September 24, 2010
The Remington 1875--or Improved Army Revolver, as it was originally called--got a late start, even though, in spite of its name, some guns were produced as early as 1874. But by the time Remington's first cartridge revolver made its appearance, Smith & Wesson was well-established with its top-breaks and the Colt Model P had been adopted as the Army's official sidearm.
That must have been frustrating for the folks at Remington, for in many ways, they had a superior revolver. Machining tolerances were closer, and consequently, accuracy was superior to both the Colt and Smith & Wesson predecessors. In addition, the 1875's one-piece forged backstrap and frame resulted in a sturdier firearm.
Unfortunately, a lack of marketing expertise and finances, plus internal problems, kept demand and production for the 1875 low. By the time E. Remington & Sons filed for bankruptcy in 1886, less than 30,000 guns had been manufactured, making the 1875 Remington relatively obscure, even in its heyday.
Nonetheless, during the gun's 11-year existence, the U.S. Interior Department ordered 3,000 nickel-plated models for its Indian Police, and the Egyptian government reputedly contracted for 10,000 of these revolvers (although it is speculation as to how many guns were actually delivered).
Moreover, the 1875 was the weapon of choice for lawmen and outlaws alike, including Frank James, who turned in a pair of well-used .44-40 Remington 1875s when he surrendered.
The rugged six-shooter had a brief respite when Remington's assets were purchased by Marcellus Hartley, but by 1896 the famous Remington sixguns were no more. Today, originals are collector's items
Fortunately, this historic alternative to Colt and its contemporaries has been brought back by Aldo Uberti of Gardone Val Trompia, Italy, which is part of Benelli USA. Now, however, the historic Model 1875 is called--somewhat paradoxically--the 1875 Army Outlaw.
Like the originals, the 1875 features a 7.5-inch barrel and comes in a blue or nickel finish and two-piece walnut grips. Original blued guns had only case-hardened hammers, but the Uberti versions sport case-hardened frames as well. Only one caliber, .45 Colt, is offered.
For my test gun, I ordered a nickeled version, which exhibited an attractive, old-timey sheen rather than a modern, ultra-bright finish. Hefting the gun, one notices the balance is toward the muzzle, thanks to the steel web under the barrel.
Original guns required a screwdriver to loosen the retaining screw at the end of the ejector to free the cylinder base pin. Uberti instead utilizes a non-prototypical Colt-style "smokeless powder" spring-loaded push pin in the frame.
Like all fixed-firing-pin revolvers, the 1875 Army Outlaw should be carried with five rounds in the cylinder and the hammer resting on an empty sixth chamber. The low hammer spur makes cocking easy and the trigger pull broke crisply and consistently at 3.75 pounds on my Lyman digital gauge, without any creep.
Unlike the ejector rod screw of the originals, the Uberti incorporates a frame-mounted Colt-style spring-loaded pin to release the cylinder base pin. The wide, pinched groove milled into the topstrap proved easy to see. The cylinder base pin is so tightly fitted to the frame that it must be forcibly withdrawn to remove the cylinder for cleaning.
Firing 250-grain Winchester cowboy loads, I was able to keep all shots within a 2.5-inch group at 25 yards, although the gun shot 2.5 inches high. But even with the too-low front blade and despite my poor eyes, I found it easy to center it in the rear sight groove.
However, not everything was an easy ride with this particular test gun. The timing was off (which resulted in faint drag marks around the cylinder) and the rough action occasionally hung up the hammer on half cock.
In addition, one of the cylinder chambers was not correctly reamed, and cases fired in this chamber bulged and had to be forcibly ejected; a simple rap on the ejector rod was not enough. Moreover, the inside of the trigger guard was not polished as smoothly as some of the other Uberti 1875s I have examined.
I discussed all of this with Uberti product manager George Thompson, as my 1875 test gun was definitely not typical of the quality I had experienced with other Uberti replicas.
George confirmed that this was probably a "Monday morning special" and was covered by Uberti's warranty, so the gun would have either been repaired or exchanged at no cost.
However, it should be noted that, like the close tolerances of the originals, the cylinder base pins of the 1875 replicas are so tightly fitted they cannot be removed without a little assistance from a brass punch; they certainly won't be shooting loose.
In addition to the 1875 Army Outlaw, Uberti offers a blued and case-hardened 1875 Frontier with a 5.5-inch barrel and an all-blued 1890 Police, also with a 5.5-inch barrel but sans the steel web and with a lanyard ring affixed to the butt frame.
As for me, I like the full-length 1875, a sixgun that Frank James said was "â€¦the hardest and surest shooting pistol madeâ€¦" And he ought to know.