It's impossible to talk about the Remington Model 81 Woodsmaster autoloading rifle without first looking at its precursor, the Model 8, for they're pretty much the same thing. Like so many seminal firearms designs, the Remington Model 8 was the brainchild of John Moses Browning. Originally patented in 1900, it was the first successful high-powered semiauto rifle made in the United States--or just about anywhere else, for that matter.
This recoil-operated wonder had a number of innovative things going for it. It featured a rotating bolt with dual lugs that locked into the rear portion of the barrel. When the gun was fired, the barrel, bolt and bolt-carrier assembly recoiled all at once, allowing the bullet to exit the barrel before the mechanism unlocked. During this operation a couple of heavy springs inside a sheetmetal covering surrounding the barrel were compressed.
When the bolt went back as far as it could, the springs forced the barrel forward, unlocking the bolt from the rear extension. After the barrel had completed its travel, it released the barrel lock and allowed the bolt/carrier to strip a round from the magazine.
It's a very efficient, powerful setup and provides reliable semiauto function. There's no pesky gas system to worry about, and the piece works well under some pretty adverse conditions with a minimum of maintenance.
But there's more. The Model 8 was equipped with a five-shot box magazine that could be loaded by means of a stripper clip, just like the military bolt-action rifles of the period.
The gun was never intended to rival some of its contemporary heavyweights; the action was simply not up to the pressures of an 8mm Mauser, 7.62 Mosin-Nagant or .30-06, nor could it physically handle rounds of those dimensions. Instead, it was offered in .25, .30, .32 and .35 Remington, all rimless cartridges with performances on a par with some of the more moderate lever-gun loads.
The heftiest of the batch, the .35 Remington, had velocities similar to the .30-30 but with a beefier bullet, giving it more knockdown power. Understandably, the .35 proved to be the Model 8's most popular loading .
All of the Model 8's chamberings were intended for short- to medium-range work and within their particular parameters were more than up to the task.
The magazine looked like it was removable and could be taken out, although not without effort involving some disassembly. Unless there was some malfunction, this was not something to tinker with at hunting camp. The gun was really designed to be charged through the top of the receiver either with single rounds or the aforementioned clip.
Another great feature was a large, positive sheetmetal safety mounted on the right side of the receiver that locked the trigger and prevented the bolt from being moved to the rear. I can't believe this setup wasn't the inspiration for the similar arrangement seen on the AK-47 (I should have asked Mikhail Kalishnikov when I met him in Russia a few years ago, but I suppose I was too busy sampling his vodka and caviar to think about such things). There was also a small, unobtrusive bolt release located on the left of the frame, just above the trigger guard.