Remington Army and Navy Revolvers 1861-1888
by Donald L. Ware, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 2007, $65.
Colts were the first American revolvers produced, and they never really lost their place as the No. 1 large-caliber handguns—during the Civil War, on the Western frontier and even in the Hollywood West. But Remington six-shooters came to hold their own, especially when the coming of the Civil War made Ordnance Department officers hungry for weapons. Author Donald Ware, who first became an antique gun collector in the 1950s, writes, “I feel comfortable in estimating that Remington’s Navy Revolvers were first produced in April or May 1861.” The Ordnance Department gave Remington its first two revolver contracts on June 13, 1862. During the war, the North bought more than 128,000 Remington revolvers—the .36-caliber Navy model and the .44-caliber Army model that soon followed. These single-action percussion revolvers were similar to the Colt Navy and Colt’s Model 1860 Army (the most popular handgun of the Civil War), except that the Remingtons had solid frames with a top strap over the cylinder.
Although books about Colts are predominant as well, Remingtons have not been neglected in print through the years. Roy Marcot, editor of the Remington Society of America Journal, has written several books on Remington history, including the 2005 work The History of Remington Firearms: The History of One of the World’s Most Famous Gun Makers. In concentrating on Remington’s role in the development of military revolvers, Ware quotes from factory records and other letters and documents. As he says in his prologue, he functions more as an editor than an author. While the 434-page tale of these guns will interest Wild West fans, they will have to go elsewhere for details about the use of Remingtons in the West.
Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.