Deer Gun on the 12-gauge receiver was replaced by one on the 28/.410 receiver. Also during that year, the mahogany stock of the LT-20 Field was replaced with walnut.
The standard Field gun was designed to function only with the 2 ¾-inch shell while the Magnum was intended exclusively for the 3-inch shell. In those days it was quite common for a shooter to own one Model 1100 and several barrels with different choke constrictions. To add a bit more sales appeal to the Magnum gun, Remington modified it in 1979 so it could be used with an extra barrel chambered for the 2 ¾-inch shell.
Model 1100 production reached 3,000,000 in 1983. That was also the year a left-hand version of the Deer Gun in 12 gauge was introduced, as was the Special Field in 12 and 20 gauges with straight-grip stock and stubby 21-inch, ventilated-rib barrel. The year 1985 saw the introduction of the Special Purpose Magnum, an economy-grade waterfowl and turkey gun with a birch stock and dull blued finish.
Selling extra barrels for its shotguns had long been quite profitable for Remington and the company resisted offering screw-in chokes long after they became available on guns from other manufacturers. The Rem Choke system was introduced in 1986.
The Model 11-87—capable of handling both the 2 ¾- and 3-inch interchangeably and introduced in 1987—did not replace the Model 1100, but the passing of each year brought a reduction in the number of Model 1100 variations offered. Interchangeability matters not to clay target shooters, but when steel shot became a requirement on waterfowl, guns that could not take both 2¾- and 3-inch shells lost market share. By 1988 only the Special Field was offered in 12 gauge although Field guns in 20, 28 and .410 as well as Skeet guns in those chamberings were still cataloged. When the 1991 catalog was published only the “Small Gauge” Field gun in 20, 28 and .410 and the 20-gauge Youth Gun with short length of pull and a 21-inch barrel made the cut. By 1995 most field-grade Model 1100s had been discontinued although others would continue to be occasionally offered on a limited basis.
As I write this, Remington is offering six standard-production variants. Twelve-gauge guns include: the Competition, with fancy walnut stock and 30-inch backbored barrel with lengthened forcing cone; the Competition Synthetic, with a stock quick-adjustable for cast, length of pull and comb height; the Classic Trap, with high-comb walnut stock and 30-inch Rem Choke barrel; and the Tactical, with black synthetic stock, 22-inch ventilated-rib barrel and eight-round magazine. The Sporting is offered in 12 and 20 gauges while the Premier Sporting, with its fancy walnut and nickel-plated receiver and gold inlay, is available in 12, 20 and 28 gauges and .410 bore. Available during 2013 is the 12-gauge, 50th Anniversary Limited Edition with B-Grade walnut, 1963 prefix serial number and machine-engraved receiver.
The Model 1100 is more prone to parts breakage than some designs, but that mattered less to hunters than to those who shot many thousands of rounds each year on the trap and skeet fields. Even when a part broke, its replacement was cheap and usually easy to install. Most clay target shooters kept on hand spare parts such as the action spring, barrel seal, link and piston seal. Several of the guys at my gun club competed during the glory days of the Model 1100, and one recently told me that he usually replaced the action spring about every 12,000 rounds, whether it needed it or not.
The Model 1100 was an even bigger hit among hunters. For as long as I can remember, my father hunted quail several days each week of the season and while he was a double man at heart, the gun he used most during his last 25 years in the field was a LT-20 skeet gun. He gave it a good cleaning every couple of months and the only part that ever broke was a barrel seal, an inexpensive rubber O-ring that slips over the magazine tube.
The autoloading shotgun market is much broader today, with some guns better in ways than the Model 1100—including the improved Remington Model 11-87—but few manufacturers have managed to duplicate its handling qualities. The fact that upward of 4,000,000 have been sold since its introduction half a century ago is proof that Wayne Leek and his team got it right.