Now for the first time the hunter has available to him a gas-operated semiautomatic in .30-’06 caliber-the same sort of rifle that our doughboys used with such success in World War II and in Korea. This interesting newcomer to the hunting field is made by Remington, and is called the Model 740 Woodsmaster Autoloader.
Of course, there have been many semi-automatic hunting rifles on the market before, but none in the class of this new Remington. Perhaps the first was the Winchester Model 1905 Self-Loader, made for the low-powered .35 Winchester Self-Loading cartridge and the .32 Winchester Self-Loading cartridge. These were straight blowback guns, with a heavy inertia weight in the hollow forearm to keep the breech from opening too fast. They were poorly balanced, and too low in power to be really satisfactory even for deer. They were followed by the more powerful Model 1907, for the .351 Winchester Self-Loading, and the Model 1910 for the .401 Winchester Self-Loading cartridges. The last two were adequate in power for deer, but as they had to have a bigger inertia weight, they were even more unbalanced than the Model 1905, which was discontinued in 1920. The Model 1910 lasted until 1936. The Model 1907 is still made, principally as a police weapon. In 1911 I saw these guns in the sporting goods store of my friend, Mr. Bruce, of Pensacola, Florida, and he let me try them out. They jammed too much for me, and no doubt most hunters felt the same way, for these guns soon disappeared from the market.
Before the advent of the Standard, Remington had introduced their Model 8 autoloader of Browning design in the same four calibers already mentioned in connection with the Standard. In fact, the Standard was simply made for the autoloading cartridges already made popular by Remington. The Remington autoloaders, introduced in 1906, were long-recoil operated, with the barrel moving inside a barrel jacket, which also enclosed the barrel return spring.
Back in 1911, I owned two of these Remington autoloaders, one in .25 and the other in .3 5 caliber. They were accurate and fairly reliable, but were vicious kickers, especially the .35.
Modernized at later date
In 1936, the. Remington Model 8 was superseded by the Model 81, which was essentially the same thing, with a few changes to simplify the manufacture. The Model 81 was discontinued in 1952 to make way for the new rifle that the company knew was coming before long. Besides the autoloaders, Remington also made a line of slide-operated highpower hunting rifles for the four cartridges already mentioned-the .25, .30, .32, and .35 Remington. This was the Remington Model 14 line, brought out in 1912, and re-named the Model 141 in 1936. These rifles were designed by the late J. D. Pedersen, and were highly successful. However, the company was dreaming of a slide-action in the .30-’06 caliber, and so the Model 141 was discontinued in 1950 to permit the sale of all those then on hand before the new gun was brought out in February 1952, when the slide-operated Remington 760 Gamemaster appeared in the .30-’06, .300 Savage, and .35 Remington calibers. The importance of this gun to our story is in the fact that the new Remington Model 740 Woodsmaster autoloading rifle is simply the Model 760 with the slide operated by gas impulse rather than by hand.
An important safety factor
The new rifle has a nicely streamlined receiver, with a curved wall of steel between the mechanism and the eye of the shooter, in the manner of the usual pump-action shotgun, which it somewhat resembles. This gives it a highly important safety factor. The fact that there are no crevices. or openings in the solid breech is a great protection in case of a punctured primer or a split case, or a gas leak from any cause. The right-handed shooter would seem to be completely protected from eye injuries due to gas leaks. The left-handed shooter is not in quite so favorable a position, as there is of necessity a slot in the right side of the receiver for the operating handle, and in case of a leaky primer some gas might come back to the right of the shooter. But even so, this new rifle eliminates one of the great weaknesses of the modern bolt action, which is the fact that there is usually a channel from the cartridge head back through the mechanism to the eye of the shooter, so that any gas leak is almost certain to result in an eye injury unless shooting glasses are worn.
The short-lived Standard
In 1910, the Standard Automatic, made by a firm in Wilmington, Delaware, appeared on the market. It was made for the .25 Remington, the .30 Remington, the .32 Remington, and the .35 Remington. The first three were good deer cartridges; the .35 was a bit more powerful, but not in the class of the .30-’06. The Standard rifle was a fixed barrel, gas-operated semi-automatic, which could also be used as a hand-operated slide-action job when desired by shutting off the gas system. In both the 740 and the 760, the bolt has a four-segment interrupted thread locking system, something like that used in big naval guns. The amount of locking surface is said by the factory to be greater than that in the usual rotating bolt, and should be more than ample. The bolt head has a short spiral cam on each side and, when the slide goes to the rear, a pin in each of these spiral slots rotates the bolt to the unlocked position.
There is a gas port in the barrel, 8 1/2 inches from the breech end, or 13 1/2 inches from the muzzle. A tube from the gas port, called the gas jet, leads the gas into a hollow drilled into a rather weighty piece inside the forearm, called the action bar sleeve. When the gun is fired, the action of the gas coming through the gas port, after the bullet has passed it, throws the action bar sleeve smartly to the rear. Riveted to the action bar sleeve is the U-shaped action bar, the rear end of which snaps onto the bolt body.
When the action bar sleeve is thrown to the rear, it carries the action bar and, consequently, the bolt body with it. The two cam pins in the bolt body, acting in the spiral cam slots in the bolt head, first rotate the bolt to the unlocked position, then pull it to the rear, extracting the cartridge. As the bolt goes back, it cocks the hammer, also extracts and ejects the empty cartridge. The action spring, which is coiled around the action tube inside the forearm, then returns the action slide forward again, causing the bolt to close and lock, carrying a fresh cartridge from the magazine into the chamber.
There is a separate box-type magazine holding four cartridges which, with one already in the chamber, gives the rifle a capacity of five. After the last shot, the magazine follower rises and holds the action open. On the left side of the bottom portion of the magazine is a lever called the bolt release, which when pressed pulls down the magazine follower and lets the action close. When the last shot has been fired and the gun remains open, the gun may be reloaded by dropping a cartridge into the breech opening and pressing the bolt release, first of course putting the safety on "Safe" by pushing it to the right. The safety is of the cross-bolt type, which locks the trigger only.
Magazine easily removed
The magazine may be removed from the gun by pressing forward the magazine catch on the right side at the rear of the magazine. After the magazine has been refilled, it is replaced in the gun. Instructions that come with the rifle state: "To insert magazine, slide the rear end of the magazine about 1/2 inch into the receiver, tip the front end into the opening, and push until the magazine clicks into place in the locked position."
That sounds simple enough, but with the rifle we have it just wouldn't work unless the magazine release was pushed forward at the same time. Every attempt to insert the magazine as directed, without pushing the magazine release, resulted in a miserable jam, with the magazine partly in and partly out and stuck so tightly that it couldn't be moved until we got a screwdriver and pried the front end down from inside the breech opening. This happened not just once, but nearly every time we tried it, and with everyone who handled the gun. It would be exasperating indeed, and sometimes dangerous, to have such a jam happen in the woods. We tried the magazine from our Model 760, which is identical except for the follower (not made with a square rear end to hold the bolt open), and bolt release. With it we had no trouble, so we discussed this difficulty with the factory. They have assured us that a slight change in design has eliminated this annoyance, and that it does not exist in guns now leaving the plant.
The receiver and most working parts of this rifle are made of steel, but the trigger guard and housing for the fire control group, called the trigger plate, is made of aluminum alloy. When we took this out of the gun and looked it over we at once saw that it is practically identical with the same part for the Remington Model 760 Gamemaster rifle, and basically the same as that for the Remington Model 870 Wingmaster shotgun and the Remington Model 1148 autoloading shotgun.
In fact, the whole general appearance of the Model 740 Woodsmaster rifle and the three guns just mentioned is the same. They have the same receiver shape, the same’ trigger shape, and the same general overall appearance, and make a fine-looking family of guns.
For good reason
This resemblance is more than skin deep. The recently designed Remington shotguns and rifles show similar characteristics and methods of manufacture, all of which are aimed at one thing economy of production. The result is, the purchaser gets more gun for the price he has to pay.
The Remington Model 740 has the important advantage, common to other gas-operated semi-automatics, of a fixed barrel. It has the disadvantage of a tendency to get smoked up from the sooty gas deposit, which works into the mechanism in a few shots. While messy looking, this does no harm provided the ammunition has noncorrosive primers.
The cleaning instructions which accompany the rifle suggest cleaning certain parts of the rifle, from time to time, by washing them with petroleum solvent, brushed into the crevices, then allowing the parts to dry, and afterwards oiling them carefully. The fore-end parts will be the first to foul up and the dirtiest. The fore-end is simply removed by loosening the fore-end screw until the fore-end can be pulled off toward the muzzle. Wipe the metal liner inside the fore-end with a rag soaked with solvent, then dry and oil. The parts attached to the barrel which are exposed when the fore-end is removed ’should be brushed with solvent, allowed to dry, then oiled carefully. The gas jet is self-cleaning, and requires no special attention.
Next, the fire control group, contained in the trigger plate, should be removed and cleaned. This is done by driving out the front and rear trigger plate pins. Now by pulling back on the operating handle the mechanism can be opened enough to permit the bolt and other inside parts to be brushed with solvent, after which they should be drained, dried, and re-oiled.
The instructions state: "This is a solid frame rifle. The barrel and gas operating mechanism should not be dismounted unless absolutely necessary. Even then the work should be done by a qualified gunsmith to be sure the parts are correctly re-assembled."
If you are going to disregard these instructions, which we do not recommend, you will have to remove the barrel bracket nut with a spanner, taking care that you do not let the action spring become kinked as it is released. To take out the bolt, which is attached to the action bar, you will have to remove the operating handle, which is pinned in by a pin that can be driven out from above, though this pin is hard to get at and the operation is difficult unless you have just the right tools.
This gun is constructed so that it has sufficient flexibility of action to operate without adjustment with any commercial .30-’06 loads.
Two styles available
These guns are made in two stylesone, called the 740A, is fitted with a stock adapted for iron sights; the other, called the 740 ADL, has a high comb stock especially suited to telescopic sights.