The Remington Rolling Block Rifle

The Remington Rolling Block was a huge commercial success back in its day, and is often referred to as the gun that saved Remington (which was in dire financial straights in years following the Civil War). This simple, strong design was sold to over 40 nations and continued to serve on into World War I. But what makes this single shot rifle any better than its peers?

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Transcript …

(gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) – [Narrator] The Remington Rolling Block, a paragon of simplicity, strength, and arguably the greatest single-shot rifle of all time.

The Rolling Block was one of many rifle designs that sprung about during the genesis of military interest in metallic cartridges, and while few survived in such a crowded marketplace during the 1860s and ’70s, the Rolling Block was sold to over 40 nations often as a main infantry rifle.

This level of international small arms dealing is impressive even by today’s standards but was almost unheard of back then, so what makes the Rolling Block so special? Well, the answer is a simple one.

It isn’t.

The Rolling Block’s greatest asset is its simplicity.

It is easy to operate, train on, make, and use.

For a military rifle, this is ideal, but let’s take a look at what makes the Rolling Block work.

First, you’ll notice that there is a separate hammer and breech block.

First cock the hammer, and bring the breech block down to insert a cartridge.

You’ll notice that this bearing surface slides along the hammer, and that’s why it’s called the Rolling Block.

The action is locked when the surface forward of the hammer slips underneath the breech block making it a very simple and very clever mechanism actually.

This example is chambered in seven-millimeter Mauser as well, so it was strong enough to handle smokeless powder cartridges.

The rear sight is of a sliding design, but the latter can be flipped up to allow for long-distance volley fire.

The sighting arrangement is also a simple notch and post, and the front side is actually very fine, but enough talk.

Let’s actually see how this works in practice.

(gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) By popular demand, I thought I would showcase a method where you operate a single-shot rifle with cartridges between your fingers.

I’ve done this before, but I’ve never found it to be faster than pulling cartridges out of a proper cartridge holder.

It demands too much fine motor manipulation for me to do successfully.

(gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) (gun bangs) (gun cocking) I take this old Rolling Block to the range more than most other guns in my collection.

I really like how accurate it is in working the action of an old single-shot breech loader is just fun.

You can find this for sale all the time via Proxibid, and so many were made that they’re seldom very expensive for a more common model.

It’s gun like this that I truly enjoy shooting.

Old rifles like these, even if they aren’t your thing, and you prefer modernity, well, at least it almost certainly help you appreciate how far we’ve come in the way of firearms technology.

Special thank you to Ventura Munitions for helping us out with the cost of ammo for our program, and of course, a special thank you to you for watching.

We hope to see you next time.

Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


  • SJB

    I have an original Remington rolling block, Argentine contract, .43 Spanish. Brass made by original owner by turning about .010″ off the cartridge head of .348 Winchester. Bartram Brass in Australia makes new brass as does BELL (Brass Extrusion Laboratories Ltd) here in US.

    • PK

      Bertram makes exceptionally high quality brass. I’ve had wonderful use from it, although it’s expensive it seems to last a very long time if loads are kept moderate.

      A tip for anyone reloading blackpowder cartridges for older guns such as this, especially with the more expensive brass: bring a bottle half full of soapy water to the range. After each round or two or however many you feel but within a few minutes, drop the empties into the bottle and shake gently. This helps loosen fouling up and keep the brass from going brittle.

      • SJB

        I use a light load of 3031 which I found in Cartridges of the World, and a bit of Kapok filler to keep the powder where it belongs. Works quite well and has nearly the same velocity as the black powder load. Cartridges of the World also has data for modern powder load equivalents for many of the old black powder cartridges.

        • PK

          Yes, they do have a lot of useful information in the various editions! I’ve found they aren’t always entirely within the best pressure range, but from running the numbers in QL and quite a bit of string-and-barrier-assisted shooting, I’ve found they are at the least quite safe.

          Some, I’ve found to be overly low pressure and not expand the brass well enough to even create a seal at the mouth on firing, some I’ve found to be too hot and send the correct bullet weight out far too fast, but they all work to a degree. Once you find the sweet spot, it’s hard to want to go back to blackpowder for casual shooting.

      • Giolli Joker

        Just make sure that the soapy solution has no ammonia content whatsoever, otherwise the brittleness is assured.

        • PK

          An excellent point I entirely glossed over! Thanks for remembering to mention that, or there could have been a whole lot of upset people.

  • PK

    One of my favorite rolling blocks is a (relatively) new example I converted to .22lr a while back. The original barrel was a sewer pipe in terms of pitting, the extractor was broken, it was a total loss and only a wall-hanger. With a conversion of the breechblock, a barrel liner, and a bit of welding/filing, it now looks just as it did before from the outside, but it’s a perfectly functional single-shot target gun.

    I do love how simple and enjoyable they are to operate, but with a full length .32 barrel now converted to .22lr, it’s very quiet as well.

    • iksnilol

      Be careful to not get bullets stuck in the barrel. At least don’t fire .22 short in it.

      • PK

        Ha! Yes, I suppose that could happen… luckily the design of a rolling block very much lends itself to quick and easy bore inspection.

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Does anyone make a Rolling Block type single-shot today? Does anyone make a “modern” version? Or are Sharps/Falling Blocks our only options?

    • codfilet

      Davide Pedersoli makes high-level Rolling Block rifles these days-very nice, and quite expensive,too. Sooner or later, I’m going to get one in .45-70

      • gunsandrockets

        Expensive, and with an odd sweep to the stock that just looks wrong to me.

    • iksnilol

      Isn’t the Ruger no.1 kinda a falling block?

      • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

        … Damnit. Why didn’t I think of the Ruger #1??

    • PK

      A few small-time gunsmiths make them, but generally you’re looking at upper four digits for just the action and lower five digits for a complete gun.

      • codfilet

        The Pedersoli Rolling Blocks are less than $2000

        • PK

          I could have sworn they were close lookalikes and not functionally the same. Thanks for the correction! That’s a much more reasonable price for new production, although if you have the funds it would always be better to buy in-country production.

          Still, I’ve seen quite a few fine Pedersoli arms over the years. A shame they only chamber a handful of different cartridges, but it’s a good spread:

          .38-55 (this one is calling my name, I think!)

  • Raginzerker

    Always loved these rifles, want one in 45-70

  • gasssit

    I have a Whitney Rolling Block rifle circa 1885, out of my grandfathers collection.
    It’s barrel has been relined in .32/20 WCF & fitted with a reproduction Malcolm scope.
    It is a great shooter & with cast lead bullets shoots into less than 4″ at 100 yds.
    virtually no recoil, little muzzle blast, light & handy. Very enjoyable to shoot or to just look at hanging on the wall in my computer room.

  • Tassiebush

    I can certainly see why it featured at the Great Exhibition. The design really is fascinatingly simple. Great to see the holding spare rounds approach tested out too!

  • ChiefBoring

    I had a RRB in .43 Spanish that I liked very much. Ammo and brass was hard to come by so I eventually sold it. I wish I still had it, as reloading could now solve that problem. I was on active duty then, and traveled light.