Used almost as widely as the Colt Model 1860 New Model Army revolver, the Remington Model 1861 Army was the another American Civil War sidearm favorite. In fact, many officers and soldiers favored it over the standardized Colt series for the Remington model featured a solid frame enclosure over the revolving cylinder which, in effect, protected the firing action and reduced the chance of a jam when operating under field conditions. The enclosed cylinder of the Remington also made the weapon feel more robust and rigid in construction when fired, in some ways accounting for better accuracy in the firing process. It is of note that the US government would go on to purchase more Remington-produced firearms in the war than Colt products and, Colt model firearms, Remington benefitted from the dire need of both sides for modern and effective firearms during the war. The conflict did prove something of a windfall for all military-related businesses of the time, particularly firearms and ammunition manufacturers. About 620,000 Americans would die in the conflict between the armies of the North and South - the bloodiest American conflict in its short history with both Colt and Remington-based firearms delivering their own fair share of victims to this enormous tally.
The Remington Model 1861 was contracted for production by the US government in June of 1862 with deliveries beginning in December of that year. The weapon would eventually appeared in two distinct production forms as put forth by Remington - known simple as the "Old Army Model" and the "New Army Model" and, essentially, set the mold for Remington revolvers to follow. The former design was the original offering whilst the latter came about from wartime experience. The New Army Model saw safety notches machined into the rear portion of the cylinder and a new loading lever arm was introduced. A shorter hammer was also designed to fulfill a military request, this making the Model 1861 more universal in adhering to the different hand sizes to be encountered among the ranks of the Union Army. These changes made the already-solid Model 1861 into an excellent firearm to compete directly with Colt in the revolver market.
Both Old Army and New Army revolver versions featured an 8-inch barrel, fired the .44 caliber cartridge from a six-shot cylinder and saw production in New York state out of the Remington Armory at Ilion and Utica. The barrel was noted as octagonal in shape and approximately eight inches in length with the gun's overall length measuring some fourteen inches. Weight was just over 2lbs with the bullet weighing 138 grains with a 38 grain powder charge. Outwardly, it resembled many of the available revolvers of the time with a curved, slim pistol grip, ring-guarded trigger, expose hammer spur and a structural "web" tapering forward along the underside of the barrel. Ahead of the cylinder was a noticeable gap that made Remington designs stand out from her competitors. The pistol grip featured wooden furniture and a single screw joining the two wooden sides to the metal frame of the weapon. The cylinder was smooth-sided and there was a fixed front post sighting appendage just aft of the muzzle. Muzzle velocity for the Remington Model 1861 was rated near 725 feet per second.
The Remington Model 1861 Old Army form was produced to the tune of some 12,000 examples while the military-minded Model 1861 New Army version saw totals peak at 135,000 with about 1,000 being produced weekly during the American Civil War, when need was at its highest. Overall, the series was highly touted as a reliable and effective firearm - not only for its day but even in today's collector market- making her as popular today as she was at inception.
Model 1861 Old Army - Original Production Model; between 10,000 and 12,000 examples delivered.
Model 1861 New Army - Safety notches along cylinder; shorter hammer; new loading lever arm; approximately 135,000 examples produced.
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