The Rebirth, So to Speak, of the Nylon 66

The Remington Nylon 66 semiauto in Mohawk brown.Wikimedia Commons

One of the recent “Ask Petzal” questions I received asked me to recommend an indestructible .22 for prepper uses. A couple of years ago I would have told him to get a life, not a gun, but now I think it’s a perfectly reasonable request. The firearm I recommended was the Remington Nylon 66, a .22LR semiauto that was made from 1959 to 1989, weighed only 4 pounds, and was one of the first rifles to have a synthetic stock. There was nothing like it then, and there isn’t today.

Remington did everything right on the 66. It fed, reliably, from a 14-round tubular magazine in the stock, had a good trigger, excellent open sights, shot accurately, and made the AK-47 look unreliable by comparison. I took one to college with me, shot it for four years with any kind of cheap ammo I could find, never cleaned it, and used it in temperatures as cold as 30 below. It never failed. Because the steel bolt rode in a nylon receiver, you never even had to oil it. My only concern for its welfare was that someone would puke on it. There was a lot of random puking back then, since we didn’t have to burden our minds with safe spaces and trigger words and micro-aggressions. If you could hurl with style you had nothing to worry about. But I digress.

Despite its highly unconventional appearance, the 66 was a raving success and started a franchise. There was a total of 1,050,350 made during its lifetime, and Remington came out with copies in lever- and bolt-action. There was also a detachable-box-magazine version of the 66, and three different color schemes: the original Mohawk Brown, Apache Black (a chromed receiver cover and black stock) and Seneca Green, which was blued steel and a kind of bilious greenish-brown.

A fraternity brother of mine had been an intern at DuPont when it developed the 66 stock (Zytel, they called that particular structural nylon) and he said that at the time, the forming mold was the most complex industrial mold in the world. I don’t doubt it.

The Nylon 66 was not perfect if you shot left-handed. Like every other .22 semiauto, it spat powder and brass fragments in your face, which is why I finally sold mine.

Today, nearly 60 years after it was introduced at $49.95, people are re-appreciating just how good the 66 is and prices have gone way up. L.L. Bean currently has a box-magazine, scratched-up 66 in Mohawk Brown for $499.95. This is high, but not out of line. The scarcer versions of the rifle, including the bolt and the lever, can cost as much as $1,500, because people are now collecting them. I think about the least you could pay for a tube-fed 66 in Good condition would be about $200, and then you’d probably have to find someone who didn’t know what he was selling.

For Prepper purposes, the best of the bunch is the original semiauto, tube-magazine version. Its 14 round capacity is conducive to fire superiority and my experience with detachable-box rimfire magazines does not fill me with confidence. Omit a scope; the iron sights are fine. The only drawback to the rifle from a tactical point of view is the shiny stock. When anarchy reigns you don’t want to take to the hills with something that flashes like a mirror. I’d cover it with tape.

The 50s were an odd time for firearms. There were probably a dozen I could name that were so good and/or far ahead of their time that they weren't appreciated. The Nylon 66 did get the respect it deserved, but its day is not done, and if someone were to bring out a tactical-looking version, I'd bet it would sell quicker than 45 RPMs of Itsy-Bitsy-Teenie-Weenie-Yellow-Polka-Dot Bikini.