A Study of Remington Revolving Rifles

hile my interest in Remington firearms began in
1960 when my father (under the guidance of our
next door neighbor, Gene Herrick) presented me
with a Remington Model 572 “Fieldmaster” .22 rifle. My
interest in gun collecting began with a conversation with
Leon Wier Jr.. in the summer of 1994. With Leon’s encourage-
ment I started a modest handgun collection, with the goal in
mind of owning at least one of every model Remington pistol
produced between 1857 and 1890. Researching through
printed matter and attending gun shows and auctions, I
noticed a scarcity of two Remington guns and began to keep
an eye open for them. These two items were the Remington
Rifle Cane and the Remington Revolving Rifle. The Rifle
Cane caught my attention because of the intrigue of it being
a concealable weapon, while the first thing that attracted me
to the Revolving Rifle was its design.
My appreciation for the artistic lines
of the Remington Revolving Rifle
continues to this very day.

“Why don’t
you research it and write an article about it for the RSA
Journal”. So began this project, and with the help of many
RSA members, and Remington Revolving Rifle owners, the
following information has been compiled.
With generally accepted production dates of the
Remington Revolving Rifle from 1865 through 1878, and a
virtual absence of factory documents remaining to support
this, I began asking all I knew if they had any information on
the production records for the Revolving Rifle. Of this
search, the most definitive data came from Roy Marcot, who
shared with me that in the Ilion New York, Citizen newspaper
published on August 18, 1865, was an article stating that,
“The Armory is manufacturing a revolving gun for deer
shooting.” Unless one is willing to believe that “revolving
gun for deer shooting” would include a handgun, and I’m
not willing to go that far. My belief is that this article was
making reference to the Remington Revolving Rifle, and as
such, this places the first production at Remington’s Armory
during the summer of 1865.

Remington Percussion Revolving Rifle serial number 141

It was
nearly a year and a half
after deciding to buy that I was able to find my first Reming-
ton Revolving Rifle. Pleased with my purchase, and curious
about its scarcity, I again contacted Leon and asked him
about information that had been published on the revolving
rifle. Leon shared copies of magazine articles that mentioned
the rifle, but the information was very limited. When I
commented to Leon about this, his response was one that
scores have heard over the years, and I quote,

A second reference found about the Remington Revolv-
ing Rifle was the publication on December 13, 1865 of the
Herkimer County Citizen, which contained a full column
advertisement on page four listing sizes and descriptions of
the arms that E. Remington & Sons were manufacturing.
Included in this listing was the Revolving Breech Rifle:

Page 26 2nd Quarter 2007

The following, in chronological order, are other advertisements that list the Remington Revolving Rifle:

  • The January 1, 1866 ‘Remington Reduced Price List.” [see above]
  • The April 28, 1866 issue of Harper’s Weekly. There was also an advertisement in the May 25, 1866 issue of the Herkimer County Citizen, stating that E. Remington & Sons are selling Revolving Rifles in .36 and .44 Cal., 6-shots, weight 6 pounds. [see ad at left]
  • The August 8, 1866 issue of the Herkimer Democrat stating that it was available in both .36 and .44 caliber.
  • The ‘Remington Greatly Reduced Price List” of 1866, which lowered the price by $6oo , from a base price of $31oo to $25oo.
  • July 25, 1867 ERS advertisement – Coxsackie_News.
  • The 1870 ‘E. Remington & Sons Illustrated Catalog,” which shows the base price going up to $30oo At this time, if you wanted the .44 caliber, you would have to pay $1oo more. [see below]
  • The March 2nd, 1872 issue of Army Navy Journal, stating that the Remington Revolving Rifle was adapted to use Metallic Cartridges.
  • A similar advertisement in the July 6, 1872 issue of the Army and Navy Journal.
  • The 1872 ‘E. Remington & Sons Illustrated Catalog,” which shows the base price being $25oo for the 24″ barrel model, $26oo for the 26″ and $27oo for the 28″. This was the first advertisement that offered the large bore in a cartridge conversion, listing it as available in .46 Long rimfire.

    Page 27 2nd Quarter 2007

    • Moving back a couple of years, I found that while the ‘E. Remington & Sons Illustrated Catalogue of 1875″ does not make mention of the Revolving Breech Rifle, it does contain interesting information on page 22 concerning the rimfire cartridges recommended for the relative rifles. I refer to this information in determining that the cartridge conversion models of this rifle are intended to use this ammunition. The .38 caliber long rim fire cartridge is stated as having a ball weight of 148 grs., a powder weight of 18 grs. and a cartridge weight of 196 grs. The cost was $13.50 per 1000 rounds. The .46 caliber long rim fire cartridge is stated as having a ball weight of 306 grs., a powder weight of 35 grs., a cartridge weight of 397 grs. The cost was $30oo per 1000 rounds. Interesting that today, those num bers are probably inverted. A thousand dollars would buy you thirty of those rounds.
    • At this point I think it’s worth noting that since the publi cation of the 1872 Remington catalog, no other factory catalog mentions the Revolving Rifle until it reappears in the 1877 publication. The ‘E. Remington & Sons Fire arms Catalog of 1877″ as well as the ‘E. Remington & Sons Reduced Price List of 1877″ lists the Remington Revolving Rifle, using a .38 Long Rim Fire Cartridge, extra cylinder (percussion), plated trimmings, adjustable sight and varnished stock, in 24″, 26″ or 28″ for $25oo . This is the advertisement that I think most folks associate with the Remington Revolving Rifle. This is also the one that

    got me started looking into the ad’s, and the one that I
    spent about thirty hours, cleaning up, pixle by pixle, just
    so I could frame a clean copy for my wall. [See above]

    • The ‘E. Remington & Sons, Illustrated Reduced Price List of 1879,” as well as the ‘1879 Reduced Price List,” showing William H. Tyler as the General Agent for South ern States and Pennsylvania, used the same advertisement cut as did the 1877.
    • The ‘E. Remington & Sons Reduced Price List of 1880″ makes no mention of a revolving rifle.
    • The ‘E. Remington & Sons Illustrated Catalogue of 1882″ makes no mention of a revolving rifle.
    • On April 27,1886., a ‘Summary Statement of Assets and Liabilities of the Corporation of E. Remington & Sons, Ilion, New York,” was written by Court Appointed Receivers Addison Brill and Albert N. Russell. This detailed summary carefully listed the value of all firearms remaining in inventory, but there was no listing for revolving rifles.
    • The ‘1887 Revised Price List of E. Remington & Sons Sporting Arms,” issued by Lamberson, Furman& Company of New York City, listed no revolving rifles.
    • Nor does the ‘Remington Arms Company Revised Price List of 1899″ make mention of revolving rifles.
    • With the above information in mind, the last advertisement by Remington for the Revolving Rifle being in 1879, I find it easy to assume that final sales would have been in 1879 or shortly thereafter.

    Page 28 2nd Quarter 2007

    One of my research goals for the future is to gather information from various firearms distributor and dealer records that show
    purchase and sale of the Remington Revolving Rifle, hoping that this might aid in clarifying production dates. Input by readers
    toward this goal is encouraged.

    While being briefly mentioned in various collectors’ price guides, in one or two magazine articles, and consuming a scant
    quarter page in Edsall James book ‘The Revolver Rifle” published in 1974, my survey over the last several years has produced a
    great deal of information concerning the Remington Revolving Rifle. And while this information answers several of the questions
    I had, it also proved false, some previously published information, as well as raising many new questions. Most of these questions
    relate to physical characteristics so I’ll address them a bit later in this article.
    No doubt it’s obvious to most that the patents associated with the Revolving Rifle are the same as those associated with the
    following firearms. The Remington-Beals Army/Navy Revolver, The Remington Old Model Army/Navy Revolver, and the Reming-
    ton New Model Army/Navy Revolver. These patent numbers and dates are:
    ‘ U.S. Patent #21,478 for the Beals Revolver; dated September 14, 1858
    ‘ U.S. Patent #33,932 for the Old Model Revolver; dated December 17, 1861
    ‘ U.S. Patent #37,921 for the New Model Revolver; dated March 17, 1863

    The following information, while not etched in concrete, is based on information gleaned from approximately 60 survey forms
    submitted by owners of Remington Revolving Rifles in the U. S., Canada and Europe. Included in this study, are the guns in my own
    collection, which have been disassembled and examined closely, allowing me to state that the information received from other
    collectors does not vary greatly from the information concerning my guns.

    The Remington Revolving Rifle was initially produced in percussion models in two basic sizes, related to caliber. Both of these
    sizes were later offered in rimfire cartridge models as well. These initial sizes were the .36 cal percussion cap & ball, and the .44 cal
    percussion cap & ball. The cartridge conversions later offered were the .38 long rimfire and the .46 rimfire.

    Page 29 2nd Quarter 2007

    The capping plate conversion model utilizes the same design as on both the .38 and the .46 models.
    Approximately one-third (17 of 56) of the rifles surveyed were of the larger caliber. Either .44 percussion or .46 rimfire, with
    three of these 17 examples identified as being ‘non-factory” modified to accept .44 or .45 or .46 rimfire cartridges. Of the remain-
    ing 14 large bore models, 9 rifles in the study group are identified as being .44 percussion, and five are verified to be .46 cal.
    capping plate conversions. This .46 rimfire model was by far the scarcest, but as time goes on, more of these come to light.
    Of the small bore models, numbers indicate that the ratio between percussion and cartridge model is approximately 50-50,
    with 20 being .38 rimfire cartridge models and 19 being .36 cal percussion models.
    All of the advertisements I’ve seen show the Remington Revolving Rifle as having a part hexagon, part round barrel. This
    barrel type is, by far, the most scarce of the two barrel styles. The full octogon barrel represents approximately 90% of the rifles
    Barrel lengths were well represented in the advertised 24″, 26″, and 28″ lengths, showing no pattern by serial number
    sequence, caliber, or type of mountings. There were, however, two guns each that had barrel lengths listed at 30″ and 22″. I
    personally inspected one of each of those and am satisfied that they both are factory guns. Both of the 22″ barrels were part
    round part octagon, while both 30″ barrels were full octagon.
    Barrel diameter, or the dimension across the flats, shows a vast majority in both calibers to be 3/4″ with a few measuring 11/16″ and a few measuring 13/16″. Most of the 13/16″ barrels, and at least one of the 3/4″ barrels, had a channel undercut on the bottom flat to allow proper seating of the loading lever without having to modify the link of the same.
    While it is common to think that the cylinder length of 2-3/16″ is a quick way to determine if a particular firearm is factory
    original, and it is a fact that 95% of those guns surveyed did in fact have this length cylinder, there are a couple of guns out
    there with 1-15/16″ cylinders that I’d like to have a closer look at, because everything else in their survey forms indicates that
    they are factory-produced guns. If we are to believe that the Remington factory did supply this rifle with the 1.9375″ cylinder,
    then the frame design will also vary based on the length of the cylinder. Maybe Remington put out a few with 1.9375″ cylinders
    during material shortages? If so, how did they decide which frame they would use. Would they have modified an existing
    handgun frame to accept the stock, or would they have produced frames to fit a 1.9375″ cylinder?
    All of the factory guns I’ve looked at that are .36 percussion, .44 percussion or .38 rimfire have 6-shot cylinders. One that I
    own and others that I have surveyed appear to be a gunsmiths’ modification utilizing a bored thru cylinder and are 6-shot.

    Page 30 2nd Quarter 2007

    The rear of that cylinder doesn’t leave much skin between the holes, leading me to believe that for safety reasons, Remington
    limited the large bore models to 5 shots. All of the .46 rimfire capping plate style cylinders surveyed to date are 5-shot.
    While all of the loading levers on factory rifles are 7 inches long overall, I have seen a few examples where the web is less
    than the normal 5 inches long, and the rod may be pieced together from two lengths. This may be as the result of a repair during
    the life of the gun, but I doubt that it left the factory that way. I have also seen loading levers on apparent gunsmith rifles that
    are of the same length and design as used on Remington handguns.
    I have seen a number of obvious gunsmith modifications to handguns (adding barrels of various lengths; a shoulder stock;
    etc.) that use the normal handgun loading lever, frame, and cylinder.

    Page 31 2nd Quarter 2007

    While all of the factory stocks that I’ve measured come in at 14″ with the same shape and
    length of pull, close inspection of the stock on these gunsmith modification firearms show slight deviations from the factory
    shape. Examine closely the example where the stock meets the frame. You’ll notice the length of the concave area, forming the
    transition from the frame to the body of the stock. Now look at the example which is the Remington factory stock and you’ll see
    a transition area of much smaller size.
    The Remington Revolving Rifle was configured in variations, with a choice of front and rear sights, choice of wood grade
    and finish, choice of iron or plated mountings, choice of caliber, choice of barrel length, and it was offered in an engraved model
    as well, although not mentioned in any catalog or price list.
    While the front sight offering appears to have been limited to a short blade, a long blade and a bead, rifles with the Beach
    Combination Globe front sight do exist. Most of these examples appear to be those ordered with all of the options that were
    offered at that time.
    Rear sight variations have been noted as a fixed buckhorn sporting sight graduated for 50-300 yards, and two different
    lengths of adjustable folding leaf sights.
    The stock could be ordered in plain, or fancy, smooth or checked, oiled or varnished configurations. The fancy grade, with
    checking and varnish is a very nice looking work of wood.
    While plated mountings did cost extra at various points in its offering, most of the rifles surveyed did have them. Iron
    trigger guards and butt plates are the exception rather than the rule.
    Engraved rifles are very rare, with only two being surveyed. As was normal for Remington in that time period as well as is
    the practice today, the engraving work is top quality. In addition to the engraving shown on rifle serial number 315, other areas
    on the rifle that were engraved include the muzzle end of the barrel surrounding the front sight, as well as total coverage of both
    pieces of the two-piece butt plate.
    While at first glance, the trigger guard appears to be the same in shape on all models, a closer inspection reveals that there
    are a possible four different models of trigger guard. These vary in the manner and number of attaching screws required to be
    used. This variation has an effect on the frame as well, in that it is modified to match the trigger guard attaching screws. My
    opinion is that each of the design changes, which resulted in an additional screw being used to attach the trigger guard,
    increased the strength of the trigger guard.
    The one screw trigger guard consists of a mounting plate with a tang on the rear that slides into a recessed area of the
    frame, and a single machine screw holds the mounting plate and the frame together. The scroll portion of the trigger guard has a
    threaded stud on the upper front area of the trigger guard which screws into the mounting plate. At the rear of the scroll assem-
    bly, there is a single hole through which a wood screw is used to secure the assembly to the stock.

    Page 32 2nd Quarter 2007

    The two screw trigger guard, as reported by three different revolving rifle owners, has a screw at the front that attaches to
    the frame, and a screw at the rear that attaches to the stock. As yet, I do not have a photo of this model, but when I do get one,
    I’ll pay close attention to see if it’s really a three screw model.
    The three screw trigger guard is similar to the two screw model in that it uses a screw at the front and the rear of the guard,
    but a third screw has been added that is installed thru the left side of the frame, thru the guard and threaded into the right side of
    the frame. This screw is located just to the rear of the finger opening in the trigger guard. If I’m correct in my assumption
    concerning the two screw trigger guard, as well as my suspicion that the one screw models are gunsmiths modifications, then I’ll
    feel comfortable in saying that the Remington factory only produced the Revolving rifle in the three screw and four screw

    Page 33 2nd Quarter 2007

    The four screw trigger guard uses the two primary screws, at the
    front and rear of the assembly, with two additional screws, one each on the under left
    and under right side of the guard, just to the rear of the finger opening in the trigger guard.
    These two screws thread upward into the underside of the frame. As is the case with most variations, there is no consistency
    based on serial number sequence.
    The frame also has a variation, in the manner of what appears to be a vent or flash hole in the sight channel on the top of
    the frame. Some rifles have this, some don’t and there is no consistency based on serial number sequence. I don’t know the
    significance of this hole, and would like to hear from someone who has information on this design feature.
    While all of the iron butt-plates that I have viewed are of the one piece variety, the brass butt-plate has been noted in both
    one and two piece style. The one piece variety has a much more pronounced flat edge at the rear most edge of the upper curve
    than does the two piece butt plate. The two piece style has a shaped flat piece, inlaid into the bottom of the stock, and held in
    place with two additional screws. The lower edge of the curved rear of the two piece butt plate overlaps the rear of the bottom
    piece, further strengthening the attachment.
    Markings on the Revolving Rifle are similar in nearly all rifles surveyed. Barrel markings, if present, read breech to muzzle, in
    three lines, all capital letters:
    While caliber markings in non-typical locations are seen, they are not all that common. Remington incorporated the caliber
    marking within the engraved model .36 caliber, and the plain stamping for the iron mounting model .44 caliber.
    5-shot, .46 rimfire – serial number 186
    Conversion number 114 – 24″ barrel

    Page 34 2nd Quarter 2007

    Serial numbers are found in some if not all of the follow-
    ing locations:

    • On the cylinder pin either on the flat of the wings or on the rod.
    • On the stock in the tang recess area.
    • On the trigger guard and frame tangs covered by the stock.
    • Inside the one piece butt plate, very lightly stamped.
    • Inside each piece of the two piece butt plate, very lightly stamped.
    • On the exterior of the trigger guard near the rear mount- ing hole.
    • On the face of the cylinder, with the conversion model carrying the number of the rifle as well as the number of the conversion.
    • On the bottom flat of the barrel, under or near the loading lever.
    • On the underside of the rear tang of the one piece trigger guard attaching plate.
    • On the underside of the rear attaching flat of the one piece trigger guard.


    While being able to only estimate the number
    of Revolving Rifles produced, I think the published information in most price guides is relatively
    accurate. With the highest serial number
    recorded being number 738, and the
    lowest number recorded being number 10, with the
    exception of one rifle listed in “The Guns
    of Remington” as being without serial number and
    possibly being a prototype, my opinion is that approximately
    800 of these rifles were produced. One quirk in this reasoning
    is that to date, I have not received any information for a rifle
    with a serial number that falls in 600 to 699 range. I find that
    unusual, in that all other ranges are well represented.
    Sometimes I wonder if there was a time where none of these
    rifles were produced and if records were not available to
    determine the exact last number used, a decision was made to
    start again, but high enough to insure that no duplicate
    numbers were used. Possibly, records will be unearthed that
    reveal an export order for 100 of these rifles? At other times I
    dream that maybe these missing 100 serial numbered rifles are
    just sitting in a warehouse, waiting to be discovered.

    What was the most common configuration encountered?
    The .38 rimfire conversion, with a 24″ octagon barrel, small
    blade front sight, buckhorn rear sight, and a two piece butt
    plate, on a standard grade stock.

    What was the least common configuration encountered?
    The engraved model in any configuration is the most rare.
    The scarcest by caliber is the .46 rimfire, while the 28″ and
    30″ barrel models were rare as well. By far, most unusual is
    any of these rifles in a condition of 90% or better, with only
    one being recorded at above 95%. It appears to me that with
    such a low cost rifle, produced in such low numbers, and
    with such a limited appeal, not much care was taken to insure
    their condition lasted. I have seen a number of examples that
    have fallen victim to black powder corrosion, as well as other
    indicators of hard use during their lifetime. The most extreme
    example I’ve seen, is also one of the scarcest. On this page is
    of what remains of a .46 rimfire capping plate conversion

    Giving thought to the decision of E. Remington & Sons
    to produce the Revolving Rifle, I think that this might be one
    of those cases where the product was built, and then an
    attempt was made to create a market. Realizing that the Civil
    War, (‘The War of Northern Aggression”) was ending, not
    only would military spending come to a halt, but there would
    be a glut of
    firearms, particu-
    larly handguns
    available for
    personal use, so if
    any firearms
    would be sold,
    they would have
    to be targeted to
    the public, be an
    improvement over existing
    models, be able to be produced inexpen-
    sively, must be able to hit the market
    rapidly, and utilize existing tooling and
    experienced personnel as much as possible.
    To accomplish all of this, E. Remington & Sons
    could use existing tooling, capitalize on the excellent reputa-
    tion that its handguns had gained, utilize existing inventory
    and personnel, and immediately begin production on a
    firearm that families could use in hunting small to medium size
    game. Combine this with the fact that Remington needed to
    enter the civilian long arm marketplace. Don’t forget that at
    this same time, Remington was introducing the Beals single
    shot rifle, and we can all see the similarity in the barrels and
    stocks used on both rifles.
    Why didn’t Remington’s revolving rifle succeed? Why
    did production stop? My opinion is that with the marginal
    design and it being a low power rifle, serious hunters weren’t
    interested in it. Combine that with Winchester’s new lever
    action repeater coming onto the scene, along with
    Remington’s major emphasis going into producing the
    rolling block military and civilian rifles, this product just
    wasn’t one that could succeed.

    Page 35 2nd Quarter 2007

    Where do I plan to take this study from here?
    Still harboring a high level of interest that I had when I started this project, my immediate plans are to continue gathering
    information by way of my survey form, and conduct a statistical analysis of the data. My hopes are that with professional help
    in that arena, mathematics will give us a more accurate picture of the how’s and why’s of the production of this rifle. My mid-
    range plans include completing a project that I have started which is to compile a complete set of scaled drawings of all of the
    component parts of the rifle. This could take the better part of another year of available spare time. My dreams are probably no
    different than many of yours in that I’d like my grandkids to have a copy of my book on Remington Revolving Rifles on their
    A big debt of gratitude goes out to the late Leon Wier Jr., our Journal Editor, Roy Marcot, RSA Past President Fritz Beahr,
    and other RSA members for all of their help getting me started… helping me over hurdles along the way… and for sharing files
    and photos that they had gathered over the years… and special thanks to Joe Poyer for his magnificent photography.

    Mike Strietbeck

    Page 36 2nd Quarter 2007

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