In 1887, an official government study of the decimation of the great buffalo herds concluded that, next to the Sharps rifle, the Remington rolling block rifle was the most popular with hide hunters.
Like the Sharps, the Remington, with its simple and durable center hammer and rolling breechblock action, came in a variety of powerful big-game cartridges of the day and saw heavy use by frontiersmen. Although today’s shootists are usually not chasing down herds of buffalo, they are big fans of this powerful weapon. The rolling block is among the most prolific replica rifles produced today, with several variations of this hardy single-shooter available from a number of different importers, such as Cimarron Fire Arms, Dixie Gun Works, E.M.F. Company, Taylor’s & Co. and A. Uberti. The imports are high quality firearms manufactured by the Italian factories of Pedersoli and A. Uberti, who have each earned well-deserved reputations of producing straight-shooting, top-notch firearms.
Shootists can get their Remington rolling block replica rifles in a number of styles: from straight-stocked or pistol-gripped models, plain or fancy, and full-length or shorter carbine form.
For example, E.M.F. Company offers four octagon barreled models of the Remington rolling block .45-70 rifles, including a 30-inch or 34-inch barreled “John Bodine” model. This is a replica of the Remington used by American shooter Col. John Bodine in the celebrated 1874 Creedmoor match between the Americans and the Irish (the Americans won). It features double-set triggers, a color case hardened receiver, an adjustable tang rear sight, checkered walnut pistol-grip stock and a plain fore-end with a German silver inlet nose cap. E.M.F. also offers a 34-inch tubed Super Match version, and two 30-inch barreled rifles in either a Target or Silhouette model.
Taylor’s & Co. offers the rolling block in a John Bodine rifle with its distinctive Bodine-type features. Its Creedmore [sic] No. 2 receiver has a coin finish, checkered pistol grip stock and a checkered fore-end with a Schnabel tip, rather than the German silver cap. Both models come in blued octagon barrels of 30 or 34 inches in .45-70 or .45-90 (special order only) calibers. Taylor’s Baby rolling block carbine, with its color-cased receiver, has a blued, 22-inch round barrel and comes in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum or .357 Magnum, while A. Uberti’s 1871 Hunting carbine is available in rimfire (.22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, .17 Hornady Magnum) and centerfire chamberings (.38-55, .30-30, .45-70).
Cimarron has an “Adobe Walls” Remington rolling block with a 30-inch blued octagonal, color case hardened receiver, checkered pistol grip stock, double-set triggers and an upgraded, hand-finished walnut stock featuring a German silver fore-end nose cap. While a “Big Fifty” (.50-90) Sharps brought buffalo hunter and Adobe Walls defender Billy Dixon lasting fame in June 1874 when he made his 1,538-yard shot, hitting an Indian warrior and effectively ending the battle, Dixon reputedly used the Remington rolling block rifle for much of his hunting. Cimarron’s .45-70 is typical of the type Dixon would have usually employed on the buffalo range.
Dixie Gun Works catalogs nearly 20 different rolling blocks, including a .45-70 John Bodine model, a Black Hills Long Range model in either .45-70 or .40-65 (blackpowder cartridge) caliber, a Sporting model (also offered in either .45-70 or .40-65), a heavy-barreled buffalo model in .45-70 and a lightweight (6¾-seven pounds) Mississippi short rifle in .45-70 or .45 Colt, as well as a 7½-pound carbine with a 20-inch tapered round barrel in either .45 Colt or .44-40.
You can find even more variations of the Remington rolling block, but far too many details than can be listed here. I advise you to check each outfit’s offerings online or in their catalogs. Like the original Remingtons, these replicas are solid shooters!
Phil Spangenberger writes for Guns & Ammo, appears on the History Channel and other documentary networks, produces Wild West shows, is a Hollywood gun coach and character actor, and is True West’s Firearms Editor.