K-Mart Classics: Remington’s Nylon Rimfires Engineered To Last
It may seem a stretch to call any synthetic rifle “ahead of its time” – especially a relatively inexpensive rimfire with faux woodgrain – yet that’s exactly what we have with the Remington Nylon 66. These semi-automatic .22 LR rifles have grown from 1950s bargain buys to 21st-century collectors’ darlings.
In their hunt for materials less expensive than the day's standard of steel and walnut, the designers at Remington partnered with the chemists at parent company DuPont to concoct a new synthetic material. It needed to meet many stringent standards, including strength, moldability, and weatherproofing, while remaining both heat- and solvent-resistant.
After much work and testing, the material known as Nylon 66 was born. Its namesake line of rimfires became known as the first synthetic-stocked firearm, but it is more correct to say it was the first one to be successful. See our related Nylons article for more on how the seemingly magical polymer was created.
The greater part of Remington’s Nylon rifle was made from this new-age polymer, with the addition of a steel receiver cover to give it the look of a more traditional firearm. Despite the uncertainly of not knowing how the shooting public would react to a plastic gun, Remington began producing the 66s in 1958.
We snagged a sweet Nylon 66 specimen from the GDC Vault. The guns are semi-automatic, blowback-driven rimfires chambering .22 LR only. The rifles are fed via a magazine tube that holds 14 rounds. Rather than in front of the action, Nylon 66s are loaded through the buttplate, with the tube running lengthwise through the buttstock.
Two colors of Nylon stocks were initially offered: a more traditional Mohawk Brown and a jade-tinged Seneca Green. The latter was produced in far fewer numbers and discontinued sooner – thus the greater demand. In the 1960s, Remington added an Apache Black variant with jet-black stocks and chromed metalwork. This is the one we were tickled to find online.
The barrel on our test gun measures 19.5 inches and includes iron sights. In an interesting design element, the barrel attaches to the receiver with a simple bracket that slips inside the stock and allows easy removal of the barrel for cleaning. The adjustable rear sight travels with the removable steel receiver cover.
Why So Attractive?
The guns are incredibly lightweight – just over 4 pounds – in stark contrast to heavier walnut and steel rifles of the day. Of particular note, these guns were advertised to run without lubricant, as the Nylon Zytel-101 material was self-lubricating.
Looks are classy, with contrasting black buttplate, grip cap, and forearm tip, each set off by a white spacer that coordinates with white diamond inlays along the forearm. The trigger guard is also plastic, and even the bolt mechanism slides along grooves in the nylon receiver.
Rifles produced before the Gun Control Act of 1968 carried no serial number. The original Nylon 66 was advertised for $49.95. By its discontinuation in 1991, the Nylon 66 had become Remington’s top-selling rimfire, with over 1 million produced. The company’s wild plastic gamble paid great dividends.
We headed to the range with a healthy mix of ammunition. The rifle took some getting used to as far as loading, but the process is actually quite simple. Instead of charging through the side of the buttstock, shooters must invert the rifle and fully remove the inner mag tube to fill.
Our test rifle did not differentiate between standard or high velocity loads, cycling them all with ease. The same goes for different bullet types – hollow points, copper, lead, round nose – no problem. The trigger broke a little under 5 pounds with slight creep, but all told, not bad.
Over the years, one of the knocks on the design indicate the stock can flex – and drift bullet impact – under excessively tight gripping, wrapped sling holds, or vice clamping. We didn’t apply great torque to the rifle and never experienced a problem. It’s really a testament to the quality of the engineering and design that these largely plastic 60-year-old plinksters are not only completely intact but running just as well now as they did then.
The receiver cover is grooved for easy optics mounting, and our test model came with an old Weaver rimfire scope in place. Even with slightly foggy glass, our Nylon 66 shot impressively and reliably. Stocks are sleek and slim, easy to grasp with their checkering panels, and attractive in the way a Remington 700 BDL came to be. While we never gave much thought to these guns before, it has won over a place in our hearts and a space on our wish lists in their many variations.
Nylon 66 MB: The initial semi-auto model, produced in Mohawk Brown (MB) with faux woodgrain.
Nylon 66 SG: Short run of Seneca Green (SG) faux woodgrain stocked models.
Nylon 66 AB: Line of Apache Black (AB) rifles with black stocks, white inlays, and chromed metalwork.
Nylon 66 BD: Later version called Black Diamond (BD) with a black stock, barrel, and receiver cover.
The Other Nylons
Though the most well-known and with greatest production numbers, the Nylon 66 was far from the only family member in this spacey entourage. In fact, some of the color variants and alternate designs are even more desirable. With the 66 as successful proof of concept, Remington continued launching related rifles.
Nylon 10: A bolt-action single shot.
Nylon 11: A bolt-action rifle fed by a detachable box magazine.
Nylon 12: A bolt action with a magazine tube beneath the barrel.
Nylon 76: A lever-action version of the rifle with a short throw action.
Nylon 77: A dropbox magazine-fed version of the original semi-automatic Model 66.
A Kmart Rifle?
Several variants, including a good number of Nylon 77s, were built and labeled for Kmart retail stores. The Nylon rifles were solid sellers at big box stores in the late 1980s, including a short run of Apache Seneca Green variants that sold only at Kmart.
Even now in 2023, with the Nylon long out of production and most Kmart stores shuttered for years, the rifles and retailer remain forever entwined, with many of those store-branded rifles claiming a collector’s premium.
No matter the Nylon variant, the rimfires have proven themselves ahead-of-their-time innovators. Other than the scuffs and scratches to be expected from over 50 years of use, the polymer material on our test gun certainly held its own.
The Nylon 66 served as proof that consumers would not only buy – but seek out – futuristic synthetic-stocked firearms. Whether reliving our younger days, collecting unusual pieces of American firearms history, or wanting a straight-up neat gun that shoots as well today as it did in the ’50s, there’s a Nylon to fit the bill.