The Remington No. 6 Rolling Block Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
The Remington-Rider rolling block rifle is a 19th century design, patented around 1863 by a Remington employee named Leonard Geiger and improved over the next few years by Joseph Rider, who was the Remington factory superintendent. By 1866 the Remington-Rider rolling block rifle had evolved.
Remington Rolling block single shot rifles were produced throughout the latter decades of the 19th Century and the first decades of the 20th Century. I believe that the last (.22 rimfire) rolling block rifles were discontinued during W.W. II.
All Remington rolling block rifles use the same basic principle of design, which is a pivoting or hinged breechblock pinned to the receiver below the axis of the barrel and ahead of the breech. The traditional exposed hammer placed behind the breechblock ("rolling block") must be manually cocked for every shot.
This action is adequately strong but not particularly fast to operate. It is, however, smooth and reliable. And Remington rolling block rifles on all action sizes have always had a good reputation for accuracy.
To operate a rolling block rifle, first cock the hammer. This frees the pivoted breechblock. Then thumb the pivoted breechblock (rolling block) backward and down to reveal the chamber. If there is a fired cartridge case in the chamber, it will be elevated by the extractor for removal by hand. Next, manually insert a cartridge into the chamber. Roll the breechblock upward and forward to again seal the breech. The rifle may now be fired by squeezing the trigger, or the hammer may be eased forward to its half-cock "safety notch" position for carry in the field.
Of course, like any hammer safety notch, the rifle could discharge if a strong enough blow were directed at the hammer to break the sear or the safety notch. This is unlikely to happen in the real world, but theoretically it could if you managed to drop the rifle "just right" on its hammer with a great deal of force. If you are exceptionally clumsy, carry the rifle with the chamber empty.
The Remington rolling block rifle models No. 1 through No. 5 are all similar but with different size actions to accommodate various calibers. The No. 6 was the economy version of the rolling block action. It appeared later with a longer, thinner, less contoured and slab-sided receiver. The patent date for the No. 6 was July 22, 1902. As far as I know it was the last of the rolling block models.
No. 6 rifles were chambered for various rimfire cartridges up to at least .32 caliber, but it is most commonly seen as a .22 rimfire. Being a single shot with a .22 Long Rifle chamber, my personal No. 6 can handle .22 BB, .22 CB, .22 Short, .22 Long and .22 LR cartridges interchangeably.
This particular rifle was manufactured in January of 1926 and purchased later that year by my father. He used it primarily for hunting rabbits in the San Bernardino foothills and what used to be the scrub country between Los Angeles and Santa Monica, but is now west LA.
The straight hand, two-piece stock is of American walnut with a varnished finish. The forend is quite small, measuring only 3-3/4" long and about 7/8" deep. The buttplate is steel and is stamped with the Remington UMC trademark. The receiver is case colored and the barrel is blued.
This is a takedown rifle. The barrel and forend can be removed as a unit from the receiver and buttstock by simply unscrewing the knurled thumb screw underneath the receiver. It looks rather like a Stevens Favorite without the falling block lever, and in fact the No. 6 competed directly with the Favorite in their mutual heyday.
Here are the basic specifications of my .22 caliber No. 6 rifle:
As you can infer from these specifications, the No. 6 is a very light, handy rifle. You could call it petite and get no argument from me.
It is also surprisingly accurate, limited primarily by its iron sights. Naturally for a rifle of this age, there is no provision for mounting a telescopic sight. My dad told me that once he killed 50 rabbits with 50 cartridges using the No. 6, although he had to dig one that had made it to its hole out of the ground. Obviously he was better with iron sights than I am!
For years the No. 6 languished in the back corner of my dad's closet. Sometime around 1964, with his permission, I refinished the No. 6's stock with marine spar varnish and had the hammer, trigger, and rolling block gold plated. From that point on it became mostly a wall hanger, a role it still fulfills today, although it remains fully functional.
By the time my dad gave me the No. 6 I already had a scoped .22 rifle that I could shoot better, so I never used it a lot. I have taken it squirrel hunting and shot a few bushytails with it, although the short stock never fit me particularly well. When I was in college I used it as a "loaner" to teach girls how to shoot. Its short length of pull was beneficial for that. And, its takedown feature and very light weight make it a natural "take along" on a camping trip. Given Savage's success with the revived Stevens Favorite, which is cute but very rough, and the present rediscovery of takedown rifles in general, Remington might be well advised to consider reintroducing the No. 6 rolling block rifle in .22 LR.
Copyright 2007, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.