Book Review: The Military Remington Rolling Block Rifle

During the latter half of the 1800s, a significant fraction of the world’s military forces were being armed by the Remington brothers, and their factory in Ilion, New York. The Remington Rolling Block was one of the most durable, reliable, and effective single-shot breechloading rifles available, and became extremely popular with armies worldwide. Even after the introduction of bolt action, magazine fed repeaters, the Rolling Block continued to sell, thanks to its low cost and simplicity of use.

We can still find Rolling Blocks fairly easily here in the US, but few people know enough to determine where any given one came from. Remington generally didn’t put serial numbers, caliber markings, or even national crests on the rifles, which helped keep them cheap but doesn’t offer much help to today’s collector. George Layman’s book, however, provides a good overview of the different models, nationalities, and cartridges used in these rifles over the many decades they saw service.

If you can find the 4th Edition of The Remington Military Rolling Block Rifle for a reasonable price, it is definitely worth having in your library. However, it has been overtaken by a more recent and larger book by Mr. Layman, entitled Remington Rolling Block Military Rifles of the World. While I have not read through that new version, I have no doubt that it will be a more comprehensive resource than its predecessor, so barring a find in the $5 bin, the new version would be the better buy.


  1. Yes, the rolling block is one of those unsung workhorses. It served with a staggering number of forces, and in a number of them remained in 2nd line or reserve use up to WWI and beyond.

  2. It’s hands down my fave of all the single shot metallic cartridge rifles of the 19th C. The pride of my collection is the gorgeous .43 Spanish Argentine full length military musket I inherited from my late father. It’s a drill out to 200 yards. I just wish the ammo wasn’t so damned expensive. $90 a box of 10. I’d love to find a shot out beater cavalry carbine and re barrel it to a cheep modern center fire caliber.

    • Turk, I am green with envy ( in a good way ), expensive ammunition notwithstanding :). Is that the price for newly-manufactured or reloaded cartridges?

  3. Hmm. Turk, do you mean replace the barrel entirely?

    I’ve got exactly that rifle. Bit of a family heirloom. At some point it was re-purposed as a 20 Gauge shotgun!! The rear sight was removed and foresight replaced with a bead.

    I’m not sure what caliber it was supposed to be, but the rifling is almost entirely intact except for one badly corroded patch just above the receiver. It could be that’s why it was converted; or I guess maybe the ammo just got scarce.

    Anyway, nothing wrong with the mechanism. Might be interesting to have it overhauled with a new barrel and make it a practical shooter.

  4. I have a minor fascination with 19th century single shot military rifles.

    The rolling block is interesting to me in no small part because I had a toy one as a child, which appeared to work EXACTLY the way the real thing does.

    I wouldn’t mind having a modern reproduction of the Egyptian or Danish(?) infantry rifle. Unfortunately, I don’t believe anyone’s ever made one, only the Pedersoli copies of the hunting and or target rifles. It’d make a perfect companion piece to the [now difficult to find] Italian made Trapdoor Springfield infantry rifle repro.

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