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Remington Model 12

Remington Model 12A

The Model 12 was introduced in 1909 and was produced through 1936.  During that time period, Remington produced 831,737 Model 12 rifles, making it one of Remington's more popular firearms ever made.  The Model 12 was replaced by the model 121, which represented more of an update than a redesign.  The Model 121 stayed in production until 1954 with almost 200,000 built. 

Remington Model 12

My Model 12 dates towards the end of the production run.  According to the barrel date code, the gun (or at least the barrel) dates to June 1930.  In the picture below, the 'P' indicates the month June, and the 'Y' indicates 1930.  The barrel date code tables can be found at the Remington Society of America webpage.

Remington Model 12 Barrel Date Code

According to serial number records (which are apparently not completely accurate), the serial number 813,0xx dates to mid-year 1932.  I have been told that if the Remington factory re-barreled the rifle, they would have stamped a new date code on it, as well as the number '3'.  So either it has been re-barreled privately at some point in its life, or the serial number record keeping was not accurate.  In any case, it was about 80 years old when I got it.

The Model 12 came in many grades.  Mine is the basic 12A as evidenced by the round barrel and the standard buttstock with the flat plastic buttplate.  The fancier grade rifles had a curved steel 'crescent' shaped buttplate and octagonal barrels.

This rifle is a pump-action .22 rifle that interchangeably shoots .22 short, long, or Long Rifle.  From what I can glean on the internet, there was a design change around 1926 or so (approximately at serial number 650,000) where some of the internals were simplified.  The resulting design for those late version model 12 firearms are more like the Model 121.  As a result, the parts lists that you can find via Google seem to be more accurate for my gun if I look at the model 121 diagrams.

I bought this particular gun in decent, but well-used condition with the intention of fixing it up as a restoration project.  The bluing had acquired a slight brown patina in spots.  The barrel bore was bright and shiny, but the rifling looks a bit faint to me.  I can't tell yet if the rifling is all worn out, or if the barrel just needs a good cleaning to get 75 years of lead out of the rifling grooves.

The stock has a number of "extra bonus" screw holes in it.  I think it must have had some kind of peep sight on it at one point, given the location of some of the screw holes in the stock.  The front sight is stamped Lyman.  Unfortunately, the front sight but it is pretty beat up: it has been hand filed at some point.  The current rear sight is a Marbles, which was an aftermarket accessory.

The action operates smoothly, but I want to take everything apart and check out all the pieces before I take it to the range.   

One last look before it comes apart:

Remington Model 12Disassembly

The best way to bond with a new rifle is to take it apart.  It's especially interesting if the action is something you haven't seen before.  This Model 12 is the first pump-action rifle I have owned, so it is definitely coming apart.


Design Observations

The action on this rifle is fast and tight.  It snaps back and snaps forward again and locks into place with no slop.  You have to work the action "with purpose" though.  The Model 12 does not tolerate anything except a quick, deliberate stroke backwards and then forwards again.  In contrast, my Winchester 9422 lever action can be cocked with your fingers as slow or as fast as you feel like.  All the while, the Winchester lever action is smooth as butter.  At first, I thought it was weird that the Model 12 would lock the action at the end of the return stroke, but after thinking about it for a couple seconds, it made complete sense: by locking the action, the forend grip is solid for accurate aiming.  In contrast, the Winchester does not lock its action when the cocking lever returns to the grip, but then it does not need to do so: the forend grip is solidly attached at all times.

In most other respects, the basic design internals of a Model 12 pump action is quite similar to the 9422 lever action.  They both employ variants on the same basic mechanisms to regulate the introduction of a new cartridge from the magazine tube, to lift the cartridge from below via a lever arm along a grooved bolt face, etc.  The Model 12 locks the bolt to the receiver at the top-front of the bolt, while the Winchester locks the bolt from the top-rear of the bolt, but otherwise the same basic idea.

One thing that is a little annoying to me is that it would appear that the gun is not designed to be dry-fired.  I can see a faint imprint on the barrel where the firing pin has been banging over the years.  The thing is: much like Dirty Harry, I can never remember how many shots I have fired, so the empty magazine always takes me by surprise.  That would work out to about 1 dry fire every 10-12 shots, or about 8-10% of the time.  That seems like a lot of dry-fire abuse for someone who would never purposefully dry-fire the gun.  I found that it is possible to tilt the rifle on its side and watch to see if a new cartridge loads on the return stroke, but that kind of defeats the point of a pump action where you don't want to take your eye off the target.  Maybe I will finally have to learn to count.

In another design observation, the way that the Model 12 uses the firing pin to eject spent cartridges is a bit weird to me.  On the one hand, it might appear to simplify things by re-using the firing pin for two separate operations: firing and ejecting.  On the other hand, I don't really see how it made the design simpler or more reliable: there are about 5 extra parts required to create the ejection spring mechanism that impinges on the firing pin at the end of the bolt travel.  Maybe someone else held the patents on a simpler mechanism when the gun was designed.

Finally, you can't argue that the overall design is a bit complex.  I like the looks of a tubular magazine, but it is clear that a semi-auto with a detachable box magazine can be done with a far simpler feeding/extraction mechanism.  It is much more convenient for the bolt in a semi-auto design to simply strip a cartridge from the top of a magazine than to go through the gyrations involved in changing the direction of motion of a cartridge from a tubular magazine, lifting it into position, and then inserting it into a chamber.  That said, you can't argue that the designers of bygone days figured out the intricacies of the tubular magazine mechanisms, and made it work really well.

Range Report

After putting everything back together, I took the rifle over to the range for a test fire.  Other than shooting 6 inches high at 15 yards, it was fine.  I fired 200 rounds of mixed high-velocity shorts, CB longs, subsonic long rifle, and high-velocity long rifle.  The rifle cycled everything flawlessly, even when the various kinds of ammo were mixed in the same magazine load.  Just like Remington advertised all those years ago. 

The only thing that bugs me is the sights.  I think they are meant for people who still have 20/20 vision.  The front blade is really thin, and the rear (aftermarket) Marbles sight is a really broad, deep V.  My eyes apparently have a hard time accurately picking up the sight picture.  I prefer a more simplistic square notch with a big square post up front.  Of course, that is a personal preference, so no big deal.

Anyway it was a lot of fun, even at the range where the list of rules is about as long as this webpage.  I think it will be a good time when we go camping in the desert and no one cares if you want to rapid fire a pump action like it was designed to do.

To-Do List

It will be worth it in the end.