Remington Model 81 (.30 Rem) Questions

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Jan 29, 2003
I've got an opportunity to buy a Remington 81 in great shape for not much money. In fact, for a couple years I've been keeping my eyes open for a decent one... preferably in .35 Rem, since ammo is still available.

However, the one that is available is in .30 Remington. Obsolete, but at least the brass has some renewed interest due to the 6.8spc.

In any event... can anyone comment on the Remington Model 81 in general, and about .30 Remington specifically. Anyone have good sources for dies, brass, etc?

Pictures are always welcome!

BTW, the main use for this gun would be occasional use in very heavy cover for whitetail deer.
I've been looking for a really good one in 300 Savage....found some nice ones in 30 rem and 35....but, don't like the caliber enough to buy one even though it looks really nice, will wait for the 300 Savage............
Due to the cover, a shot at more than 75 yards is unlikely. Max range would be 125 or so... which is just about perfect for a 30-30.

Does the .30 Rem use the same bullets (ie. 150gr round nose or 170gr round nose) that a 30-30 would? Or, is it designed around some other bullet weight?

I already reload on a Dillon 550, so it should just be a matter of getting dies and some brass. Frankly, I'm kind of intrigued by the idea of loading for an obsolete cartridge.

I've checked all of my reloading manuals, and they do not list the cartridge. Does anyone have some data for it?
The model 81 Woodmaster is a fine rifle. I have an 81 in 35 Remington and also a model 8 (the predecessor to the 81) in 32 Remington. You are right about ammunition being somewhat difficult to find. I spent a good amount of money buying dies for the 32 and than I formed the brass from the more available 30 Remington. Ballistically it is comparable to the 30-30, however one important point to remember is that from the 81 you can use a wide variety of bullets, unlike a tube fed leveraction 30-30 which is pretty much restricted to round nose or flat point for all but the insane. This means that you should get somewhat better performance from the 30 Remington if you select the bullet and load carefully.

I am also intrigued by loading for obsolete calibers and the same fascination exists with obsolete rifles. Both the 81 and model 8 seem to have fallen into the obscure category. This is unfortunate in the sense that they are really very reliable, accurate, and easy to carry guns. But it is fortunate for those like us who love them since it keeps the prices down. I've bought both mine for under $300.

I can probably scrounge up some load data for the 30 Remington, though It will probably take a week or two, since I'll be out of town and away from my reloading manuals.
Where to begin...

Brass is available, Remington makes a run of it just about once a year. Places like Wideners and Midway may have a residual stock of both the brass and loaded ammo.

How do I know? I have the same rifles in .30 Remington, .32 Remington, and .300 Savage. The .30 Remington was a rimless counterpart to the .30-30 WCF, aka .30-30 Winchester. The .32 Remington was the rimless counterpart to the .32 Winchester Special. For all practical purposes, the ballistics are identical to their rimmed cousins, so handloading is no big deal, either. Matter of fact, you can load cast lead bullets, and provided they're loaded with a strong enough impulse, they'll cycle the action no problem.

The dies and shellholders are easy to order, straight from RCBS.

The gun is an engineering work of art. John Moses Browning designed it so that the internal parts could only be assembled one way, so there's no chance of misassembly. Note the safety lever, one can't help but to wonder if young Mikhail Kalashnikov didn't study it prior to making the safety lever for his own AK-47 creation.

It's a heavy rifle for the caliber, and when you shoot it, you can feel the mechanism going through it's cycle. Maybe that's part of the intrigue, and why I lavish such attention on my own specimens. Here's the 1906 Model 8 in .32 Remington:

Gewehr98 - Thanks for the pic. That's the one I was none-to-subtly trolling for. :)

When I first saw one a few years back I thought "Wow! Now that's an ugly rifle." However, whenever I found one on the used rack, I was drawn to it like a moth to flame. Now, I dig the heck out of it.

Now, the RCBS dies should work fine in my Dillon. For the shellplate, I'll probably have to contact Dillon and see what works. I may just check Zak Smith's 6.8spc FAQ and see if he's got info as well.

I'm assuming that these are easily capable of Minute-Of-Deer accuracy? Also, what about specifics like:

How many rounds does it hold?
Are there any problems with the design?
Are there model-specific things to check out prior to purchase?

The info is great! Thanks for everyone's contributions.
Good news, at least from the Dillon front...

They sell a 450/550 shellplate for the .25, .30, and .32 Remington family of cartridges, as well as the powder funnel bushings. I use them on my 550 press.

Minute-of-Deer equates to about 1.5 - 2.0 MOA out of the above pictured gun, using the Lyman tang rear sight and my 170gr handloads. I tell myself it'll go into the Wisconsin woods for whitetail one of these years. Then I remember that I'd spend entirely too much time trying to retrieve the brass after I took a shot out in the field, etc. Lord forbid I shoot all 5 rounds and go chasing their brass!

Problems: The recoil to your shoulder isn't as subdued as you'd think a long-recoil design would be. Maybe it's the double impulse of both the cartridge, then the barrel and bolt hitting their rearward travel stop.

Also, and this can be a serious one, the earlier Model 8 Remingtons DO NOT have a firing pin rebound spring. This means that ammo should be fed into the chamber from the magazine, allowing the bolt to pick up and chamber each round. Under no circumstances should you simply chamber a round and let the open bolt fly home into battery. You'll get a slamfire, just like the one I got in my garage several years ago with the above pictured Model 8. I ended up disposing of my trousers when it happened to me. :what: Save yourself the trouble. The drag or friction of stripping a round out of the box magazine slows the velocity of the bolt enough to prevent slamfires. You might get a light dimple on the cartridge primer this way, much like a M1 Garand, M14, or AR-15/M16. That's also the reason you see the SLED clips used for single-round firing of M1 Garands. ;)

The later Remington Model 81's incorporated a firing pin rebound spring to prevent this little "surprise".

Floating around out there are Model 81's that were originally chambered in .300 Savage. That's a pretty powerful cartridge for the old recoil-operated autoloader. But some folks couldn't leave well enough alone, and a .308 Winchester chambering reamer found it's way into those .300 Savage guns, creating a Model 81 chambered for the more powerful, and higher pressure, .308 Winchester. Steer clear of those guns, you're just asking for trouble.

Hope this helps!
Gewehr98 has said about it all. I will add that the gun is made the old fashioned way and is not a military gun. Meaning it is not meant to be taken apart every ten minutes for the fun of it, though the barrel is fairly easy to remove for cleaning. Not surprisingly, it is a lot like the Browning Auto 5 shotgun and uses a long recoil action like the A5.

(For those who are not familiar with long recoil, it means that when the rifle is fired the barrel and bolt recoil fully to the rear, where the bolt is unlatched from the barrel. The barrel then comes forward and when it is fully forward, the bolt follows, chambering the next round. This is not normally noticed since, unlike the A5, the barrel and its spring are concealed in a barrel shroud.)

As for reloading, any .30-30 load can be used in the .30 Remington, but it is a good idea to start low and work up until proper functioning is achieved. As also previously mentioned, pointed bullets can be used since the Model 81 has a box magazine.

Well. I picked it up today, cleaned it and stashed it in the safe. I also called Remington. They told me that it was manufactured in 1936 and will be sending me a manual.

Now I've got to order some dies and brass.

If I get a chance tomorrow, I'll take some pictures.

Thanks again for all the help!
very cool rifle! I got a rem M11, and I have been fascinated by the model 8 and 81 rifles. If I found one in .300 savage, I might just pick it up!
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