Maine Police Stop Using Remington Rifles

The police department in Portland, ME, has become the latest law enforcement agency to stop using a popular sniper rifle over concerns the gun can go off without the trigger being pulled.

Remington Model 700 rifle
Remington Model 700 rifle

The rifle, the Remington 700, is the subject of a CNBC Original documentary, “Remington Under Fire: A CNBC Investigation,” which revealed thousands of customer complaints, including from Portland police in 2009.

But Police Chief James Craig told the Portland Press Herald he was unaware how many other complaints there were until he viewed the CNBC report.

"I don't want to run the risk of having an accidental discharge like this where it puts an officer's or community member's life in danger," Chief Craig told the newspaper. He later confirmed to CNBC that the department's five Remington 700s have been taken out of service.

The CNBC program included video taken by Portland snipers and obtained by the network showing a rifle going off repeatedly when an officer touched the bolt. Chief Craig told the newspaper that the department had contacted Remington about the problem but was told the weapons were no longer under warranty.

Remington insists the popular rifle is safe, and in a statement for the CNBC program the company said that neither its own experts nor experts hired by plaintiffs' lawyers "has ever been able to duplicate such an event on rifles that had been properly maintained or have not been altered after sale."

But Chief Craig told the newspaper the department's rifles were properly maintained and had not been altered or adjusted. He did say that of the department's five rifles, only the one shown in the video had malfunctioned.

The Portland department is not the first agency to stop using the rifles. The police department in Kissimmee, FL, sold its 700s after one inadvertently went off during a drug raid in 2005, according to a department spokeswoman. And the national police force in New Zealand also stopped using the rifles due to safety concerns, officials told CNBC.

Versions of the rifle are also used by the U.S. military, and documents obtained by CNBC under the Freedom of Information Act show that inadvertent discharges of rifles at the Marine sniper training school at Camp Lejeune, NC, became such a concern, they led to meetings between Marine officials and Remington representatives in 2003, and eventually to changes in Marine Corps procedures for handling the rifles.

The Army recently awarded Remington a new contract for as many as 3,600 new sniper rifles, worth up to $28 million.

"For nearly fifty years, the Remington Model 700 rifle has been the preferred choice for millions of hunters, shooting sports enthusiasts and military and law enforcement personnel," Remington said in its earlier statement.