It sold like crazy
by MATTHEW MOSS
In the late 1950s, Remington took advantage of its parent company DuPont’s expertise in industrial chemistry and developed a revolutionary new firearm.
The Nylon 66 was the first mass-produced, widely-marketed polymer firearm.
Remington designers requested a synthetic material that had a high tensile-impact strength, was resistant to environmental temperature extremes, resistance to abrasion, malleable and able to hold color.
Within months, DuPont offered up Nylon Zytel-101, part of the Nylon 66 family of plastics. Remington initially designated the new rifle “Model 555,” but subsequently named the rifle after the Nylon family of plastics.
The driving force behind development of the polymer rifle was economy. Remington had hoped to reduce manufacturing costs by saving on the material costs of the receiver and stock.
Remington engineers Wayne Leek and Charles Morse oversaw the development of the rifle. A prototype was ready for testing in 1955.
The rifle consisted of two polymer halves fused together with a semi-automatic encased within. The an inexpensive steel cover enclosed the receiver area, the cover was blued and offered a mounting point for the rear sight. A tube magazine, located in the butt, held 14-rounds and loaded from the rear.
The patent, filled in December 1958 and granted in March 1962, describes Remington’s aims. “The principal object of this invention is the provision of a new and improved firearm which can be manufactured and assembled with great economy. At the same time, it is one of our objects to provide for improved functioning of such a firearm through the utilization of unconventional materials providing bearing surfaces of exceptional efficiency.”
Remington began testing the first prototype in 1955, paying particular attention to possible structural weaknesses during the initial, 75,000-round firing test. Testing continued through 1958.
The rifle proved to be extremely reliable — an attribute that became one of the cornerstones of Remington’s marketing scheme. “Looks like a plastic toy — performance and accuracy unbelievable,” Remington salesman Delbert Conner commented in February 1958.
In December 1958, Remington launched the new rifle, describing it as “the rifle of tomorrow.” Buyers loved the new rifle — demand outpaced expectations throughout 1959.
Remington initially offered the Nylon 66 in “Mohawk brown” and “Seneca green,” later adding “Apache black.” The success of the Nylon 66 prompted a whole family of Nylon rifles in the 1960s and ’70s. The Nylon 76 holds the distinction of being the only lever-action rifle Remington ever made.
Remington manufactured the Nylon 66 from 1959 until 1989. The bolt-action Nylon 10, 11 and 12 enjoyed only a brief production run between 1960 and 1962. Remington made the lever-action Nylon 76 between 1962 and 1965 and the magazine-fed Nylon 77 from 1970 to 1972.
The Nylon 66 became Remington’s most successful .22-caliber rifle. Production totaled 1,050,000 weapons.
Originally published at www.historicalfirearms.info.