Originally created to compete with the mid-priced offerings of other gun makers, the Remington Nylon 66 later developed an almost cult following and is now a collector’s item of sorts. While Remington made 22 caliber rifles during the early 1950’s, it did not have a mid to low priced option for the common man. Thus, the search for some way to produce a low priced 22 caliber repeating rifle began.
After considerable research and not just a little head-scratching, Remington engineers decided that the greatest savings in the cost of materials and production could be found in reducing the costs of the receiver and stock. The usual materials, steel and wood, were expensive. Some other option needed to be developed. Since Remington and DuPont were joined at the hip, the Remington engineers asked the folks at DuPont to come up with a plastic that could be used to make both the stock and the receiver of the new rifle. Among the many requirements requested by Remington were the following: the new material must be resistant to scratches, extreme heat, and extreme cold; it should not be damaged by solvents or mild acids; it must not attract fungus or mold; it must hold its color over time; it should be strong, yet able to be formed into any shape; it should be light; it must be easy to repair; and lastly, it must be self-lubricating.
Although the requirements listed by Remington were a tall order in a time when plastics were not used for such things as firearms, it took DuPont under four months to come up with the answer: Nylon Zytel -101. Oddly enough, this is the same formulation used to make women’s stockings, which have been called “Nylons” for decades, and still are. The original name of the polymer at the time of its creation was Polyamide 6-6. It wasn’t long before they started calling it “Fiber 66”. DuPont gave it the name Nylon for marketing purposes and lady’s “Nylons” were born. At this point, I’m sure you can guess where the rifle’s name, “Nylon 66” came from.
We are very accustomed to polymer firearms in today’s world, but in the 1950’s the idea that a gun could be made almost entirely of plastic was new, to put it mildly. In fact, you might say that the concept was completely unheard of. As a result, Remington was rightly concerned that the new rifle might not hold up to rough use. They were not even confident that the rifle would be dependable or even accurate. Consequently, Remington built a prototype and ran upwards of 75,000 rounds through it. Amazingly, the malfunction rate was only 0.005 percent!
Testing and refinements of the rifle continued through 1958. Hundreds of thousands of rounds were fired through the test guns as refinements were made during this period. Since a Polymer gun had never been made prior to that time (at least not that I’m aware of), the folks at Remington knew they had to get it right the first time. It was a huge gamble for Remington. This new gun might be shunned by the public, which would be tantamount to flushing Remington’s investment in the project down the drain. Still, the folks at Remington felt confident that the public would buy the new rifle, if the gun was priced right and performed as advertised.
Remington first called the gun the Model 555 and shipped two prototypes (one in Seneca Green and one in Mohawk Brown) to their various sales representatives. The sales folks were instructed to test the guns by firing a minimum of 1,000 rounds through each rifle and then report their findings. One sales representative, a gentleman named Delbert Conner, is reported to have run his test guns through the toughest trial imaginable. He tested them during a sandstorm; fired twice as many rounds as requested from every possible orientation of the gun; dunked the fully loaded gun in a lake and then fired 100 rounds through it; dropped one from a height onto concrete; and even ran them over with his car under both the front and rear tires. After all that he put them through, the rifles functioned flawlessly.
As far as I can determine, the original retail price of the rifle was $49.95. They were sold from 1959 to 1991 and became the most popular 22 rifle that Remington has ever offered with over a million produced and sold. There are several variations, some of which have become quite valuable. For a while they were called “Bearcat” rifles during the testing period. If you run across one of those, it’s probably worth a pretty penny. That name was dropped because Ruger came out with its Bearcat revolver at about that same time in 1958. Most common is the “Mohawk Brown” version, but they were also offered in: “Seneca Green” (not terribly popular at the time); “Apache Black” with a chrome plated barrel; and “Apache Black” with black diamond inlays. The rifle I used in the embedded video is Mohawk Brown with white diamond inlays and was manufactured in 1968. It is still possessed by its original owner.