A true all-rounder

Charles Smith-jones looks at the Rem­ing­ton semi-au­to­matic shot­gun, which was a long way from per­fect when it were in­tro­duced at the turn of the 19th cen­tury

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Semi-au­to­matic shot­guns have been around for a while, per­haps longer than you might have thought. Early de­signs and their re­li­a­bil­ity were se­verely ham­pered by the black­pow­der car­tridges avail­able at the turn of the 19th cen­tury, which of­fered low lev­els of power to op­er­ate ac­tions that de­pended on re­coil, and whose burned de­posits quickly fouled del­i­cate mech­a­nisms.

Nev­er­the­less, by 1902 the Brown­ing Auto-5 went into pro­duc­tion and was to be­come the first truly suc­cess­ful semi­auto. It worked on a long ac­tion that was en­tirely de­pen­dent on re­coil to eject the fired case be­fore pick­ing up and reload­ing a fresh one. The mech­a­nism in­volved the en­tire bar­rel ex­ten­sion and bolt assem­bly trav­el­ling back­wards, slowed by a spring and fric­tion brake. This ba­sic con­cept was to dom­i­nate semi-auto shot­guns for the next half-cen­tury. It was con­sid­ered re­li­able though cum­ber­some, and the re­coil was very no­tice­able.


In 1956 Rem­ing­ton moved away from re­coil op­er­ated sys­tems and pro­duced its gas-op­er­ated Model 58. This tapped gases from the burn­ing pro­pel­lant through a hole in the bar­rel into a large cham­ber con­tain­ing a pis­ton, which drove the ac­tion bar back­wards, op­er­at­ing the bolt to cy­cle the ac­tion. While lighter and more ef­fi­cient, mag­a­zine ca­pac­ity was lim­ited to two car­tridges, which rather re­duced the at­trac­tive­ness of a gun that could be matched for fire­power by a more de­pend­able dou­ble-bar­relled model. Fur­ther­more, the Model 58 was both ex­pen­sive to man­u­fac­ture and heavy, while very sen­si­tive to dif­fer­ent car­tridge loads and sub­se­quently prone to jam­ming. It was not hugely suc­cess­ful and pro­duc­tion ceased in 1963.

In the same year, a new de­sign com­bined the bet­ter fea­tures of the Model 58 with those of Rem­ing­ton’s ear­lier re­coil op­er­ated Model 11-48. Gas op­er­ated, it too bled off gases through ports in the bar­rel near the fore-end to drive back a steel ac­tion sleeve sit­ting around the mag­a­zine tube. Its ar­rival co­in­cided with the avail­abil­ity of new plas­tic car­tridge shells, and im­proved coatings for pa­per ones, which fur­ther en­hanced re­li­a­bil­ity.

The gun also set new stan­dards in be­ing able to ad­just to a wide va­ri­ety of car­tridge loads and it fi­nally be­came the norm to be able to use both 2¾in and 3in car­tridges in a gun with a Mag­num cham­ber­ing. Re­coil was no­tice­ably gen­tler com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sors and com­peti­tors.

The Rem­ing­ton Model 1100 took the shoot­ing world by storm. It be­came the gun of choice for Skeet shoot­ing at a time when the over-and-un­der did not en­joy its present dom­i­nance. In the less tra­di­tion­ally minded US, it was used for all man­ner of hunt­ing where the side-by-side had once reigned.

The 3in Mag­num mod­els quickly be­came hugely pop­u­lar wild­fowl­ing guns. By the 1980s the 1100 dom­i­nated the Amer­i­can semi-auto mar­ket and, to­day, well over 4mil­lion have been pro­duced.

There have been a num­ber of ver­sions, rang­ing from the bud­get birch-stocked Rem­ing­ton Sports­man 12 Auto to the more or­nate 50th An­niver­sary edi­tion. Oth­er­wise the gun’s fin­ish is work­man­like rather than fancy, though the wood­work is usu­ally wal­nut or ma­hogany, while a Com­pe­ti­tion Syn­thetic ver­sion was in­tro­duced to the range in 2013. There was even a pumpaction ver­sion. De­spite this va­ri­ety, many parts tend to be in­ter­change­able within match­ing cal­i­bres.


If it looks a lit­tle old-fash­ioned against some more mod­ern de­signs, there is still some­thing about the bal­ance and han­dling of the 1100 that makes it in­stinc­tive and a plea­sure to use. The gun has a cer­tain charisma and many peo­ple say that it’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to shoot badly with one. Al­though Rem­ing­ton in­tro­duced the newer Model 11-87 in the 1980, the Model 1100 re­mains highly pop­u­lar.

For a de­sign to last for some 55 years, with only mi­nor up­dates and tweaks along the way, speaks vol­umes. While you have to ex­pect the oc­ca­sional hang up if us­ing lighter clay loads, any­thing above 28g of shot should pro­duce min­i­mal cy­cling prob­lems as long as the gun is kept well main­tained. Spare parts are usu­ally eas­ily sourced.

This is a gun that’s a true all-rounder and equally at home on the clay line, the fore­shore or in a pi­geon hide. Try one and you might just find your­self hooked. You cer­tainly won’t be the first, or in­deed the last.

CHARLES SMITH-JONES SAYS: “For a de­sign to last 55 years, with only mi­nor up­dates and tweaks along the way, speaks vol­umes”

Ad­justable With its ad­justable stock, the 1100 will fit most peo­ple Get a grip The syn­thetic stock and forened makes this a very prac­ti­cal tool for the job

The Sports ver­sion has a 10mm ven­ti­lated top and a white mid-sight and fore­sight

Gas-op­er­ated Rem­ing­ton stuck to its proven gasop­er­ated sys­tem with this gun

The mov­ing metal parts have a nick­el­te­flon coat­ing to help them move eas­ily

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