M1871 & M1871/89 Spanish Remington (Reformado

(Fusil Remington M1871 & Fusil Remington M1871/89 Reformado)   

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Fusil Remington M1871/89 Reformado

Historical Context: For a review of the Historical Context in which this rifle was developed and built, please see the section HISTORICAL CONTEXT in the page M1868 & M1870 Spanish Remington

GENERALLY

   This Remington patent rolling block rifle was manufactured under license from the Remington Arms Company by the Spanish government primarily at its armory at Oviedo (Fábrika de Armas de Oviedo) but also in more limited quantities at the Euscalduna facility in Planencia, Spain.  The M1871 rolling block and later, as the modified M1871/89, this rifle was the standard Spanish infantry arm from its adoption in 1871 until nearly the end of the 19th century.  The rifle is a very close copy of Remington's standard No. 1 military Rolling Block, quantities of which Spain initially bought in 1868, but at 1,314 mm (51.75 in) overall, with a barrel length of 940 mm (37 in), the Spanish-produced rifles measure a bit longer than most 11 mm Rolling Blocks.

   Spain manufactured its local rolling block rifles from 1871 through 1893, producing some 350,000 rifles and specialty rifles and carbines.  During that manufacturing run they underwent several changes.  The most significant modifications were the addition of volley sights (addressed below) and re-chambering to a new, Spanish-designed cartridge, which was a modification of the much earlier Remington-designed .43 Spanish cartridge, although Calvo estimates that only half or fewer Spanish-built rifles were ever converted to the Reformado chambering.  This re-chambering has given rise to some degree of confusion. 

   Late in the 1880s it became apparent that the Remington was going to have to be replaced.  However, it was also recognized that it was going to take considerable time to re-equip the entire army as well as the colonial armies, and that the Remington was going to have to soldier on for some time yet, so the decision was made to try to squeeze out a bit more life and performance out of the M1871s.  Beginning in the mid-1880s, two Spanish Army officers, Lt. Col. Luis Freyre y Góngora and Capt. José Brull y Seoane, began trials aimed at improving the ballistics of the current Spanish Remington rifles.  Their eventual solution consisted of expanding the neck of the .43 Spanish cartridge case to a taper rather than a bottle neck such that it would accept a slightly larger bullet, and topping the case with a brass jacketed bullet of .454 in. (11.4mm) diameter.  These modifications increased the powder charge and both the bullet weight and its diameter (the new diameter of .454 was .015 in larger compared to the earlier cartridge’s .439 (11.15mm) diameter, with a 375 grain weight vs. the new cartridge’s 395 grain weight).  The bullet was jacketed in brass, rounding out the new cartridge.  The rifle’s bore was left unchanged, making for a tighter gas seal but still well within the rifle’s ability to safely digest.  Spain re-reamed the chambers of its stores of surviving rifles to accept the new cartridge but leaving the bores unaltered. The new design was approved in April 1889, and thereafter converted Spanish rifles were designated Fusil Remington M1871/89 Reformado.

   In 1892, just as the last of a small limited run of new-made Spanish Remington rifles were being produced (M1891 Spanish Remington), the Spanish Mauser was first being introduced.  The Spanish Remington rifles were finally declared obsolete in March 1909.

OPERATING MECHANISM

 

   The basic operation of the Spanish-built Remington is identical to that of its American-made counterpart (M1868 & M1870 Spanish Remingtons).  An additional operating feature not found on American-made Remingtons is a firing pin retractor built into the upper back face of the breech block.  This consists of a small wedge, which is cammed together with the firing pin.  When the hammer depresses the firing pin as the rifle is fired, the wedge juts up and out from the top center of the breech block.  After firing and retracting the hammer, when the breech block is rotated back to expose the chamber and extract the spent cartridge, the face of the retractor contacts the front edge of the hammer body, and that action pushes the retractor down.

 

  The retractor being pushed down simultaneously cams the firing pin back, so that the breech block cannot be fully opened while the firing pin protrudes from the face of the breech block.  When the hammer is cocked and the breech block is rotated back to open the breech, the retractor is held against the hammer mounting effectively “locking” the firing pin back into the breech clock.  This prevents accidentally firing which might occur by closing the breech block while a protruding firing pin is, for example, protruding due to fouling and is pushed against the primer of a freshly loaded cartridge.    The M1867 Danish Rolling Block has a very similar similar firing pin retraction device but it looks somewhat different.

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Top row:  And early Spanish-produced Remington pattern rifle.  Note the screw-retained bar extractor.

Center row:  Note how the firing pin retractor is about to contact the hammer base.  As ithe breech continues to open, the retractor will be forced into the breechblock, also camming the firing pin back into the breechblock so that it will not stick out against the primer of a fresh cartridge when the breech is next closed.

Bottom Row:  A later production Spanish-produced Remington rifle.  Note the absense of screw-retained bar extractor.

 

MARKINGS

   The most commonly encountered of the Spanish-manufactured military rolling block rifles is the series built at the Oviedo armory.  On these rifles, unlike the American-made and the quite scarce Placencia and Orbea/Vascongada built rifles, the receiver upper tang is devoid of markings.  Rather, the right side of the receiver is prominently marked with a Spanish crown above the marking AR. O. (the "O." denoting Oviedo) and below that the year built. 

    For a more in-depth discussion regarding the meaning of the Crown over AR. O. markings, see the discussion at the Spanish rifle series that preceded adoption of the Spanish rolling block, which would be the M1867 Spanish Berdan conversions under “Spain” at this website.

​     Some rifles show serial numbers stamped into both the left and right sides of the buttstock.

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       The Placencia-made rifles are stamped on the upper tang “Euscalduna“ above “Placencia” and similarly again on the upper barrel ahead of the receiver.  Except for these Spanish markings noted and occasional barrel band acceptance markings, these rifles are otherwise unmarked, including being without markings on the right receiver flat.   We do not know how the Orbea-manufactured rifles might have been marked.

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Photos through the kind courtesy of D.M.

CARTOUCHE

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DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

A transverse bolt through the rear of the forestock (and through a hole in the recoil lug mounted to the bottom of the barrel), with its ends supported by a pair of escutcheons, is probably the first noticed distinguishing characteristic of the Spanish-manufactured series of rolling blocks.  No other military Rolling Block sports this feature.  The firing pin retractor is the second significant distinction, although that feature is occasionally seen in the scarcer Belgian-made Uruguayan Remington.  It appears that this particular version of firing pin retractor was patented in 1869 by the Nagant Bros. in Liege, and is present not only in the Spanish Remington and Uruguan rifles but also in the Nagant-made Remington rifles produced in Belgium as well.  Do not confuse this feature for the firing pin retractor of the M1867 Danish Remington as they look noticeably different.

   This model has no bayonet lug or tenon, utilizing the front sight as a lug for mounting a socket bayonet.  The buttplate also differs from the American-made Spanish rifle, being significantly flatter.

  The earlier, original and unmodified M1871 is chambered for the American designed .43 Spanish Remington cartridge which is nearly identical to the .42 Russian cartridge and from which it was derived.  Like the American-made rifle, the extractor on rifles manufactured up until about 1878 or so is the screw-retained, horizontal slide type, an extractor retaining screw mounting through the left side of the receiver.  After about 1878 the screw was deleted in favor of a simpler redesigned bar extractor.  Unlike the American rifle, the receiver of neither the M1871, nor any of its later variants is cut for any ruptured case gas relief.

  Not taking any chances, and employing the “both suspenders and belt” philosophy of security through redundancy, the barrel bands of all the M1871 Spanish-manufactured infantry rifles are both screw and spring retained.

  The principal features of the revised M1871/89 Spanish rolling block rifles are the newly-reamed chamber, slightly enlarged to accommodate the Reformado case coupled with the stamping of the letter “R” (Reformado) on the top of the barrel chamber just ahead of the receiver; and the mounting of long range volley sights, consisting of a sliding extension on the rear sight leaf slide, which works in tandem with a front sighting stud mounted onto the left side of the front barrel band.

  Unlike American-made cleaning rods, which are retained in the forestock via a threaded end, the cleaning rods of the Spanish-manufactured rifles are retained with a detent 93 mm (3.66 in) back from the jag end.  This is somewhat similar to the system employed by the French Chassepot as can be seen on the M1866-74 French Chassepot-Gras conversions and M1871 British Martini-Henry series.

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  Note the addition of a new extension to the left of the rear sight ladder slider.   Its notch lines up with the spur on the left side of the upper barrel band shown in the photo to the right.

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New additional front sight spur added to the left side of the upper barrel band of a M1871/89 Spanish Remington. 

Also note the cleaning rod retention system consisting of a flared section that fits into a metal half-moon below the nosecap, much like the earlier M1867 Spanish Berdans and the British Martinis.

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 A M1871 Spanish Remington who's chamber has been reamed to the M1871/89 Reformado standard.

 

SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA OF THE MAIN RIFLE

Overall Length:  51 3/4 in  (1315mm)

Barrel Length:  37 in  (340mm)

Weight, empty:  9.37 lbs  (4.25 kilos)

Rifling:  6-groove; RH, concentric

Sights:  M1871 ramp-and-leaf, graduated 200m and 300m on the sight base and on the leaf from 100m to 1,000m (1,095 yds).  M1871/89 sights increase ranging to 1200m

Cartridge:  Initially the 11.15x58R Spanish Remington (.43 Spanish) with many examples later converted to 11.4x58R Spanish Reformado

CARTRIDGES

  For most of its service life, the M1871 Spanish rifle, like the initially acquired and adopted M1870 ("Nortoamaricano")Remington-built rifle, utilized the .43 Spanish Remington cartridge.  However, after 1889 a considerable number of Spanish-produced rifles were altered to accept the new Reformado cartridge.

   M1871 ball cartridge, 1,310 fps.  The M1871/89 utilized the 11.4mm Reformado cartridge.  Some sources indicate a new velocity of 1,280 fps which, while slower, would still provide more energy as the bullet was larger and heavier.

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Above:  On the left - Original .43 Spanish Remington cartridges (11.15x58R) On the right - the Spanish "Reformado" (11.4x57R) cartridge.   The bore of the rifle was not altered by the modification, only the chamber.  The bullet just had to deal with it ... making for a tighter fit of course).

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Notice that this box of cartridges is specifically for the 11.4mm (M1871/89) Spanish Reformado.  There is only the slightest bottleneck compared to the Remington Spanish Rolling Block.  Note also the "A" base which is more closely associated with the Mauser, Mannlicher and Gras 11mm cartridges.

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Original Spanish Reformado headstamps.  I am told that the Spanish reloaded their brass, which would account for the flattening of the raised headstamp markings.

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MANUFACTORING DATA

  While an exact production total is unknown, about some 350,000 were manufactured by Fábrika de Armas de Oviedo between 1871 and 1889, and limited quantities were made by Euscalduna, Planencia, about 1872-4. 

  Many Oviedo-manufactured rifles were converted and updated to the M1871/89 Reformado standard, although not all were so converted, presumably those still in colonial service or which were otherwise unavailable to the Spanish.

  Oviedo also manufactured a limited production run of about 1,000 newly-built, slightly improved rifles in from about 1890-92 designated the M1889 Spanish Remington (Fusil Remington Mo. 1889) along with about 650 slightly shorter rifles for Dragoon regiments, designated M1889 Dragoon Rifle (Carabina Remington para Dragones  Mo. 1889).

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After the adoption of the M1889 cartridge, the sight leaf was altered to accommodate the new round by fitting a notched extension to the left side of the ladder slide, a corresponding volley front sight on the left side of the upper barrel band,  and regraduating the leaf from 400 to 1,000m (1,095 yds) on the left side of the leaf and out to 1200m on the right side of the leaf to apply when utilizing the volley sights.

 

SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES & SPECIAL VERSIONS

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Alfons Cànovas of Miniaturas Militares (https://miniaturasmilitaresalfonscanovas.blogspot.com

M1870(?) Remington Royal Bodyguard Rifle (Fusil Remington para Guardias del Rey): This was the first series Remington design Rolling Block rifles manufactured by Spain itself after acquiring a manufacturing license from Remington.  This model was produced in very limited numbers, and believed to have been manufactured specifically to equip the bodyguard of the then king, Amadeo I. With 37 inch barrels, these rifles are slightly longer than the M1871 at 51.75 inches overall but are otherwise apparently identical to the M1871 infantry rifle, and presumably marked the same as for the Oviedo-produced rifle, being distinguishable only by having a bayonet lug affixed to the right side of the barrel in order to mount its unusually long, specially issued double-edged sword bayonet.  This rifle’s overall length, bayonet lug and its bayonet are its distinguishing characteristics.  These variants are extremely rare.  The bayonet measures 27.55 inches (675mm) and, as they were issued only to the Bodyguard and only for this specific rifle, were made in very small numbers.  It is estimated that between 500 and 1,000 were manufactured by Fabrica de Armas de Oviedo, at the very beginning of the Spanish-made Rolling Block’s production in 1870-71.

  Model 1870 Spanish Remington Short Rifle (Carabina Remington Para Carabineros Modelo 1870): This variant is described by Layman as being the first rolling block manufactured in Spain with ~6,000 built in Oviedo for the Spanish Carabineros (National Police) both immediately before and after the actual, official adoption of the M1871 infantry rifle.  It is Oviedo-marked on the right receiver just as the rifle, and will carry a date of 1870 or 1871.  Indeed, it was partly due to Spain already having acquired these rifles, as well as some 30,000 Remington-produced rifles already delivered to Cuba, that provided one of the final straws in the decision in 1871 to adopt the Remington over the locally designed Núñez de Castro rifle.

    Note that this rifle is the only Spanish-built rolling block pattern that does not exhibit the firing pin retractor present on all other Spanish Remingtons.   This is a rarely seen variant.

Specifications, Statistics & Data for the Carabina Remington Para Carabineros Mo. 1870

    Overall Length: 38 in (1060mm) (Calvo)

    Barrel Length:  25 1/2 in (650) (Calvo) [27 1/2 in (698mm) Layman]

    6 groove barrel

    Two barrel bands and nosecap, with sling swivels lying below the lower band and buttstock

    Rear sight ramp and leaf graduated 200 to 1000 meters

    Chambered for .43 Spanish cartridge

Model 1871 Spanish Remington Cavalry Carbine (Tercerola Remington Mo. 1871): This version was part of the official adoption of the Remington in 1871, was produced principally and perhaps exclusively, at La Fábrica de Armas de Oviedo as a direct replacement of the earlier Mo. 1855 muzzleloader.  Like most cavalry carbines it is mounted with only a half-stock, held by a single screw-clamping barrel fastening beneath the stock.  As a cavalry carbine, it was fitted with a ring on a bar attached to the left side of the receiver but also sling swivels beneath the band and butt as well.

It had no externally mounted cleaning rod and I am unable to ascertain whether or not it was equipped with any buttstock recess fitted cleaning rod.  While no specific provision was made for a bayonet, presumably the carbine could mount the same front sight fixed socket bayonet of the rifle.  It is reported that 28,880 were produced by Oviedo between 1871 and 1885.

   Note that on some examples the sling ring and bar are removed and the left side bar mounting hole is replaced by a screw.  The breechblock exhibits the early Spanish screw-retained firing pin.

 

 Specifications, Statistics & Data for the Tercerola Remington Mo. 1871

    Overall length:  37.9 in (963mm)

    Barrel length:  23½ in (597mm)

    6 groove barrel

    Single barrel band with sling swivel

    Small rear sight with an "L" leaf graduated 100-500 meters

    Also chambered for .43 Spanish cartridge

    No bayonet known

Model 1874 Spanish Remington Short Rifle (Mosqueton Remington Mo. 1874): This short rifle version of a M1871 should probably more properly be denominated Carabina Remington para Ingenieros y Artilleros de Plaza Mo. 1874 (M1874 Short rifle Remington for Engineers and Garrison Artillery) as it was those troops specifically for which this short rifle was designed.  Like the rifle (but unlike the cavalry carbine) the stock extends nearly to the muzzle and, just as with the rifle, a conventional cleaning rod is stowed beneath the forestock.  Approximately 15,500 were produced in Oviedo between 1874 and 1891, and Layman indicates that and additional 560 were manufactured by Euscalduna in Planencia.  Walter indicates that in 1879 these short rifles were also issued to the military service corps (Brigada de Administración Militar), but survivors were withdrawn in 1911, after which some 700 were re-chambered for the M1879 Reformado cartridge and issued to the security corps where they served until the Spanish Civil War.

   The short rifle pictured here would likely have been one of the 700 mentioned as it has been rechambered for the Reformado cartridge as evidenced by the "R" on the to of the barrel at the chamber.

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Model 1874 Spanish Remington Short Rifle

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The above photos  were taken by the late Jorma Seppänen and were graciously provided by Dutchman from his website http://dutchman.rebooty.com.  Several additional photos of this short rifle may be found at:   http://dutchman.rebooty.com/robl.html 

Specifications, Statistics & Data for the Mosqueton Remington Mo. 1874

    Overall length:   42½ in (1080mm)

    Barrel length:  27.95in (710mm)

    6 groove barrel

    TWO screw-retained barrel bands and a nosecap, with sling swivels beneath the upper band and lower buttstock

    Ramp and leaf sight ranging out to 1,000 meters.

    Bayonet:  Standard M1871 or m1874 socket bayonet

    Chambered for the 11.15x58R (.43 Spanish) cartridge but approximately 700 later re-chambered for the 11.4x58R Spanish Reformado cartridge.

BAYONETS

M1871 and M1874 Socket bayonets.  To my knowledge they differ only in length, but only slightly.   Calvo indicates that the M1871/89 rifle takes a cruciform blade bayonet. 

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SIGHTS

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UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES

  The M1871 Oviedo and Placencia manufactured Remington Rolling Block pattern rifles were utilized only by Spain and, while she possessed them, her Colonial Territories such as Cuba and the Philippines.

Identifying the Varieties of Spanish license-built Rolling Block military rifles

  During its production run from about 1871 through about 1886 the Spanish had at least two slightly different types, differing in their system of securing the extractor.  The early type was an analog to the Remington built M1868 model wherein the extractor was secured by a small transverse screw in the left wall of the receiver.  The later type did away with the retainer screw, instead retaining the extractor

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All Spanish-manufactured rifles have the following common characteristics

Overall length

Firing Pin Extractor

Markings:  Look for either the Oviedo arsenal marking on the right side of the receiver consisting of the Spanish Crown over the letters “AR O” over the year, or the markings “Euscalduna“ above “Placencia” twice, on both the upper receiver tang and on the top of the barrel ahead of the receiver

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Conversion to 43 Reformado

The Spanish-made rolling block arms which have been re-chambered for the Reformado cartridge have a small “R” stamp on the top of the receiver.  In contrast, Remington-made rolling blocks which have been re-chambered for the .43 Reformado cartridge are sometimes but not always marked with an “FB” (Freire Brulle perhaps?) stamped over the barrel just ahead of the receiver.  Only Remington-made rolling blocks are so stamped, and most of those were carbines.

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ADDITIONAL PICTURES

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Good view of the traverse bolt through the rear of the forestock.

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Above: Firing pin retractor in the exposed (hammer down) position.  The firing pin retractor is visible just sticking out of the breech block.  It rotates on the screw seen to the right of the proom mark.When the hammer is cocked and the breech block is rotated back to open the breech, the retractor cams against the hammer mounting and internally levers against the firing pin retracting it.  The M1867 Danish Rolling Block has a similar firing pin retraction device but it is looks somewhat different.

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Rear sight, M1871/89 on the left ... original M1871 Spanish-made rifle on the right, showing the long range volly notch on the left side of the sight slide.  The volly notch lined up with a front volly sight  mounted on the left side of the front barrel band,  shown in the picture immediately below.

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The cleaning rod of the M1871 and the M1871/89 Oviedo Spanish Remington rifles is unique for a Rolling Block, being retained in the cleaning rod channel via s shoulder which locks below the nosecap, very much like the British Martini-Henry series.

REFERENCES

Multiple monographs of Juan L. Calvo' (Juan Luis Calvo') available online at ttp://www.catalogacionarmas.com/index.asp and other locations

Page Built:  February 8, 1999
Revised July 27, 2000
Revised October 23, 2002
Revised August 26, 2003

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Updated: Jan 22, 2022