Legal Issues

NBC Sells Fear with Another Shot at Remington

In October 2010, CNBC broadcasted a report titled “Remington Under Fire” as a segment in their nightly news program. The segment alleged that the Remington 700 bolt-action rifle has a defective fire control group. Senior Correspondent Scott Cohn reported that Remington 700s could fire immediately when the bolt is closed, or discharge with the safety catch on. A series of videos by Remington responded to the allegations in the report, and debunked some of the claims CNBC made. Scott Cohn still won a Gerald Loeb Award, the highest honor in business journalism, for the “Remington Under Fire” story.

Cohn returned this year with a fresh attack on Remington. This time working for Rock Center with Brian Williams, his new report attacks the Remington 870 on the same grounds as “Remington Under Fire.” Although not officially titled, an ominous “Under Fire” crosshair logo appears behind Brian Williams as he gravely warns the viewing audience that no federal agency has enough power to force a gun company to recall defective products. “The industry polices itself…keep that in mind as you watch our next story…,” he declares.

The report begins with a hunter named Justin Yerger, whose Remington Sportsman 12 supposedly discharged when it fell over. If you’re not familiar with the Sportsman 12, that’s OK—Remington only made this budget model for two years, from 1984 to 1986. In the CNBC report, Yerger claims that his Sportsman 12 just went off all by itself, with the safety on. CNBC then interviews Tom Butters, gunsmith and paid expert witness for plaintiffs who sue gun companies. Butters claims that Remington’s common fire control group, a trigger assembly introduced in 1948, has a design flaw that Remington is hiding. The program continues on, telling stories of accidents in which Remington shotguns and rifles using the common fire control group “just go off” with the safety on and without pulling the trigger. The final story involves John Casey, a man imprisoned for 2nd degree murder in the death of his wife. Casey appealed his 20-year sentence because the court would not allow him to introduce evidence about the common fire control group. This evidence could potentially support his claim that his Remington 742 rifle discharged without the trigger being pulled. The appeals court denied Casey’s appeal. The segment ends with a few words between Brian Williams and Scott Cohn. Williams notes that Remington created a website to respond to CNBC’s story and predicts that gun advocates will claim CNBC has an anti-gun agenda. Cohn responds, “If we were doing a story about allegedly defective baby carriages, would we be anti-baby carriage?”

Remington’s website vigorously defends their product line and the common fire control group. Posting a series of well-produced videos giving additional information, Remington is attempting to go point-by-point and debunk Rock Center’s allegations. One video centers on the Justin Yerger case. Yerger’s story about how his gun “just went off” changed after he hired a trial attorney. Neither version of his story matches up with the forensic evidence recorded by the police investigation that followed. Tom Butters and Remington tested Yerger’s gun and found it to be working properly. The tests were unable to duplicate the malfunction described by Mr. Yerger in his lawsuit. Tom Butters, the expert gunsmith Rock Center relied on, has testified in hundreds of tort cases against nearly every major firearms manufacturer in the country as a paid expert witness. He and another gunsmith, Jack Belk, have invented a patented safety system called the Belk-Butters Intercept Safety device, which they have unsuccessfully tried to sell to Remington and others. They built the BBIS device at the request of the trial lawyers who funded it. Belk admitted during a deposition that he would be unlikely to testify against any gun manufacturer that purchased their BBIS device.

Brian Williams claims at the end of the segment that CNBC is not anti-gun. He hints that it would be reasonable for a government agency such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate the firearms industry as a method of quality control. This would keep unscrupulous gun companies from selling defective products. Taking him at his word, the story is an effort to raise the standard of care, as the lawyers would say. When a lawyer wants to hold a car manufacturer responsible for not putting anti-lock brakes on their cars, they can defend that everyone else uses old style standard brakes as well—if nearly everyone else truly uses those brakes. Once enough manufacturers switch to anti-lock brakes, the defense to lawsuits breaks down and the car manufacturer must pay for not meeting the standard of care required by the rest of the industry. What Rock Center is saying, according to their own explanation, is that manufactuturers should raise the standard of care until most of them use a trigger system like the BBIS device designed by Butters and Belk. Then trial lawyers can sue the gun companies who don’t follow the new standard of care. The government can punish them for not following industry wide safety standards.

However, the industry will not normally raise the standard of care unless their customers demand it. This is why it is necessary to sell fear and doubt to Remington’s customers. CNBC wants customers to walk into gun stores and refuse to buy Remington 870s until that trigger problem they saw on the TV is fixed. This will hurt Remington’s sales until they change their design, eventually changing the standard of care. From the point of view that CNBC is anti-gun, they are hoping that millions of wives who viewed graphic images of mangled legs and faces on the nightly news tonight will nag their husbands to get those scary guns out of the house tomorrow. The lesson of the broadcast is “you cannot trust these things; they will kill you for no reason at all if you possess them.”

An important question remains. Why now? The most recent incident discussed in the CNBC report occurred in 1998, nearly fifteen years ago. The Remington 870 and its common fire control group have been in continuous production since 1948. The ten millionth 870 shotgun was produced in 2003 and the common fire control group fits several models of Remington rifle as well. Rock Center claims in their report that over 20 million firearms have been built using this fire control group. They claim to have found 125 incidents involving the fire control groups during their ten-month investigation into Remington’s deep dark secret. Let’s say the common fire control group was defective on all 125 incidents, out of twenty million guns using it. That means CNBC found evidence that .000625 percent of the Remington firearms in question have this problem. Why this story now? Is it because a presidential election looms? Is it because Scott Cohn wants another award for attacking an evil gun company? Is it because the annual NRA convention was scheduled for the same week as the report aired?

Viewers are left to decide for themselves. You can see Remington’s videos discussing the Rock Center broadcast at You can find the original CNBC broadcast on

Watch them both and then comment. Who do you believe? Would you buy a Remington product using the common fire control group after seeing both sides?

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. Defending myself with an 870. In a fight for my life. Guess what? It went off. I didn’t pull the trigger. Nope I will never be able to prove it. Say what you will, I am not here to argue. The gun got banged around during this situation. But it went off. The gun wasn’t a cheap Walmart issue. This was a 1980’s Gun. Now this gun had a few problems. It would not load a shell at times and after the fact I remembering when sighting in on a target it would fire too easily. Not always but sometimes. Maybe it was a lemon. Who knows. They are mechanical. Now this gun was factory fresh, meaning it had never been modified. The trigger pull tested at 3.5#’s Now I love guns, I am a 2nd supporter all the way. Do I believe Remington has Quality issues. On this 870 there sure was. Are there issues with the 870s. Most of us know there is. Jamming, not loading properly ect. One other problem that is dangerous squeezing the trigger with the safety on, then releasing the safety and touching the trigger. The trigger pull (can) become noticeably easier to fire the round in the chamber. Try it. Do it several times. Make sure yours does not do this. If it does you have learned something. If it don’t you’ll call me a variety of names. That’s ok. At least you’ll know. Be safe.

  2. Did anybody catch the two most important words that provide credibility to this story? – Brian Williams.

    What a douche bag.

  3. Their 700 imo is the safest most reliable tool ever produced. Mines a 3006
    Sweet machine.
    Morons can drown in a shallow tub, msm bs is all this is.

  4. I personally owned a model 700 SPS in .308 with a 26 inch barrel. A model 722 built in 1947 with the original trigger and safety that locks the bolts went on in .300 savage and 870 Wingmaster and a 597 in .22 long rifle. The 722 is taken over 40 dear 23 elk a couple of brown bears along the way not to mention A variety of varmints and wolves and coyotes since it was built. My grandfather gave it to my dad who gave it to me I am now 47 years old and never once has this rifle to my knowledge had an accidental discharge of any type. Matter of fact it’s still shoots 3/4 to 1 inch five round groups consistently using 165 game king bullets hand loaded for the rifle. The SPS in .308 shoots just as accurately and will hit a 12 inch steel plated 1000 yards consistently with the scope set up by have on it. I think Remington makes the best firearms in the industry and have been will bet my life on it. Period

  5. I own a 870 bought it at Kmart for $107.00 Plus tax. that was around 1987. It never ever gave me anything but joy. It never broke or missed Fire. I all so own other Remington products. I am a disabled veteran and studying to be a gunsmith. Being around firearms all my life and have 4 adult children all so in this great sport.

  6. I let my grandson use my 742 this deer season. His first shot was fine, but the second emptied the clip. Every time he touched the safety it fired, the last time it went automatic. Luckily he was using good safety practices and no one was hurt. I don’t know what to do with this gun now. It sounds like Remington isn’t doing anything about it. Any suggestions?

  7. im a deer hunter and use a 742 woodmaster semi auto and never had a problem with dischargeing. walking in or out of the woods loaded or at the range. love this gun

  8. I have owned numerous 870’s, 1100’s and 700’s. I have never had a problem with any of the triggers. Just imagine if the auto industry had a .000625 percent failure rate of any safety component. The government would be giving them an award for it.

  9. I have owned and shot a Remington 870 pump action shotgun for 25-30 years. It is my primary home defense firearm among others and never had a problem malfunction or accidental discharge. If the Remington 870 is so shoddy and dangerous how do you account for the fact that it is the shotgun of choice by most law enforcement organizations and individuals. Just more NBC liberal anti-second amendment bias attacking the oldest firearms company in America. If NBC wants to highlight something dangerous they need look no further than the current occupant of the White House.

  10. I refuse to watch any NBC network for any reason, their reporting is the most biased in the industry. They complain about someone else policing themselves, who polices the lying liberal press. Remington should take Belk, Butters and NBC to court and sue. Would it be possible to sue NBC for enough to put them out of business, I contribute to the law fund for it.

  11. Okay so two things here. Remington just earned a government contract for some M4’s. I doubt our US military would buy anything from a company who has a shotty track record and QC issues. Second thing, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DROP SAFE Pump shotgun.

  12. 125 incidents out of 20 million firearms sold? I am of the opinion that the incidents in question would have been avoided if the users had taken the proper care. And that those people shouldn’t have had any such weapons in their possession. Will this article make me no longer willing to purchase Remington products? Hell no!! I believe that the story actually illustrates how safe their firearms are and that with proper diligence accidents can be avoided. This is just another example of the press scaring people in order to progress a given agenda, gun control. They are utopian dreamers and don’t have a basis in reality for their conclusions. I would suggest that Remington start sponsoring programs that highlight their firearms safety and quality. This will get the word out to the public that firearms are not the problem, stupid people are the problem.

  13. I guess C(ommunist)NBC is trying to keep up with the rest of the NBC “News” organization. (NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC) by going off “HALF COCKED”. I have owbed a 760 made in 1963, and 5 670’s 2 of which are tactical models. My father owned a 760. and we gave had no problems with them. If I could get one I’d get a 7615 by Remington which has the same trigger group. But it’s hard to take the Lamestream media seriously. both my wife and myself have been in Law Enforcement since 1979 and ued Remington products without mishaps. some other brands I won’t even consider due to shoddy workmanship. nuff said

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.