The Remington 600 and 660 were without doubt rifle designs that were way ahead of their time. Remington set out to create a family of sporting rifles that were short and lightweight, and which had superb ergonomics. They succeeded without a doubt, but these rifles with their bolt handle that was described by reviewers as being “crooked as a dog’s hind leg”, plastic trigger guard/magazine floor, plastic ventilated rib on the barrel, and laminated beech/walnut stock, all proved to be just plain too modern for the conservative rifle reviewers of the time.
It would take decades for discerning shooters to discover the Remington 600 and its successor the 660, and nowadays they have become regarded as a bit of a “quiet classic”.
The Creative Sixties
The 1960’s was a highly creative decade, but for some it proved to be a bit too creative. When Winchester informed famed gun writer Jack O’Connor that they were going to introduce a new model of the iconic Winchester Model 70 O’Connor’s reaction was to tell Winchester he planned to go buy a few of the old model so he wouldn’t be stuck having to buy the new version – he was convinced that the new model would be awful – and many shooters believe him to have been right.
Winchester were not the only ones who wanted to “modernize” (i.e. make their rifles more novel and cheaper to produce). Over in Europe Mauser decided that the much loved Mauser ’98 needed to be replaced with something more “modern”. They approached famed German designer and target shooter Walter Gehmann and he created a new rifle action for them which would become the Mauser 66.
In neighbouring Austria, Steyr, who were the makers of the much admired Mannlicher-Schönauer rifles, decided to “modernize” also and ceased production of the Mannlicher-Schönauer and in its stead in 1973 created the Steyr-Mannlicher series of rifles with “Makrolon” plastic trigger guard and detachable magazines.
I first came across these when I visited a gun shop in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1975. As a classic sporting rifle aficionado I was quite horrified and reasoned that those plastic magazines would prove to be a weakness, and this has turned out to be the case. A shooting friend has a few of these rifles in his collection and the plastic rotary magazines have proven to be the 1960’s vintage Steyr-Mannlicher’s Achilles heel.
Steyr seems to have appreciated the problem and introduced their Steyr-Mannlicher Luxus model which featured a steel single column magazine and controlled round feed: this was a vast improvement.
The Remington 600
The Remington 600 was introduced in 1964 in standard calibres. The 600 Magnum version was introduced in 1965 in 350 Remington Magnum and in 1966 the 6.5mm Remington Magnum version made its debut.
These two magnum cartridges were based on the Holland & Holland belted magnum case (i.e. 375 Holland & Holland Magnum of 1912) necked down and shortened to create some of the earliest short magnum cartridges.
The 1960’s also saw Remington being bitten by the plastics bug and the Remington 600 was one of their early attempts at using such “modern materials” in their centrefire sporting rifles. Had Remington introduced their model 600 in 2023 I suspect it would have done really well – but back in 1964 it was just too radical for most. That being said I finished up owning one during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
The Remington 600 was created to be short and light, a bolt action carbine that would rival the then popular lightweight lever action rifles so popular for whitetail deer, but instead of being chambered for the 30-30 it came in 308 Winchester, 6mm Remington, 222 Remington, 223 Remington (which is very rare), and 35 Remington. The Remington 600 Magnum Carbine was offered in 6.5mm Remington Magnum and 350 Remington Magnum.
The barrel length of the Remington 600 and 600 Magnum Carbine was 18½ inches (47 cm) so the muzzle blast was sharp whichever cartridge it was chambered for. My own Remington 600 was converted into a Benchrest competition rifle with a 16½ inch barrel chambered in a 220 Russian based predecessor to the 22PPC. Even with such a small cartridge the muzzle blast was sharp and having done a lot of shooting with it I rather suspect that it was the reason I nowadays have to use hearing aids, despite the fact that I used decent ear protection at the range.
The Remington 600 tipped the scales at 5½ lb. and so logically if chambered in something like the 308 Winchester or larger, recoil could be expected to be a tad uncomfortable.
This was, I think, not really as bad as it could have been. The wooden stock of the 600 was very cleverly designed with a subtle Monte-Carlo cheek-piece and the rifle was rather more comfortable to shoot than might have been expected just looking at its specifications.
Just considering the weight of the 600 for a moment, many European rifles are nowadays being made with weight well below 7 lb, often around 6 lb to 6½ lb. This makes sense because almost all will be fitted with a telescopic sight, and many modern European telescopic sights are big and heavy, and will add a pound or more to the weight of the rifle.
So a Remington 600 with a scope on it would easily finish up weighing 6-6½ lb.
Nowadays in Britain and much of Europe it has become increasingly the norm to fit a sound moderator/suppressor on the barrel so short barrels have become much more common. The 18½ inch barrel of the Remington 600 would be a perfect length for suppressor use for someone who acquires one nowadays.
The barrel of the Remington 600 was fully floating, and the short 600 action was intelligently bedded: so these rifles acquired a reputation for decent accuracy. The short action became quite sought after by benchrest shooters wanting to build a custom rifle.
The benchrest fraternity preferred the action from the XP100 pistol – which was the action used for the 600. For a benchrest rifle the XP100 action was preferred because it had a solid bottom, it was a single shot action. The 600 action had an open bottom to accommodate the magazine follower, and so was regarded as being less rigid and was less sought after – but still a good choice.
In a seeming effort to give the Remington 600 shotgun like fast pointing characteristics it was fitted with a plastic ventilated rib which incorporated a rear-sight which was screw adjustable for elevation and windage, and a large ramp front-sight fitted with a nicely visible flat gold bead.
That ventilated rib was a practical idea but one that seems to have grated on the conservative tastes of hunters and gun-writers of the time. It made use of open sights fast and instinctive, but limited the size of rifle-scope objective lens that could be used with it. It was fine with scopes up to about 40 mm objective lens diameter in standard height mounts: and the rib was attached to the barrel by screws so it could be easily removed, as could the front and rear sight also, if desired.
The 600 action was short and made to be mounted a bit more to the rear than the standard Remington 700 action. In order for the bolt handle to be kept directly above the trigger it was given its “dog’s hind leg” shape – like the reverse of that on the Enfield P14 and M17.
Had the bolt handle not been shaped like this the bolt handle would have been against the shooter’s fingers and would have smacked knuckles when the rifle recoiled. The 600 action was easy to cycle and the bolt design made it so.
The 600 action was push-feed, just like the Remington 700, and had the same “Three rings of steel” design at the bolt face, and the same spring extractor with plunger ejector.
Remington’s magnum version of the 600 retained the stumpy 18½ inch barrel and 5½ lb weight without rifle-scope. Recoil energy for the version in 350 Remington Magnum was around 36 ft/lb – about the same as a 9 lb 375 Holland & Holland Magnum, and of course muzzle blast can best be described as sharp.
With a rifle-scope the rifle weight would be more like 7 lb and thus the recoil tamed down to about 30 ft/lb, which is more like that of a short barrel 30-06 with heavy bullets.
For the 6.5 Remington Magnum recoil was down to a nice comfortable 25 ft/lb or thereabouts.
The Remington 660
In 1968 Remington decided to improve the 600 and introduced the Remington 660 and 660 Magnum.
The Remington 660 addressed the main criticisms leveled at the 600. The barrel length was increased to 20 inches, and the plastic ventilated barrel rib was eliminated. The front sight of the 600 was also re-designed as the original had acquired a reputation for getting snagged on twigs and brush.
The rifle was still fitted with the plastic trigger guard and floorplate but the beech and walnut laminated stock was treated to a contrasting fore-end tip and, importantly, a recoil pad.
For those not wanting to keep the plastic trigger guard/floorplate aftermarket manufacturers offered aluminium and steel replacements. A steel replacement would tend to add weight in that central “between the hands” area of the rifle action tending to improve its balance and add a bit of strategically placed weight to help mitigate recoil.
The Remington 660 was, in my view, a welcome improvement over its 600 predecessor. It was still very light being between 5½-6lb in weight, but had the advantage of that extra inch and a half of barrel to help make its bark and bite more pleasant.
The Remington 600 Mohawk
Remington had sold around 144,622 Remington 600 and 660 rifles and as they withdrew the model from production they gave it one last gasp as a budget rifle in the form of the Remington Mohawk.
The Mohawk entered production in 1971 and continued until 1979. It was offered without the plastic ventilated barrel rib, with a beech wood stock, plastic butt-plate, and plastic trigger guard/floorplate like its predecessors.
Interestingly the Mohawk reverted back to the 18½ inch barrel of the 600, a design decision that ensured it was exceedingly lightweight, and with its inexpensive plain Jane beech stock a perfect “knock-around” carbine, one of those rifles that gets used often because its owner isn’t too worried by scratches, knocks and dings.
The Mohawk was offered in the popular original standard calibres: 222 Remington, 6mm Remington, and 308 Winchester.
The Anschutz Mohawks
As the end of production approached in 1979 Remington decided to create a special model for the European market and so sent between 150-200 Mohawk barreled actions to German rifle maker Anschutz where they were fitted with walnut continental Mannlicher style full stock walnut stocks.
These full stock carbines were fully German in their style right down to their Bavarian style cheek-piece.
The Remington 600 and 660 family carbines were well ahead of their time when introduced and manufactured back in the second half of the 1960’s. They were short, in part thanks to the rearward set design of the action, complimented by their short barrels. They were wonderfully light, even with a riflescope on six to six and a half pounds in weight: and they delivered adequate ballistics.
Perception of recoil will vary from shooter to shooter. The 600 and 660 were at their best in the smaller calibres for most people, but for a seasoned rifleman who had built up substantial recoil tolerance even the 308 Winchester and the 35 Remington were fine, and likewise the 350 Remington Magnum with the advantage of the recoil pad.
I no longer have a Remington 600 or 660, and as they have become a bit of a collector’s item it seems unlikely that I will acquire another one. If I did I’d tend to opt for a 660 in 308 Winchester if possible and I would replace the original plastic trigger guard/floorplate with an aftermarket steel one.
But my rifle safe is pretty full, so I think I can manage to live a happy life with what I have.
But would I acquire another one if one came my way – yes indeed: these were a fabulous rifle.
If you own one of these little gems and need a manual you can find one at Remington here.
These rifles are now very old but owners, users and buyers should be aware that they were subject to a recall by Remington. A fault was identified in the safety catch operation.
Not all Remington 600’s and 660’s seem to present with it.
This fault can manifest itself if the shooter cocks the rifle, applies the safety catch, and then presses the trigger to test the safety is working.
The danger can occur when the shooter then disengages the safety even while their finger is not touching the trigger: on some rifles the rifle will discharge as the safety is disengaged.
So if you own or are planning to buy a Remington 600 or 660 test it, or better still get a competent gunsmith to test it and advise you.
I think I would tend towards having a gunsmith replace the original trigger/safety with one by Timney. That should make the excellent Remington 600 and 660 perfect.
Picture Credits: Feature image courtesy Rock Island Auction, other pictures as marked.
Jon Branch is the founder and senior editor of Revivaler and has written a significant number of articles for various publications including official Buying Guides for eBay, classic car articles for Hagerty, magazine articles for both the Australian Shooters Journal and the Australian Shooter, and he’s a long time contributor to Silodrome.
Jon has done radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews on various issues, and has traveled extensively, having lived in Britain, Australia, China and Hong Kong. His travels have taken him to Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan and a number of other countries. He has studied the Japanese sword arts and has a long history of involvement in the shooting sports, which has included authoring submissions to government on various firearms related issues and assisting in the design and establishment of shooting ranges.