Spanish M1871/89 Remington rifle

  • Country: Spain
  • Ignition System: Centrefire
  • Calibre: 11 x 58R Reformado

This is an example of the famous Remington rolling block rifle, probably one of the most successful military single shot rifles of all time. The rifle was adopted the world over in a wide range of calibres and even made the transition to the smokeless era. This particular rifle is a Spanish M1871/89 rifle produced at the Oviedo armoury. Spain had purchased Remington built rifles in 1870 but officially adopted the Remington rifle in February 1871 and then produced it under license. It was updated from 1889 onwards due to a slight change in ammunition as explained below.

The rifle action is known as the Remington N°1 action, which basically means it is according to the first Remington rolling block design. The thick sided receiver supports two axis pins on which rotate two block portions, one is the breech block, and the other is the hammer block. The breech block houses the firing pin and has an ear extending to the right for rolling the block about its axis pin. The hammer block has two functions, firstly to rotate the hammer to strike the firing pin, and secondly to block the breech block from rotating out of a closed position when the action is fired. The rear of the breech block has a cavity into which the hammer block rotates as soon as it is released, this means that the breech block is locked in the closed position before the hammer strikes the firing pin. The axis pins are shaped such that they can only be removed from the left side of the receiver once a blocking plate has been removed.

To use this rifle all you have to do is roll back the hammer block to cock the action, roll back the breech block, chamber a cartridge, roll the breech block forward to the closed position, and fire. The breech block is also under slight spring tension to shut so only a gentle push on the ear causes the block to snap to a closed position. That is it, easy, simple, soldier-proof!

The breech block as a firing pin retractor lever which sticks out whenever the firing pin is forward position. When the breech block is rolled open, the lever is pressed down by the front edge of the hammer block thus automatically retracting the firing pin back into the breech block, should it have become stuck forward for any reason. This is an important feature since it could be possible to accidentally fire off a round just by closing the breech if the firing pin is stuck forward, and in such a situation the breech block will not be locked shut.

The breech block also has gear teeth on the left side which engage teeth on the cartridge extractor such that the extractor moves linearly backwards when the breech block is rotated to the open position. When the action is open, the chamber is freely accessible, so an extracted case can fall free with hardly any manipulation. The easy access to the chamber also makes these rifles very easy to clean.

The top of the chamber is tramped with an R, indicating that the rifle is chambered for the Reformado cartridge which is an improved version of the original 11x57R (.43 Spanish) cartridge. This cartridge has little or no neck region, instead having a smooth taper toward the mouth, and the projectile is a brass jacketed bullet of 11,4mm (.448″). The barrel was not changed, the larger bullet just had to squeeze down the bore. Another modification which was made was the addition of a volley sight, something which is a bit of a gadget, but which was fashionable at the time. The volley sight comprises a sight extension fitted to the left side of the rear sight slider and a corresponding sight blade mounted on the left side of the front barrel band. These volley sights reappear on the Belgian Albini-Braendlin and Austrian Mannlicher 1886

This rifle is marked AR.O 1883. AR.O stands for Artillería Oviedo (Oviedo armoury) and the date is of course the date of manufacture. The butt stock bears the date 1882 and a serial number. Since the barrel and action have no serial number it is impossible to know whether the stock is original to the action or whether the action was restocked at some time. Clearly the rifle has been in its present configuration for a very long time. The rifle is light and the outline of the rifle is very clean with no bolt handle sticking out, making it also adapted for cavalry use with a shorter barrel.