The Remington military-sized percussion revolvers were single-action, six-shot, „cap-and-ball”, revolvers produced by Remington Arms Company, based on the Fordyce Beals patent of September 14, 1858 (Patent 21,748). The Remington Army revolver was large-framed, in .44 caliber, with an 8 inch barrel length. The Remington Navy revolver was slightly smaller framed than the Army, and in .36 caliber with an 7.375 inch [Beals Navy 7.5 inch] barrel length. There were three progressive models; the Remington-Beals Army & Navy (1860-1862), the „Old Model” Army & Navy (1862-1863), and the New Model Army & Navy (1863-1875). The three models are nearly identical in size and appearance. Subtle but noticeable differences in hammers, loading levers, and cylinders help identify each model. The „Old Model” Remington actually transitioned into „New Model” appearance by late 1862, slowly transforming throughout 1862, as continual improvement suggestions came from the U. S. Ordnance Department.
By the time of the Civil War, most percussion revolvers were fired with commercially made combustible paper cartridges, constructed of a powder envelope (usually paper) glued to the base of a conical bullet. The treated envelope self-consumed upon firing. To load a combustible, a cartridge was dropped envelope first into each chamber and seated firmly with the loading lever, the process continuing until all six chambers were loaded. After all six chambers were loaded, placing a percussion cap on each of the six nipples at the rear of the cylinder readied the revolver for firing. The six chambers of a revolver cylinder could also be loaded one chamber at a time, by dropping in a powder charge from a flask, followed by seating either a round ball or conical bullet in each chamber with the loading lever. For safety, and to reduce black powder fouling, grease, (such as tallow), was put into each chamber on top of the loaded projectile. (Combustible cartridge bullets were already pre-greased with beeswax, so the greasing step was unnecessary). The final loading step was capping as in the combustible cartridge loading method described earlier.
The combustible cartridge loading method speeded revolver loading considerably, simplified ammunition management, and became the loading method specified by the U.S. Ordnance Department just prior to the Civil War.
Remington percussion revolvers are very accurate, and capable of considerable power with muzzle velocities in the range of 550 to 1000+ feet-per-second, depending upon the charge loaded by the shooter. Combustible cartridge velocities averaged from 700 to 900 feet per second (270 m/s), depending on powder quality, charge and conical bullet weight. Combustibles were usually loaded with a special high performance sporting grade black powder, using the minimum charge required for a specified impact level, usually determined by pine penetration tests. The special powder and minimal charge reduced black powder fouling, allowing revolvers to be fired as much as possible before cleaning was necessary.
In 1868, Remington began offering cartridge conversions of the revolver. Remington paid a royalty fee to Smith & Wesson, owners of the Rollin White patent (#12,648, April 3, 1855) on bored-through revolver cylinders for metallic cartridge use. The Remington Army cartridge-conversions were the first large-caliber cartridge revolvers available, beating even Smith & Wesson’s .44 American to market by nearly two years.
Remington percussion revolvers have appeared in notable movie scenes in films such as Pale Rider, Gone with the Wind, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as well as early episodes of Bonanza. Easily identified by octagon barrel, brass trigger guard and distinctive loading lever web, the streamlined Remington is easy to spot in movie and television scenes.