Welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire world and its various firearms, ammunition, and trends. This week I want to talk to you guys about one of the most legendary .22LR rifles ever to hit the market. Many of you will be familiar with this one because for many of you it was probably your first experience with a firearm or maybe even more specifically a semi-automatic .22LR firearm. The Remington Nylon 66 was one of the most prolific rimfire firearms produced by the Remington Arms Company and featured a futuristic design (for the time) and throughout its life saw many variants produced. With how popular the Nylon 66 was with the firearms division of Remington Arms under new ownership, I have to wonder if anyone will give the legendary rifle new life or if customers are still happy with the Model 597.
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The Rimfire Report: An Ode to the Remington Nylon 66
The Nylon 66 was very popular even before the introduction of the venerated Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rifle. The Nylon 66 featured a lightweight design, reliable semi-auto operation, and even accommodation for mounting optics. The rifle was first introduced back in 1959, a full 5-years before 10/22. The rifle was a collaborative project between Remington Arms and the DuPont Chemical Company which produced Zytel 101. Zytel is still used to this day for many applications but for the Remington Nylon 66, it was used primarily for the stock and the receiver. Zytel is well known for its heat resistance, strength, stiffness, and chemical resistance which led to Remington guaranteeing the stock for the firearm’s entire life.
Other modern firearms that use this Nylon resin include firearms like the Smith & Wesson M&P series frames and many of the firearms manufactured by KelTec. However, the Nylon 66 is one of the earliest firearms to feature nearly all synthetic construction versus its contemporaries that still used wooden stocks and alloy receivers. Remington advertised the rifle as “one of the most rugged rifles you can buy” and all for a price of $49.95 (a little under $500 today when adjusted for inflation).
Needless to say, the Nylon 66 was novel for its time and if the experiences that have been shared with me are accurate, then the Nylon 66 was by far one of the most prolific, reliable, and venerated rimfire firearms of the 20th century.
Unrivaled Semi-Auto Accuracy and Insane Durability
Another selling point of the rifle was its phenomenal accuracy. In addition to the many anecdotal tales I’ve been told about the rifle’s off-hand accuracy, Remington also heavily advertised that the Nylon 66 was one of the most accurate rifles on the market at the time of its release. Many old centerfold and magazine advertisements for the rifle stated that Remington Field Representative Tom Frye hit a total of 100,004 targets out of a total of 100,010 2 3/4″ wooden blocks that were tossed in the air for him to shoot. This could be attributed just as much to Tom as to the rifle but it still stands that many loved the rifle for its mechanical accuracy potential.
Remington also heavily advertised that the Nylon 66 was absolutely bomb-proof as far as durability goes and needed very little lubrication. In one advertisement for the rifle, Remington stated that one test model was shot by engineers a total of 75,000 times and had zero malfunctions. In the same advertisement (From Remington Reports – Nylon 66. The gun with nine lives. And then some.) Remington claimed to know of a Nylon 66 that was burned in a fire, cleaned from dust and soot, and then fired without issue. Other durability tests conducted by Remington included shooting the rifle till it reached temperatures of 250-degrees and also freezing and firing it at minus 40-degrees. Remington engineers really put the rifle through its paces by abusing it so that their customers knew it was a reliable and dependable firearm.
The rifle was not without its faults, however. Many owners claim that the 10-round magazine-fed version (called the Apache 77 or Kmart Nylon) had pretty horrendous reliability issues. In addition, I have heard from several experienced gunsmiths that the Nylon 66 often showed up to their shops disassembled in boxes because it was apparently a nightmare for the uninitiated to disassemble and reassemble. Others claim that the Zytel construction wasn’t as durable as Remington said and that they had their single piece stocks crack, chip and flex and thus this is why many felt that the Model 597 was a better replacement for the 66.
Gone But Not forgotten
The Nylon 66 didn’t last forever. In fact, the rifle was only in production between 1959 and 1989 after which it was permanently discontinued. The scuttlebutt was that the tooling for the Nylon 66 had finally worn out over the 30 years the rifle had been produced. The tooling was officially sold off to CBC in Brazil which made some poor copies of the rifle (probably because of the worn tooling) and from there the rifle pretty much drifted from consciousness as other modern options were made available. I’m sure there are a couple of you out there who still wished that Remington would have renewed the tooling for the Nylon 66 but alas, we have what we have.
To sum it up, I think the Nylon 66 was at the bleeding edge of technology at the time of its introduction and probably for decades after that. It was at the very least way ahead of its time in terms of construction materials and really making sure that the customer was getting a worry-free firearm that they could use when they needed it. I personally have never owned one but I am interested to hear what your experiences with the Nylon 66 are. Many of you in previous editions of The Rimfire Report have expressed nothing but love for your Nylon 66 rifles, so what are your thoughts on it? Thanks as always for reading TFB and for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report! We’ll see you next time.