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Remington Split Breech – Before It Was Famous

First Pattern: Sold for $3.450.
Second Pattern: Sold for $1,955.

The Remington Rolling Block was one of the most widely successful and popular military rifles of the late 1800s, and its development began with the Remington Split Breech carbine during the American Civil War. The concept was independently conceived by two different engineers – one was Leonard Geiger, and the other was Joseph Rider – an engineer working for the Remington firm. When the guns went into production, Remington agreed to a royalty deal with Geiger (and his partner, Charles Alger) to avoid any potential patent lawsuits.

The system is a clever and compact design in which the hammer acts as a lock to hold the rotating breechblock in place when fired, and it would prove capable of use not just with black powder cartridges but also after the widespread adoption of high powered smokeless power ammunition. However, when Remington first demonstrated it to the US Ordnance Department during the war, they did not have the production capacity to actually make a large number. Instead, the gave that authority to a Mr. Samuel Norris, who was able to obtain contracts for 20,000 of the guns (5,000 in .44 Rimfire and 15,000 in .56-50 Spencer rimfire), and contract their manufacture to the Savage Revolving Fire Arms Company. These guns would all be delivered to the Federal government, but not in time to see any use during the war.

Instead, they were put into storage, and soon sold off as surplus. Virtually all of them were repurchased by Remington and a few other surplus brokers and resold to France in 1870, when the French were desperate for arms to replace their huge losses in the Franco-Prussian War.

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