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
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