French Remington Rolling Block in 8mm Lebel (Video)

The Remington Rolling Block, introduced in 1866, was one of the most prolific single shot military rifles in the world. The combination of aggressive marketing, low cost, and an excellent design led to Remington selling literally millions of Rolling Block rifles to a huge number of military forces for several decades.

By 1914, the era of the single shot military rifle was pretty much over, and Remington had ceased production of all their centerfire models of the Rolling Block. Until the French called, that is. France needed a reliable but inexpensive simple rifle to arm rear echelon troops like drivers and guards so that the modern Lebel and Berthier rifles could be concentrated on the front lines of the repidly growing First World War where they were needed most.

The French had bought black powder Rolling Blocks during the Franco-Prussian War, and were familiar with the gun. The ordered 100,000 new Rolling Blocks in late 1914, chambered for the 8mm Lebel cartridge. These would be the only single-shot rifles manufactured entirely new for use in WWI, and Remington would follow this contract with another (less successful) for Mle. 1907/15 Berthier rifles.

25 Comments

  1. A dealer in Quebec, Canada has some of these Danish M-1867/89s for sale. Most in 8×58, but some rechambered in .50-70 and 24 gauge. Also some M-1867s in the original 12.7x44R

  2. Thank you Ian.
    Excellent presentation.
    Two minor comments:
    Did they come with a cleaning rod (your gun did not display one)?
    Can the extractor be obtained from the likes Numrich, Sarco etc.?
    Regards
    Pat

      • Cleaning rods were abolished in the Transformation of 1927. They were replaced with pull through devices. The Gras T 14 was exempt. The Rolling Blocks and converted Gras rifles were converted to Balls N in the 1930s. Both weapons were used by troops who guarded airbases up to WW 2

  3. An interesting presentation, as usual! I’ve got one of the 7mm Mauser Remington Rolling Blocks. Most of them were sold to Central and South American countries.

    • I’ve got a Modelo Argentino 1879 Patria in .43 Spanish.

      Latin America typically broke down into 7x57mm users vs. 7.65x54mm users
      7mm:
      Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay.
      7.65mm: Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, etc.

  4. I have a Swede 1867/89 in 8×58. Usable cases can be made of 8x56r, loaded with AA 5744. Mine shoots better than I do. Mine is weird, apparently the receiver was replaced in 1888, and then it was converted in 1896, basically making it an almost brand new gun. (Looks like it was never fired before I bought it, bore packed with grease).

    These have a stock disc with a unit on them, I was told mine was to a defense unit stationed on Gotland.

    Love to have a French Roller, but I doubt I will ever find an affordable one.

  5. The Rolling Block has always been my favorite rifle. In a sense, they were the AK-47 of their day – caveman simple to run and completely reliable, and at one time were nearly as widely distributed.

  6. What nincompoop thinks that fighting spirit alone will win the day? This is how wars are lost! Hopefully the guy with the Remington is a crack-shot and good at close-quarters-combat should that be needed…

  7. Given how awkward the Lebel rifles was, and how slow the tube magazine was to reload, I doubt that a soldier with a Remington was at a significant disadvantage. It would be interesting to set up a comparison to see which rifle could fire 50 rounds faster. I imagine they would be pretty comparable.

    • In Lee-metford vs. Martini tests, in sustained fire the Met was no faster than the Martini due to replenishing the magazine cartridge-by-cartridge. Obviously the first 10 rounds were way quicker though 🙂

      Given how clunky the Lebel action is, and how slow the magazine reload is, I suspect the same would hold true here.

      • You don’t have to use the magazine, and I doubt the RRB was that much faster when single loading that it would catch up very soon. In any case, in actual combat situations sustained rate of fire is usually less important than momentary.

        • Well, yes, nobody doubts these days that having 5+ rounds on tap that can be got off in 5-10 seconds is great. But at the time, there was serious debate around the benefits of magazine rifles, particularly as infantry doctrine was still volley fire (largely due to the smoke – firing volleys means everyone can see the target)

  8. I forgot to mention in my earlier post that Remington made their Rolling Block in .30-06 too. This was a rare model since most were sold in Latin America in 7mm Mauser or other standard military calibers. The Remington Rolling Block action is much stronger then the Trapdoor Springfield, it’s major competitor [along with the Martini Henry]. So the Rem. Rolling Block action is strong enough to convert to many other calipers if you’re so inclined and still be safe.

    • “So the Rem. Rolling Block action is strong enough to convert to many other calipers if you’re so inclined and still be safe.”
      Remington Rolling Block was produced from 1866 to at least 1914 that is at least 48 years of production, so I suspect steel properties may vary from one Rolling Block rifle to other, due to progress in metallurgy.

      Davide Pedersoli is currently offering replicas of Rolling Block, they are chambered up to .45-90, but this don’t mean that Rolling Block can’t accommodate bigger cartridges.

  9. I have some sort of (Brit) RB shotgun, evidently sold in the Africa trade, according to my dad, who willed it to me. It’s smaller than a 12, larger than a 20ga. Patent marks start at May 30, 1864, then about 5 more dates out to 1874. No manufacturer listed. All the dates are on the backstrap. It has the RB and hammer trunnion pins secured by an identical exterior device as your photo, but one less screw on the left side lockplate. 30 5/8″ barrel. 3/4″ wide trigger guard.

  10. It srikes me that Russia could have done worse than ordering RRBs in 7.62mm when they had a huge rifle shortage in 1914. Many of their soldiers had no rifle at all, and were expected to pick one up from dead or wounded comrades, which cannot have been very good for morale or effectiveness. Although an RRB is not as good as a decent bolt action repeater, it beats having no rifle by a long way.

    Instead, the Russians chose to have Mosin-Nagants built by Remington, and these took so long to come on stream that the Revolution had happened before many were received. I believe Uncle Sam ended up buying them, and issuing them to troops sent to support the White forces after the Revolution, much to their disgust at having their Springfields taken off them. After the war I think most ended up sold as surplus. It would have made much better sense for Russia to have ordered a rifle that Remington already made than to go to such trouble, which in the end gained them nothing.

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