This display includes most examples of the U.S. military contracts for Remington rolling block longarms, excluding conversion guns and cadet guns. While U.S. military usage was limited, they are an important part of the lineage of U.S. military arms, as well as a part of the history of arguably the most successful and widely used action design worldwide.
In 1863, Leonard Geiger, a Remington employee, patented a rotating-breechblock, single-shot, breechloading mechanism for use with metallic cartridges. The design was modified by the plant supervisor, Joseph Rider, in 1863 and 1864 and led to the development of the Remington Split Breech carbine, of which 20,000 were manufactured for the Union Army during the Civil War. Further improvements of the design in 1865 and 1866 ultimately led to the Remington-Rider rolling block Action, which was manufactured in versions of pistols, carbines and rifles, in both sporting and military configurations. The Remington rolling block was marketed both at home and abroad, and quickly became known as one of the strongest and most reliable action designs of the single-shot cartridge era. While domestic military contracts for rolling block arms were limited, foreign contracts were filled for literally dozens of countries, and far surpassed one and a half million rifles by the beginning of the 20th century. Eventually, the development of repeating arms significantly diminished the military usefulness of the Rolling Block design, yet these rifles were still being issued and used by major powers through the First World War, and by minor powers long after. To this day, sporting and target versions of Rolling Block rifles are manufactured and widely used.
U.S. Navy Model 1867 Remington Rolling Block Carbine – caliber 50-45 centerfire
The first United States military contract for a standard rolling block longarm was the U.S. Navy Model 1867 carbine. 5,000 of these carbines were delivered in 1868-69, chambered for the caliber .50-45 centerfire carbine cartridge. These carbines have sling swivels, not saddle rings (for obvious reasons), carbine sights, and 23-inch barrels. The essential markings include anchor on top of the barrel near the breach witness mark, P/FCW/anchor on the right side of the receiver, and Remington patent dates ending in 1868 on the upper tang. Sometimes the receiver anchor marking is found on the left side. The correct cartouche is FCW on the right side of the buttstock wrist and sometimes the forearm. The Navy also had 500 cadet rifles made on the same actions, with the same markings. These carbines are rare, because the majority were destroyed or disassembled by the Navy when they became obsolete. Beware of Fakes: sometimes you will encounter a carbine with the correct anchor marking on the barrel, but without the receiver markings. These are guns that were assembled by aftermarket dealers from surplus barrels.
Springfield Model 1870 U.S. Navy Rolling Block Rifle (Type II)- caliber 50-70 Govt
The United States Navy later contracted for rolling block rifles, chambered in .50-70 centerfire. These were produced at Springfield Armory, under license from Remington. The first 10,000 manufactured had the rear sight mounted immediately in front of the receiver, and were rejected. Rather than correcting this minor error, they were sold to France during the Franco-Prussian War. The profits were then used to manufacture another 12,000 rifles with the rear sight mounted three inches in front of the receiver. The configuration is a two-band rifle with 32.5-inch barrel, rear sling swivel mounted on the trigger guard, and single-shouldered cleaning-rod with cupped end, which ends one and three-quarters inches short of the muzzle. The essential markings include the eagle/USN/Springfield/1870 on the right side of the receiver, P/H.B.R./anchor on the left side of the receiver (or sometimes on the barrel near the breach), and Remington patent dates ending with 1868 on the upper tang. The cartouche is ESA on the left side of the wrist of the buttstock. The correct bayonet is the heavy, brass-hilted Model 1870 Ames bayonet with straight blade, which mounts on a lug underneath the barrel. Surplus dealers often removed the bayonet lug, to allow mounting of the standard .50 caliber angular-bladed socket bayonet (which was much more plentiful), or removed part of the lug, which allowed mounting of either bayonet. Beware of fakes: There was never a carbine version of the Model 1870 Navy rifle; any carbine with a Springfield-marked receiver is nothing more than a cut-down rifle. There were, however, 313 Springfield U.S. (Army Trials) Model 1870 carbines made at Springfield. However, these are rarely encountered today and only a few are known to still exist in advanced collections.
Whitney/Springfield Rolling Block Rifle – caliber .43 Spanish centerfire
At first glance, this may look like a Springfield Model 1870 U.S. Navy rifle, but, it has a three band, 34-inch barrel, chambered for the caliber .43 Spanish centerfire cartridge. It is actually a parts gun made for export by the Whitney Arms Company. The Whitney Arms Company made their own variation of a rolling block action, which was the subject of patent disputes between Whitney and Remington. They were also known for buying surplus parts from Springfield Armory, Remington, and other companies, and making up guns for export. Other than the usual markings on the Springfield receiver, the only other marking is a 43 on the top of the barrel, near the breech witness mark. Notice the similarities between this gun and the Whitney-Laidley Model 1872.
Springfield Model 1871 U.S. Army Rolling Block Rifle – caliber 50-70 Govt
The United States Army contracted for 1,008 Model 1870 rolling block rifles, and 313 saddle-ring carbines, to be used for field trials (these guns are quite scarce). The results were favorable enough that in 1872, The U.S. Army ordered a full contract of 10,001 Model 1871 rifles, but no carbines. All were chambered for the caliber .50-70 Govt rifle cartridge. One significant change in design the Army required incorporated into the Model 1871 action was the half-cock safety. In the earlier rolling block action design, when the breechblock is closed, the action is already at full cock. In the Model 1871 locking-action, when the breechblock is closed, the hammer automatically drops to half-cock, and must be drawn back to full cock in order to fire.
The configuration is a two-band rifle with 36-inch barrel, double-shouldered cleaning rod ending flush with the muzzle, and rear sling swivel mounted on the trigger guard. The correct bayonet is the angular-bladed socket bayonet. Essential markings include eagle/US/Springfield/1872 (the year of production) on the right side of the receiver, Model 1871 on the left side of the receiver, and Remington patent dates ending in 1868 on the upper tang. The ESA cartouche is found on the left wrist of the buttstock.
New York State Militia Model 1873 Remington Rolling Block Carbine – caliber 50-70 Govt
The New York State Militia ordered 15,000 rifles in 1871, and in 1873 an additional 4,500 rifles and 1,500 saddle-ring carbines. All were chambered for the caliber .50-70 Govt centerfire cartridge. This was during a time when nearly all of the state militias were using surplus arms from Springfield Armory, and the U.S. armed forces began phasing out the 50-70 cartridge in favor of the .45-70 Govt cartridge. Not only did the New York State government stray from the trends of the U.S. Army in the purchase of their own arms and ammunition from a company in their home state, but the .50-70 rolling block remained their standard arm until the late 1890s. They did, however, use the locking-action (with half-cock safety) that was used in the Springfield Model 1871. The configuration is a saddle-ring carbine with 22-inch barrel, and left-sided frame-mounted saddle-ring. The only receiver markings are the Remington patent dates, ending in 1871, on the upper tang. The hammer is unique in having an unusually highly arched spur, the breechblock spur protrudes horizontally, and both have shield-shaped checkering (rather than the usual simple cross-hatching). There may be up to three cartouches on the buttstock; on the left, RPB on the wrist and HSH in the middle, and on the right wrist, SNY, but some guns will have the HSH in a serpentine banner outline on the left wrist. The correct rear sight is the standard Remington flip-up carbine sight, though some examples are found with a rifle sight in its place.
New York State Militia Model 1871 Remington Rolling Block Rifle – caliber 50-70 Govt
The .50-70 rolling block rifle remained the standard arm of the New York State Militia until the late 1890s. These rifles had the locking-action (with half-cock safety) that was used in the Springfield Model 1871. The configuration is a three-band rifle with 36-inch barrel, slotted screw-in cleaning rod which ends one inch short of the muzzle, and trigger-guard mounted rear sling swivel. The only receiver markings are the Remington patent dates, ending in 1871, on the upper tang. The hammer is unique in having an unusually high spur, the breechblock spur protrudes horizontally, and both have shield-shaped checkering (rather than the usual simple cross-hatching). There may be up to three cartouches on the buttstock; on the left, RPB on the wrist and HSH in the middle, and on the right wrist, SNY, but some guns will have the HSH in a serpentine banner outline on the left wrist. The bayonet is a Remington angular-bladed socket bayonet.
New York State Militia Remington Rolling Block Creedmoor Rifle – caliber 50-70 Govt
The New York State Militia marksmanship teams used specially modified versions of their standard-issue rifles for long-range competitions at the Creedmoor Range. Each had a skeletonized and rubber padded buttplate, Buffington rear sight, blade-insert front sight, and monogrammed plaque on the buttstock.
Whitney-Laidley Model 1872 Rolling Block Rifle – caliber .43 Spanish centerfire
This rolling block design was originally based on a patent granted to Theodore Laidley and C.A. Emery in 1866, and was manufactured by the Whitney Arms Company. Originally, the Whitney rifle’s action had a specially designed cam, which locked the breech closed, separate and distinct from the hammer (which locks the breech in the Remington-Rider system). Later versions of the Whitney-Laidley rifle are nearly exact copies of the Remington.
This rifle is a standard Model 1872 Whitney-Laidley (also Laidley-Emery) Military Rifle, of which 2,000 were purchased by Mexico in 1877. The Whitney action can be recognized by the extra lateral screw in the left side of the receiver, below what looks like the pin retainer plates. The “pin retainer plates” themselves, are actually ears attached to the breechblock and hammer pins. While not a U.S. contract gun, this example is presented for comparative purposes.