Gun Digest

Classic Guns: Remington Model 8 Rifle

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The Remington Model 8, and later the Model 81 Woodsmaster, was a classic John Browning designed semi-auto, and one of the earliest to see real success.

The Remington Model 8 semi-automatic rifle was one of the many firearms designed by John M. Browning. Its history goes back to the turn of the 20th Century when Browning was granted a patent for the rifle on October 16, 1900. Production didn’t begin until 1906, and for 5 years it was known simply as the “Remington Autoloading Rifle.” The designation became the Remington Model 8 in 1911, and its production run lasted until 1936, at which time a few design changes were made and the Model 81 was introduced.

Browning made an agreement with Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium to manufacturer the Model 8 as the FN Model 1900 with sales limited to areas outside the United States. The FN model was in production from 1910 until 1929 and was not a big success. Only 4,913 were made and these were sold mainly in Western Europe and Canada.

The Remington Model 8 was essentially a rifle version of the Browning Auto-5 shotgun. The 22-inch barrel was covered by a full-length tube enclosing the recoil spring. The rifle operated on the same type of long recoil action as the Auto-5, in which the barrel and bolt move to the rear of the receiver when fired. They then unlock to eject the fired round and move forward to chamber another one.

Photo courtesy Remington Society.

Leading The Pack
As one of the first successful semi-autos, the Remington Model 8 became quite popular. More than 160,000 Model 8s and 81s were sold from 1906 until 1950, when the 81 went out of production. Here’s a breakdown of production figures:

Remington Autoloading Rifle (1906-1911) 26,000
Model 8 (1911-1936) 80,600
Model 81 (1936-1950) 55,581
Total production 162,181

The Remington Model 8 gave birth to several new cartridges: .25 Remington, .30 Remington, .32 Remington and .35 Remington. The .35 Remington was the most popular and still is today. These are all rimless cartridges and were designed to reliably operate from the Model 8’s five-round fixed magazine. The most sought-after chambering for the Model 8 is the .25 Remington. Buyers should be expected to pay a premium of 30 to 35 percent for this caliber.

Photo courtesy

The Model 81 was introduced in 1936, and the .25 Remington was dropped a year later. The .300 Savage was added in 1940 and the .32 Remington was not made after WWII. Since very few .25 Remington Model 81s were made, a premium of 30 to 35 percent would also apply for this model.

The Models 8 and 81 were both offered in high-grade models with engraving and better walnut stocks. These were known as the A, C, D, E and F grades, sometimes referred to as Standard, Special, Peerless, Expert and Premier grades.

Another special series was the Police Model. These models featured higher capacity magazines holding 10, 15 or 20 rounds, some with larger fore-ends and some featuring engraving for individual police departments. The Peace Officer’s Equipment (POE) of St. Joseph, Missouri, was the major source for these customized police rifles, and another was Hawkeye Protective Appliance Co. of Des Moines, Iowa.

Remington recognized an opportunity to extend its market for the Model 81 and, in 1938, began plans to create Special Police models, in some cases working with the POE company. Limited numbers of these Model 81 Police Models were manufactured, but no source apparently has info on how many. Buyers should expect to pay a substantial premium for one of these.

Photo courtesy Texas Ranger Museum.

A Semi-Auto Celebrity
The most famous Model 8 is the Bonnie and Clyde rifle. This is the rifle carried by former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, who came out of retirement in 1934 to go after the infamous depression-era bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Hamer bought his Model 8 in .35 Remington at Petmeckey’s Sporting Goods Store in Austin and had it fitted with a 20-round magazine by the POE company. He trailed Bonnie and Clyde for several weeks before leading the assault — really more of an ambush — on May 23rd, 1934, on Louisiana Highway 154 in Bienville Parish that abruptly ended the couple’s career in the banking business.

The posse included six police officers, four from Texas (including Hamer) and two from Louisiana. Each one had a shotgun, handgun and a semi-auto rifle. At least one of the rifles was a Browning BAR, and it’s likely that, in addition to Hamer’s, some of the others were Model 8s. News reports at the time said more than 130 rounds were fired into Bonnie and Clyde’s Ford V-8, killing them instantly. There were subsequent reports that Frank Hamer’s rifle was a Model 81, obviously incorrect since the 81 was not introduced until 1936. His Model 8 is on display at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco.

The Model 81 remained in production through 1950, and it was 5 years before Remington replaced it with the Model 740, a gas-operated semi-auto that picked up the Woodsmaster nickname from the earlier Models 8 and 81. The 740 evolved into the 742, 7400 and 750 through the years, with the 750 being discontinued at the end of 2016, leaving the R-15/R-25 AR-types as the only centerfire semi-auto rifles in the Remington line.

Here are some estimated values of the Model 8 and Model 81 series, courtesy of Standard Catalog of Firearms 2017 Edition:

Photo courtesy Rock Island Auction Company.

Model 8
Add 35 percent for .25 Remington caliber. Add 75 percent for Grade C, 100 percent or more for higher grades.

Standard Grade
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$1,400 $1,200 $800 $550 $250 $125
Model 8A
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$1,600 $1,300 $900 $600 $300 $150
Model 8C
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$3,000 $2,500 $1,500 $900 $500 $300
Model 8D Peerless
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$6,000 $5,000 $3,500 $1,750 $800 $400
Model 8E Expert
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$7,500 $6,000 $4,000 $2,250 $1,100 $450
Model 8F Premier
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$10,000 $8,500 $7,500 $3,750 $1,600 $700

Photo courtesy Rock Island Auction Company.

Model 81
Add 300 percent for police model with high-capacity magazine.

Standard Grade
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$1,100 $900 $750 $500 $250 $125
Model 81A
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$1,200 $1,000 $850 $500 $250 $125
Model 81D Peerless
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$7,500 $6,000 $4,000 $2,250 $1,100 $450
Model 81F Premier
NIB Exc. V.G. Good Fair Poor
$10,000 $8,500 $7,500 $3,750 $1,600 $700

Editor's Note: This “Collector's Corner” column is an excerpt from the September 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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