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Inside Remington Rifle's Controversial Trigger

At the heart of the decades-long controversy over the Remington 700 series is a piece of metal that is roughly the length of a paper clip.

Remington Model 700 rifle
Remington Model 700 rifle

It is called a “trigger connector,” and it is an integral part of the firing mechanism patented by Remington engineer Merle “Mike” Walker in 1950. The so-called “Walker trigger” was a breakthrough in firearm design, allowing the smooth, crisp action favored by expert shooters at an affordable price.

The connector is mounted on a spring inside the firing mechanism, sitting between the trigger and the sear—the metal bar that holds back the firing pin. According to Walker’s patent, the connector not only smoothes the action of the trigger, but also eliminates “trigger slap,” where the trigger bounces back slightly after the gun is fired.

To this day, Walker calls his invention “a perfect trigger.” But multiple lawsuits against Remington allege the design is flawed. They claim small amounts of rust, debris, or even a small jolt can push the connector out of alignment, separating the trigger itself from the rest of the firing mechanism. Then, the complaints allege, the gun can go off when other parts are operated, such as the safety or the bolt.

Remington Under Fire - A CNBC Investigation
Remington Under Fire - A CNBC Investigation

The controversy surrounding the 700 series is explored in a CNBC Original Documentary, “Remington Under Fire: A CNBC Investigation,” premiering Wednesday, October 20 at 9pm ET/PT.

Walker himself advocated a mechanism that would have held the trigger and connector in place while the safety was on, but internal company documents show Remington rejected Walker’s “trigger block” because of the cost—estimated in 1948 to be an additional 5 ½ cents per gun.

In a statement to CNBC,Remington says the 700 “has been free of defects since it was first produced.” But in 2007, Remington introduced a new firing mechanism for the 700 that includes the feature Mike Walker had proposed nearly 60 years earlier. The new trigger system, marketed as the “X-Mark Pro,” also eliminates Walker’s trigger connector. A source close to Remington tells CNBC the connector was removed because it had become the focus of so many lawsuits.

However, Remington still insists the older system is safe, and in court cases has likened the introduction of the X-Mark Pro to that of a new car model—it does not mean the old model is inferior. Remington has not ordered a recall, and continues to use the Walker trigger in models such as the Remington 770 as well as sniper rifles supplied to the U.S. military. And CNBC found older models of the 700 with the Walker trigger still on sale at retailers across the country.

To determine if your Remington 700 has the Walker firing mechanism or the X-Mark Pro, look at the trigger itself. If the trigger has grooves, it is a Walker. If it is smooth, it is an X-Mark Pro.

CNBC.com will soon be publishing more stories about the Remington 700. And be sure to watch "Remington Under Fire: A CNBC Investigation," reported by Scott Cohn, Wednesday, October 20 at 9pm ET/PT.

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  • Scott Cohn develops in-depth features, special reports and documentaries for CNBC and CNBC.com.