Remington Arms gained considerable popularity during the American Civil War (1861-1865) with their line of rugged and reliable six-shooters. Use of a frame "strap" above the cylinder improved the structure over that of competing Colts which utilized an open frame that could lead to "frame stretching" over time. The Remington Model 1858 Army appeared prior to the war and continued use of the top-strap frame design. While stamped with the year of "1858", many Remington Model 1858s did not see widespread circulation until 1861-1862. Production totaled 132,000 examples from 1862 into 1875. Design of the Model 1858 was attributed to Fordyce Beals whose surname appeared on several preceding Remington guns.
The Model 1858 featured a brass trigger guard, an octagonal barrel assembly and the Remington-style "web" at the loading lever - all which added to the classic Remington "look". The hammer lay exposed at the rear of the frame in the usual way, accessible by the primary hand's thumb for easier management. Sights were fitted at the front and rear of the gun which held an effective range out to 75 yards. The trigger was laid within an oblong loop and just ahead of the well-curved wood-covered grip handle. The cylinder lay at the center of the gun in the usual way. Overall weight was 2lbs, 13oz with a running length of 13.25 inches. Barrels measured 8 inches long.
The Model 1858 fired from a six-chamber revolving cylinder. Each chamber was filled individually through either powder-and-ball or paper cartridges depending on the period and gun actual model. The latter proved popular as time wore on though these were eventually replaced by full cartridge conversions. The chambers were rammed by an integrated ramming lever seated under the barrel and aligned against one chamber at a time. Loading was through the front opening of each chamber located at the front of the cylinder proper.
As a percussion revolver, the Model 1858 utilized the "percussion cap" method of actuation. These caps (akin to a child's toy cap pistol) were placed upon nipples found at each chamber base along the cylinder to which the hammer action acted upon the cap, a resulting spark igniting the powder or propellant seated in the chamber. The resulting pressures forced the ball or bullet out of the muzzle of the barrel through basic physics. Muzzle velocity was rated between 550 and 1,290 feet per second which gave the gun good man-stopping power. The trigger was of either single- or double-action form depending on model purchased.
The Remington Model 1858 eventually saw widespread use throughout the American Civil War (by both Union and the Confederate armies) and globally. It managed its way to Britain, France, Japan, Mexico and Russia as well as seeing use through American Indian tribes. Many saw combat service after the Civil War through the American Indian Wars, the violent American "Wild West" period and during the Franco-Prussian War. Beginning in 1858, existing guns were offered a conversion process to .46 rimfire self-contained cartridges. Other conversions eventually included .32 rimfire, .38/100 rimfire and .44 Remington.