Back in the 1860s, Remington began production of a single shot breechloading cartridge rifle that went on to become well-liked both in the U.S. and overseas. 

Everyone Loves a Danish...Rolling Block, That is

The beautiful M1867 Danish Remington Rolling Block up for grabs in the Vault is a great collector piece for those interested in Scandinavian history, vintage military rifles, or just like to classic old guns. 

Back in the 1860s, Remington began production of a single shot breechloading cartridge rifle that went on to become well-liked both in the U.S. and overseas. 

While during the Civil War, Remington was busy making Model 1858 cap-and-ball revolvers and "Zouave" Model rifled muskets for the Army, prolific factory superintendent Joseph Rider put research into a simple but strong breechloading cavalry carbine chambered for .50-45 centerfire cartridges. The latter gun led to Remington's famous Rolling Block series of rifles by 1867 and the Navy ordered some 5,000 of these modern breechloaders. Soon, the Army got into the act and by 1870 was producing a variant of the Rolling Block at the government-owned Springfield Armory under license.

Rider’s simple rolling block mechanism patented in 1864 was strong and proved successful enough to remain in production in one form or another for decades. The pivoting (or rolling) breechblock is pinned to the receiver and requires the user to manually cock the hammer before each shot. Rider also invented Remington's .41-caliber "Saw Handle" Vest Pocket derringer and an early "magazine pistol" 5-shot repeater that used a tubular magazine, among others. 

Curious as to the advances in military technology going on in America, European countries soon adopted the Rolling Block as well. Both Sweden and Norway placed small orders direct from Remington then began producing the guns locally under by at Carl Gustafs, Husqvarna, and Kongsberg.

Those Scandinavian countries had gotten the idea from Denmark, who as far back as 1867 started ordering Rolling Blocks of their own, chambered in a chunky 11mm black powder rimfire round very close in size to the American .45-70 Government, later opting to move over to a centerfire configuration with a reversible firing pin, dubbed the Model 1867/96.  

Den Kongelige Livgarde, Danish Royal Lifeguards, armed with Remington Rolling block rifles in an 1870s illustration. The unit still exists today, guarding the Danish King with Canadian-made M4s (Photo: Forsvarets Bibliotek)

Over 40,000 of the rifles were used by Denmark, with early models built by Remington and later ones constructed in Danish arsenals. 

While this Rolling Block model was only used by the Danish military, over 20 countries as diverse as Egypt and Spain used Remington's breechloader throughout the 19th and early 20th Century. 
The rifles have a long ladder-style rear sight. Note the V-notch. This rifle is marked Remington on the receiver, denoting it as an earlier model as latter examples are marked Kjobenhavns (Copenhagen).
Note the long lug on the top right-hand side of the 36-inch barrel, used to mount a fearsome 22-inch long Yataghan-style sword-style bayonet (not included).
While many Rolling Blocks were brought back into the U.S. in the 20th Century to sell on the surplus market and were sporterized, the example in our Vault still has its original walnut military furniture with a unit marking disk in the stock. 

Like rare, uncommon, and historic guns? Check out our Military Classics and Collector’s Corner sections where firearms like the Rolling Block are just a click away.

Although replaced in front-line service by the Krag-Jorgensen bolt-action magazine rifle in the 1890s-- the same type that ironically replaced Springfield Armory-made single-shot rifles in America at about the same time-- the Danish military kept their Rolling Blocks in reserve as late as the 1940s, as did other countries such as Norway and Sweden. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Remington kept cranking out No. 4 and No. 6 rimfire variants of the Rolling Block pattern, pitched as training and youth rifles, as late as the 1930s.

After the war, many surplus rifles overseas were imported into the U.S. and turned into sporting and target guns, although ammunition is hard to find for such veterans. Nonetheless, they still can work in a pinch. A couple of years ago a 93-year-old Minnesota sharpshooter ably harvested a deer with a 146-year-old Swedish-made Rolling Block that came to America in 1885 in a bag with his immigrant grandfather.

Mr. Rider would probably have smiled at that. 


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