Image courtesy of Winfield Galleries, winfieldgalleries.com
There were at least four grizzly bear attacks on people in the state of Montana alone in fall 2019, so those out and about in lands roamed by Ursus arctos horribillis need to be prepared. Long before bear spray was a thing, there was the Remington “Autoloading Repeating Rifle,” later redesignated the Remington Model 8, which made its debut in 1906.
The guns were pretty spendy—twice the price of the average levers or pumps of the day—so the Remington Arms Co. commissioned accomplished illustrator Philip R. Goodwin to paint promotional images for catalogs, calendars and the like. This one, “A Grizzly Surprise,” is one of my favorites.
The Remington Model 8 was a locked-breech, long-recoil-operated gun with a rotating bolt head based on John Moses Browning’s design and patents. The distinctive humpback receiver is similar to another Browning design—the Auto-5 shotgun. The rimless cartridges fed well but were a little underpowered compared to, say, the .30-’06 Sprg., and they included the .25, .30, .32 and .35 Remington. In addition to staving off painted grizzly attacks, the guns saw use in the hands of lawmen such as Frank Hamer.
Other Remington ads claimed that the gun was “built to withstand hard service! This hard-hitting, big-game rifle has the most rapid operation with the least disturbance of any rifle made!” Unfortunately, American hunters and shooters didn't take to the novel design, and the Model 8 was outsold by Remington’s slide-action rifles.
In 1936, the Model 8 was updated as the Model 81 “Woodsmaster,” which is covered in Jeremiah Knupp's article, "I Have This Old Gun: Remington Model 81 Woodsmaster." In it, Knupp explains:
"The changes [to the Model 81] were mainly cosmetic, with the Model 8’s straight-grip buttstock gaining a pistol grip. The .25 Rem. chambering was dropped within that first year, and, in 1940, the .300 Sav. was added.
The Model 81 was discontinued in 1950. During its 14-year run, 56,091 had been made. It was replaced in 1955 by Remington’s Model 740, a modern, sleek, gas-operated semi-automatic that was chambered in popular bolt-action rifle cartridges such as .30-’06 Sprg. Post-World War II, returning Garand-trained veterans were more willing to embrace a semi-automatic hunting rifle. In its five years of production almost twice as many Model 740s were sold than all of the Model 8s and 81s in their 44-year production history. The 740 led to Remington’s successful 7-series semi-automatic rifles, which were in production until 2016."
As for me in bear country, I might add the Peace Officer’s Equipment Co. aftermarket magazine, increasing capacity to 15 rounds.
For more information on Remington's line of self-loading rifles, check out "A Century of Remington Autoloading Rifles" by Glenn Gilbert.