The Remington-Keene reifle was the brainchild of one James Keene of Newark, NJ, who began patenting its features in 1874. The gun would eventually go into production with the Remington company in 1877 and remain available until 1888, selling a total of about 5,000 copies.
The Remington-Keene rifle/carbine was submitted to government trials, as were so many other repeating rifles of the period. Keene’s design, however, had a number of features that one would have expected to endear it with Army ordnance officers. Despite being a bolt action, Keene place a large and unmistakeable hammer on the end of the bolt – something that would make military users much more comfortable with the design. In addition, to mollify some of the ordnance department’s safety concerns the striker on the Keene only resets to half-cock when the bolt is operated. The shooter must manually cock the striker (which looks like a hammer) before firing. Another clever feature of the Keene design was that its tube magazine could be loaded either through the top with the bolt open, or from below with the bolt closed.
Locking on the Keene was performed by a single large lug, which also functioned as the bolt handle. Unlike other rifles with similar shell lifters, the Keene system held the cartridge in control while on the elevator, avoiding the potential problem of a cartridge falling out mid-loading – which was possible in rifles like the Lebel and Kropatschek.
The Navy did purchase 250 Remington-Keene rifles for use on on the USS Michigan and USS Trenton, and the Indian Bureau also purchased several hundred for its Indian agents. These guns were all chambered fort he standard .45-70-405 cartridge, but commercial guns were also available in .40-60 and .43 Spanish calibers. Magazine capacity was 9 cartridges in a 29 1/4″ rifle and less in the shorter carbine models (I haven’t found reliable numbers for the specific carbine capacity).
Despite its creative elements, the Remington-Keene was pretty thoroughly inferior to the Lee rifle designs the Remington was also producing, and they let production come to an end in the late 1880 in favor of Lee rifles.
Savage Model 1907 automatic pistol has also cocking-lever disguised as a hammer.
Were the .43 Spanish popular in 19-century United States? Or it is export product?
I think the .43 Spanish was probably intended for export sales – I haven’t seen much indication that it was used frequently in the US.
.43 Spanish is dimensionally and ballistically identical to .44-77 Remington or Sharps, which was the most popular American cartridges for single shot rifles in the buffalo hunting era. Remington, Sharps, and other rifle manufacturers would interchange markings as the market dictated – guns sold in or near Mexico often carried the .43 Spanish inscription.
.43 Spanish is dimensionally and ballistically identical to .44-77 Remington or Sharps, which was the most popular American cartridge for single shot rifles in the buffalo hunting era. Remington, Sharps, and other rifle manufacturers would interchange markings as the market dictated – guns sold in or near Mexico often carried the .43 Spanish inscription.
Other than the .38-40 Winchester (also used in Colt and some S&W revolvers), about the only .41-.43 caliber rifle round that was popular in the U.S. was the 10.4mm Vetterli aka “.41 Swiss”. When the Swiss changed to 7.5mm around the turn of the last century, the older .41s ended up imported into the U.S.
They must have sold a fair number of them on the civilian market, as U.S. cartridge makers like Winchester and UMC continued producing .41 Swiss CF ammunition until just before World War Two, mostly in sporting softpoint loadings. So they had to be selling it to somebody in the civilian sector.
I noted that the sight was borrowed from the standard Springfield 45-70 trapdoors.
Nice gun. Like to have one.
What are they selling for and how many (estimate) are out there?
Would there be someone who could manufacture a new (better quality) wooden stock for a Remington-Keene?
That is if one supplied them with an original stock as a template.
TO: all … Since Ian has brought forth one of the “trial” bolt action weapons of the period for discussion, I would like to ask a really big favor .. I have recently acquired a Winchester – Hotchkiss 1883 Third Model in 45-70. It is in Fair+ shape and not martial marked but SN is 31106. Not a spot of blue except under the barrel, but still see case hardening on the receiver. My favor is “anyone know how to remove the bolt” .. or have a document on this rifle? I do not want to bugger it up by attempting to do something I don’t know anything about. It deserves better than that. Bruce Canfields U.S Military Bolt Action Rifles is a marvel and discusses in depth with pic’s most of these rifles but nothing on disassembly. Thanks all.//
I understand the idea of the manually cocked striker in order to prevent accidental discharge, but the cocking piece looks a bit fiddly as it requires the “hammer” to pull the firing pin back. I don’t think this rifle will survive trench conditions considering how complex the bolt assembly has been made.
Many, many thanks for sharing a wonderful article on a wonderful but unpublicized piece of firearms history — I really enjoyed the video and, as usual, it was concise, well-made and had excellent graphics demonstrating the general functional workings of the gun.
Aesthetically, I find the Remington-Keene to have very graceful and pleasing lines, in spite of the possibility of some functional limitations ( imposed mainly by the Army’s and Ordnance Board’s preconceptions of the time ).
The example in your video is in fantastic external condition as far as I can tell, especially given its vintage and presumed usage.
Earl .. I am always fascinated at the degree of fine workmanship that went into 90% of these rifles from the Civil War through 1900. Just look at the metal finishing, and many time the bluing and polish cannot be replicated today.
You are absolutely right. Of course, there were Saturday night specials and junk as well, but it seems to me than anything half-decent is so well-made and finished to put most modern guns to shame.
When we really consider the machinery and tools they had to work with it is truly amazing and well worth when we can, preserving. I am working as best I can on the Winchester-Hotchkiss 83 3rd model because it deserves better than the careless way it has been treated. Weapons like these will never be made again. When these are gone .. they are gone.
Good Morning, Thomas & Ian H :
I am in complete agreement, and very well said! That level of hand-worked creftsmanship is absolutely masterful, and shows not only the great skill levels of the gunsmiths and workmen, but also their professional pride and dedication to quality.
Thomas, I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but I can think of few more intriguing Christmas presents than the Winchester-Hotchkiss you are restoring. I hope it turns out the way you would wish :). Take care and be well.
A Merry Christmas and best wishes for a joyful and fulfilling 2014 to all on FW!
Thomas and Earl
I like to restore neglected “sportarized” ex-military rifles back to pristine, as originally issued, immaculate condition.
Trouble I have is restoring wooden stocks.
I am trying to fine a US (maybe Canadian) manufacturer that can duplicate classical wooden stocks.
Does anyone know of someone who can take an original stock (as a template) and reproduce a stock in quality hard woods?
Regard and Merry Christmas.
Same here .. I have a couple if the 1800 period that had their stocks cut to “sportarize” them (I’d like to sportarize the ones that did it!), Finding a place that will can and will just take a several photos and the entire action a make a stock has been a fruitless endeavor.
PS: to ALL
Hope everyone has a Merry and Joyful and meaningful Christmas with loved ones. But always remember in our heart we are never alone. //
Thank you Mister Liew.
That should do it.
I’ll contact them and get to work converting my Ross into a beautiful originally appearing rifle.
You made Christmas for me and I (along with Thomas) salute you.
If I am not being too bold… is your family name of Chinese origin (linguistically spelled Liŭ)?
Regards and thank you again.
I’m a former Sinofile.
You’re welcome, P.C.! As indicated, you might want to try a local high-end woodworking shop as well, if nothing else at least for cost purposes with the added advantage of direct access and communication. Some of the custom gun stock builders are very expensive although their workmanship is excellent.
As for your other question, the answer is “yes”. There seem to be several regional differences in the Anglicized phonetic categorization of the name, but I believe they are pretty much the same. By the way — and I hope you won’t be offended — my father’s side of the family ( from which the surname originates ) were immigrants to Singapore and Malaysia from four generations ago and have little or nothing to do with the “home country” ( China ). They have always identified themselves as Singaporeans or Malaysians first, and of Chinese descent next. I myself am pretty much a native of Florida here in the U.S., which is — and always will be — my country first and foremost, although I am also proud of my ancestry [ and occasionally exasperated with it :)]!
Frankly, as far as I’m personally concerned, it is what is in the heart and soul that really matter, regardless of country, culture, race, creed, religion, political beliefs or any of the other definitions we choose to distinguish ourselves with, because at the end of the day, it is only the love and kindnesses we have shared with one another that we can take with us.
Merry Christmas Earl. Honest Earl .. I have always strived to teach my son’s and grandsons exactly what you so beautifully put in words. Christ does not know color, or race, or language or where on this earth a cry for help comes from.
PS: HOW DID YOPU GET STUCK IN FLORIDA??? (hahahaha) I, believe it or not, was stationed in Ft. Lauderdale 80-to-82, by Executive Airport.
BTW, I’d love to see what your Ross looks like when you’re done. Sounds like a great project. Best of luck and hope to hear from you soon!
My favorite old west rifle (second is the Winchester ’73). It features prominently in a few of my favorite westerns (listed in the following link: http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Remington-Keene_Repeating_Rifle )
I almost forgot, merry Christmas and happy new year to you all.
hahaha Big Al .. I seem to have a VERY NICE 73 in 38 WCF I could maybe trade for something of military of 1800 vintage. Just a thought since I do not collect civilian “stuff.”
Thanks for the offer, Thomas. I really appreciate it. I would literally JUMP at the chance to own a Winchester of any kind, but I don’t think you would be interested in a Pietta replica Model 1860 Army (that is the closest thing I have to 1800-vintage military, in fact that is the only gun I own at the moment).
Al ..BUNCH of Winchesters, I have a friend that gets glassy eyed fondling the 73. Collecting them could be a lifetime adventure and still not have every model! I’m very fortunate, and thankful.
@ P. Cassell & Thomas :
Here’s a short list of custom stock builders who might be able to help :
1. Wenig Custom Gunstocks, LLC
103 North Market Street
Lincoln, MO 65338
E-Mail Address : http://www.wenig.com
2. Richards Custom Rifles
C/O Richard Franklin
Fortine, MT 59918
Richards Custom Rifles
10433 Stewartsville Road
Vinton, VA 24179
3. Shurley Brothers Custom Rifles
16746 Fitzhugh Road #207
Dripping Springs, TX 78620
Tel. # (501)691-5500
E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Canyon Creek Custom Gunstocks
C/O LeRoy Barry
166 Hart Bench
Darby, MT 59829
Tel. # (406)546-6433
E-Mail : http://email@example.com
5. Macon Gunstocks
34535 Lickingteller Avenue
Warsaw, MO 65355
Tel. # (660)438-4699
E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
If none of these or any other listed custom gun stock makers pan out, you might be better off finding a local shop that specializes in high-end woodworking. As long as they have the correct dimensions, access to the receiver ( for fitting purposes ) and other data such as detailed photographs, there is a good chance that they could do the job properly.
Hope this helps a bit.
Earl, that’s a great list. Also, many military stocks were made on a duplicating pantograph or duplicating lathe. Same thing’s available today. This is an expensive version:
It’s $5-7k. there are less expensive options. As Earl noted, guys, local woodworkers are a great resource. Some of them may have a general purpose duplicating machine.
And here is a guy who runs a machine like this (not the same brand, I think) as a service:
I love these old Indian Wars period bolt actions, especially the Winchester-Hotchkiss, which kind of looks like a .45-70 Lebel.
I mostly know of the Keenes as Reservation Police guns. I’ve never heard anything about their reputation in the hands of the Indian Police. They were used along with Remington revolvers.
Thanks for your kind and universal rendition.
I’m in Tampa (as of now) but in the process of packing-up stuff to move back to class III country (Phoenix AZ) so Ian may use my MP43 in one of his competitions. (ha ha ha)
Where in Florida are you located? Nearby I hope.
I just bought the Ross model 1905 in Dade City and someone who previously owned it marked-the-stock-up and sanded it so I plan to replace it once in Phoenix. The list of stock manufacturers should do the trick.
When the Ross has its new stock I’ll get some photographs of it and forward to you.
Ian– I assume we can’t post photographs on your log.
Oh, one other thing. I love Asia and spent much of my playboy years working over there.
Love Singapore and been to KL, lived in Taiwan, studied on the Mainland, jump wings from Thailand and ROC, and worked in Indonesia.
Don’t know who I got out of there without getting married.
No, there isn’t a way to post photos in the comments here…but if you want to email me photos of the project I’d be happy to post them – it sounds like a neat project.
Please do ,Ian — I, for one, would be indebted to you and P.C. for this :). Thanks!
@ P. Cassell :
Thanks so much for the update — I’m really looking forward ( as I’m sure all the rest of the FW crew are ) to seeing the end results of your Ross restoration project!
I live in Stuart, a relatively small old-Florida coastal town on the East Coast of the state in largely rural Martin County. A great place to live, raise your hildren and put down permanent roots, but diagonally across the state from Tampa. I dearly love traditional old Florida, and Dade City is a place with much to commend it historically ( far beyond the obvious ). Sorry we missed each other by just that much, but there will be a “next time”, for sure.
Got to say you were lucky to elude the outstretched nets of the girls when you were “over there” in Asia, and I’m very happy that you had a wonderful personal experience to boot :). I’m not surprised that we both have much in common with Thomas, given his background and the wonderful marriage he had. I have worked as a surface-supplied industrial-commercial diver and sub-sea engineer for 30 years ( apart form my years as a soldier ), and still have fond recollections of many, many places as diverse as Singapore, Malaysia ( both coasts ), Thailand ( both coasts ), Vancouver BC, Seattle WA, Jacksonville FL, Tampa FL, Savannah GA, Charleston SC, Hampton Roads / Norfolk VA, New Haven CT, Corpus Christi TX, Houston TX, New Orleans LA, Philadelphia PA, Port Elizabeth NJ, Bath ME, Rochester NY, Chicago IL and Whiting IN.
With each and every step, we learn a little bit more about ourselves, the ones we love and those with whom we have connected, however briefly. That is life, and something to be treasured beyond anything material.
Pat, it has occurred to me that you might still be in the Tampa area for a while yet taking care of the move. We could still have a chance to meet up if things can be worked out. Please let me know accordingly — it’s always a privilege to meet face-to-face and commiserate with a fellow member of FW — thanks!
With Best Regards,
I hate moving.
What a mess
I would not be good company right now.
Best we reconnect once I am settled in Phoenix (got to find and a house there once the Tampa property is sold).
Then we can get together, maybe with Ian, and do some shooting and swap stories about our adventures in S/E Asia et.al.
Until then–Happy New Years!
Thanks, Pat — I’ll keep that in mind. Best of luck with the move and with your new home in Phoenix. If you need any help with the move on this end ( Florida ), please let me know beforehand and I will try to make the time for it. And best wishes for a great New Year in 2014 too!
@ Thomas :
Thanks so much, Thomas. I hope you will not be offended or embarrassed, but I have to say that I sense a great depth to your life and experiences that few can begin to truly appreciate. You have done something for your children and grand-children that no-one can put a price on, for it is beyond material measure and will last a lifetime, if not many generations — and that is the greatest gift of all.
Wow, I had not realized that you were stationed in Fort Lauderdale back in the early 1980’s — which means that you probably witnessed first-hand ( at least on a peripheral basis, if nothing else, but probably much more ) the early days of the “cocaine cowboys”, Kiki Camarena, Griselda Blanco ( the notorious Godmother of the Miami drug trade ) and everything that had to do with the crazy, dangerous, incredibly diverse, exhilarating, wonderful and intoxicating era of “Miami Vice”.
I settled in Jensen Beach, FL back in 1984 before moving a few miles over to the adjacent community of Stuart, FL. Both are in Martin County about 20 miles north of Jupiter ( and almost 100 miles north of Miami in a world that is literally as different as night and day compared to the latter ) in a part of the state that is still very much old rural Florida in the traditional sense, and where hunting, fishing and the outdoors count a great deal for the local way of life ( even among the “civilized” white-collar types — lawyers, accountants, bankers, etc. ). A wonderful place to grow up and raise your children, where a tightly-knit yet open-minded local community that really cares for the environment and its own, regardless of political or other affiliations, still stands up successfully to larger outside political and economic interests. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have found my niche here — you know, the very day I set foot in the area, I realized immediately that I was home, home in a way that I had not felt since my days as a youngster in the islands off the East Coast of West Malaysia. A place, strangely enough, 13000 long miles from my roots, on the other side of the world — a home where my heart and soul can finally lie at rest. I think you will understand exactly what I mean.
I believe that the serial number of most military Ross rifles is stamped only on their wood butt stocks. This fact puts refinishing the butt stocks as a questionable thing to do.
My research on the Ross also indicates that the rifle’s serial number was likely on the stock.
There is no serial number on my rifle. At least I have not located one.
The stock on the Ross rifle I purchase about 10 days ago was totally sanded and stained.
No military marks were retained on the stock.
Also, someone likely dotted-in their initials on the stock towards the butt plate.
Ergo, got to get a new stock for it and make it more back to its original condition.