Remington’s Last Six-guns Remington revolvers weren’t serious rivals to Colt, but were the original favorites of fictional shootist J.B. Books.

Remington revolvers True West Magazine
Remington’s last big-bore revolver, chambered in .44-40, was the 1890 model. Introduced the following year in blue or nickel finish in 5 ¾-inch or 7 ½-inch barrels, this nickeled Remington is similar to what one of the brace of ’90s that J.B. Books’ packed in the book The Shootist. In spite of poor sales, both the ’88 and ’90 model Remington revolvers were well-made six-guns. Trick shooter Peter Bogardus packed a pair of 1888 Remingtons in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
— Photo of Peter Bogardus Courtesy Phil Spangenberger Collection —

In John Wayne’s last movie, The Shootist (1976), based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout, the Duke’s character, J.B. Books, packed an engraved pair of ivory-stocked, 4 3⁄4-inch barreled, 1873 Peacemaker-type revolvers. They were actually a brace of Great Western Arms Company replicas that had been presented to Wayne many years earlier. Big John had always wanted to use them in a film, but they were too fancy for any of the characters he played…that is until The Shootist came along.

In the book, Swarthout described the dying gunslinger’s revolvers, not as Colts, but as Remington double-action .44-40s. However, in the film version, Wayne insisted on using his Colt lookalikes. In the sequel novel, The Last Shootist, written by Glendon’s son Miles, and published in 2014, the six-shooters were identified as 1890 model Remingtons. When he finished his original manuscript, Miles asked me to proofread his adventure story and suggest any historical corrections I thought necessary. I informed him that Remington 1890 models were single-action revolvers, so the shootist’s six-guns were corrected in his final work, and images of them appear on the dust cover, as well as in each chapter heading.

Remington revolvers True West Magazine
1890 Remington. 
— Photo of 1890 Remington Courtesy Rock Island Auction Company —

Historically, with mass production of Remington’s 1875 model, which strongly resembled the 1873 Colt, ending in 1889, the company’s last big-bore revolvers got their start the previous year. The 1888 version of their military-size handgun remained basically the same as the earlier ’75, with the notable exception of the cutaway web underneath the barrel. Virtually all of the other features remained the same. According to current information on the model, with the reorganization of the Remington Company in 1888, they were taken over by the renowned firm of Hartley & Graham of New York, as in Winchester Repeating Arms and a small consortium of Chicago investors.

Production began that same year, and although the gun was never offered in any Remington catalog, Hartley and Graham advertisements of the period announced the arm as the “Model 1888.”  The newly designed revolver, probably made from utilizing leftover 1875 parts, was also called the “New Model Pocket Army Revolver.” It was made with a 5 ¾-inch barrel (although it was advertised as being 5 ½ inches), was chambered in .44-40 caliber, and, like the ’75, the ’88 Remingtons were stamped on the barrel with the legend “E. Remington & Sons, Ilion, N.Y., U.S.A.” Production quantities of the 1888 model are unknown, but it is believed that just 500 to 1,000 guns were ever made.

Remington revolvers True West Magazine
Although the large-frame 1888 New Model Pocket Army revolver was never offered in Remington’s catalog, the New York firm of Hartley & Graham first advertized it in 1889. Basically a revamped 1875 model, with a cutaway web underneath the barrel, and a 5 ¾-inch barrel, it looked more like the more popular 1873 Colt Single Action revolver. It’s estimated that just 500 to 1,000 of this six-gun were ever produced.
— Courtesy Paul Goodwin —

The last Remington large-frame revolver, the Model 1890, was then brought out,
with actual production starting in 1891.

The difference between this latter arm and the 1888 model, which could now be had in either 5 ¾-inch (also inaccurately called 5 ½-inch) or 7 ½-inch barrel lengths, was just some minor assembly markings, the new firm’s “Remington Arms Co., Ilion, N.Y.” barrel stamping and the factory standard black hard rubber grips bearing the intertwined Remington Arms monogram. The 1888 and 1890 models were made with lanyard rings on the butt. Remington’s handsome new six-shooter looked even more like Colt’s Peacemaker, and although this well-made single-action retailed for just $10.70, it did not sell well and production of the .44-40 was limited to 2,020 revolvers. Sales were just a few hundred arms each year, except 1895 when no guns were shipped). Manufacture of the ’90 model ceased in 1896, with the sale of just one revolver, marking the end of Remington’s bid for a spot in the large caliber revolver marketplace.

Remington revolvers True West Magazine
Unfortunately, the ’90 model came out at the twilight of the single-action era and did not sell well. Only 2,020 were ever produced between 1891 and1896, making it an extremely sought-after revolver today. Due to the rarity of these last Remington six-guns, a number of 1875 models have been altered to resemble the 1890 model, thus, as with any scarce collectible, buyer beware.
— Photo Courtesy Rock Island Auction Company —

Despite poor sales, the ’88 and ’90 models did have their admirers, such as noted sharpshooter, Peter Bogardus, son of Capt. Adam H. Bogardus, who toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Highly collectible now, these Remingtons were the last of their breed.

Remington revolvers True West Magazine
Markings on the 1890 model reflect the reorganized Remington Arms Co. as the barrel stamping reveals. 
— Photo Courtesy Rock Island Auction Company —

Replica Frontier Remington Six-Guns

Italian-import replicas of Remington’s 1875 and 1890 models are offered by Cimarron Fire Arms (Cimarron-Firearms.com), Dixie Gun Works (DixieGunWorks.com), Taylor’s & Company (TaylorsFirearms.com), and Uberti-USA (Uberti-USA.com). These six-guns are finding their way into the holsters and hands of cowboy action shooters, and Old West buffs alike. Walnut-stocked copies, they maintain the overall look of “genu-wine” Remingtons, but differ in minor, almost unnoticeable details. Made to handle modern factory smokeless ammunition, they heft and shoot like the real deal. The 1875s
are offered in 5 ½-inch or 7 ½-inch barrels (Taylor’s only offers 1875 models), while 1890 replicas are available only in 5 ½-inch tubes. Barrel lengths and calibers offered (.38 Spl./.357 Magnum, .44-40, .45 Colt/.45 ACP) vary with each importer. 

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Phil Spangenberger

Phil Spangenberger has written 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.