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Taking down a Remington Army model 1858: it took a while before this large frame revolver found a home with the military and became a popular sidearm in the American west.

First, a gunsmith from Newark, Ohio had to design a unique means of rotating a cylinder that wouldn't infringe on Colt patents. His name was Joseph Rider. He received his patent, worked up a functioning example of the design, acquired two business partners and selected Remington as the revolver's manufacturer. It represented the first handgun to be produced by the Ilion, New York shoulder arms producer and was marketed as Rider's Double Action Pocket Revolver. The only photo I've ever seen of that gun appears in the official, authorized history of Remington, The History of Remington Firearms: The History of One of the World's Most Famous Gun Makers. Masterfully researched, illustrated with more than 200 photographs and written by Roy Marcot, Editor of the RSA Journal, the quarterly publication of the Remington Society of America, the volume is well deserving of occupying a prominent place on your firearm reference shelves.

As a result of his supervisory functions centered on the production of his pocket revolver and its success in the civilian market, Rider stayed on at Remington to design a second pocket gun. This one a single shot breech loader. It was a palm sized, brass framed, sand cast, smooth bore firing a .17 caliber ball with the propellant 'mercury being only the fulminate of mercury contained in a percussion cap. You may or may not have heard of it: The Remington-Rider Parlor Pistol. Only a few hundred were produced but Rider kept working on his parlor gun breech design until it could digest .22 caliber rimfire. The resulting pistols were intended to be concealable, personal defense weapons. I maintain the conviction they never achieved that status but the little parlor pistol was destined to contribute to a Remington rifle that became and remains a legend. It seems the breech design of the Rolling Block and that of the living room popgun share similarities in many ways. Obviously, size and caliber are not among them.


Besides hiring Joseph Rider, Remington brought aboard another noted gun designer and elevated one already on staff in their quest for a large frame martial revolver. They were Dr. William Elliott, a Plattsburg, NY dentist, and Fordyce Beals, who was moved up from his 1847 supervisory capacity on military rifle and carbine contracts. Elliott got somewhat sidetracked and begat several small caliber handguns with multiple rotating barrels, all highly collectable presently but all highly inappropriate for military use then or now. The promotion he received came a bit too late for Beals. He was, dare I say, "enticed" to join the Whitneyville Armory in New Haven in 1854. There, he refocused his talents on handgun design and developed one destined to dictate the form of future Remington revolvers for years to come. Whitneyville management, having the same designs on the civilian market as Remington, decided to get in on the action by producing Beals's unusual looking "walking beam" revolver which, most importantly, did not infringe on any existing Colt patents. About 3000 of the walking beams were produced but Beals's earlier association with Eliphalet Remington III and the combined goals of greater civilian market penetration with large frame military revolver development drew Fordyce back to Ilion in 1856.


For the next two years Beals focused on both his design challenges. His initial civilian offering was the 1st Model Beals Pocket Pistol, a .31 caliber cap and ball revolver. At least one 1st Model large frame prototype was made for military trials.

The 2nd Model Beals, circa 1856-1857, was soon followed by the 3rd Model Beals. This was sold to the public as a Belt Revolver because its barrel was an inch longer that the pocket pistols. It was the features of the Belt Revolver when packed into the large frame shown in the accompanying photo of the resulting 1858 Army Model that finally gained military acceptance and ended the Remington quest. It must be added that the public acceptance of the Army and Navy models led to widespread employment of both on the still pretty wild and wide open frontier. And so concludes this little history lesson.


Field Stripping

There were a considerable number of miles accumulated while walking on eggs during the development of the 1858. Such light treading was declared mandatory in a maximum effort to avoid all conflicts with Colt patents. Evidently, the tip toeing achieved its objective. No one in the Colt legal department brought forth patent violation litigation. I doubt the same would be true today but perhaps I'm mistaken considering some obvious differences between the two revolvers.

Colt black powder revolvers of the day had no top strap. The 1858 boasted a substantial one. Colt barrels were held to the gun by a wedge. 1858 barrels were screwed into the frame. 1858 cylinder/barrel ment is achieved with a base pin and maintained when the loading lever has been swung fully upward to lock the pin rigidly in place. Colt cylinders were mounted on an arbor extending from the recoil plate. The desire or need for a rear sight was provided by a groove milled into the top strap of an 1858 and visible when the hammer is I fully forward. If a groove existed on a Colt it had been cut into the hammer and the hammer had to be in its fired position to make the groove serviceable as a rear sight.


Once again I have deviated from my primary intent here so let's get on with it.

Partially lower the loading lever (13) to release its hold on the base pin (21) and prevent the plunger (24) from engaging the cylinder (5). Withdraw the base pin far enough to disengage it from the cylinder. Half cock the hammer (2). Thereafter, the cylinder can be easily rotated out of the frame.

Detailed Disassembly

Remove the grip screw (54) but keep track of the grip nuts (43, 44). Take the hammer to full cock, pull the trigger and ease the hammer back into the frame. Don't allow the hammer to slam forward. Its nose can get out of joint that way.

Just loosen the mainspring screw (53) to take pressure off the mainspring (20) and free it a little. Tap the spring at its base to dislodge it from its slot in the grip frame. The front trigger guard screw (31) is your next target. Back it out then pull the guard (26) forward and down. Invert the revolver. Up inside the frame you can see the trigger bolt spring (19) and its screw (35). Remove the screw and be careful you don't lose track of the spring. It may have to receive some special attention if you're getting complaints the pull is so heavy it hurts to pull the trigger. Check that out yourself. If you can feel the pain, lighten the pull by carefully thinning the trigger bolt spring. Files or a Dremel tool or not needed as stoning will do and should only be applied along the outer sides of the springs tangs.

With the revolver returned to an upright attitude, locate the hammer screw (37) and trigger screw (38) on the left side of the frame. Remove the trigger screw. The bolt (12) and trigger (10) will drop out. Press down on the hammer until you can see the hand (7) and hand screw (52) sticking out of the frame. A small driver removes the screw. Pull downward on the hand. It will come out along with its spring (18). In reassembly, the spring/hand assembly has to be installed from the bottom of the frame.

Only now can you remove the hammer screw. The hammer is lifted free and you should take this opportunity to examine the roller (25) and roller pin (30) hiding within it. Any binding of the roller will bring on binding of the hammer on the frame and a really rotten trigger pull. This can be corrected or avoided by polishing the roller but there's one problem with that. To polish the roller you have to separate it from its pin and that pin is in the hammer tight. It would be far better to push it out with an arbor press and reinstall it the same way. Lacking an arbor press, order several extra roller pins. Maybe even three or four of them as the possibility of damaging the original pin in your efforts to free the roller isn't in the least remote. Having extras on hand will go a long way in keeping the egg off your face--and your work. At least it has when yours truly has come up against tough nuts like press-fit and staked-in pins.

Moving to the front of the frame, pull the loading lever half way down. Undo the lever screw (39). Remove the lever assembly and base pin from the frame. When and if the link (47) or plunger (24) call for replacement they become accessible by drifting out the link pin (49) and plunger pin (50). The loading lever latch pin (27) serves to capture the loading lever latch spring (16) and latch (6).


About all these front end pins: They all appear to having been 0 beautifully flush-finished prior to bluing. Any work you are required to perform that involves one or more should be carried out with great skill and care. The mechanical reasons are important as always but in this case function and cosmetics share equal billing.

By now you've noticed there is a second cylinder present in the field stripped photo. I slipped it in there deliberately to move this discussion into one concerning the 1858 and caliber. More properly stated, that should read calibers. The Navy model 1858 was .36 caliber, the improved 1858 Army model was .44 caliber and the cylinder that is available for the Army model is .45 Long Colt. It is, as you might have guessed, a conversion cylinder and represents one of many that came along soon after The War of Northern Aggression/Conflict Between The States/Civil War/War to Free The Slaves (pick one) had ended. In 1865, government arsenals were bulging with black powder firearms. The new kid on the block was the "Fixed Cartridge" and the Federals wanted to upgrade their inventory.

Normally my policy, and that of this publication, is to avoid providing load or reloading data of any description. There is an abundance of such information readily available from projectile and powder manufacturers. All of it well substantiated. The conversion being discussed here is a unique, six round cylinder in .45 Long Colt. The cylinder and its back plate fit together without screws or threads. Now please refer to the sectional drawing. In it the hammer has come into contact with a firing pin, driving the pin forward to ignite the cartridge primer. The firing pin is housed inside an externally threaded sleeve called a farrow and is free to move laterally within it. The cylinder is fabricated from 4150 arsenal grade steel. The top plate uses 4140. The cylinder should never be mounted in a brass frame revolver. It is designed exclusively for a steel frame. Nationally available "Cowboy Ammunition" delivering a maximum muzzle velocity of 750 to 850 fps is the recommended specification. Reloaders having a goal of emitting a large cloud with each discharge fired in their re-enactments can reach it by charging each Long Colt case with 34 grains of FFG black powder or black powder equivalent. By the way, 34 grains is a maximum.
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Author:Blood, Chick
Publication:American Gunsmith
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2012
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