Walkabout In The Weminuche Wilderness

Herschel Smith · 05 Aug 2018 · 40 Comments

"There are no socialists in the bush" - HPS All of my physical training only barely prepared me for the difficulty of the Weminuche Wilderness (pronounced with the "e" silent).  It's National Forest land, not National Park.  The Department of Agriculture no longer prints maps of the area, so we relied on NatGeo for the map, and it's good, but not perfect. We have a lot of ground to cover, including traveling with firearms, the modification I made to one of my guns for the trip, the actors…… [read more]

The Remington Rifle Settlement Is Final

BY Herschel Smith
10 months ago

CNBC:

A landmark class action settlement involving some of Remington’s most popular firearms has officially gone into effect, after critics of the agreement declined to take their case to the Supreme Court by a Tuesday deadline, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs.

That means that millions of owners of the iconic Model 700 rifle — and a dozen Remington models with similar designs — have 18 months to file claims for a free replacement of their guns’ allegedly defective triggers. The guns have been linked in lawsuits to dozens of accidental deaths and hundreds of serious injuries, though Remington still maintains they are safe.

“Anyone with one of these guns should take advantage of this opportunity to get the trigger fixed,” said Eric D. Holland, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the class action case. “I’ve encouraged everyone to put these guns away. Don’t use these guns. Make the claims now.”

A special website has been set up with information on how to file a claim, and there is also a toll-free hotline, 1-800-876-5940.

[ … ]

The effective date of the settlement comes almost exactly eight years after CNBC first explored allegations that Remington engaged in a decades-long coverup of a defect that allows the guns to fire without the trigger being pulled.

Remington said the guns have been safe since they were first produced. But the 2010 documentary “Remington Under Fire: A CNBC Investigation” uncovered internal company documents showing engineers warning of a “theoretical unsafe condition” even before the trigger design went on the market in 1948. The company repeatedly decided against modifying the design or launching a recall, even as accidents and customer complaints continued to pile up.

It’s more complicated than simply the rifle firing when the trigger isn’t pulled.  The rifle would discharge at times when the cartridge was sent into battery, and Remington engineers knew it and had data from their own testing that showed it.

How sad.  After all of the pain, suffering, money, lawyers and loss of reputation to the company, this is apparently the end.  All of it could have been avoided by simply doing a recall when the engineers found it.  The world is almost always a worse place when people don’t listen to engineers.

Prior: Remington 700

Remington Fires Back At Rifle Settlement Critics

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

CNBC:

The Remington Arms Company, which is seeking court approval of a landmark class action settlement involving alleged defects in its most popular rifles, said in a series of court filings that its critics have “ulterior motives” in objecting to the deal.

In one instance, the company claimed, an objector first tried to extract more than $1 million from the company to buy his silence.

Remington has agreed to replace the triggers in millions of guns, including its popular Model 700 bolt-action rifle, to settle allegations that the guns are prone to firing without the trigger being pulled. But the company continues to maintain that the guns are safe, and that the accidents and deaths associated with the alleged defect are the result of user errors. Several gun owners have filed formal objections to the settlement as a result, alleging the company is deliberately downplaying the risks.

Remington reserved its harshest criticism for Richard Barber, a Montana man who says his nine-year-old son was killed when a Remington 700 went off during a family hunting trip in 2000. Barber has been a central figure in multiple CNBC reports about the company since 2010. Remington settled a wrongful death claim by the Barber family for an undisclosed amount in 2002, but Barber went on to amass a huge trove of internal company documents and became a sought-after expert on the alleged defect.

Barber initially served as a paid consultant to the class action plaintiffs, but resigned in early 2015. Last month, he filed a formal, 40-page objection to the proposed class action settlement citing what he called “deceitful and misleading statements” by Remington and plaintiffs’ attorneys.

But in a scathing response filed on Tuesday, Remington said Barber only objected to the settlement after first demanding that the company pay him $1.5 million, and supply him with two Remington Modular Sniper Rifles—which we found listed for sale online for $21,000 apiece—plus 4,000 rounds of ammunition. In exchange, the company claimed that Barber offered to support any class action settlement, stop making disparaging statements about the company, and destroy all of his research.

“In light of Barber’s vexatious conduct, his objections to the class action settlement should be summarily rejected,” the filing said.

In an interview, Barber acknowledged making the demands but said Remington is mischaracterizing them in an attempt to deflect attention from the real issues in the case. He said the demands were drawn up by attorneys who no longer represent him, and said he ultimately withdrew the demands after concluding that he would be “making a deal with the devil.”

I’m not sure what all of that means.  To be fair, the claim isn’t that the rifle just “went off.”  It’s that it fell to the ground (with the safety on) and discharged.  That’s a little different than has been characterized in the article, and also to be fair, Remington’s own records indicate that the Walker fire control system is defective and has been proven to discharge when the bolt was placed into battery, discharge when the safety was taken off, and so on.

No one wins, no one has won, no one will win.  The only winning scenario was rejected, and that would have been for the engineers at Remington to force Remington to recall the trigger two decades ago.  It’s always a bad thing when corporate executives call the shots in matters like this, and it’s never a good thing when the corporate lawyers get involved.  Lawyers aren’t technically qualified to make these decisions, and corporate executives can only be trusted if they have been proven to be ethical.  In Remington’s issue with the Walker fire control system, that was not the case.  In matters like this, the engineers have to rule.  If my own sense of things down at the gun stores is any indication, Remington has taken a huge hit anyway, with the reliance on military contracts, the union-driven labor force, the Northern states based manufacturing, and so on.  As I said, no one wins, not even Remington.

On the other hand, the request for two modular sniper rifles and ammunition as a part of a multi-million dollar settlement is the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Why on earth would he make this kind of request if he had the money in hand?  It makes no sense unless he intended to test the rifles to see if the design flaw had been modified out of the system.  If that was the case, it would have been more discrete to have a third party purchase and test the rifles.

Again, as I said, no one wins, and it will be better for everyone when this goes away.  This has nothing to do with guns, and everything to do with the dark underbelly of American corporatism.  I say this as one who has staunchly defended Remington from the invasive demands of the Sandy Hook Families lawsuit.  I defend when it’s appropriate, and I criticize when it’s appropriate.

Winchester XPR Rifle Recall

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

CheaperThanDirt.com:

In October 2015, Winchester issued a recall and important safety notice for Winchester XPR rifles.

XPR rifles have the potential to fire an unintended round when the safety switch is manipulated. During continuous product testing, Winchester found that moving the safety switch on the XPR rifle “may cause movement in the trigger system that could result in unintended firing of certain XPR rifles.”

As such, Winchester is recalling all XPR rifles. Winchester is replacing certain trigger group parts in all Winchester XPR rifles free. Winchester requests all owners of XPR rifles send their rifles for retrofitting.

This is the right way to do it, the responsible and ethical way.  If you find a problem, recall it and fix it.  Unlike what Remington did with the Model 700 Walker Fire Control.

Another Remington Lawsuit

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 10 months ago

Courthouse News Service:

(CN) – The Eighth Circuit revived a wrongful death claim against the Remington Arms Company stemming from a 2008 hunting accident in which a South Dakota man died.

The man’s wife, Carol O’Neal, sued Remington in December 2011, claiming a defect in a bolt action rifle the company manufactured caused it to misfire, killing her husband.

On November 9, 2008, O’Neal’s husband, Lanny, loaned a Remington Model 700 .243 caliber bolt action rifle to his friend, Mark Ritter.

Ritter later told investors that after spotting a deer, he moved the safety lever to the fire position and without his pulling the trigger, the rifle discharged. The bullet hit Lanny O’Neal, traveling through his stomach, spleen and left lung.

Despite their immediately calling 911 and getting O’Neal taken to a hospital, he died later that afternoon.

His widow claimed that Remington was aware a defect in that particular model rifle would cause it to fire without pulling the trigger once the safety lever was released.

She cited that minutes from a 1979 Remington safety subcommittee meeting, at which the defect in certain guns manufactured before 1975 was discussed and a possible recall considered. However, that meeting ended with attendees deciding against a recall because it would have required Remington to gather some 2 million guns ,when only 20,000 were known to be susceptible to the condition.

Remington argued that O’Neal couldn’t prove that the defect that caused the rifle to misfire was present at the time of it being manufactured. According to the gun maker, an alteration to the gun after purchase could have caused the misfire.

Complicating matters was that O’Neal, after being denied by two lawyers in her quest to pursue a wrongful death claim, had the gun destroyed because it reminded her of the tragedy. It wasn’t until several months later that she learned of the possible defect.

A federal court granted Remington’s motion for summary judgment, but the Eighth Circuit on Wednesday overturned that ruling, sending the case back to federal court.

In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel found that since South Dakota law allows a plaintiff to prove a defect through circumstantial evidence, O’Neal had presented enough circumstantial evidence to prove the defect was present at the time of manufacture.

“The fact that the subject rifle was used many times without incident from the mid-1980s through November 2008, and then suddenly inadvertently discharged, is consistent with the unpredictable manifestation of the inherent design defect in the Walker trigger,” U.S. Circuit Judge Kermit Bye wrote for the majority.

“In sharp contrast, if the subject rifle had been modified or altered prior to the mid-1980s in a way which would cause it to discharge when the safety lever was moved from the safe position to the fire position without the trigger being pulled, it is highly unlikely the rifle could have been used as many times as it was over the span of the next twenty-plus years without incident,” Bye said.

Oh dear.  This just gets worse and worse.  I’m not commenting on the gunsmithing accuracy of the court’s decision.  The problem is that Remington didn’t come clean on the Walker Fire Control System when they knew about it, they hid it, denied it, and sent their lawyers to argue with victims.

This was their destiny, and they chose it when they decided to be lawyers rather than engineers and gun manufacturers.  It was their destiny.

Other Resources:

Belk_Certification

Belk_Objection

Belk_Supplemental_Report

Prior:

Poking The Dragon

Update On The Remington 700 Settlement

Things You May Not Have Known About The Remington Walker Fire Control System

Poking The Dragon

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 10 months ago

The Remington dragon, that is.  Jack Belk, whom I have discussed before, sends this note concerning his most recent interactions with Remington.

Remington served a subpoena on me Tuesday night that demands I show up for a video taped deposition in Twin Falls on Oct 21st.  My Supplemental Report tuned them up really bad and now they’re striking back in a big way.  The Dragon is fully awake now.  I’ve attached all my filings to the Court.

I bought six triggers so I’d have foundation parts to design and build a new trigger on plentifully available parts.   Of the six triggers, one  was found  defective and dangerous in a heretofore unknown way and the another is suspect. I saved those and tore  the other four apart for the pieces and have made two new triggers that I’m not ready to show anybody.

My lawyer friend-advisor in Wis. says  BS!! the subpoena  is harassment, a fishing expedition for Remington and unnecessary and un-needed and un-called for and is meant to intimidate a simple member of the ‘class’.

My position is this— I found a fault with the Walker in 1969 and told Remington about it then.  They did nothing.   Am I supposed to ignore a recently mass produced trigger that doesn’t work now?   No way.  I made damn sure they knew about it and can’t hide it.  Of course I’m willing to let them see the two triggers that I found fault with anytime they like.  Write me a nice letter and send me a plane ticket and I’ll be right there…..with a lawyer, but when they push me in a corner I have no choice but to fight back out of it.

The subpoena is a REAL problem.   The ‘plaintiff’s attorneys’ are charged with representing the entire class of people victimized by having a Walker trigger.  That includes me.   I’ve approached the Court as a member of the class, not as a lawyer, engineer, expert or hired gun for anybody.  I was also the expert for the plaintiffs that refused to tell a lie on their behalf so they fired me.   The lawyers that should be present as my legal advisors in the deposition are the same ones that fired me.  That would leave me to have to hire a lawyer to be my ‘second’ in the sword fight that would be that deposition.  That is burdensome to one just pointing out a mistake and the judge is not likely to be happy about it.  I think Remington has over-stepped enough the judge has no reason not to knock them down big-time.  I’ve taken on the mantle of ‘whistle-blower’ to the Court….I hope.

In the mean time, I found a stash of Remington triggers and bought 37 of them last night.  There’s another 500 or so for sale and I’m likely to buy them all but I think I have the one that will finally show that Remington has more trouble than what they have been caught at.

Background— Last April 14th everybody in the gun world was blindsided by a voluntary RECALL (unheard of!!) of the new X-Mark Pro trigger.    The problem was said to be excess sealant that could cause the gun to fire at a certain low temperature when the safe was pushed to OFF.  It was hard to deny,  a guy posted a youtube video of his rifle doing it several times.  It made waves in the gun world and was widely publicized, but the word on the ‘internet street’ is that rifles sent to New York months ago are still there and hunting season is coming.  Most that know of the ‘recall’ just have an aftermarket trigger installed.  Thats where I get the ones I find.

THIS CLASS ACTION CASE is totally different and covers 7.83 million Walker triggers, not 380,000 XPM triggers of the recall,  but people that hear of the class action suit assume it’s the same one.   Remington has told the judge they have heard of no opposition to the deal so that means its a good one.   Then I showed up and Pennington came in late with good legal arguments that supports my position.   Now, the  Remington team is on the defensive and so are the plaintiffs.  The two objections threaten a $12 million payday for one and the relief (and total confusion) of over seven million bad triggers for Remington and Dupont.

The  “F Trigger” exhibits a fault at room temperature and has nothing to do with the safety and it’s also made out of a different material.  How many of those were made?  Nobody has said anything about such a model of XMP, who specified that material?  Was it tested? Where are the findings, they’re under court order to be produced?  If it works so well, why not use that material now? (too expensive? By how much?)  When was this trigger made?  How many of them were bought?  Where are the rest of them?  Do they work or are they as broken as this one?

It’s strange to think a trigger I paid $25 for will be responsible for many millions of dollars changing hands….and I have no way of grabbing any of it except to rent it out to lawyers!   ….UPDATE—those triggers!!.  I’ve been going through the sack full of ‘new’ triggers and have found two more defective ones.   This explains why Remington refused to let me see their returns.   I think this case is about to be blown wide open.  Remington has been keeping a LOT of secrets since 2006 and it’s catching up with them in a big way in the largest Court they’re subject to.

I got a call from my lawyer on vacation.  I told him I used his money to buy these triggers so how much did he want to defend what I found?  He’s hiring a lawyer to write a motion to bar the deposition.  He  (name witheld)  has  my back and he’s a good guy that I can trust.  He’s just catching up to speed on ‘The Remington mess’ and is in awe of the misbehavior over the years.   He has downloaded the entire case file for this class action because it has so much background information in it (300,000 pages).

I think the Dragon is not feeling well, but he’s still dangerous.

There is no safe direction to point an unsafe gun.

I’ll have more to say about this later, and I also have court documents (in PDF) I simply don’t have time to attach now.  This isn’t over yet.

Things You May Not Have Known About The Remington Walker Fire Control System

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

KRTV.com:

Over the years, Barber has amassed a mountain of documents, including internal memos from Remington and thousands of consumer complaints, that he said show that the company knew about the flaw with the trigger mechanism, known as the Walker Fire Control, and did nothing about it.

“I believe that I am quite capable of defending myself with Remington’s own documents, which speak for themselves and clearly speak volumes about what the company knew, when they knew it and what they did or did not do with that body of knowledge,” said Barber.

Remington has adamantly denied that the Walker Fire Control is defective. But the company has agreed to replace millions of trigger mechanisms in its top-selling bolt action rifles as part of a class-action lawsuit settlement

The details of the settlement are still being worked out in federal court and aren’t expected to be released until December of 2015. But we do know that Remington does not want the trigger replacement program to be labeled a recall. Also, part of the deal is that Remington does not have to admit that its products are defective or concede to wrongdoing.

That does not sit well with Barber.

“Until Remington at least quits denying a problem and wrongdoing, the cycle of death and injury will just continue,” said Barber.

Barber said he wants Remington to come clean about the history of problems with the model 700 rifle.

He showed MTN an internal memo from 1990 that says, “the number of model 700 rifles being returned to the factory because of alleged accidental firing malfunctions is constantly increasing.”

The memo was dated January 25 and already 29 rifles had been returned that month.

Barber also released to MTN a confidential document on testing done within Remington’s own facility. It advised the tester to wear a glove for protection and “be prepared for the rifle to inadvertently follow down or fire.”

“Remington goes as far as telling their own employees, as shown in that document, they warn them,” said Barber. “They tell them to be prepared for the gun to fire during testing, but yet they deny this fact to the public?”

They prepared their own gunsmiths to expect the rifle to “inadvertently fire” during testing.  I had not heard this before, even though I have linked a good bit of evidence (likely obtained initially by Barber) in previous posts.  It might actually have been interesting and enlightening for the case to go forward to court to see how Remington reacted.

I had also intended to mention that Jack Belk sent me his book (personally signed) entitled Unsafe by Design: Forensic Gunsmithing and Firearms Accident Investigations.  It’s written in a breezy, conversational style with lots of pictures and technical explanation.  The section on the Walker fire control system beckons me again, since it’s involved enough to read through a second time.  I highly recommend Jack’s book.

Update On Remington 700 Settlement

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 3 months ago

CNBC:

The Montana man whose nearly 15-year search for answers about the death of his son paved the way for a nationwide class action settlement with the Remington Arms Co. says the gun maker still is not coming clean. So now, Richard Barber says he is launching a new push to “inform and educate the public” about one of the most popular firearms in the world, and his claim that the guns can fire without the trigger being pulled.

Barber’s 9-year-old son Gus was killed during a family hunting trip in 2000 when a Remington Model 700 rifle went off as the boy’s mother was unloading it. At the worst possible moment, Gus had run behind a horse trailer and into the path of the bullet. Barbara Barber has consistently maintained that her hand was nowhere near the trigger.

Richard Barber says he eventually found thousands of customer complaints and internal documents that suggest Remington had known for decades about an alleged design flaw in the gun’s firing mechanism but did nothing about it despite dozens of deaths and injuries. Allegations of the defect and a cover up—both of which Remington has steadfastly denied—were the subject of the 2010 documentary “Remington Under Fire: A CNBC Investigation.”

“The Model 700, including its trigger mechanism, has been free of any defect since it was first produced,” Remington told CNBC in 2010. “And, despite any careless reporting to the contrary, the gun’s use by millions of Americans has proven it to be a safe, trusted and reliable rifle.”

Last month, a federal judge in Missouri tentatively approved a nationwide settlement in which Remington agreed to replace the triggers on more than 7 million rifles equipped with what has become known as the Walker Fire Control—the same mechanism that was in the Barbers’ rifle. But the company still maintains the guns are safe, and has said it is settling the case to put an end to lengthy litigation. Barber says that stance is part of the reason he feels the need to speak out again.

“I wholeheartedly support the provisions in the class settlement in replacing the triggers,” Barber told CNBC in an interview Monday. As a result, he said, he will not formally object to the tentative settlement. Nonetheless, he said, “Remington’s statements (following the CNBC program in 2010) potentially constitute a fraud that not only endangered the public, but resulted in loss of life.”

Barber said he is concerned that Remington’s continued defense of the gun, as well as the company’s decision at the same time to launch a recall of a much smaller group of Model 700 rifles with a different firing mechanism, could either confuse customers or lull them into complacency.

“No deal is perfect,” he said, acknowledging that the company will likely never agree there is a problem.

“Nothing can force them to do that,” he said.

Remington is still denying any culpability, and Barber isn’t happy.  I told you so, and I told you so.  The most enlightening thing from the article is the comments.  This one is rich.

Once again if the gun wasn’t pointed horizontally this wouldn’t have happened. I can picture it completely. The mom like most women aren’t strong enough to hold the gun up or down while reloading it so she probably had it propped up on her leg with the gun pointing sideways and it went off.

And this one:

Basically comes down to the fact that the parents screwed up, they know it, and they are trying to blame someone else so they can sleep at night. I completely understand with such a tragic accident, but this is all this is about. They want to blame someone for their tragic mistake so they can feel better.

And finally, this:

Once somebody could repeat the condition of auto discharge of Model 700 that will proved the mechanism have a design flaw. But probably will be a lot of work to make it happen. Maybe a robot that will try all kind of positions for hours and hours will do it!

We’ve rehearsed the failures of the Walker fire control system before.  The reports are found here.  In this document, FSR and FOS is “fires when the safety is released,” and “fires on safe,” respectively.  The 700 does both.  There is no excuse for a single instance, ever.  EVER.  Not if the engineer is responsible and ethical and the management has moral fiber.

Is it the fault of the parents?  Yes.  Is it the fault of Remington?  Yes.  It isn’t either-or.  It is both-and.  It’s called defense in depth in firearms design and operation, and if you’re too stupid to understand this, you shouldn’t be posting comments to the internet.

Technical Questions On The Walker Fire Control System

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

Reader John Stock writes with the following question:

A Remington 722 (barrel date 01-1956) with its original trigger.  I know enough to keep it
flushed out with lighter fluid, but I am concerned that’s not a real fix.  What is your opinion of
Remington’s “fix” of the Walker trigger?  Is Remington’s recall fix adequate, or is an
after-market trigger a better solution?  And if so, which one do you like?

A Remington 721 (barrel date 04-1948) with a Canjar set trigger.  The sear looks the same
as the Walker trigger on the 722 (with the two-bar sear/safety visible), and is as easily
exposed to debris, but I have no idea what the mechanism inside looks like, or whether it is
as susceptible to unintentional release as is the Walker trigger.  Do you have any knowledge
of this trigger and its relative risk?

Any wisdom you can share with me will be much appreciated.

I feel completely inadequate to provide advice and counsel on this, except to say that Remington claims that the problems have to do with “excess bonding agent,” a claim I deem unlikely (or said another way, I doubt that this is the only problem).  If I’m not mistaken, their fix had to do with polishing or resurfacing some component, but my memory may be faulty here.

Please weigh in with comments on the Walker Fire Control system for reader John.


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