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Back to the days of the Nylon 66.

I can remember it as clear as day. Turning the page in Outdoor Life magazine (it could have been Fur-Fish-Game) there was a full-page ad for a Remington .22 rifle, but not like one I had seen before. This one grabbed me at my core and held on tight. (Just as the marketing people intended to do I’m sure) Here was a young man in the snow setting a steel trap in a small creek. He had a pack basket on to carry traps, he was wearing a wool jacket, rubber boots, and blue jeans.

The picture kinda sort of depicted me at the time, or at least how I saw myself. The only thing different was the kid in the picture had something I didn’t have. A Remington Nylon 66 .22 rifle, this one in the popular Mohawk Brown model which was my favorite.

In the 1950’s there was an engineer working at Remington firearms who was a genius. (My opinion) His name was Wayne Leek and somehow he had the vision to come up with a revolutionary idea for a new .22 rifle. Leek decided that this new rifle had to be among other things, lightweight, (less than five pounds) nearly indestructible, and the stock and forearm were to be one piece and integrated into the receiver. On yeah, a couple more little things, the rifle had to be relatively inexpensive and as accurate as possible. No small order there Mr. Leek!

Looking for the material to make this new wonder rifle, Leek went to the scientists at Dupont and laid out what he wanted from the material for this rifle. He told the scientists there he wanted a material that would be suitable for molding into intricate shapes. It must have extremely high structural shear and impact strength. It must be highly resistant to abrasion and to distortion when subjected to extremes in temperature, and if ignited it had to be self-extinguishing. (Again, no small order)

The wizards at Dupont proposed their plastic like material Nylon Zytel 101, which was part of the companies Nylon 66 series of materials, so hence the name and the rest is history. This material that the gun was made of did many amazing things which the garden variety hunters and trappers (like me) didn’t know about. For starters the bolt rode on two rails that Remington described as self-lubricating. Remington specifically said not to use any additional gun oil or lubricant as it might interfere with the gun’s operation in extreme low temperatures, which testing showed the Nylon 66 worked great in these conditions.

I could not talk about this amazing little rife without mentioning Tom Frye. Frye was a field representative for Remington and a very skilled exhibition shooter. In 1959 as the Nylon 66 was being readied to be trotted out to the public, Frye and his assistants embarked on a shooting torture test for the new rifle. Thousands of wooden blocks 2 ½” square were piled up at the test site along with three new Nylon 66 rifles, and a mountain of Remington Golden Bullet .22 ammo. One of seven helpers threw the first block into the air and Frye dead centered it with the first shot. At the end of day one he had shot 3,000 blocks in the air with no misses. Amazing if he had stopped there but he didn’t. At the end of 12 days Frye had shot 72,501 wooden blocks in the air and missed only three. The old record of exhibition shooter Al Topperwein in 1907 of 72,500 wooden blocks with nine misses had been broken. It is reported that the only maintenance the three Nylon 66 rifles got during this affair was that the bolt face was cleaned with a toothbrush every 6,000 rounds to remove bullet lube and propellent fouling. There were no reported malfunctions during this testing. If this is true my friends, that is amazing. Just as amazing is it is reported that the nylon rails of the rifles showed no measurable wear from all this firing.

The Remington Nylon 66 .22 rifle was debuted in 1959 and was immediately popular and sold millions, mostly in the popular Mohawk Brown model, and also in other colors and variants. The initial price in 1959 was a whopping 50 bucks (O that we could get them for that today). Standard used models can be found today online in the neighborhood of $500.00 with some of the rarer models going into the thousands. The Nylon 66 was produced from 1959 to 1987 and became Remington’s most popular selling .22 rifle ever.

Wayne Leek more than realized his vision of the accurate, nearly indestructible, moderately priced .22 rifle. The Nylon 66 will always be considered one of the icons in the .22 world. My question is why can’t modern day gun companies find a way to do something similar to the Nylon 66 today? I mean the technology is certainly far above what we had in the 1950’s, right? Why couldn’t someone duplicate the old Nylon 66 or use that idea as a basis for a similar firearm? Maybe some of the firearms company people see my words here sometimes and might consider this?

I’m telling you that a modern version of the Nylon 66 would sell, people would want this type of rugged, all purpose, .22 rifle for everything from hunting and target practice to keeping the varmints out of the hen house. Heck, I would buy two.

I am available to consult on this project for a small fee.