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Reinvigorating Grandpa’s Rifle: First-Year Production Remington Model 37

In 1953, my grandfather Ralph Hubbell was a high school sophomore in Montrose, Colorado. 

For his first firearm, his family bought a second-hand target rifle for about $50 so he could join his high school rifle team. As it turns out, that secondhand target rifle is a gorgeous first-year production Remington Model 37 from 1937, the year of Ralph’s birth. 

Ralph’s rifle team practiced after-hours once a week, setting up a bullet trap in the high school gymnasium. They shot four positions at 50 feet: prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing. The paper target had a .22-inch bull’s-eye.

I remember shooting this rifle with my grandfather as a kid, and I especially recall its remarkable heft. We would brace it on a fence wire and shoot cans and other small targets, and its precise aperture sights and crisp trigger made it amazingly easy to shoot from a rested position. 

This continued a long line of riflemen in the Hubbell family, including a professional hunting guide (my father), a Camp Perry competitor (Ralph’s brother), and veterans of wars ranging from World War II to the American Revolutionary War, in which Captain Silas Hubbell of the Connecticut Infantry captured a British musket that he used throughout the conflict, according to family records. 

Rifles and their usage have been passed down by many generations of the Hubbell family, and this played into my selection of a career as a firearm design engineer. Last year in 2021, my grandfather gave me his rifle, ensuring that further generations would enjoy it.

Ralph’s rifle sports a 28-inch heavy-profile barrel and a pistol-gripped target stock, contributing to its substantial weight. It came with a highly intricate set of Remington target sights with adjustments for windage, elevation, range, and aperture size. 

The forend sports a flat bottom and an accessory rail that predates Picatinny rails by several decades, allowing adjustment of the sling position as an aid to offhand shooting stability. The trigger is a two-stage affair with a serrated bow and a crisp, 3-pound break. 

Overall, the rifle exudes remarkable quality and attention to detail rarely seen in consumer-grade rifles today. The parts are fully machined, carefully fitted, and made of fine materials. The wooden stock has a beautiful grain that shines brightly in sunlight, even through 65 years of dings and dents.

ORIGINS OF THE REMINGTON MODEL 37: THE “GOLDEN AGE” OF RIMFIRE RIFLE COMPETITION 

During the 20th century, competitive rifle marksmanship, especially using rimfire rifles, had something of a heyday. 

Following the first matches of Olympic competitive shooting in 1896 came the inaugural National Match in Camp Perry, Ohio, in 1907. Rimfire rifles made their Olympic debut shortly after in 1908, and in 1919 organized rimfire competition started in earnest at Camp Perry.

This helped stimulate a nationwide system of high school, collegiate, and professional smallbore rifle shooting competitions. For a time, organized rifle practice was almost as normal as football practice in high schools across America — a martial tradition that we’ve sadly lost in recent years. 

Amidst a growing market for high-end precision rimfires, Remington desired a piece of the pie. In 1937, the Model 37 Rangemaster was launched. This rifle proceeded to build a remarkable reputation for itself in competitive rimfire shooting, including Art Cook’s 1948 Olympic Gold medal in 50-meter prone rifle.

MODERNIZING AN OLD WORKHORSE FOR MODERN PRECISION SHOOTING

While shooting the rifle with its iron sights is enjoyable, I decided that the best way to get another few generations’ worth of use out of the rifle would be to set it up in a way that I would enjoy it most. 

After taking a few courses in precision rifle shooting, I had been thinking about a precision rimfire training rifle for years, and I devised a plan to set it up with a modern telescopic sight and bipod. 

The Final Form

To the purists among the audience who might be aghast to consider giving the “bubba” treatment to such a beautiful rifle, I hear you. I altered the rifle in a completely non-permanent and reversible manner.

The key lay in an optic mount that could utilize the existing interface drilled and tapped into the barrel for original Unertl scopes. Evolution Gun Works (EGW) offers a 20 MOA offset mount, permitting extra elevation adjustment in long-range shooting. 

I then purchased a Diamondback Tactical 4-16x44mm FFP rifle scope and a simple set of 30mm low Picatinny rings from Vortex. Finally, Harris makes a bipod adapter that was compatible with the 5/16-inch accessory rail on the underside of the handguard in order to mount either a modern sling swivel or a Harris bipod.

PERFORMANCE AT THE RANGE

I headed to the range with a few friends to test out the rifle. Chuck Ables took all the photos for this article, and Damon Mort tagged along to showcase some of the shooting techniques he learned while shooting competitive smallbore in his Pennsylvania high school in the 2010s (it seems that state still has a strong competitive shooting presence in its schools). 

It was a gorgeous President’s Day weekend in Arizona, and though a lot of people had the same idea, we managed to find a good 50-yard stretch with a nice backstop to wring out the rifle.

Gramp's Gun, Remingington Model 37 (4)
Loosening the locking screw for the rear sight’s quick-detach mount. After this, a spring-loaded lever is depressed to slide the sight off of its rail.

With the rifle in its original configuration, I shot prone off a sandbag. The aperture sights gave a remarkably good picture of the paper target, and five rounds of CCI Mini-Mag made an impressive 0.7-inch group. 

We then tried some Wolf Match that Damon had brought, but the rifle didn’t seem to like it, consistently producing groups more than twice as large. Damon also demonstrated the goofy standing posture used by serious rimfire competitors.

Next, I attached the scope and bipod in the field. I removed the original rear sight by first loosening its clamp screw, then releasing its retention lever, sliding it rearward off of its accessory rail. It was remarkable to note the fundamental similarities to the Picatinny rail standard that would follow it decades later. 

I then removed the original rear scope base, cleaned off the decades of grime that surrounded it, and installed the EGW Picatinny scope base. I applied a bit of blue Loc-Tite to the threads and torqued them on to spec. Next, I mounted the scope, a bit nervous that the low rings might cause interference somewhere on the gun, but the scope cleared the base, barrel, and bolt handle perfectly, even allowing a solid cheek weld on the stock. 

Gramp's Gun, Remingington Model 37 (8)
Mounting the 20 MOA Picatinny rail by EGW. I used a dab of blue Loc-Tite to help the cantilevered mount support the Vortex scope.

Next, turning the gun over, I unscrewed the accessory interface from the forend and replaced the original sling swivel with the Harris unit. With a Harris bipod attached, the rifle weighed 13¾ pounds in its new configuration.

With the new optic, I could see the target much closely and clearly. The image through the Vortex scope was crisp and clean, and eye relief wasn’t an issue. I zeroed the gun first by removing the bolt and performing a quick boresight, then adjusting with a few rounds. 

CCI ammunition produced a similar group size to the iron sights from earlier, but the Wolf Match groups tightened up noticeably, with the day’s best sub-MOA group of 0.47 inch with Eley Match ammunition, of which we had a small supply available. We then proceeded to snipe spent shotgun shells from prone and standing. It was too easy — an experience that evoked giggles from everyone. 

Gramp's Gun, Remingington Model 37 (7)
Removing the original Remington sling swivel from its 5/16-inch rail. I replaced it with a Harris No. 6A adapter to give an interface for a modern Harris bipod.

The rifle was a pleasure to shoot. The match ammo types were subsonic, and out of a 28-inch barrel, they sounded almost suppressed. Without ear protection, the report was quite mild, though I wouldn’t recommend extended firing. 

I tried the offhand shooting position, finding the balance and heft of the rifle to be a pretty good ward against instability, at least until fatigue set in. The rifle was hard to put down, bringing a smile to everyone’s faces.

A few weeks later, I took the rifle out again and found an area to shoot 100 and 120 yards. Starting from a 50-yard zero with CCI Mini-Mag 36-grain HP, a hold of 4 MOA was on target at 100, and 8 MOA worked nicely at 120 yards. A steady wind pushed the impacts to the left, easily compensated for using the EBR-2C “Christmas tree” reticle of the Vortex optic. Once I figured out the holds, I was able to make short work of shotgun hulls and clay pigeon fragments at both distances. 

Gramp's Gun, Remingington Model 37 (9)
First shots at 50 yards with the optic mounted. The sight picture was extremely clear. Previous shooters had left lots of trash at this Forest Service spot, so we hauled out what we could. Please be good stewards of the land.

It was highly satisfying to pull the trigger, wait a split second, and then see the slow-moving .22 bullet obliterate small targets through the 16-power optic.

Accessories 
Harris No. 6A Bipod Adapter (for American Rails)$12
Harris S-L Bipod, 9-13-inch$112
Uncle Mike’s 1.25-inch Tri-Lock $12
Evolution Gun Works (EGW) 20 MOA Scope Mount for Remington Model 37$40
Vortex Hunter 30mm Low Rings$30
Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-16x44 FFP Scope$450

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While the group sizes were good, they could get better with learning and practice. I hope to stretch the legs of this rifle in the future, shooting to 200 yards and perhaps beyond. 

While I’ve shot to 1,000 yards with centerfire precision rifles, it’ll be a lot easier to find 200-yard stretches to shoot and a lot cheaper to practice with .22 LR. This rifle will be a great long-range trainer, practicing the fundamentals of long-range shooting with a unique family heirloom.

Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with this rifle, and can’t wait to continue learning a brand-new discipline with it. I’m thankful to my grandfather for this remarkable firearm and hope to give it a home in the family for generations to come. 

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One response to “Reinvigorating Grandpa’s Rifle: First-Year Production Remington Model 37”

  1. Mike says:

    As I read your post I was getting pretty steamed at your defiling of a beautiful old rifle. I almost skipped reading the whole post wanting to blast you in the comments…..

    I’m glad I finished….I would have felt kind of stoopid if I hadn’t read that everything you did is reversible…..

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