George Mason Van Orden, Secretary of the Navy Trophy Rifles

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The rifle’s you will see today are very generously provided by Mr. George Van Orden. Grandson of General George Van Orden, owner an operator of Evalutors LTD and famous Marine and Sniping Expert. The rifles were awarded to his father for his outstanding achievements in rifle marksmanship. These have never been shown to the public before now and I can not overstate what a privilege it is to get to see these and share them.

Before we get to pictures, a little info on the Remington 720. The rifle came about after the end of WW1 when Remington had been making the M1917 Enfield rifle. First as the 11914 in .303 for the British then re-worked into .30-06 for issue to US troops when there wasn’t enough M1903s to go around. After the war, Remington had a lot of spares left over they weren’t sure what to do with. So they made a virtue of a necessity. Removing the big rear sight and sporterizing the Model 1917, they released the model 30, The 30 evolved into the more refined 720 before the M700 was introduced. I will let the NRA Museum website take it from here.

The Model 720A was produced between 1941 and 1944, with a total production of approximately 2500 rifles. Of these, nearly 1000, including the example seen here, were purchased in 1942 by the Navy Department and were awarded as trophies to winning Navy and Marine Corps personnel in a variety of competitions. These trophy guns can be identified by the Ordnance crossed cannon and inspector’s proof marks on the stock.

The Remington Model 720 bolt action rifle, intended to compete with Winchester’s popular Model 70, was produced in limited numbers until Second World War military requirements forced its discontinuation. Even some knowledgeable collectors and firearms historians may not be familiar with these rifles. Introduced by Remington in mid- to late-1941, the Model 720 was billed as an improvement over its predecessor, the Model 30S. The Ilion, New York arms maker offered these in .270 Winchester and .257 Roberts chamberings, as well as in .30-Ô06; and with barrel lengths of 20-, 22-, and 24 inches.

Major Kam Hayden, U.S.M.C., who had just finished a tour as commander of the Marine Corps Marksmanship Training Unit at Quantico, Virginia, heard about the proposal to destroy these rifles. Maj. Hayden suggested that they be awarded as trophies to top Navy and Marine Corps competitive shooters.

This plan was approved, and beginning in 1964, the Model 720 was designated as the “Secretary of the Navy Trophy.” A few rifles exhibited ill-effects from their long storage and were subsequently used as a source of parts, while the remaining inventory was divided between the Navy and Marine Corps to be awarded to winners at the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, and at various divisional and inter-service matches. Presented in their original shipping cartons, these Secretary of the Navy trophy rifles feature an engraved magazine floorplate identifying the competition for which they were awarded. Some shooters won as many as seven of these rare trophies before steps were taken to limit the awarding of a rifle.

Of the approximately 2,500 Model 720s manufactured, the .30-Ô06 variant accounts for all but about 100 of those produced. A very few were purchased through commercial outlets before remaining stocks were obtained by the Navy. Of those, only a very few remain to be awarded to Navy and Marine Corps shooters. A “rare bird” from its early days, the Model 720 has become cherished as a symbol of marksmanship superiority as well as a fine presentation-grade rifle.

As you can see below, this rifles are even more special. This was a rifle given as an award to George Mason Van Orden.

Above: George Mason Van Orden stands next to a match winning target in 1976 fired from the 1000-yard line.

If you aren’t up to speed on the Van Orden Family and rifles, link below to help you out.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Around and about the time the Model 700 came out, or maybe just before, I don’t recall the timeline exactly, Remington made the Model 725. It’s action was about like the 720 with the large M1917 side safety and the stock was about like the 700; that is to say, significantly upgraded from the 721/722 rifles. I stumbled across one in 30-06 that I stupidly let get away from me and it was a hammer.

    As to the Van Orden series, more of that, please, if you have it.

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