By Chuck Hawks

Remington No. 1 Rolling Block Rifles

Remington No. 1 Rolling Block Rifle
Remington No. 1 Silhouette rifle. Illustration courtesy of Remington Arms Co. Inc.

The Remington-Rider rolling block became Remington's enduring plains or "buffalo" single shot rifle design. It was probably the most popular rifle used by the old time buffalo (bison) hunters. It evolved from a design patented in 1863 by a Remington employee named Leonard Geiger and was improved over the next three years by Joseph Rider, who was the Remington factory superintendent. By 1866 the Remington-Rider rolling block rifle had evolved.

Rolling block rifles were produced in various action sizes for calibers from .50 centerfire to .22 rimfire, and survived well into the 20th Century. Compared to more sophisticated single shot actions like the Browning/Winchester Model 1885 and Farquharson, the Rider rolling block was relatively economical to produce, and this contributed to its longevity.

Remington rolling block rifles were produced as military muskets and carbines as well as for civilian use, and were adopted by many countries. These included the U.S. (first by the Navy in 1867 and later in limited numbers in .45-70 by the Army), Argentina, Denmark, Guatemala, Holland, Puerto Rico (Voluntarios), Spain, Sweden/Norway, Uruguay, and others. They were also purchased by state militias, most notably the New York Militia. Remington rolling block rifles were produced under license in Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and perhaps other places. Ultimately, over 1.5 million rolling block military rifles were produced.

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 an "L" shaped pivoting or hinged breech block pinned to the receiver in front of and below the axis of the barrel and a traditional exposed hammer placed behind the breechblock ("rolling block") that 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, insert a cartridge manually 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 that possibility worries you, carry the rifle with the chamber empty.

In recent years Remington has revived the rolling block rifle in traditional centerfire calibers. For 2007 the No. 1 Rolling Block in .45-70 Government caliber is available through the Remington Custom Shop in Mid-Range Sporter (standard contour barrel) and Silhouette (heavy barrel) versions.

The Sporter combines a 30-inch round barrel with an American walnut, pistol-grip sporter stock. Cut checkering in a point pattern is applied to both forend and buttstock. The barrel and receiver have a polished, blued finish. The barrel is fitted with an adjustable, center-notch buckhorn rear sight and a front blade sight. The barrel is rifled 1 turn in 18" for smokeless powder .45-70 cartridges.

In addition to the standard version, the Mid-Range Sporter Rolling Block is also available with a number of options. These include a single set trigger; semi-fancy American walnut stock with steel Schnabel fore-end tip and steel butt plate; case-colored receiver; and a leather-bound canvas covered motor case.

Here are the basic specifications of the No. 1 Sporter:

  • Order number - 27567
  • Action - single shot rolling block
  • Caliber - .45-70 Government
  • Barrel - 30" sporter weight, 1 turn in 18" twist
  • Sights - blade front, adjustable buckhorn rear
  • Trigger - single stage; single set trigger optional
  • Stock - shotgun style buttstock with checkered pistol grip and checkered forend
  • Overall length - 46.5"
  • Weight - 8.75 pounds
  • 2007 MSRP - $2665

The Silhouette is similar to the Sporter, but has a 1 1/8" diameter, heavy round barrel. The barrel has a dovetail for a front sight, but is supplied without sights to allow the shooter the option of after market sights. A single set trigger is standard equipment on the Silhouette rifle, which meets NRA blackpowder cartridge rifle (BPCR) silhouette requirements

Here are the basic specifications of the No. 1 Silhouette:

  • Order number - 27569
  • Action - single shot rolling block
  • Caliber - .45-70 Government
  • Barrel - 30" heavy barrel (1-1/8" diameter, no taper), button rifled .004" deep (suitable for cast bullets), 1 turn in 18" twist rate
  • Sights - None; barrel milled for front sight dovetail, tang drilled and tapped for vernier sight; tang-mounted vernier sight and front globe sight with spirit level optional
  • Trigger - Single Set Trigger
  • Stock - shotgun style buttstock with checkered pistol grip and checkered forend
  • Overall length - 46.5"
  • Weight - 11.5 pounds
  • 2007 MSRP - $3065

These modern rolling block rifles are faithful recreations of the Remington-Rider design actually made by Remington. They are, therefore, the real thing. Although relatively expensive, they are cheaper than mint originals, and they are made with modern materials. You can plink, hunt with them, or shoot them in competition.

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Copyright 2007, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.