by Mark Keefe - Wednesday, May 11, 2011
"OK, so American Rifleman gave a Golden Bullseye Award to gun that, if used, could 'result in property damage, serious personal injury or death,'" wrote one NRA member. "Do you guys read your own magazine? See the Versa Max recall on page 94 in the May issue of American Rifleman—it's for the same gun you gave a Golden Bullseye to as Shotgun of the Year on page 63!" Added another: "It looks like you are in Remington's pocket."
Last Friday, I ran about 250 rounds through a Versa Max—everything from 1-oz. target loads through 3 ½" turkey loads. They all worked, and I lived to tell the tale.
The voting for the Golden Bullseye Awards occurred long before the recall was announced but before the awards were presented at the NRA Annual Meetings in Pittsburgh. We seriously considered rescinding the award, but chose to go forward after long discussions between our staff and Remington. The Versa Max's Versa Port gas system is a significant development in shotgun design. As we deliberated, the recall was of such a nature that it did not override the technological innovation of the gun.
Early in production, the first several hundred guns, there was a burr on a "non-critical dimension" on the hammer that could result in the hammer hanging up on the receiver's interior, thus retarding hammer travel. The gun with an "out of specification" hammer would not fire until the weight of the hammer and its spring power overcame the friction between the hammer's burr and the receiver's interior. Then it would fire—not an ideal situation, obviously.
The company implemented a production fix as soon as the potential condition was identified and got almost all of the Versa Max guns back before those with this potential malfunction were sold. But Remington didn't get them all, thus the recall. Remington management assured me that the problem did not occur with a consumer, only in its own internal testing.
We judged the problem to be one that was easily corrected, and Remington got out ahead of the issue quickly enough not to warrant revocation of the award. Remington is an advertiser with American Rifleman, but we will not play monetary games with NRA member safety under any circumstance.
My hat is off to Remington for the manner in which the company addressed the problem and issued a recall. Considering the CNBC "Remington Under Fire" attack on the Model 700 and the issues with firing pin mass on the Bushmaster ACR (another recall), it was prudent anda good step toward restoring consumer confidence in America's oldest gun maker (1816, there will be a test later).
Also, you can ask anyone in the management team at Remington if I am "in their pocket." When Remington succeeds I will be the first to congratulate those involved but, by the same token, I have been one of the Big Green's harshest critics. The Versa Max is the best Remington shotgun design since the Model 1100, and no doubt you will be seeing the Versa Port system again. It is an innovative gun that needs to stand on its own merits, not linger in the shadows of a recall.
Ruger's Mike Fifer once told me that issuing a recall is one of the toughest calls a firearm company CEO can make. In this case it was the right call, and Remington is to be commended, not condemned, for its handling of the Versa Max.
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