Remington’s Aerial Autoloader

June 26th, 2014 by admin

REMINGTON’S AERIAL AUTOLOADER: The Model 8’s Pioneering use in Aviation

Cameron Woodall



In the year 1900, John Browning was working on his first long-recoil rifle patent, a gun that came to be known as the Remington Model 8.  He may not have been surprised to see his Autoloading Rifle adorned by sportsmen nationwide and eventually embraced by an array law enforcement, but he likely never envisioned its role in the fledgling field of aeronautics.  Not long after its introduction, the Remington autoloader would make its aerial debut.  

Before the opening days of WWI, famed aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss contemplated putting a service rifle in a plane.  Early aircraft, however, were not ideal target shooting platforms, but that didn’t stop the U.S. Army from taking his notion and selecting one of its up-and-coming Lieutenants to examine the feasibility of aerial gunnery.  The first recorded shot from an airplane was by Lieut. Jacob Fickel, piloted by Curtiss over Sheepshead Bay on August 20th, 1910.  Fickel used the Model 1903 Springfield in this test flight, and in other tests following, but understandably found operating its bolt cumbersome while sitting on the wing of a bi-plane 200 feet in the air!  

Enter Remington.  Fickel continued to evaluate, test, and perfect his aerial marksmanship for months thereafter.  Unsatisfied with the Springfield rifle, Fickel was encouraged to evaluate the effectiveness of a repeating arm other than one of Government Issue.  By 1911 Remington had already produced over 21,000 Autoloading Rifles, establishing the gun’s legitimacy as a reliable, high power semi-automatic rifle.  The ability to eject and load cartridges by way of recoil would seemingly be advantageous in the very limited seat room (or wing!) of early aircraft.  So on May 13th, 1911, before a crowd of 10,000 spectators, Lieut. Fickel again took to the skies this time toting a Remington Autoloading Rifle chambered in .25 Rem.  Near Bridgeport, Conn., pilot Lincoln Beachy guided him in range of a 6 x 12 target where Fickel scored three consecutive hits at approximately 60 mph while seated on the port wing of a Curtiss bi-plane!  This was quite possibly the first verified use of a self-loading rifle from an aircraft.  According to one report,

Lieut. Fickel said that he found the speed and accuracy of the new Remington UMC .25 autoloading rifle a distinct advantage over the Springfields he had previously used in tests, and that he considered the Autoloader the only practical gun for use under such conditions“ Aeronautics Vol. III, June 1911


The photograph below shows Lieut. Fickel clutching his Remington Autoloading Rifle & demonstrating his shooting technique while sitting atop the bi-plane wing.  At the wheel beside him is pilot Lincoln Beachy. 

Lieut. Fickel was able to throw three shots into the target, which is a remarkable record considering the speed at which he had to work


The Daily Capitol Journal: Salem Oregon – Saturday, November 18, 1911

The Daily Capitol Journal: Salem Oregon, Saturday, November 18, 1911



“New Epoch in the Hunting World”

Frenchman Hubert Latham was probably the first man to hunt from an airplane.  On December 22nd, 1910 he carried a shotgun in his Antoinette monoplane and successfully downed several ducks.  A year later, his fellow countrymen Georges Legagneux and Robert Martinet also demonstrated aerial hunting by using side by side shotguns to bag partridges and hares out of a Farman bi-plane. But it was Americans Glenn Martin and Fred Mills who may have been the first men to use an autoloading rifle for aerial hunting.  

In the spring of 1915, over California’s San Fernando Valley, these two men embarked on a mission to reveal a new prospect to the hunting community.  As Lieut. Fickel had previously shown the advantages of Remington’s Autoloading Rifle some 4 years earlier, amateur marksman Fred Mills also selected Remington’s Model 8 in hopes of bagging game with a centerfire rifle.  Piloted by Glenn Martin, the two were successful in harvesting two coyotes from the air and another coyote and two bobcats from the ground.  Although this was not their first outing together, it was their most publicized hunt reaching magazines and newspapers across the country touted as “the beginning of the revolutionizing of hunting”.  

“reports of Mill’s Remington autoloading rifle fired in joyous anticipation of bringing home the bacon mingled with the whirr of the machine’s motor“ The Logan Republican, March 15, 1915



Illustrated World, Sept. 1916

Illustrated World, Sept. 1916


The Remington Model 8 was undoubtedly used in many other aerial displays unaccounted for; probably long lost with time. Today, the use of autoloading rifles in aircraft for hunting is becoming more commonplace, especially for population control of feral pigs.  The early days of aviation were noted for trial and error, but for the men who took the Model 8 to the skies, satisfaction seemed to be the resounding consensus.