Variations in Remington Model 1875, Model 1888 and Model 1890 Revolvers

The Remington
Model 1875 Revolver
The large frame cartridge revolvers that were
manufactured by E. Remington & Sons and the Remington
Arms Company, are at the peak of their popularity. First
introduced to the market in 1874, the Model 1875
Remington catalog refers to the recently introduced
revolver as “the 1874 Model!.

An E. Remington & Sons’ broadside from 1876
introduced the revolver as
“The Remington No. 3 Revolver,
Model 1875”

. The No. 3 designation obviously
referred to the revolver’s predecessors: the Army percussion
revolver as No.1; and the .46 caliber cartridge alterations
as the No. 2. This same broadside also proudly

“In a word, we claim for this Pistol a
sold 10,000 of these for immediate delivery.
We are now ready to Supply the trade. “


Remington used several names for this model
during production. In addition to the two names above, the
1877 through 1880 Remington catalogs referred to the
revolver as the “Remington Improved Army”. In the
catalog it is called “Remington Improved Army,
or Froutier Revolver”.


Photograph above Remington Model 1875 revolver with special, deluxe checkered grips.

Tower of London collection

In the 1885-87 catalogs the name changed again to
“Remington New Model Army Revolver”.

On a lighter note, I would like to point out that
Remington also described the lanyard swivel in the butt,
“For slinging to saddle, or carrying over the back”. I can
picture a horseman galloping full tilt over the plains with
his revolver secured around his neck by a leather thong
and the revolver beating a rhythm on his ribs. Some fun!

The 10,000 revolvers alluded to in the 1876
broadside referred to a contract with the Egyptian
Government, which Remington had also been suppiying
rifles. Other researchers have cast some doubt that any of
the 10,000 Model 1875s were ever delivered to the Egyptians
due to defaults in payments for “rolling block” rifles
that had been delivered. I have seen enough evidence to
convince me that a significant number were actually
delivered. There is a specimen in the Cairo Museum. There
are six specimens in the Imperial War Museum in London,
and I have an example on which has been engraved:

Cpl. C. Hazzard, 1st Life Guards, Cairo, Egypt 1882

The British association with these revolvers came
about when they invaded Egypt in 1881, and many revolvers
returned to England as trophies of war.

The Model 1875s were produced for only 12 years,
as production ceased when the E. Remington & Sons firm
went into receivership in 1886. During this time, there were
Several changes in the design of the revolver, some of
these seem to have been brought about by insistence of
purchasers such as the Egyptian and Mexican Govemments…
others were just common sense improvements to
the function of the arms.

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The Model 1875 revolver was originally produced in one
caliber, the now obsolete .44 Remington
cartridge. Poor sales evidently prompted Remington to
offer the revolver in the more popular .44-40 WCF and .45
Government calibers. The .45 Caliber revolver will accept
either the .45 Colt or the .45 Government centerflre
cartridge. However, in their advenisements, Remington
always referred to the caliber as .45 Government. In their
1881-82 catalog, Remington Continued to offer the
revolver in .44 Remington Caliber, with the other two
calibers; but production of the .44 Remington caliber had
surely ceased by this time
Very late in production, the revolver was
produced with a 5.75-inch barrel, but no known
advertisements show this variation. Several examples have
been examined, and I have no doubt that they are
authentic. They are very rare. It is possible that a
majority of these short-barrel revolvers were altered t0
the Model 1888 (Hartley & Graham variation).

Most published reports estimate a total production 0f
25,000 Model 1875 revolvers. Based on my
observations, l think this figure is low, by as much as
5,000 to 10,000.

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Until the last decade, this model was a stepchild in
the Remington family of revolvers. Looked on as a gun-
smith alteration of the Model 1875 by collectors and dealers
alike, the revolver was finally exonerated in the 19903 by
the discovery of a rare advertisement in an equally rare
1889 Hartley & Graham catalog. This Remington revolver
was offered only in .44 WCF caliber in a
5.75-inch barrel version, as the Remington New Model
Pocket Army Revolver.

After the controlling interest of the Remington
firm had been acquired by Marcellus Hanley in June 1888, new
management had noted a large lot of
Model 1875s gathering dust in inventory. Some of these
had evidently been on the shelves for several years.

A new revolver was designed, and the old stock of
arms were altered by shortening the barrel to 5.5-inches,
and milling offthe web on the ejector housing.

The reason l state that some of these revolvers
had been in inventory for some time is the fact that some
Model 18885 have been observed with caliber markings
that had not been used for some time. So, even though the
Model 1888s are all alike in appearance and
mechanics, there are some variations available to
the collector. I refer to the .44 Remington caliber
Model 1875s that were altered to .45 caliber and those
later altered to make the Model 1888 as retroñtted or
reworked revolvers. There are always alteration numbers on
these revolvers in addition to the serial numbers.

An estimate of total production would only be
speculation, as the revolvers were from previous batch
numbered lots, and no examples have been seen with serial
numbers over three digits. A serious study of alteration
numbers may give a more accurate estimate of the number

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The Remington Model 1890 Revolver

Mechanically, the Model 1890 revolvers are identical to the Model l888s.
There was a different barrel address which reflected new ownership of
the Remington firm: “Remington Arms Co. llion , N. Y.” This new model
was also offered in two barrel lengths, 7 and 5 inches. Another departure
was the use of molded hard rubber for the grips. These were
checkered and had a Remington Arms Company logo at the top.

This model was available in one caliber only, the .44-40 Winchester
center Caliber markings have been seen in two locations. A few very
low serial numbered guns have the caliber stamped on the left side of
the barrel as “44 WCF”. The location of this stamp was soon moved to
the lower left side of the frame, beneath the cylinder.

Sales of the new Model 1890 revolver must have been disappointing, as
production ceased after only two years.
Factory records indicate that only 2,020 Model 1890s were shipped.

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The Variations

Photographs #l through #5 depict variations that
occurred during production, photos #6 through #8 show
variations that occurred after the revolvers left the llion
facility. To clarify, our examination of the factory variations,
it is essential to understand that when Remington first
Started production, the serial numbers started at 1 and ran
sequentially through approximately 16000. Production
evidently stopped when excess revolvers accumulated in
the storage facilities. The Nation had not recovered from
the economic depression that had followed the Civil War,
and consumer sales were slow. When production was
resumed, the serial numbers started again at 1. This
procedure was repeated Several times during the 12 year
production span of the Model 1875s.

Most of the photos have captions that explain the
various changes in production, so we will go through them
very briefly.

Photo #l has three hammer types and three firing
pins found on the Model 1875s at different stages of
production. Each successive firing pin has a more pointed
nose1 so this progression was probably to eliminate
problems with

detonating primers.
The lack of a safety notch on the early hammers was also a
serious safety concern.
The first hammer and firing pin changes occurred
during the Egyptian contract deliveries, so these may have
been responses to the inspector’s complaints

Photo #2 has several different variants. The
change in trigger and trigger guard came about the same
time as the first change in the hammer and firing pin. This
too may have been a result of the Egyptian Government inspector’s
complaints. However, the advantages of the new trigger still elude
us. The other pictures and captions on photo #2 are all self

On photo #3, the pictures and captions are also self explanatory,
with the possible exception of the length of the .45 caliber cylinders.

This was probably another safety issue. The longer length
prevented a .45 caliber cylinder from being installed in a .44
caliber frame, thus preventing a possible disaster.

Photo #4 has the caliber marks and their locations at
different periods of production. Caliber marks on the grips are
first seen in the late sequential serial numbered revolvers

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and this location was also used on early batch numbered revolvers. The
frame location was used until alter the adoption of the blade sight.
The trigger guard location was in use in 1883, when revolvers were
ordered by the U. S. Interior Department for use by the Indian police
on reservations.

Photo #5 is also self explanatory, but some further discussion of
serial numbers Seems warranted. I have a very early production
revolver, serial number 36. The serial number appears on the frame,
barrel, ejector housing, trigger guard, hammer, rear of cylinder,
loading gate, and even on the flat of the ejector rod. It is logical
to assume that the first revolvers off the production line needed
some hand fitting and therefore the need to identify the various
components of an individual revolver. As the milling and machining
techniques improved, interchangeable parts became the norm and
serial numbers were used only on the frame, trigger guard, and
loading gate.

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Photo #6 depicts an Egyptian contract revolver
which l have already discussed to some extent. These were
originally furnished in blue finish. I have examined some
specimens that have all the inspector’s stamps except for
the cartouche on the left grip. These appear to be revolvers
that either failed to pass final inspection or, passed the
inspection and were not delivered because of the defaults
in payments by the Egyptian Government. Many of these
were later reworked to .45 caliber and sold to the Mexican
Government. Others were Sold on the commercial market in
both the original .44 Remington caliber and .45 Government

Photo #7 shows a Mexican Government .45 caliber
Model 1875. These are reworked .44 Remington caliber
revolvers that E. Remington & Sons’ Armory had in
inventory when the Mexican Government ordered revolvers
for the Mexican Army. The chain of events leading to the
reworking of these revolvers is uncertain. A question
remains: did Remington alter the arms after receiving the
Mexican order, or had the revolvers already been altered for
commercial sales? A clue to the answer may lie in the fact
that Mexican contract arms were delivered in both blue and
nickle fmish, probably because Remington already had the
arms ready for delivery when they received the order, and
did not have enough of either blue or nickle to Complete the
entire order with the same finish. The answer to this
question will probably elude us forever, but Remington saw
an opportunity to dispose of several hundred “white
elephants” without a lot of extra expense. The bullet
diameter of the .44 Remington cartridge was only about .003
smaller than the bullet diameter of the .45 Government
cartridge. This allowed the alteration without any modification
of the barrels except for reducing length at the breech

end. A new, slightly longer cylinder was made (see photo
#3), and the forward end of the cylinder cavity in the frame
was milled to accept the cylinder. The frame was beveled
and the frame guide for the ejector rod was recessed as
shown on photo #2. The ejector rod was also shortened
slightly to conform to the new frame and cylinder dimen-
sions. The new cylinders were stamped with an L on the
face, which I surmise to stand for “long cylinder”. This
contrasts with later production, most of which were
Stamped with 45. When these revolvers were reworked by
Remington, the major components were numbered during
disassembly, to ensure that these parts were reassembled
Correctly, and this number was usually also stamped on the
face of the new cylinder. The caliber mark 45 was also
stamped on the left grip of these revolvers, but one is
seldom seen with this mark intact. Prolonged usage has
almost always obliterated any trace 0f this stamp.

The number of revolvers ordered by the Mexican
Government has never been determined (one confirmed
source states 500), and even the date of the order is
uncertain. I would guess about 1878 or 1879. The Mexican
Government stamps on these revolvers are not consistent.
All have the “Liberty Cap”, and most have the R de M,
marks, but this mark is sometimes stamped on both cylinder
and frame, while others have been noted only 0n the frame.
One specimen examined is missing the “R de M” stamp.
There are numbers stamped on top of the barrel tothe rear
of the Liberty Cap mark. Some have numbers stamped on
the bottom of the frame just to the rear of the ejector
housing. Crude Roman numerals cut with a Small chisel
have been observed on various parts of some revolvers
indicating possible assembly numbers by a Mexican

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Although these revolvers all had a 7 -inch barrel
when delivered, it is rare indeed to see an example that
has not been Crudely cut Off, usually at the forward end
of the ejector housing. 1 have a theory about why so
many met this fate. Mexico had a tumultuous history of
revolutions during the latter part of the nineteenth
Century, and the Model 1875s were a part of this history.
A study of photographs from this era depicts many of
these revolutionaries having no holster for their sidearms
the revoiver was often carried under a waist band or
belt. If carried in the front in this
manner, one can imagine the discomfort to the “family jewels”
and other parts of the anatomy that a long
barreled revolver could inflict to a rider
in the saddle. What easier way to
alleviate this discomfort than to
eliminate over two inches off the
Mexican Government revolvers
should not be confused with Model
1875s that have Mexican State Police
markings. These are usually in .44
WCF caliber, from later production.

Photo shows a rare example
of a Model 1875 Indian Police revolver.
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs
ordered 639 of these in 1883 to arm
reservation police. They were distrib-
uted to several Indian Agencies, and
this specimen was part of a shipment
of 50 to the Pine Ridge Agency in
South Dakota. The Agent at the Pine
Ridge Reservation is the only agent
known to mark the revolvers before
issuing them to the Indian Police. [See
“The Indian Police Remingtons”, Part
2 Kohler & Ware, The Gun Report,
Dec. 1992.]

l have discussed only variations
in production arms that were sold in
significant numbers, or revolvers that
reflect some type of post production
ownership or usage, also in significant
numbers. There are others in both
categories that either have some
manufacturing deviations or post
production usage marks.

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A few remarks about Remington’s production
practices may help to enlighten the reader. I noted that the
new type hammers and cone firing pins are first seen in the
12000 Serial number range of Egyptian contract revolvers,
and that the change may have been at the insistence of
inspectors. Remington continued to use the old parts in
new production made for the general market until the parts
were exhausted.. Remington continued this practice
throughout production. This has created some confusion
when trying to classify a later variation revolver that retains
early production parts. Another example are the trigger
guards and triggers. We the old type and the new type
used concurrently well into the batch numbered revolvers
This essay is not intended to be the final word in
regard to these revolvers. There remains much research
work to be done, 1 sincerely hope that this work will inspire
others with an interest in these models to pursue this work

If the reader has, or is aware of any variations not
described here I would like to hear about them. Also, for
those with questions or comments, l can be reached at

Page 28 1st Quarter 2004


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