Plinking with a Remington Rolling Block

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      Well this one was for fun. I purchased an unknown ‘old rifle’ at an auction far away and when it arrived I discovered (after much research) I had purchased a rare Remington Light Baby Carbine. Well I knew it was a black powder Rolling Block, but the make and version were unknown before it arrived. Video follows.

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      At the end of the American Civil War, Remington (like many companies) due to the sudden cancellation of military orders was facing bankruptcy. One of their designers came up with the Rolling Block cartridge rifle. In 1869 at the Paris Exposition the Remington Rolling Block was declared the best military rifle design. Orders from over 50 countries followed for the next 60 years. Many countries (including the US) ordered versions with unique calibers and markings. Even the Vatican’s army purchased thousands of them. As repeating rifles became the standard some countries simply sold off their inventories to countries that couldn’t afford the new Mauser or other repeating rifles. In some cases the guns were stripped of all exterior markings, in others new markings were added to the existing stamps. Well over a million Remington Rolling Blocks were made and sold. The ordering cycles were so intensive that Remington also licensed other weapons makers, such as Nagent, to make licensed copies. Other countries simply copied the design. In the US, along with the Sharps, the Rolling Block was often encountered in the hand of Buffalo hunters. A simple robust design. Robust enough so that some. forty years later were still being used during World War One and performed rear echelon service in some countries as late as World War Two. Collecting rolling block variations is a collector field in itself. The gun design is so good that at least two companies still make variations of it for hunters.


      Determining which rolling block mine is required some reference books. One very useful book was George Layman’s “Remington Rolling Block Military Rifles of the World.” You can find a copy here

      Another very important step is to make a cast of the chamber and the bore, then measure the casting in all dimensions and compare those the measurements shown in books such as Cartridges Of The World.

      Here are the links to those needed items. In addition to being a valuable reference, the book is an interesting read and is sure to contain information any gun owner will enjoy.

      Cerrosafe is of course an incredibly useful thing to have handy if you have any questions about things like the chamber dimensions of a gun or what is the precise measurement of the bore? It requires a low temperature to melt, less than that of boiling water and can be reused over and over. It is of course also usable for things like plumbing repairs, hydraulics, etc. Anyplace you need to make a casting of something. Just follow the link and type in Cerrosafe (a Brownells product).

      For all your gun cleaning and chemical needs, shop

      By now everyone should recognize digital is the way to go in the caliper world for the most precise reads of a dimension. The price of the digital calipers has dropped enormously in price in the past 2 decades. Less than $7, with FREE shipping. It’s hard to beat this price.

      So what was the gun? The biggest clue besides the Cerrosafe casting which confirmed bore and chamber measurements was the frame width.


      Up to that point I had been thinking of .43 Spanish, however, you could have knocked me off my chair when I realized the width of the frame was only 1.131 inches. Only one military Remington Rolling Block has that frame dimension. This is a military Light Baby Carbine of the type sold to Uruguay in 1888. This has a low 3 digit serial number (about the only markings to survive the sanitation of the frame) on the tang, so I know it is part of the original shipment. Only about 5,000 of these were made and over the next 50 years or so they saw some very hard usage and only a few are known to still exist. Because of South American laws many were converted to small bore shotguns, so finding one in the original chambering with rifling is rare.

      All indications are that after being released from the Army of Uruguay when they switched to 7mm caliber rifles, someone rechambered this 44 rifle to 11mmmz54mm, which in the early 1900s was a brass .44 caliber shotgun shell. This was clever since the law of Uruguay prohibited owning a rifle or carbine in a military chambering. By leaving the rifling in place however this carbine now works with any 44 caliber straight walled cartridge, including the original 44-40, but also with .442 Webley, .44 American, .44 Russian and even the later arriving .44 Special, as long as only black powder was used. In 1900 that wasn’t a problem as irt would be a decade before smokeless powder rounds were commonly available and black powder remained an option for many rounds until the late 1920s.

      Having made this determination I loaded up a variety of black powder rounds and gave the carbine a test firing. To replicate the 11mm x 52 shotgun round I used cut down .444 Marlin brass with no problems. I exxperimented with both original 43 Spanish bullets of 375 grains weight and also 200 grain pistol bullets. Tested in the below video were those rounds and also some .44 Special rounds, .442 Webley rounds, .44-40 rounds and even some black powder rounds made using .44 Magnum brass. Needless to say the 44-40 rounds blew out their bottle neck and look virtually identical to the .44 Magnum brass and only examination of the head stamps tells which round was which. All worked flawlessly.

      [My apologies for the wind noise at the beginning of the video. It vanishes by the time the shooting begins.]

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