Owners of Remington's popular Model 700 rifle can now examine for themselves literally millions of pages of internal company documents that have led critics to conclude that the guns are unsafe.
The documents — more than 130,000 files in all — have been assembled in a searchable online database by the advocacy group Public Justice. The organization, which battles against secrecy in the courts, fought successfully last year to make the documents public.
"These documents show the extreme danger of court secrecy," said Public Justice Chairman Arthur Bryant. "They prove that court secrecy kills. Literally."
With millions sold since the design first went on the market in the 1940s, Remington claims its Model 700 is the best-selling bolt-action rifle ever made. But lawsuits have alleged that for decades the company covered up a deadly design flaw that allows the guns to fire without the trigger being pulled, resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. The company has denied the allegations.
The documents show Remington engineers wrestling with what they called a "very dangerous" situation as early as 1947 — before the guns went on sale. Company officials eventually decided that a design change was not worth the added cost, a conclusion they would reach again and again.
"The gun may accidentally fire when you move the safety from the 'safe' position to the 'fire' position, or when you close the bolt," the proposed notice read. Company officials ultimately rejected the warning as "too strong," and never sent it out. The company also decided against multiple internal proposals over the years to recall the guns.