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Military Rifles in the Age of Transition
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1865 to 1890
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M1867 NORWEGIAN REMINGTON
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M1867 NORWEGIAN REMINGTON (Remingtongevær m/1867)
The close relationship and between Norway and Sweden is unique among the nations described in this siter, especially for peoples joined non-consensually by a single monarch. But it is impossible to understand the development of Norway’s firearms in the 19th century without considering this close relationship. It was not always so.
During the 14th century, Norway, Sweden and Denmark were loosely confederated under a series of single monarchs. In 1521 Sweden broke from this union but Norway remained tied to Denmark. Some Norwegians have referred to this time frame as the "400-Year Night" because during this time the land’s financial, intellectual, and political power was administered in Copenhagen. Not only was Norway treated as a tributary state of Denmark leading to a significant chronic loss of income over four centuries, but the 1536 introduction of Protestantism curtailed what had been a stream of pilgrims to the St. Olav relics at the Nidaros shrine, cutting a significant source of contact with the cultural and economic life of the rest of Europe. A major famine in 1695-96 decimated Norway’s population and multiple crop failures during the 18th century further devastated the Norwegian countryside. The effect of all of this was the severe, long term impoverishment of Norway which would echo down into the 19th century.
During Napoleon’s rise and continental warring, Denmark–Norway attempted to remain neutral, but its trading with France led the British to attack Copenhagen in 1801 and again in 1807 leading the Danes to ally with Napoleon. This had severe consequences on Norway leading to mass starvation in 1812. With Napoleon’s final loss at Waterloo, the Great Powers forced Denmark to cede Norway to Sweden.
Norway strenuously objected to a forced union with Sweden and declared independence, leading to the Norwegian-Swedish War. Here Norway’s poverty and under-population played a key role because while Sweden was unable to subdue Norway militarily, Norway simply did not have the financial or population resources to maintain a protracted war. The Great Powers, in the form of the British and Russian navies, sought to enforce their imposed treaty and blockaded the Norwegian coast. Eventually Norway and Sweden negotiated a settlement that saw the Norwegians elect the king of Sweden as Norway’s king as well. On the plus side, other than as to foreign affairs, Norway was able to maintain its constitution and institutions, a key such institution being its independent army and navy.
Thus, when the stunning, decisive, and quick successive Prussian victories over both the Danes in 1864 and the Austrians in 1866 all but necessitated the re-arming of Europe with breechloaders, it was a Joint committee of both Norwegian and Swedish officers who were appointed to select an appropriate breechloading rifle to modernize the arms of both militaries.
Selecting a New Rifle and Ammunition:
At this time Norway had already converted most of its stocks of capping percussion breechloaders to percussion chamberloaders (kammerladningsgewerene), highly accurate rifles that could be reloaded without the necessity of standing. While the adoption of a new rifle was indeed seen as important, the ability to inexpensively re-convert these kammerlader to metallic cartridge also mattered to chronically cash-strapped Norway. This would play a role in the selection of the new rifle’s cartridge.
Right side of a M1860/67 Norwegian Lund
On October 5, 1866, Norway-Swedish King Oscar II appointed a joint army selection commission to look into selecting a new breechloader. The Commission first convened in Stockholm on November 15, 1866, and was able to complete initial work, from consideration of available options to appropriate ammunition, through extensive trials, to its report to the King for selection, in a breathtaking five months, making its general recommendations for adoption of the new Remington system on April 12, 1867. The appropriate cartridge for the armies of both Sweden and Norway was approved by the King on May 10, 1867, leaving multiple details of what would become the final pattern for the new rifle open to development between the Selection Commission and a separate Construction Commission. Working together, a recommendation was made to the King who approved adoption of the Norwegian rifle on November 22, 1867
The Norwegian contingent of the joint selection commission was headed by Col. J. Landmark, director of Kongberg Vapenfabrik and a leading figure in the development of conversions of the Norwegian naval kammerlader (popularly known as the “Landmark.”) Among its duties, the commission was charged with determining if a new rifle could be exploited by both countries, and to what extent could existing stocks of arms be effectively (and economically) converted to make them compatible with any newly adopted arm.
Right side view of a M1850/67 Norwegian kammerlader Landmark
The Commission discovered that the design of a firearm is just as apt to be dictated by the ammunition available for it as any other important factor. Compared with linen cartridges used in the Swedish and Norwegian kammerlader and in the needle-fire rifles of Germany, France and Italy, metallic cartridges were considerably more expensive and technologically challenging to manufacture. However, they were inarguably more robust and considerably more well-suited to military employment. Further, the Commission found that locally manufactured ammunition functioned poorly across its trials while foreign-manufactured ammunition performed almost flawlessly. In this regard, considerations of effectiveness prevailed over those of economy. The Commission’s first decision was the recommendation of a copper-cased metallic cartridge. But because of manufacturing limitations, it would be a rim-fire cartridge similar to that adopted for Switzerland’s M1867 Series Swiss Millbank-Amsler conversions and carried over by the Swiss to their M1867 Swiss Peabodys. But what caliber?
Nominally, both the 12,000 Norwegian and the 30,000 Swedish kammerlader and percussion rifles then in service and candidates for conversion were .50 caliber, but they differed slightly. This posed a potential problem and the Norwegians considered that they might have to rebarrel their stock of existing “4 line” rifles to convert them, an expensive proposition. However, the Commission conducted extensive tests and discovered that the adoption of a bore with a diameter of 4.1 Swedish “lines” equaling 3.88 Norwegian “lines” thus being 12.17 mm, coupled with the utilization of a bullet with a diameter of 12.615 mm, would render acceptable accuracy in most all of the rifles of both countries. While less than optimal for Norway, the compromise was acceptable and economically advantageous to both countries.
The Commission considered an enormous variety of rifles, both entering service around the world and home-grown potential replacements. Despite a serious look at local offerings and at European choices, the Commission narrowed their own considerations down to two single shot breechloaders and two repeating breechloaders, all of them American. The Commission would have liked to have recommended a repeater, but the only viable possibilities at the time were the American Spencer and the Henry. Both, however, were complicated, expensive and comparatively low powered. And while it may surprise modern readers who have lived for several generations in the thick of technology, the half-dozen army officers on the board felt that the training required for their soldiers to become proficient not only in the use, but in the care of either of these repeaters, outweighed their advantages. So for a variety of reasons the repeaters were rejected. This left in contention the Peabody and the Remington.
The Remington rifle most likely to have been utilized in the Norway-Swedish trials was most probably the Vienna (Wein) type trials model, which itself would shortly thereafter go into production as the M1868 Egyptian Remington model. Peabody offered a version of its M1866 Canadian Peabody model, already chambered in a nominal .50 caliber. The Commission was favorably impressed with both rifles and the decision could have gone either way. Both rifles shot equally well, both weighed about the same and both had relatively high rates of fire with the Remington, for unknown reasons, slightly edging out the Peabody despite slower extraction. Considering that human nature is to make decisions emotionally and to thereafter justify them, it seems that the Commission recommended the Remington over the Peabody because it was believed to be stronger and more robust with its fewer parts (25) when compared to the Peabody’s 37 parts. It could not have hurt Remington’s position that neighboring Denmark, to which Norway had been joined and with which Sweden has had close ties, also adopted its nearly identical M1867 Danish Remington earlier that year with which to entirely replace its long arms.
Between 1906 and 1913, the Norwegian government sold off virtually all of their remaining stocks of m/1867 rifles to its citizenry, disposing of over 30,000 rifles during this period. Thus, there never were great caches of surplus Norwegian rolling blocks for arms dealers to later import into the US, making this rifle relatively rare in North America. By the same token, neither were there concentrated stores of arms for the Nazis to destroy during WWII as they did with the M1884 Norwegian Jarmanns. Although many rifles in civilian hands were sporterized early in the last century, those that were not are often found in pristine condition.
The M1867 Norwegian Rolling Block is a fairly standard Remington rifle, chambered for the 12.17mm copper cased rimfire cartridge (see Cartridge, below) Norway’s (and Sweden’s) decision to adopt the M1867 in 12.17mm was motivated, at least in part, to allow for the conversion of substantial numbers of muzzle loaders and chamber loaders to the new metallic cartridge without having to rebarrel the earlier rifles as well, since they were already barreled for the 12.17mm.
(A note regarding nomenclature: Because Norway’s then existing service rifle was referred to as the “4-line” (a “line” being a unit of bore size measurement), the Remington was initially denominated the “4-Remingtongewer” (“4 line Remington military rifle”) but with the transition of the army to the metric system in July, 1879, this rifle was from then on denominated by the Norwegians simply as the 12 mm Remingtongewer. The model designation (M/1867) was phased out of use from then. However, here we continue to use the term “M1867 Norwegian Remington” for clarity and continuity.)
Even though Norway and Sweden were at the time a “Joint Monarchy” and ostensibly adopting a new breechloader concurrently, the rifles did not evolve together. The paramount objective, the selection of an overall joint rifle utilizing joint ammunition having been reached, each army was allowed to adopt variations of the rifle to suit its individual needs.
Norway, however, simply did not have the technical feasibility to immediately begin manufacturing its rifles. Although the plan was to have Norway’s rifles produced by Kongsberg Vaabenfabrik (KV, "Kongsberg Weapons Factory") Norway’s primary defense contractor, KV simply did not have the technical or industrial capacity. So while the Norwegians slowly geared up, the first significant two runs of its rifles was manufactured by Husquvarna Våpenfabrikk in Sweden, between runs of Swedish m/1867-68 variant rolling blocks.
Not unlike the Swedes, the Norwegians also found their version of the m/1867 going through design evolution in its early years of production. Just as were early production Swedish rolling blocks, early Norwegian rifles were fitted with individual “half moon” breech block and hammer pivot pins with each retained via a separate retaining screw. But unlike their neighbors, by 1868 the “classic” Remington single screw and retainer plate had already been adopted by the Norwegians, indeed adopted even before Kongberg could put the Remington into production
While the Swedes continued to manufacture their rifles using the “half-moon” system (they were already geared up for production) the Norwegians modified theirs to the new retainer plate system as they could thereby save a noticeable amount on production costs.
Other changes evolved more slowly. Through the first several years of getting production going, several small variations were tried, including several different sights, sling swivel alternatives, cleaning rods and several butt plates. For the first few years Kongsberg barrels for the M1867 were made of iron, but after 1871 steel came into use. While more expensive, it turned out that misfire damage was reduced and was ultimately cost effective. By 1871 a “final version” emerged with its new barrel material, lower sling swivel attached to the trigger guard, a unique knurled brass-head cleaning rod, the single retainer plate for the pivot pins.
The Norwegian Rolling Block is a straightforward Remington design, locked by shoulders on the hammer body locking the radial breech block behind the chamber, the operation of which is identical to that of the Swedish and Danish Rolling Block rifles as well as that of the M1868 Spanish Remington Rolling Block, whose operation is discussed in detail.
Rear sight: The sight of the rifle was the last item to be standardized because no one could agree on which would be best. The early production rifles had an L-shaped sight that could be flipped over, but the final design was a unique combination of other ideas. Earlier models were supposed to be changed to this final design, but it is still possible to find M1867 with the original sights intact.
The Vinkellamellsiktet (was not adopted), neither was the Enfieldsiktet. In 1868, a young officer then assigned as a control inspector at the armoury in Christiana, Olag Krag, made a recommendation that the rear sight be a modified combination of the Enfield pattern and the Swiss quadrant pattern. Not only did this design meet with overall general approval but it was discovered to be less expensive to manufacture and install than other options. This pattern was formally approved in 1869 for all new rifles and to be retrofitted to existing rifles. (Curiously, another young officer destined for design, a certain Captain Petersen, would also cut his teeth on the Remington, proposing an improvement to the front sight of this rifle consisting of a tiny but highly visible silver stripe to the back side of the front sight, which was likewise adopted. Peterson would later collaborate with Krag in the jointly designed M1876 Norwegian.
The rear sight of the Norwegian model is quite distinct from that of its Swedish brother, the result of an unresolved disagreement within the Joint Commission. While the majority of the Commission recommended a ramp and leaf design, Landmark vigorously lobbied for a “Swiss pattern” rear sight closely similar to that of Norway’s existing kammerladers, going so far as to make his case in a separate statement appended to the Commission’s report to the King. In the end, the Norwegian model was built with a quadrant rear sight very similar to the Swiss Peabody then being delivered, while the Swedish version was fitted with a ramp and leaf design closely similar to Remington’s Egyptian model, albeit reversed so that the leaf rose back rather than forward. Denmark’s 1867 choice was also a ramp and leaf design, but unique to Denmark's M1867 Danish Remington, and not to be confused with the much later extended leaf of the M1867/96 Danish rifle, the version mostly encountered by North American collectors and shooters. The base of the Norwegian sight is denominated 2, 3, 4, and 5 alen (an alen corresponding to 627 ½ mm, or just over 2 feet)
The Norwegian Remington rifle is quite long and the nose of the stock is not capped, but cut off square and flat, being protected by the upper barrel retaining band at the very end of the forestock. The first 3,000 Norwegian M1867 Rolling Blocks were actually made in Sweden by Husqvarna, and are marked with a capital “H” above the year of manufacture on the right side of the receiver. They are also fitted with iron buttplates, in contrast to the Norwegian’s brass buttplates. Beginning in 1869, Norwegian rifles were manufactured in Kongsberg, marked with a crown over “K” over the year on the right side of the receiver, and by the Horedarsenalet Christiana marked with a crown over “A” over the year of manufacture.
Those Norwegian rifles built by Hovedarsenalet are slightly different to the Norwegian produced ones. The Norwegian rifle had a slightly curved butt from the trigger guard to the butt plate – The Swedish were straight. The Norwegian but plate was brass, the Swedish iron. The Swedish rifles were also the first to be delivered with the Krag rear sight, later used on all the Norwegian Remingtons, but never on the Swedish Remingtons used in Sweden.
The Norwegian M1867 is prolifically marked. Those 5,000 rifles built in Sweden by Husquvarna Våpenfabrikk in 1870 and 1872, will be marked with a simple (uncrowned) “H” but otherwise marked as are the Kongsberg rifles.
For a Kongsberg manufactured rifle, the left receiver flat is marked crown over “K” below the extractor retainer screw and below that is the year of production. Beneath the pivot pin lock plate is the serial number, along the lower edge of the receiver. There is a control/ inspection mark in the upper right corner of the left receiver flat and, apparently to add some visual variety not only is each and every screw and pin (but for the extractor) on the receiver flat numbered, but there is an identical corresponding number marked into the receiver along side where each screw and pin should go. There will be no mistakes re-assembling a torn down Norwegian rolling block! Fore and aft of the left receiver flat, the stocks are matching serial numbered below another crown over “K” and control stamps. The right receiver flat, unlike most Swedish m1867 series rolling blocks (q.v.), is only marked with a small gothic “R” control stamp. Bands and butt plate are all matching serial numbered to the receiver as is the rear sight leaf.
The barrel has perhaps some of the most interesting markings. It is serial numbered of course, matched to the receiver, but unlike its Swedish brothers or Danish cousins, the number is across the top of the barrel, closest to the receiver. Forward of the serial number, in order from the receiver, are the year of manufacture, “K”, crown, inspection stamp and controller’s initials. On the right side of the barrel, just ahead of the receiver, are sometimes found on a few Norwegian m/1867 rifles, from one to three small inspector’s initial marks. Each Norwegian rolling block was test fired before leaving the factory, not just for safety and operation, but also for accuracy. Provided the rifle met minimum standards it passed and was accepted for service. If, however, its accuracy was more than acceptable, it was inspector marked. If it happened to shoot very well, it was stamped twice. If, at the time of factory testing its accuracy was superior, then it was marked with three such inspector markings prior to official acceptance.
The rare Hovedarsenalet, Christiana assembled rifles (I have never seen, nor even seen a photo of one), even though assembled with Kongsberg manufactured parts, are believed to be marked with a Crowned “A” in lieu of a “K” but to otherwise be marked just as are the Kongsberg rifles.
SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA
Overall Length: 53.15 in (1,360 mm)
Weight, empty: 9.9 lbs (4.5 Kg)
Barrel Length: 37.3 in (950 mm)
Rifling: 6-groove; RH, concentric
Sight: Ramp-and-leaf, graduated to 1,500 alen (1,030 yards)
SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS
5,000 were converted to carbines
Model 1888 Cavalry Carbine (Remingtonkarabin for kavaleriet M/1888)
Issue of the M1884/87 Norwegian Jarmann repeater freed substantial quantities of single shot Remington rifles in the late 1880s. Some were cut to carbine length for the cavalry and converted to centerfire in 1889. They were fitted with new half-stocks and a barrel band with a swivel on the left side. A sling bar was fixed to the left side of the butt.
FOR SURE, Norway converted and issued carbines chambered for the smokeless 8mm Danish cartridge; however I am unable to find any evidence that the M1867 Norwegian Remington in 12.17mm was ever converted to a carbine while continuing to utilize the original black powder round.
M/1888 engineers carbine (Remingtonkarabin for ingeniørvåpnet).
This was similar to the cavalry weapon, but had swivels on the underside of the band and butt. The engineer pattern often had a single extractor whereas virtually all cavalry guns possessed two. Again, no evidence that this was ever produced as a black powder cartridge arm.
M1860 Saber Bayonet
When the Remington rifle was adopted by Norway, it was determined that the rifles would be equipped with a Saber style of bayonet. This bayonet was designated the M1860 Saber and was manufactured in at Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk. On the right side of the bayonet is the serial number and the left side has a control mark. Some bayonets were purchased from Eskiltuna in Sweden and they are marked with a crown anchor. (https://www.kvf.no/vaapen.php?type=Bajonett&weaponid=BAJ0027)
Left: Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk Right: Eskilstuna Jernmanufactur AB
12.7mm Norwegian Remington (12,7mm norsk Remington patron)
(aka: 12.17x44R, 12x44 R, 12.17mm Swedish Remington, 12.17mm Lund)
See also: M1867 Swedish Remington Infantry rifles
The Commission charged with determining the cartridge of the new rifle conducted extensive tests and adopted a rifle with of a bore diameter of 3.88 Norwegian “lines,” that is, 12.17 mm, coupled with a bullet of a diameter of 12.615 mm.
Specifications of the Norwegian (Swedish) m/1867 Cartridge:
Case: Rimmed, cylindrical copper
Load: 4.09 grams powder (Norwegian) cartridge; 4.25 grams for Swedish
Bullet: 24 gram lead round nose
Muzzle velocity: 385 m.p.s. (1,250 fps)
Bullet diameter: 12.79mm
Neck diameter: 13.56mm
Base diameter: 13.98mm
Rim diameter: 16.07mm
Case length: 43.9mm
Total length: 53.4 grams
Total weight: 40.4 grams
While Remington immediately began manufacturing both complete rifles and action assemblies for the Swedes, the Norwegians were considerably poorer and needed to both develop their own manufacturing capacity as well as concentrate on converting their stocks of existing kammerladers to the newly adopted metallic cartridge standard via the M1860/67 Norwegian Lund and M1859/67 Norwegian Landmark conversion systems. While the plan adopted was to have Norway’s rolling block rifles manufactured by Kongsberg Våpenfabrik, there were significant delays in acquiring and putting into service modern production machinery. Thus very few Norwegian models were built in the first number of years, the first rifles leaving the factory in 1869 but with no significant production until 1873. Due to supply/capacity issues at Kongsberg, some 5000 or so Norwegians rifles were also built at Husqvarna , 2,000 in 1870 and another 3,000 in 1872. Kongsberg did, however, sort out its production and by 1876 had been able to build some 24,000 rifles, eventually producing 58,450 by 1883 when the factory shifted its production to the M1884 Jarmann. The Norwegian army eventually took delivery of a total of 63,450 m/1867 rolling block rifles.
Note that small numbers of rifles, believed to number in the low hundreds, were also assembled at Hovedarsenalet, Oslo (then called Christiana) in about 1875-6 from Kongsberg manufactured parts, but I have been unable to discover any more information than that
UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES
This version was shared with Sweden, along with a somewhat similar version used by Denmark, but these specific rifles were never used militarily by any other country.
Hanevik, Karl Egil, Norske Militærgeværer etter 1867, Innbundet, Bokmål, 1998
Page built Jan 25, 1999
Revised April 18, 1999
Revised September 24, 1999
Revised October 8, 1999
Revised February 12, 2000
Revised October 2, 2000
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Updated: Mar 2, 2022