Rolling block navy 1867

Joseph Rider a chief designer for Remington firearms patented a rolling block breech loading mechanism in 1866 and the company began producing pistols and rifles with that mechanism shortly thereafter. The pistols design first accepted by the US Navy was for 50 calibre rim fire cartridges and in 1867 this design was adapted for centre fire cartridges.

Only about 6,000 were made for the Navy and later a similar number of somewhat modified guns were sold to the US army. 

The Colt cap and ball revolvers of the American Civil war era arguably represented the ultimate refinement of a obsolete technology and the so adoption of the Remington rolling block pistols in 1867 was in some sense a step forward.  However, to go from a six shot pistol to a single shot pistol was also a step backward.  Many factors must have affected the choice.  In the decade of the 1860s, revolver development was stalled by energetic enforcement of the Rollin White patent by Smith and Wesson, so that the only American-made cartridge revolver at the time was the Smith and Wesson model 2 old Army.

While many of the Smith and Wesson pistols were purchased privately during the civil war, they were never favoured by the government over the antiquated Colt pistols, so it is not too surprising that the Smith and Wesson revolvers were not adopted after the war either.

While for Colt, Remington and others, the path to cartridge revolvers remained closed in 1867, guns which loaded cartridges directly into a chamber continuous with the barrel were not covered by the Rollin White patent, accounting for the proliferation single and multibarreled derringers and larger single shot pistols like the Connecticut Arms Bulldog.

The Remington rolling block pistols would seem to be the ultimate product of that line of development.

Although Remington continues to make rolling block long guns even to this day, the rolling block pistols were made only up to about 1872, since by 1873 both Colt and Remington were free to make cartridge revolvers and the single shot pistol was abandoned as a military weapon.

Roger Papke (USA)