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Old 26th February 2024, 03:36 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default US M1870 Remington Rolling Block Pistol-A Collectors Journey

As someone who has collected and studied arms most of my life, sometimes recalling moments in my youth bring memories of early interests and adventurous thoughts of a young boy(this happens a lot when ya get old . While my interests were mostly toward swords and the Disney Zorro series on TV (c. 1956), I had also been fascinated by the series "Rin Tin Tin", about a young boy and his dog, orphaned and raised by soldiers in a cavalry post in Arizona in the 1870s.

For some reason, the pistols used by the cavalry (which were apparently Remingtons) intrigued me, with the flap over holsters. To me these were 'different' than the ubiquitous Colt six shooters, which were everywhere in westerns of course.
In those days there were sets of things for kids to order from coupons on cereal boxes, and there were a series of guns of the wild west. I managed to get the series, but my favorite was one of these REMINGTON pistols.

Somehow, among odds and ends one of my brothers had, was this VERY pistol I had treasured almost 70 years ago! A tiny pewter gun I had apparently painted with model paints.

Then I found one of these actual pistols, one of the lesser known guns of the west, a Remington NAVY rolling block pistol M1870. These were breech load single shot .50 CAL CENTER FIRE. While of course there were revolvers everywhere, the military favored single shots to limit expenditure of ammunition! However, these had tremendous firepower with this huge round.

Then I found online, one of the only books written on these, "Remington Rolling Block Pistols" by Jerry Lanskron, 1981, and only 500 copies were printed. Apparently these recently found in a large book dealers warehouse.
Interestly, these guns have never drawn great attention, so these books just ended up in storage, and only limited mention of these guns in the usual material.

This example is one of what was a M1867, which had open trigger and longer barrel, but in 1870 these were modified by adding a trigger guard as well as shortening the barrel to 7" . There were 6500 of these ordered by the navy.
Most of these were modified (except several hundred) between 1870 and 1875.
On this example on the barrel I; JMBC; and an anchor
Inspected by J.N.B.Clitz (who inspected 1,717 of these pistols)

On the receiver side is P over FWC (Frank C Warmer) who inspected all of these.
Also: Pat.May3 Nov 15th 1864 Apr 17th 1866
Remingtons Ilion, N.Y.USA

I wanted to share this, and would be very interested in others who have examples, comments, on these seldom ever noted pistols.
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Old 26th February 2024, 02:57 PM   #2
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Very cool Jim. I saw them long ago in a Shotgun News edition.
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Old 26th February 2024, 04:29 PM   #3
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Very cool Jim. I saw them long ago in a Shotgun News edition.
Thank you Glen!!
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Old 27th February 2024, 06:48 PM   #4
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While the American Civil War was raging, the U.S. Navy was already casting about for a metallic cartridge replacement for their cap-and-ball revolvers. When they functioned, they functioned well, but cap-and-ball handguns, exposed to a saltwater environment, had their drawbacks. Charges got damp and wouldn’t fire. Reloading was slow. Percussion caps were hard to handle in the cold and susceptible to corrosion; the nipple channels themselves could corrode and become clogged if not kept scrupulously clean.
Remington was in the process of refining what would be their most successful design: the rolling-block, breech-loading action, patented by Lenard Geiger in 1863 and refined by Joseph Rider, a mechanic at Remington.
The rolling-block action, consisting primarily of two parts, was simple: a rotating breechblock and a hammer locking the breechblock in place at the moment of firing. It was fast to operate (it was said a competent rifleman could get off 17 aimed shots a minute; a pistol just over 2 seconds). It was strong and readily made the transition from black powder to modern smokeless cartridges. And it was safe: as long as the block was open the trigger was blocked and could not be pulled.
The first handgun to use the rolling-block breech-loading mechanism was the Navy pistol of 1865. It was chambered for a .50-caliber rim-fire cartridge carrying a 300-gr. bullet powered by 30 grains of black powder. It featured an 8.5″ barrel, sheathed spur trigger and walnut grips; while the receiver, breechblock, hammer, trigger and sheath were color case hardened. After fully cocking the hammer, a tab alongside is pulled back, rolling the breechblock open and extracting the spent cartridge. A fresh cartridge is inserted and the breechblock closed, allowing the gun to be fired.
The Navy purchased 6,500 in 1865/6. Then in 1870, about 6350 of these initial production models were converted by Remington to .50 center-fire, refitted with traditional trigger guards and the barrel shortened to 7″.
5,000 Army models were subsequently produced with the grip frame redesigned, the trigger and guard moved forward, a distinctive bump offered better control (see photo). The front sight was changed to a long blade and mainspring power was transmitted to the hammer via a stirrup. It was still chambered for the .50 center-fire pistol cartridge. Definitely an improvement – apart from the reduction in barrel length.
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Old 27th February 2024, 07:06 PM   #5
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The above information came from a little booklet I tracked down after acquiring one of the un-altered '65 models.
The pistol had always captivated my attention, having seen glimpses of a one in various Westerns.
This unique pistol spawned an international rifle and carbine history with Sweden in particular producing thousands under license.
My personal thinking was that this would have been my second pistol because once you've fired your five shots from your revolver you can then keep firing at one shot every two seconds until your belt is empty; probably the same length of time it would have taken to reload six shots into your revolver.
I am trying to figure out how to upload pics of my pistol while confined to the Android phone world.
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Old 27th February 2024, 07:09 PM   #6
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How do I get a copy of that book Jim?
It's a gem.
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Old 28th February 2024, 02:56 AM   #7
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Here is a photo of Keiths 'unaltered M1867, which is pretty rare as in 1870 most of these were altered with trigger guard and barrel shortened to 7".
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Old 28th February 2024, 03:13 AM   #8
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I think it is officially known as an 1865.
'67 was when the navy took them.
The upgraded trigger is an obvious and important improvement; the center-fire equally so.
I am trying to find an inert (I'm in England) round for my pistol; if anybody knows of one I will pay good money for it. I can get a live one here in the US for $100 but I don't know who would dissable it.
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Old 28th February 2024, 10:00 AM   #9
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Here is a photo of Keiths 'unaltered M1867, which is pretty rare as in 1870 most of these were altered with trigger guard and barrel shortened to 7".
Is this genuine ... or a copy, Jim ?
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Old 28th February 2024, 12:45 PM   #10
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Its the real thing, as far as Ive known these have never been repro'd and not effected by the modern re-creating of the ubiquitous Colts. Despite the low numbers of these (from 6500 total) for some reason they have never been in demand with most collectors which is why it took me so long to find one.

Keith's is extremely clean and able to be fired.....the very reason I was able to get mine is that the barrel internally was in such bad shape and according to the dealer not restorable. For me, not a 'shooter' but simply a historian, like the typically 'rough' swords I usually got, this 'untouched' condition was perfect.
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