In October, 2000, nine-year-old Gus Barber was killed on a family hunting trip when his mother switched off the safety to unload her Remington 700 and the gun went off, according to the family and official accounts of the incident. Barbara Barber said her hand was away from the trigger and the rifle was pointed away from the rest of the family, into an empty horse trailer. But at the worst possible moment, Gus had run behind the trailer, directly in the path of the bullet.
Mrs. Barber still cannot bring herself to speak publicly about the accident, but her husband, Rich Barber, has spent the past ten years learning all he could about the Remington 700. He has compiled thousands of pages of documents, which he provided to CNBC.
CNBC has verified the documents through other sources that, in many cases, provided additional documents.
“Those documents clearly speak for themselves and they speak volumes about what the company knew, when they knew it, what they did, and what they did not do, and what they continue to do today,” Rich Barber told CNBC.
Remington critics, including ballistics experts hired to testify against the company, trace the problems to a basic element of Mike Walker’s original design: a tiny piece of metal called a trigger connector. The connector, which is mounted loosely inside the firing mechanism, is supposed to allow the gun to fire more smoothly, according to Walker’s patent.
But the experts claim that small amounts of rust, debris or even a small jolt can cause the trigger connector to fall out of alignment, and the trigger itself to lose contact with the firing pin. Then, they say, the gun can go off when the user operates other parts of the gun—such as the safety or the bolt—without touching the trigger.
The documents include thousands of complaints from customers about Remington 700s going off without pulling the trigger. But Remington contends that in every case, the inadvertent discharges were the result of user error.