|Remington Rolling Block
Builder: Bill Oikle
|The story behind the rifle.|
Once apon a time (mid 1970') When I used to shoot a lot of muzzleloading matches there was always a match on the program for black powder cartridge guns. Usually a 50 yard offhand match shot on the std 25 yard pistol target. NMRA rules allow guns of a lesser standard to shoot in a higher standard match, for instance, a flintlock could shoot in a caplock match but not vice-versa.
One time I decided to try for a medal in that match with a caplock. A certain shooter in that match objected (he always was a pain in the butt) and the shoot organizers decided in his favor due to its being a cartridge match not a muzzleloader. This guy ticked me off frequently so I decided I would somehow own a single shot black powder rifle. Unfortunately most of those were quite expensive, being made on old hi-wall or Stevens 44 or 44 ½ actions, sometimes a Martini. The search was on. Eventually I found an old Remington Rolling Block military rifle in 7MM Mauser in a local guns shop. It had the military round top to the action. Obviously it had to be rebarreled to a black powder barrel. For many years Numrich sold replacement barrels for old rolling blocks so I saved my small change and bought one. I had to have the barrel installed and headspaced. The old military stock wasn't conducive to good offhand shooting so that had to go. In the meantime, I got into the model shop at work and milled flats on the action, more in keeping with the spirit of the thing.
A local lumberyard supplied me with a plain grain piece of maple large enough to make a schuetzen style stock with the high cheekpiece. I hacked and whacked that to shape. Now I needed a hooked buttplate for the stock, so back to the models shop. After a lot of head scratching about how to do all that contour cutting on a milling machine I managed to shape one out and finish it with files and smoothed it with grit paper. Notice that the word "cheap" doesn't appear here. I did it for the experience (yeah, right). Off to the gun shop for some reloading dies and then to the range.
The loads had to be blackpowder (Pyrodex had not been on the market at that time). NMLRA rules allowed a duplex load of black powder and 10% smokeless. The original .45-70 cartridges were loaded with a highly compressed load of powder. Loose powder under a 405 grain bullet would only measure about 55 grains. It takes some specialized equipment to compress the load, so I stuck with the 55 grains of 2F and 5.5 grains of Unique. This gave approximately the same velocity as the 70 grain load. Plain base bullets are mandatory, no gas checks allowed. But an overpowder wad was OK. I used a 7/16 punch and made some from graphite coated gasket material.
Cheap not being a word used here, I made a ladder sight using the base from a Thompson Center ladder sight made for their Hawken rifles. It as too short to fit from the rolling block tang up to the height of a front sight so back to the shop and will out a new ladder section. Easy enough until I had to make the 4-40 long screw used to adjust elevation. That wasn't easy. Got it done. I fitted a globe front sight with apertures and headed for the range.
Off the benchrest it held the ten ring of that 25 yard pistol slow fire target. After some practice offhand I decided to take it to the next match. I entered the match for that gun. I won, and kept on winning that match until that SOB that protested me originally gave up and left his cartridge gun home. Since then I have been lucky enough to acquire a Winchester model 85 Hi-Wall in .38-55 with a heavy wgt octagon to round barrel that shoots dime sized three round groups at 100 yards with cast 255 grain bullets, 50 grains of 2F and 5 grains of unique. I also load smokeless for it and find that RL-7 and 4895 are good powders using the same hard cast 255 grain Lyman bullet.