The Remington Model 1858 was a percussion revolver in .36 or .44 caliber, relying on the cap & ball method of loading the ammunition whereas the gunpowder, primer and bullet (ball) were all separate components. This revolver was used extensively during the American Civil War 1860-1865 on both sides, more favoring the Union army although many Confederates used it as well.
Many officers would purchase this revolver with money out of their own pocket rather than accept the standard army issue revolver which was the excellent but not as good Colt Army Model 1860. The reason for this was quite simply that the Remington 1858 was more superior, dependable, robust and much more importantly it could be reloaded in a matter of seconds with a pre-loaded cylinder.
Of course this revolver was also popular amongst civilians as well, as you can never have too much of a good thing. They may have been more expensive than a Colt but people wanted them, so they acquired them, by hook or by crook.
The Remington 1858 New Model Army was a single action six shooter manufactured by the Union based Remington Arms Company. The more powerful .44 caliber wasn't introduced properly until 1862, and was based on the Fordyce Beals patent of September 14th, 1858 (Patent #21,748)
The patent date was stamped on the revolver giving the wrong impression that the revolver was an 1858 model, it wasn't and should have been more correctly termed as the Remington 1862 New Model Army.
Between the years of 1862 up to 1865 the number of these incredibly favored revolvers reached 115,560. The .44 caliber was manufactured by the Union Ordnance Department at a cost of just fifteen dollars per gun. The equivalent Colt Army Model 1860 was retailing for twenty-five dollars and Samuel Colt soon dropped the price to fourteen dollars, fifty cents in attempt to win back customers.
Many people did indeed buy the 1860 Colt Army but the 1858 Remington New Model Army still remained the favorite choice. The closed frame and rapid reloading system insured it would remain a favorite too.
A fair few thousand Remington's found their way into Confederate Army hands much to the resentment of the Union army. It is presumed that crates of these pistols were smuggled over the border and sold at a higher premium to the anxious soldiers of the Confederacy...well, business is business.
The Youtube video below shows someone at a firing range shooting a modern Uberti copy of the 1858. I like that fact its one of the few videos on YouTube with a guy firing the gun with one hand, as they used to.
The Remington New Model Army was revered in its day as a technologically advanced piece of kit, being a very accurate weapon and one that could withstand all the rigors of combat and war-torn abuse.
There was actually three models of this revolver, The Remington-Beals Army, produced from 1860 -1862. The Remington Old Model Army, produced from 1862 -1863 and the New Model Army with its long production run from 1863 right up to 1875 or twelve years. All of these models appear very similar upon first glance but subtle variations between each one can be observed upon closer inspection.
In 1860 just in time for the Civil War the trend for military firearms was that the ammunition was commercially assembled from combustible paper cartridge cases which was adhered to a conical bullet.
The whole lot was rammed into the revolvers cylinders, a percussion cap placed on the end nipples of the cylinder and upon firing, the paper would completely combust. To see how all cap n ball revolvers were generally loaded see my web page here
The Remington 1858 New Model Army in .44 caliber was quite a powerful gun in its day and the bullet or ball could be fired out at over one thousand feet per second (f.p.s) which was quite fast in the 1860's as most bullet velocities were around seven hundred and fifty feet per second.
Three years after the end of the Civil War, Remington started to offer conversions for metal cartridges to be used instead of the cap & ball style paper cases. Remington paid a small fee to the renowned Smith & Wesson company who owned the 1855 Rollin White patent #12,648 on the method and principles for re-boring out cylinders and thus Remington was the first company to offer big .44 caliber metal cartridges a couple of years before the main competitors of Colt and S&W.
Below is an image of a conversion cylinder for accepting metallic cartridges.
Remington 1858 revolvers had a great reputation for their strength and the chance of knocking the barrel out of true by accidentally dropping it was greatly reduced as there was a steel support strap that connected both ends of the frame, unlike Colts models that were all open at the top of the frame.
I do not intend to sound detrimental to any Colt revolvers because they were all excellent and reliable guns that have stood the test of time, Remington were just the first to innovate with new ideas that made them more superior at that time.
By far the best innovation over all Colt revolvers was the speed at which the Remington could be reloaded...about six seconds. This was achieved by removing the empty cylinder and replacing it with one that was fully charged up with shot, powder and caps all in place. Colt revolvers could also be re-loaded in this fashion but it was a longer process.
With the Remington the cylinder swap procedure consisted of first setting the hammer at half-cock, then unlatching and lowering the under barrel loading lever halfway, then slide the cylinder pin forward to the stop, the cylinder can now be removed from the frame's right side, and inserting the spare cylinder also from the right side.
A slight rotation of the top of
the cylinder towards the right side helps in slipping the cylinder
ratchet past or under the feed hand. Centering the cylinder in the
frame and sliding the cylinder pin back to seated position, secures the
cylinder. Returning the loading lever arm to latched position
readies the revolver for firing. The cylinder swap takes six to seven seconds,
or even less, depending on experience.
See the YouTube video of this procedure being performed below.
It is not recommended that today's shooters of this revolver carry a pre-loaded cylinder with the primer caps in situ around with them, if it is accidentally knocked or dropped then it could fire off a round. And there is enough space between the ball and the end of the cylinder to give the ball enough power to do damage, maybe enough to kill someone.
During the American Civil War of course, there wasn't any choice and soldiers often carried fully charged cylinders in multiples in their side satchels and ammo pouches as their lives depended on it.
There was another well thought out innovation that first appeared on late 1862 Old Model Armies and that was a small slot that was milled at the end of the cylinder in between the space between each cylinder so that the hammer could be rested on it.
This meant that all six cylinders could be loaded and the gun carried quite safely knowing that if the hammer got knocked it would not hit a percussion cap consequently firing the gun. This majestic little slot also prevented the cylinder from accidentally revolving and lining up the next shot. In the image below, the red arrow points right to it.
The Confederates attempted to manufacture Remington revolvers themselves..strictly not under licence..but they lacked the tools and the know-how to machine the frame to the correct specification, so they instead just settled by copying as many 1860 Colt Army revolvers instead! Below is a modern and faithful reproduction of the 1860 Colt Army, made by Uberti of Italy.
An almost priceless possession of the Remington Arms Company headquarters is an original 1858 New Model Army fitted with ivory grips that was once owned by the famous showman William F. Buffalo Bill Cody. This rather historic revolver is on display at the company and is complete with Cody's simple handwritten note about the gun which reads: "It never failed me " Cody carried the revolver in its original cap & ball configuration well into the time when cartridges were being used and never converted it, as he was so delighted with it as it was.
The Remington pictured below is very similar to the one that Buffalo Bill carried, it had a deep blued finish and was fitted with smooth white ivory grips.
The Remington-Beals design lives on today in the form of identical and authentic reproductions from Italian manufacturers Uberti.
RUGGED REMINGTON REPRO'S
The Uberti reproduction revolvers are very popular in Cowboy Action Shooting competitions with the cartridge conversions. Just as popular as the original Remington cartridge conversions were popular on the actual Western Frontier of the 1860's and 1870's. Shown below is a beautifully manufactured, modern Uberti Remington New Army 1858 Conversion.
The New Army Conversion was converted into a cartridge cylinder with a loading gate and a brand new breech face. The frame was also dovetailed so that it would accept and new ejector assembly. There was a custom conversion cylinder that allowed five larger .46 caliber bullets to be loaded. These were apparently rimfire cartridges as opposed to Colts centerfire design. However, the majority of conversions were for the .45 Long Colt, meaning that the barrels were also changed for the larger caliber.
Its a very nice reproduction and these Uberti, Old West revolvers, are very hard to distinguish from the real thing!
The Remington-Beals design is one hundred and fifty-four years old in 2012, and reproductions remain in use today in numbers far greater than original Remington production revolvers. This a great tribute to a robust, simple and reliable design that remains as practical and efficient in today's gun clubs as it was on the battle fields of Gettysburg and Antietam over one hundred years ago.
On the battlefields of Gettysburg, Antietam and the rest of those blood soaked fields, a six shot revolver was better than any weapon that only fired one shot. This of course was regardless of whether it was a Colt or a Remington! Who knows, you may have been lucky and used a fourteen shot Henry repeating rifle.
Of all the cap n ball revolvers of the old west, the Remington 1858 was one of the best. The conversion model is also a hard revolver to follow. Aficionados of these beautiful old style guns are keeping American history alive, it is encouraged that you also get involved to maintain this shooting heritage. Heritage that carved out the Wild West to make America the great nation that it is today.
Just to be fair to Samuel Colt, it is worth mentioning that the 1851 Colt Navy also underwent a conversion from black powder cap n ball to the new .45 Long Colt cartridges that were coming out. Uberti has also faithfully reproduced this 1851 Navy Conversion and it is shown below.
Similar to the Remington 1858 New Army, the 1851 Navy was converted into a cartridge accepting cylinder via a new loading gate and a new breech face. The frame was also modified so that it would accept a new ejector assembly.
These conversion 1851 Colt Navy revolvers kept this old gun alive well past its sell by date. Many of the old school shooters who preferred the weight and handling of the 1851 Navy could now enjoy the best of both worlds.
Samuel Colt: 1814 – 1862
I am not an official expert on handguns but I would suggest that because the 1851 Colt Navy Conversion still remains an open top frame that it would be unwise to load it with full power cartridges. The overall design of the 1851 Colt Navy was not as strong as the closed frame 1858 Remington New Army.
Remington still manufacture handguns to this very day, however they are now of course somewhat......different! Below is the brand new M1911A1-R1 .45ACP semi-automatic pistol from the Remington stable. The pistol has an extended, barrel with threaded muzzle to accept a suppressor, consequently, it is known as the Enhanced Threaded Barrel model.
If you wish to find out more information about either Uberti or Remington then please visit their respective websites by clicking on the logo's below.
I am not affiliated with Uberti or Remington and do not get paid to advertise them. I cannot order guns for you, so please don't ask.
Page created 2009. Updated November 13th 2012