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Judge approves landmark Remington rifle settlement

The Remington 700 trigger mechanism
Brandon Ancil | CNBC
The Remington 700 trigger mechanism

Turning aside objections from gun owners, legal experts and nine state attorneys general, a federal judge has given final approval to a landmark class action settlement involving some 7.5 million allegedly defective Remington guns.

The ruling allows the owners of some of Remington's most popular firearms — including the iconic Model 700 rifle — to have their triggers replaced free of charge.

In 2010, CNBC investigated allegations that for decades Remington covered up a deadly design defect that allows the guns to fire without the trigger being pulled. To this day, Remington denies the allegations and maintains the guns are safe. The company said it was settling the case to avoid protracted litigation.

Critics of the settlement alleged Remington deliberately downplayed the risks in order to suppress claims in the settlement, and that plaintiffs attorneys — who will now collect $12.5 million in fees — did not do enough to hold Remington's feet to the fire.

The attorneys general argued that Remington should be required to admit the guns are defective.

But U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith, who twice sent the parties back to the drawing board to improve the settlement, decided that in the end fixing some of the guns is better than risking none at all being fixed.

"By approving this settlement, the Court facilitates remediation of the alleged defect," Smith wrote. "That result may save lives and reduce the risk of injury to others."

The settlement covers Remington's Model 700, as well as these other firearms: Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600, 660, 721, 722 and 725 rifles, and the XP-100 bolt-action pistol.

Under the settlement, most of these guns will be retrofitted with a new trigger mechanism free of charge. However, some models — specifically the 600, 660, 721, 722, 725 and XP-100 — are considered too old to be retrofitted, so Remington is offering owners of those guns a product voucher worth between $10 and $12.50.

More information on the settlement and claim forms are available here.