The Remington Nylon 66: The First Polymer Gun

nylon rifle first polymer gun

While many look at Glock for creating the first polymer framed gun there were a few other guns that actually predated Gaston Glock’s work by decades. The Generation 1 Glocks may have helped to usher in the era of the wonder nine, and polymer framed handguns, but they were far from the first polymer firearms. Many times when talking about the first polymer firearm the H&K VP70 is mentioned but this is not accurate either. While the VP70 was the first polymer handgun it was not the first mass-produced polymer firearm. The honor of the first mass-produced polymer firearm, instead falls to a rather obscure .22LR plinking rifle known as the Remington Nylon 66. While many have forgotten this little, discontinued, plinker, it has a small but strong following, with many praising its accuracy and dependability. It would go on to be immensely popular during its run from 1959 to 1991 and spawn a number of variants using different actions and magazines. However the entire Nylon family of rifles deserves a place in the history books for proving, decades before Gaston Glock, that a polymer firearm could not just work, but be popular as well.

The Remington Nylon 66 The First Mass Produced Polymer Gun

The Big Green, Remington had a problem in the 1950’s. Their selection of firearms on offer had a rather gaping hole in it, specifically a mid range, .22 caliber rifle for small game hunters and plinkers. Looking to fill this need while saving money Remington looked to their R&D department for cost saving measures. The barrel was something that they quickly found could not be reasonably replaced by any other material, an issue that we still see today. So they moved to the other expensive components of the rifle, the receiver and the stock.

At that time DuPont owned a share of Remington, so the famed firearms manufacturer had access to the chemical company’s labs. What Remington requested of DuPont was a rather tall order. They wanted a material that would:

  • Be able to be formed into any shape
  • Have high tensile-impact and flexural strength
  • Be resistant to abrasion
  • Be resistant to heat and cold distortion
  • If exposed to flame, not continue to burn
  • Be impervious to solvents, oils, mild acids, alkalis, fungus, rodents, and insects
  • Have an easily repaired finish
  • Hold permanent colors
  • Be light
  • Non-corrosive to other parts
  • Be self lubricating
  • Be dimensionally stable

Was that all? It seemed like a massive undertaking to produce a material that would meet all of these requirements, while saving money, but DuPont was up to the challenge.

Nylon 6,6 and Purity Hall

Nylon 66's being made
Nylon 66’s being made, note the canisters of Zytel for the stocks, image via AmericanRifleman.org

Most of DuPont’s R&D work took place at a laboratory named Purity Hall, it was here that they created a number of synthetic polymers for various applications. DuPont split off Purity Hall specificly so that they could keep their R&D facilities separate from the main production areas. Researchers Gerald Berchet and Wallace Carothers developed no less than 81 different types of polymers at Purity Hall in 1935 and the polymer “Polyamide 6-6” was selected for additional refinement and testing. The name of this new material changed to “Fiber 66” during the testing phase and ironically the first practical use DuPont found for this material, which they finally settled on calling Nylon, was ladies stockings. So now you know why your wife calls them Nylons.

But back to the guns.

Using a material called structural Zytel Nylon 101, from the Nylon 66 family of plastics, a prototype rifle had been produced. It took DuPont only four months to create the initial prototype and deliver it to Remington for testing. An internal Remington memo stated that the prototype was ready by July 7th, 1955. Being made from two hollow sections of Nylon, fused together, and then covered with a stamped steel cover the prototype rifle was ready for testing. Remington knew that they had a number of challenges to overcome. First, the public was used to seeing plastics on toys, air rifles and BB guns. Selling a plastic rifle to a consumer base used to associating plastic with toys, in the 1950’s was going to be difficult. However instead of giving up on innovation Remington decided to push forward and try to prove that a polymer gun could be just as reliable as a gun made from wood and metal. Second, it needed to be durable and able to withstand the abuses that a typical metal and wood gun would endure. What Remington’s testers put the new rifle through would make even some guns today choke.

Testing The Remington Model 555 Bearcat Prototype

The first polymer gun had much to prove so in 1955 Remington put the prototype through its paces. Firing a reported 75,000 rounds though the gun they experienced a malfunction rate of just 0.005% an impressive number considering the highly experimental nature of the materials that they were using. This was the first time that Nylon had been used in a mass production firearm so extensive field tests were required to ensure that the rifle would function reliably. However there was an issue during the initial phase of production.

Remington Bearcat 555
Remington Bearcat 555, image via AmericanRifleman.org

The whole impetus for creating a polymer framed firearm was as a cost cutting measure, but with production numbers up in the air there was uncertainty as to how much each rifle would ultimately cost Remington to make. With fluctuating production numbers, the price per unit for each piece that would be made by outside contractors fluctuate and put the cost savings question up in the air. Would this new rifle really be as inexpensive as Remington wanted it to be? Despite these uncertainties Remington decided to push forward and continue trying to bring the new polymer rifle to market.

Early prototypes of the Nylon 66 were called the Remington Bearcat Model 555 and a few prototypes over the years have shown up with these markings indicating the original name. This was the name that Remington wanted to use when they first were developing the prototypes into actual production firearms. However in 1958 Ruger launched its line of Bearcat revolvers, nixing the idea for Remington. What they decided to go with instead was the name Nylon 66. This name comes from the Nylon 6,6 family of polymers that structural Zytel Nylon 101 is a part of. While it’s currently unknown why they decided to drop the Model 555 name the change was approved on December 17th, 1958. A somewhat obvious name but it the rifle was made of polymer, a badge that it wore proudly, and with good reason. The testing that Remington did with these rifles was extensive.

Starting in 1955 and not ending until well into 1958 Remington tested fired hundreds of thousands of rounds through the new model. In January of 1958 Remington provided its sales representatives with two Nylon 66 rifles. One would be in an olive drab green the other in a walnut brown. As their sales representatives began to report back they received surprising results. On February 23, 1958, salesman Delbert Conner wrote Remington’s head gun designer, Wayne Leek,

My first impression of these guns was, that they were just toys—or maybe air rifles for Buck Rogers. I doubt that the color or material will make much difference on the first showings. The public will refer to them as plastic

Nylon 66 grip cap, image via americanrifleman.org
Nylon 66 grip cap, image via AmericanRifleman.org

Yet despite this Conner was impressed with the rifle saying that he had fired 2,000 rounds of ammo from various manufactures, held the firearm in every way and angle imaginable, even upside down. Fired slowly, rapidly, and even pushed the rifle so hard the barrel became too hot to touch. He took the rifle out into a windstorm, billowing with sand, dropped it off the side of a boat, loaded, and after cleaning out the water fired 100 rounds. He even ran it over with his station wagon all in an attempt to make the gun malfunction. In the end it was a high fall onto concrete that finally managed to just crack the front of the stock. When he sent the rifles back after testing Conner asked for a new one as soon as possible, charged to his sample account.

However the first polymer gun was not done yet.

In 1959 Tom Frye, a field representative for Remington, set out to break a record previously set by Ad Topperwein. Topperwein had, in 1907 shot 72,500 two and half-inch wood blocks tossed in the air while only missing nine of them. Frye wanted to break this record and took three Nylon 66 rifles and for thirteen, eight-hour days, he consecutively shot 100,010 blocks of wood, missing only six of them. Frye managed to maintain a pace of roughly 1,000 shots every hour, or one shot every four seconds and the rifles were only cleaned five times during this thirteen day extended torture test. Not only had the Nylon 66 proven itself to be accurate, but it was durable. Remington had a winner.

The Remington Nylon 66 Goes To Market

In January of 1959 the Remington Nylon 66 hit the market with a price of $49.95. Billed as the “gun of tomorrow” for its “space age” materials, it was billed as a rugged gun that would weather conditions that normal firearms would be damaged by. One marketing ad proclaimed that,

This is the rifle trapper’s depend on from Hudson Bay to the Everglades. The only .22 that Alaskan fisherman find able to withstand the attacks of corrosive sea spray—To protect their nets from marauding sea lions!

Lubricant-free nylon ball bearings throughout the mechanism eliminate the need for lubricants of the functional parts of this rifle.

With Tom Frye showing what the rifle could do, and the positive reports piling up the Nylon 66 became a success. Sitting square in the middle of their offerings in 1959 between the Model 550-1 and the Model 552 selling for $46.75 and $52.25 respectively.

Nylon 66 Models and Derivatives

Remington offered the Nylon 66 in a number of different models over the years and expanded the Nylon 66 family out into a number of other configurations. With different actions, yet all still used essentially the same Nylon stock and receiver.

Production Numbers Year’s Produced (Model Number) Name Caliber Serial Numbers
675,052 1959-1991 (66-MB) Mohawk Brown .22LR Pre-1967 – No Serial Numbers
1967 – #400000-419011
1968 – #419012-473710
1968 (Dec.) – 1977 (Jan.) – #2100000-2599999
1977 (Feb.) – #A2100000 – Unknown*
46,529 1978-1991 Mohawk Brown With Scope .22LR See Above
~45,270 – 42,500 1959-1961 (66-SG) Seneca Green .22LR See Above
~220,506 – 221,000 1961-1985 (66-AB) Apache Black .22LR See Above
16,474 1961-1980 (66-GS) Mohawk Brown Gallery Special .22 Short See Above
465 1978-1980 Apache Black Gallery Special .22 Short See Above
50,618 1977-1990 (66-BD) Black Diamond .22LR See Above
3,792 1966 “Remington’s 150’th Anniversary” Edition .22LR See Above
10,279 1976-1977 “U.S. Bi-Centennial” Edition .22LR See Above
 15,327 1970-1972 Nylon 77 .22 LR 2,170,000 range
~54,000 1987-1989 Apache 77  “K-Mart” Version .22 LR A2330000 to A2400000 range are known
 128,358 1972-1978 Mohawk 10C .22 LR (July 1975) 2515400 to (Aug. 1975) 2537357
 ~26,927** 1962-1965 Nylon 76 Trail Rider Mohawk Brown .22 LR None Pre-1968
 ~1600** 1962-1965 Nylon 76 Trail Rider Apache Black .22 LR None Pre-1968
 10,670 1962-1964 Nylon 10 .22 Short, .22 Long, .22LR, .22 Shot None Pre-1968
 2,064 Late 1962-1964 Nylon 10 SB .22 CAL Smooth Bore None Pre-1968
22,423 1962-1964 Nylon 11 .22 Short, .22 long, .22LR None Pre-1968
 27,551 1962-1964 Nylon 12 .22 Short, .22 long, .22LR None Pre-1968

*These number ranges are for all Nylon Rifles
**Total numbers mixed with the Apache Black Version total. Number of the Nylon 76 is known however the number of rifles produced in Apache Black is unknown 

Total Production of all Nylon Family RiflesApproximately 1,342,578

Nylon Rifle Family Features

Most of the Nylon 66 rifles share the same characteristics in their design. The major changes were the colors and finishes that were also used on a handful of the other members of the Nylon family which we will talk about shortly. First let’s discuss the major features that most of the Nylon rifles shared.

nylon rifle first polymer gun
The Nylon 66 and the Nylon family of rifles were the first polymer firearms to be mass-produced, image via Tacticalshit.com

The Zytel-101 stock was made using injection molding and was made from two halfs. One had a tongue and the other had a groove that allowed them to be then bonded together. The butt stock, as well as the fore-end top and pistol grip cap were all black with a white spacer. Most models carried an ivory colored white diamond on each side of the foregrip. Under the receiver cover there were two reinforcing screws with nuts as well.

Most models were loaded and fed by a magazine that could be removed via the butt stock. The magazine capacity maxed out at 14 rounds, however there was no indication as to when the magazine was full. This was a slight disadvantage from the Models 16, 24, and 241 that could be loaded from ports in the side of the buttstock.

The striker was made for either a forging, or an investment steel casting. This was done as yet another cost saving measure as it only required a hole down the center to be machined. Many parts were plastic as well as the stock, such as the trigger and trigger guard. However other parts were still either stainless steel or mild steel stampings. The bolt ran in grooves in the nylon reviver however it was a steel machined forging. Early examples did not have a spot-facing cut however a semi-circular end mill cut was added early in production.

The standard barrel length for all Nylon rifles was 191/2” and was held onto the reviver with a barrel bracket cradled by the stock and screws. This allowed the barrel to be easily removed and cleaned. Another early addition that was not seen on some of the first guns made was the addition of gas relief cuts at the breech. This was added in case of a case rupture to allow for gasses to exit the chamber upwards and not harm the shooter. If you’d like to take a look at videos on the complete disassembly of a Nylon 66 rifle you can do so at LouieMacGoo’s channel on YouTube. He also writes for NylonRifles.Com which has even more information on the subtle variations and history of the Nylon family of rifles.

Because the Nylon 66 family of rifles was envisioned to be cheaply made the design required no real hand fitting. Despite this trigger pulls have been frequently reported as being up there with some of the best. The rifle was also light, weighing in at four pounds, eight ounces.

The reviver while made from polymer was covered with a steel shell that also served a number of other functions. Not only did it have the sights mounted to it but the shell also featured grooves to allow for scopes to be mounted on the rifles. However the gun could experience shifts in the point of impact if it was gripped to tightly. The receiver cover also held in place the ejector as well as the flat spring for the cartridge feed guide. While most receiver covers were blued, near the end of the production run this was changed to a matte black finish.

Prior to 1967 the Nylon family of rifles did not feature serial numbers however with the 1968 Gun Control Act looming, in 1967 Remington began to serialized their rifles and started in the with 400000-419011 for three months until 1968 when they begin to run from 419012-473710. In December of 1967 they restarted at 2100000 through the first part of January of 1977 ending with 2599999. In February of that same year the serial numbers had an “A” added to them and started with A2100000.

For the rest of the markings on a Nylon 66 rifle there was a “PAT. PEND.” and “22 L.R. ONLY” stamped just in front of the rear sight. This was later changed to just a stylized version of the company name “Remington”. Many Nylon rifles also have an oval stamp with “REP” on the rear sight for “Remington English Proofed”. Examples from the 1980’s changed to a much larger stamp behind the front sight reading “REMINGTON 22 LONG RIFLE ONLY.”

Dating A Nylon Family Rifle

Dating a Nylon 66 rifle is relatively simple, when the rifle was produced a date code was normally stamped onto the left side of the barrel just before the rear sight. It is a two letter code signifying the month and year the rifle was produced. In addition to looking at the dates provided above to date the serial number the two letter code can help to narrow down the date of manufacture, or date a pre-1968 rifle without a serial number. For letter codes that indicate two years, use the serial number to help you narrow down which one it refers to. The first letter will be the month followed by the year. Some rifles, 1967 and on will have three letters on them, again use the serial number date the rifle and to help you figure out what letter applies.

Jan. Feb. Mar. April May June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
B L A C K P O W D E R X
  • A – 1980
  • B – 1981
  • C – 1982
  • D – 1983
  • E – 1984
  • F – 1959/1985
  • G – 1960/1986
  • H – 1961/1987
  • I – 1976/1988
  • J – 1962/1989
  • K – 1963
  • L – 1964
  • M – 1965
  • N – 1966
  • O – 1977
  • P – 1967
  • Q – 1978
  • R – 1968
  • S – 1969
  • T – 1970
  • U – 1971
  • V – 1979
  • W – 1972
  • X – 1973
  • Y – 1974
  • Z – 1975

Nylon Rifle Family Models

(66-MB) Mohawk Brown

The 66-MB or Mohawk Brown was renamed from the walnut brown color of the early prototypes and was offered with and without a scope. This was the longest running model offered and by far the most popular, selling 675,052 rifles between 1959 and 1991. They featured a blued receiver cover and barrel like most of the other offerings. The name of the color derives from the Mohawk Native American tribe that lived in the area around Ilion, NY.

(66-SG) Seneca Green

Seneca Green was the new name for the olive drab version that was produced as a prototype. Like the Mohawk Brown, the color name comes from the Seneca Native American tribe that lived in the same region. While initial production was set up to be a 70% to 30% mix of Mohawk Brown to Seneca Green respectively, lagging sales for of the Seneca Green prompted Remington to drop the color in 1962 after selling just 46,529 rifles. This particular color is generally more desirable than the more than the more common Mohawk Brown and Apache Black colors, however it may be difficult to identify at first glance in certain lighting conditions.

(66-AB) Apache Black

The Apache Black version that was introduced in 1961 around the same time as the Seneca Green was being phased out featured many of the same elements as the other models, however it sported a chromed barrel and receiver, unlike the blued versions of the other models. With more than 220,000 sold the Apache Black version of the Nylon 66 rifle was discontinued in 1985.

(66-GS) Mohawk Brown Gallery Special and Apache Black Gallery Special

Note the shell deflector on this Gallery Special Nylon 66. Image via americanrifleman.org
Note the shell deflector on this Gallery Special Nylon 66, image via AmericanRifleman.org

The Gallery Special Nylon 66 was a bit different from the standard Nylon 66 model. While it had the same standard features and construction the receiver cover featured a shell deflector as well as a loop to chain it to a shooting bench. The idea behind the Gallery Special was to offer a rifle that could be sold to shooting galleries as a range rental. Instead of being chambered in the standard .22LR of most Nylon 66’s the Gallery Special versions were instead chambered in .22 Short. The Apache Black version is the most difficult to find member of the Nylon family of rifles as only 465 were produced for three years from 1978-1980. The Mohawk Brown however had many more produced with 16,474 from 1961 to 1980.

(66-BD) Black Diamond and “Remington’s 150’th Anniversary” Edition

Nylon 66 Remington 150th Anniversary Edition, image via bluebookofgunvalues.com
Nylon 66 Remington 150th Anniversary Edition, image via BlueBookofGunValues.com

In 1977 and produced through 1990 the Black Diamond edition was mostly just a cosmetic change. Lacking the white accents of other Nylon rifles the rifle featured an all black stock and blued receiver cover and barrel. Another variant of the Black Diamond was the Remington’s 150th Anniversary Edition that also lacked the white spacers and diamond on the foregrip. However in the case of the Anniversary Edition the stock was changed to a Mohawk Brown and the left side of the receiver was engraved. The engraving read “Remington Arms Company, Inc. 1816 – 1966 150th Anniversary” in a large oval with stars and a flintlock rifle and powder horn in the center. The Black Diamond sold 50,618 and the Anniversary Edition sold 3,792.

“U.S. Bi-Centennial” Edition

Nylon 66 Bicentennial,image via icollector.com
Nylon 66 Bicentennial, image via iCollector.com

The Bi-Centennial Edition was an engraved Mohawk Brown version of the Nylon 66 featuring the same finish and style, however it featured an engraved gold emblem on the left side of the rifle. An eagle with a shield flanked by flourishes and the dates 1776 and 1976.

Nylon 77 and Mohawk 10C

Nylon Rifle Grip Caps, image via NylonRifles.com
Nylon Rifle Grip Caps, image via NylonRifles.com

Introduced in 1970 and produced until 1978 The Nylon 77 was a bit of a change for the Nylon family of rifles. While all previous versions were fed from a tube accessed via the butt stock the Nylon 77 was a magazine fed rifle that used a detachable five round box magazine. It generally struggled to be accepted like the Nylon 66 and sales suffered, selling 15,327 rifles. In an attempt to revive the Nylon 77, in 1972 the Nylon 77 was rebranded to the Mohawk 10C to indicated the larger, ten round, magazine it now used. This would put new life into the rifle with 128,358 selling until the line was ended in 1978. However for owners of a Nylon 77 there was little reason to go out and buy a 10C. With the magazines being interchangeable the Nylon 77 could easily accept 10C magazines and vice versa. Original Magazines for the Nylon 77 will be marked with a “77” while the 10C magazines will have a “10C” on them.

Apache 77  “K-Mart” Version

Apache 77 Rifle, image via nylonrifles.com
Apache 77 Rifle, image via NylonRifles.com user  rsv1rem

Another odd duck was the Apache 77. This was a special run done by Remington for K-Mart that was in green, however not the standard Seneca Green that had been previously released. Made from 1987 through 1989 the Apache 77 featured a much brighter green that was somewhat swirled and mixed with darker hues of green and almost black. Not having seen one in person I’m not sure how to properly describe the color, but from the photos I’ve seen this is perhaps the most visually interesting stock made for the Nylon family of rifles. The Apache 77 also had black instead of white spacers and a black diamond on the foregrip. Much like the Nylon 77 and the Mohawk 10C it was also fed from a magazine and used the same magazine design as the other two rifles. However the Apache 77 came with a ten round magazine marked “77”, not to be confused with the five round magazine marked 77 for the Nylon 77. Finally much like some of the standard Mohawk Brown Nylon 66 rifles the Apache 77 came with a 4X power, 19mm, scope from either Tasco or Bushnell.

Nylon 76 Trail Rider

In 1962 and made through 1965 Remington produced its first and only lever-action with the Nylon 76 Trail Rider. The trail rider was constructed much like the other Nylon Rifles but featured a lever-action instead of the standard semi-auto action of the Nylon 66 rifle models. They were offered in both Mohawk Brown and Apache Black, with the Apache Black featuring a chromed receiver cover and barrel. Between the two models 26,927 in total were made with roughly 1,600 of those being the more limited Apache Black.

Nylon 76 Trail Rider, image via gunauction.com
Nylon 76 Trail Rider, image via GunAuction.com

Nylon 10, Nylon 10 SB Nylon 11, and Nylon 12

Two Nylon 11's one with the standard barrel and one with at 24" barrel, image via nylonrifles.com
Two Nylon 11’s one with the standard barrel and one with at 24″ barrel, image via NylonRifles.com 

They Nylon “tens”, if you will, consisted of four models of bolt-action rifles that, like the Nylon 76 used the same construction, but with a different action chambered in .22 Short, .22 Long, .22LR, and .22 Shot. The Nylon 10 was a single shot bolt-action rifle introduced sometime around late 1962. Most were made in Mohawk Brown with the standard barrel length, but roughly 200 of the 10,670 that were produced were made with 24″ barrels instead of the standard 191/2” barrel. The Nylon 10 also might be found in Seneca Green and Apache Black, however I have been unable to find any documentation of any examples and this is speculation. Production of the Nylon 10 ended in 1964.

The Nylon 10 SB was a smooth bore variant of the Nylon 10 and were marked “.22 CAL Smooth Bore”. With only 2,064 produced they stand at the rare end of the spectrum of Nylon rifles. The SB was produced from 1962 to 1964 much like the standard Nylon 10.

The Nylon 11 was another bolt-action Nylon rifle, however it was magazine fed much like the Nylon 77. Some sources say it was shipped with six and ten round magazines, however given that the Nylon 77 was shipped with a five round magazine before being replaced by the 10 round Mohawk 10C, it would make more sense for the rifle to have had a capacity of five rounds especially since its production predates the Nylon 77. Much like the Nylon 10, examples of the Nylon 11 in Apache Black and Seneca Green are believed to possibly exist as well. Some Nylon 11’s have been documented with 24″ extended barrels.

The Nylon 12 was another bolt-action Nylon rifle however this particular model was fed from a tube like the standard Nylon 66 rifle. Again, made in Mohawk Brown Nylon 12’s may also be found in Seneca Green and Apache Black with some examples having 24″ barrels as well.

Other Variants

Because the stock was made from a polymer the color of it could be easily changed for special orders. While the great majority of rifles were made with the standard colors, a few rare examples with Ivory White stocks have been seen. Nylon 66’s were also said to have been made in pink. Given this it is possible that other colors were produced, but I can not find any reference or documentation of any other custom colors being made.

Finally there is an imported version of the Nylon 66 known as the GR8 Black Beauty. In 1987 the Nylon 66 was put on hold while the dies that were being used were replaced and this prompted a new company to pick up the slack for Remington while they retooled. The GR8 was produced by a DuPont owned company called CBC in Brazil and was imported primarily by Firearms Import and Export of Miami Florida (FIE) however Magtech, Kassnar and Century Arms are all thought to have imported the GR8 at some point. CBC rifles had black stocks, blued features, and white spacers and diamonds on the foregrip. However what gives them away is the lack of any markings on the grip cap.

The Nylon 66’s Legacy

While many have forgotten the Nylon 66 and the various other rifles that it spawned. It stands as the first true polymer framed firearm to be mass-produced. DuPont and Remington proved, decades before Gaston Glock did, that a polymer firearm could be cheap and reliable. With well over a million rifles sold during the run of the Nylon family of rifles, it is a shame that the first true polymer framed firearm is so often forgotten in favor of the current milieu of polymer framed firearms. Doubtless Gaston Glock’s innovation was a huge step forward in firearms design and changed what militaries, law enforcement, and civilians carried the world over, but we should not be so hasty to forget the Remington Nylon 66, the first polymer firearm.