The forgotten Remington pump centerfires.
Firearms manufacturers must have some way to tell things apart and the most common way is to use model numbers. Sometimes a model will get a name or even a combination of name and number--the 870 Wingmaster comes easily to mind, And in the scheme of identifying similar models it is very common to have a letter stuck on the end like the Winchester Model 52: A, B, C or D. But it is rare to have the number plus a fraction. Smith & Wesson did it once, Stevens a couple of times and Remington did it once. Which brings us to their Model 14 1/2 slide action--or pump if you prefer--that has me much enamored.
Keeping Up With The Winchesters
Back in 1908 Remington wanted something to compete with Winchester's famed Model 94 but the faster, smoother operation of a pump gun had a lot of advantages. Remington was already making pump shotguns (the Model 10), and .22 rifles (the Model 12) that were designed by John D. Pedersen. Most of us know his name because of the Pedersen device of World War I, but he was a gifted designer who was the backbone of Remington guns during the early years of the 20th Century.
Pedersen was given the assignment to design a high-power pump to compete with Winchester's lever actions. That he did and the Model 14 was launched in 1912. It brought with it a whole family of rimless cartridges that were counterparts of the rimmed family of Model 94 rounds. There was the .25 Remington, analogous to the .25-35; the .30 Remington (.30-30) and the .32 Remington (.32 Winchester Special). Later they would add the .35 Remington.
The Model 14 was butter smooth and Pedersen cleverly designed a magazine tube with a spiral groove that allowed pointed cartridges to he loaded in the tubular magazine without fear of unexpected noises.
It is logical to conclude that competitiveness led Remington, in 1914, to offer a pump chambered for the cartridges that were synonymous with the Model 92 Winchester. They elected to offer the .38-40 and .44-40 chamberings in a rifle only slightly different from the Model 14. Maybe that's why they called it the 14 1/2? The two cartridges were known to be popular with law enforcement and were widely used as guard guns.
A Better Design?
Both the 14 and 14 1/2 offered substantial advantages over the lever actions in speed of operation and ease of loading. The Pedersen design had a loading gate on the bottom of the magazine tube with a cover that lifted a bit to expose the magazine follower. After the first round was inserted the bullet of the next pushed the rim of the preceding cartridge up the tube. To me it is ever so much easier to load than the lever action. The loading gate doesn't scrape off brass or skin.
One of the things that gives the Remington such a smooth action is the fact that the action bar and magazine tube move together. It a little startling to see the magazine tube move, but it slides freely within one or two barrel bands, I always thought that contributed to the easy, reliable feeding. Some of the magazines have a part called a "brush guard" that is present to deflect debris from getting between the magazine tube and barrel.
One of Pedersen's less glowing claims to fame is that his designs tended to be complicated--maybe excessively so. Ingenious absolutely, but manufacture was sometimes difficult due to the complex interaction of parts. The 14 is that way and while it is beautifully easy to take apart for storage or cleaning--there is a single screw--woe be unto the unwary guy who takes the bolt apart.
There are pieces in there that remain something of a mystery after more than a little study. The good news is that you don't need to take it apart either. The bolt can get by nicely with a drop of oil now and then. All the cleaning you need to do can be accomplished by removing the stock and then carefully removing the bolt as a unit. The connection between the bolt and action bar is a hook on the bar that engages a slot on the bolt. It takes a bit of manipulating at first until you learn how it goes and then the bolt slips on easily.
In the beginning the Model 14 sold briskly with a total production of 71,440 between 1912 and 1919. The problem is that both the 14 and 14 1/2 were lumped together in a serial number range that ran from number 1 so there is no way to precisely know the production of any caliber or model variation. After 1919 things slowed down, and the 14 1/2 was discontinued in 1925 after a total of 93,586 rifles of both models were made.
The Model 14 continued in the line until it was replaced by the Model 141 in 1936. Total production was 125,052. To further complicate things Remington offered both rifle (22") and carbine (18.5") barrels. On the carbines you could have it with or without a saddle ring at no extra charge. To indicate the carbine styles the letter "R" was appended to the model number.
One very unusual feature was the location of the bolt release which appears as a pushbutton at the top rear of the bolt. We're much more accustomed to seeing these as levers at the bottom of the receiver so a button on the bolt is a sure clue that it's a 14 or 14 1/2. Another is the presence of what appears to be a brass cartridge case head on the left side of the receiver. It has the cartridge designation but is, in fact, a brass plug that is put there to cover a hole that is needed for a locating pin during manufacture. It is also said that the plug would blow out to open a vent in the event of a case rupture.
Many of these plugs have what appears to be a primer, even down to the distinctive "U" stamped on early Remington primers. The first time I saw one without the primer I assumed somebody had knocked it out but the fact was that somewhere along the way Remington quit putting them there. The case heads are flush with the receiver on early guns, but protrude a bit on later versions.
Measurement shows that the plug is a little smaller than an actual cartridge rim and the so-called primer pocket isn't the right size either. It's interesting to note that the caliber designation on the plug says, for example, 44 REM but the barrel just forward is marked, for example, "44-40 Rem." or "44 WCF".
Both the 14 and 14 1/2 had a rear sight with a little adjusting wheel that sat quite low on the barrel. The front sights are typically very low and most seem to have a setscrew that can be loosened to adjust windage. Later in life the rear sight was changed to the typical sliding elevation adjustment but it's pretty common to see a small cut in the barrel just forward of the rear sight. This is an artifact from the older sight which required someplace for the base of the wheel to sit to prevent the whole thing from rotating.
Apparently they had quite a few barrels in stock and just used them up. All of the guns are factory drilled and tapped for tang sights from either Lyman or Marble. The location is a bit unusual for there is no upper tang like we're used to on Winchesters, so there are two holes on the rearmost section of the receiver and when the proper tang sight is installed it actually extends back over the stock quite a bit. I've seen some styles that have a hole where a wood screw can go into the stock, but most rely on the two receiver screws which really are plenty.
And then there were the grades: Standard, Special, Peerless, Expert and Premier distinguished by the quality of the wood and degree of embellishment. The Premier Grade, in 1914 cost $105 (Standard was $20). I've never seen one and shudder to think what it would be worth today.
Questionable Design Change
One of the most unusual variations has what was called the "thumbnail safety." Both models began life with a push button safety at the rear of the trigger guard but for reasons that arc positively mysterious the safety was moved to the bolt in the form of a slide that went up and down. It was grooved to be easily moved with a fingernail.
When the safety was pushed down the word "safe" was visible on the bolt. And just to make life fun for collectors they also made some guns with the normal safety also but some had that hole blocked it still looked like the safety but didn't move. In order to make the thumbnail safety more accessible there was a small clearance cut at the bottom of the receiver ejection port. And, you guessed it, we see guns with the clearance cut and normal bolts.
It is estimated that the thumbnail safety was only produced for a year or two between 1919 and 1920. That really was a bad idea so it didn't last too long and, having tried to use one, I cannot imagine anyone being able to operate the thing easily or with any speed. That may even lend credence to one story about why they made the thumbnail safety in the first place. We know that the Remingtons were popular with law enforcement and prisons so the legend goes that the thumbnail safety was made so thai if a prisoner got a guard's gun he would not know how to work it.
As a result of my affliction several friends have caught the bug from me so over the last few years I've been able to look at quite a few of these slick little guns and have come to believe no two are exactly alike. Buttplates are crescent or flat, smooth or grooved, tang up or down and the markings change--randomly it seems.
It's really too bad that the cowboy's guns gotta have hammers because a 14 1/2 would sure show some lever guns it's dust. But that doesn't mean they aren't useable. With retro in the 14 1/2 is a dandy 100-yard plinker and will terrorize cans at that distance. I'm sure lots of game has been taken with those cartridges too. but they are underpowered by today's standards for anything other than small game.
Not so with the Model 14s though. The problem here is ammo for only the .35 Remington remains in production today but handloaders won't have any trouble at all. .30 Remington brass is readily available and .32 Remington is easily formed from it with a neck expander that is standard equipment on Redding dies. The .30 Remington can explore the entire range of .30 caliber bullets and it is great fun with the Speer 100-grain Plinker.
The .32 suffers a bit in bullet availability. There are several good bullets for the .35 Remington and also something you may not find in the loading manuals. One of my favorite plinking loads in the .35 is a 158-grain semi-wad-cutter revolver bullet with 8 to 10 grains of Unique. That gives 1,000 to 1,200 fps and is deadly accurate.
Any of these sleek rifles can be lots of fun without a steep pricetag. As is always true with older guns condition rules. You can expect to pay much more for a gun that looks new, but you can also find nice examples for much less than a comparable Winchester Model 92 or 94 chambered for similar cartridges. One somewhat surprising observation is that the bores of most of the guns I've seen are remarkably good considering that many of them were made when black powder was still in use and non-corrosive primers were unknown.
The action is surely strong enough for any factory equivalent load but the 14s really seem to benefit from lighter stuff. The guns are not too heavy so the factory loads for the .30, .32 and .35 Remingtons are stiff aplenty for deer and similar game. But for me the 14 1/2 is king. It is pure fun and isn't that the real reason most of us shoot?
When I began to study these rifles the published production figures sounded like a lot of guns. But consider that the total of just over 125,000 was divided between two models chambered for a total of six different cartridges with rifle and carbine variations of each all at once that doesn't seem like many at all.
My study of these rifles has included an awful lot of gun shows and frequent visits to web sites where such things are sometimes found. In the absence of hard numbers from the factory we're left with impressions: rifles are far more common than carbines, .30 and .35 are the most common calibers, .25s are like hen's teeth and model 14s far outnumber 14 1/2s. Among those there seems to be a slight edge toward the .38-40. Thumbnail safeties are rare and the scarcest of all would be a saddle ring carbine Model 14 1/2 with a thumbnail safety.
Other Remington Pumps
Remington had also been making a .22-caliber pump known as the Model 12 and in 1922 that basic design was reworked and updated to become the Model 25. These were made in both .32-20 and .25-20 but it isn't easy to separate them from the much more common .22s. To me the best giveaway is to look at how the magazine is loaded.
The Model 12 has the common tube that moves forward to open a slot shaped very much like a cartridge, but the Model 25 has a hinged loading gate on the right side just forward of the receiver. Loading is the easiest of all tubular magazine centerfires for you can easily see the magazine follower or the base of the preceding cartridge and push it with the bullet of the next round.
The Model 25 was made in both rifle and carbine lengths and also in the same grades as the Model 14. Production didn't last as long and it was discontinued in 1935 with total production of a little over 25,000 guns.
To me the beauty of all Pedersen's pump rifles is their smooth action and ease of loading. Of the original high power cartridges only the .35 Remington remains in production as a factory round but it's possible to find all the others from small specialty loaders and brass isn't hard to find either.
Handloading may be the best way to shoot the Model 14s anyhow because it isn't any trouble to work out some plinking loads that make the old rifles really fun to shoot. Of course all the WCF cartridges are still in production and current cowboy loads are available for all except the .25-20.
In this era of the senti-automatic and shooting lots of rounds it's neat to take a few steps back to technology thai was state of the art long before most of us were born. And done with quality instead of quantity.
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|Author:||Petty, Charles E.|
|Date:||May 1, 2004|
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