CHRISTMAS, 1979, and my Old Man was at it again with his traditional – “Well, Jake,” he’d say with as mischievous a smile as my Old Man ever mustered. “You’d better look under the couch. There just might be something there for you.”
Or maybe it was another of his favorites, the box of ammunition with the handwritten note inside; the note, like his one-liner, directing me to peer into the darkness that was the underside of the davenport. Either way, the Old Man got his point across – there was something under the sofa, and I best be looking for it.
I was 15 that Christmas, and a veteran, or so I thought, of some seven hunting seasons. I had graduated from school to school in terms of field firearms, many of which you folks have read about here – a single-shot H&R .410, a Stevens M107B 20-gauge, and a Winchester M24 16-gauge double, to name but a handful of my diplomas.
But this year – 1979 – Boy Howdy, I’d hit the big time, for there was something underneath the sofa. A long green cardboard box bearing the white script REMINGTON across the top. Inside, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, including any icky ‘ole girl I’d encountered throughout the whole of my middle school career.
Laying there, encased in flaking white styrofoam, was THE shotgun – Big Green’s Model 1100 semi-automatic. Mine was identical to the Old Man’s never-without field piece, only instead of his 12-bore, mine was of a gauge to which I’d grown most accustomed – the 16. Here was my version of Ralphie “A Christmas Story” Parker’s Red Ryder BB gun, minus, of course, the compass in the stock. From his perch in his faux leather reclining chair, the Old Man watched, just a hint of a grin on his lips. Christmas, that year, was a success on several different fronts.
That was – Holy Cats! – 32 years ago, and since being first assembled later that same Christmas morning, the M1100 16-gauge has accounted for multitudinous species of North American game and fowl, including several whitetails.
It’s interesting to note that upon my receipt of the shotgun in ‘79, dedicated slug barrels, smoothbore or otherwise, weren’t available. Fortunately, my Uncle Jim owned a sporting goods store, and was able, I know not how, to obtain a shortened, no-rib tube for the 16 to which he had brazed a set of adjustable iron sights.
At least half a dozen Ohio whitetails fell to that combo over the years, including my first buck. Prairie chickens, sharp tails, ruffed grouse, doves, pigeons, snipe, rails, woodcock, teal, Canada geese; the only fowl not on the list for the M1100 is a wild turkey. But, should you be interested, I’ll keep you posted on that matter following this Spring season here in Iowa.
The first thing my Old Man did upon getting my new prize down into his corner of the basement was to, step by step, demonstrate the disassembly/assembly process. Having owned an M1100 since 1970, Pop was quite familiar with the mechanical workings of the autoloader. Today, in fact, he has enough spare parts – highly organized, mind you – to build a complete new shotgun, if, that is, he’d so wish.
Secondly, the Old Man’s rule on shotgun maintenance was, and still is, quite simple – if you take a gun into the field, it gets wiped down afterwards; if you shoot that gun, it gets broken down, cleaned, and reassembled. But I digress.
Though there have been some slight internal modifications to the M1100 over the past three decades, the gas-operated semi-automatic appears, both inside and out, much as it did back in The Day.
Outwardly, the M1100 – we’ll use my 16-gauge here as an exhibition item – falls, at least to me, somewhere between Moderately Ornate and Plain Jane. The American walnut stock and fore-end are finished in a high-gloss epoxy coating, with both the pistol grip and the underside of the fore-end being handsomely, albeit simply, checkered.
Present is the hard black plastic grip cap inlaid with Remington’s traditional, though now sadly absent, elongated white diamond. Both the receiver and barrel are blued; the left and right sides of the receiver sport tasteful engraved scrollwork, as does the chrome bolt.
The barrel, in this case a 28-inch tube, is topped with a wide ¼-inch pillared rib, and culminates in a fixed modified choke. Newer guns, not surprisingly, feature Big Green’s interchangeable Rem-Choke system. A single 3mm silver bead sits atop the muzzle. The M1100’s cross-bolt safety sits where it should – behind the trigger guard. The bolt/carrier release button is located underneath the receiver as an integral part of the carrier/elevator.
To disassemble the Old School M1100 is to understand its inner workings. Inside the fore-end and riding the magazine tube, two gas pistons – or, technically, a gas piston and a gas piston seal – assist in the gas-metering process.
Usable pressure enters the mechanism via two ports located underneath the barrel in the upper portion of the gas cylinder; the gas cylinder slides over the magazine tube as the firearm is reassembled. Upon firing, gas pressure forces the action bar assembly — it too riding the magazine tube — and bolt rearward. A metal link or rod connecting the bolt and bolt plate slides back, compressing the recoil spring in the stock.
The kinetic energy created assists in returning the bolt, bolt plate, and action bar assembly forward and into a firing position. In the midst of this instantaneous process, a fresh shotshell is released from the magazine, and elevated into an active loading position via a carrier.
My Personal Report Card
I’ll admit it; I’m biased and not entirely unsentimental when it comes to Remington’s Old School M1100, especially should that piece, like mine, come in a 16-gauge format. I mean really, what’s not to like about a gun that looks good, cleans up easily, and works each and every time you pull the trigger?
True, I’ve heard that the newer generation autoloaders from Big Green have had their issues; we won’t even broach the subject of the ill-fated Model Cti105. Still, I believe it says something about a firearm, and here I’m speaking specifically of my M1100, when I say that after 32 years and tens of thousands of rounds, this particular autoloader still sports her original rubber O-Ring – as fragile a part as was ever put on this field piece.
Honestly, I can’t recall one mechanical misfortune where this shotgun is concerned, and I believe if you ask him, my Pop would say the same about his M1100. Perhaps it’s true; they – whoever they are – just don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Now for the bad news. If you’ve read this and are thinking – “Boy, howdy! I’d love to get my hands on one of those Old School M1100’s in a 16-gauge!” – well, you probably have your work cut out for you.
There are guns out there. However, many you find on the Internet are Remington’s reintroduction of the M1100 16-gauge, this one built on a 12-gauge frame, and thus not a “true” 16 to my way of thinking. That said, I did run across one of these 12/16-gauge pieces, new in the box, with a 26-inch barrel and three choke tubes at gunsamerica.com for $650. Other new/old examples averaged from $200 to $400.
This article appeared in the May 9, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
The Gun Digest Guide to Modern Shotgunning by L.P. Brezny explores the recent popularity of and fascination with shotguns and shotgun sports, from clay bird competitions and hunting, to home- and personal-defense uses, as well as their general affordability sparking interest from gun buyers. Learn more about these applications, as well as shotgun accessories for self-defense, hunting, and target shooting. Discover a variety of shotgun ammunition choices, from .410-bore to 10-gauge, and get action breakdowns for every type of the popular firearm-pump, semi-auto, and double-barrels.