View Full Version : Advice on rollling block caliber

April 1, 2009, 03:06 PM
Hello everyone, I have a remington 1897 rolling block I picked up many years ago. It is chambered for 257 Roberts, with a bull barrel. It is not a rifle to carry out in the field hunting. I want to have a custom barrel made and not sure what caliber to go to. I want to be able to use it for Antelope, and Whitetail. Let me know your recommendations and if you know of a good barrell maker would like to know that too. Thanks for your help!

April 1, 2009, 03:34 PM
Personally, I would recommend against chambering an 1897 Remington rolling block rifle for anything that develops over 30,000 psi chamber pressure. Those older rifles were designed for black powder, not smokeless. I have seen Remington rolling blocks in 7X57 or 30-06, those were usually 1904 military rifles rebarreled from a previous BP cartridge, which were substantially sturdier and had steel actions, not case hardened cast iron like some of the earlier actions. And even those give me the willies when I remember the one my friend had in 7X57. It spit and shot hot gas at your face. The brass came out of the action so deformed you could not reload it, it stretched so much when you fired the rifle. So, having said that, have you considered a black powder cartridge chambering like 38-55, 38-56, 40-70 Winchester, or even a smokeless round like 444 Marlin?

Jim Watson
April 1, 2009, 03:45 PM
I would recommend against chambering an 1897 Remington rolling block rifle for anything that develops over 30,000 psi chamber pressure.

have you considered... even a smokeless round like 444 Marlin

Kind of contradictory, .444 Marlin is SAAMI specified at 44,000 CUP.

Dave Higginbotham at Lone Star Rifle builds new Rolling Blocks and works on existing ones. He would rebarrel yours to whatever caliber you wanted that he considered reasonable for $500.
If you get a hunting rifle barrel, it will probably take some work on the foreend, too.

If he looked at it and thought it ok for .257 Roberts, he could probably turn the barrel to a hunting taper and weight for less than the cost of a new barrel. Nothing wrong with "The Bob" where the deer and antelope play.

If he doesn't, I really like the .38-55; my little Winchester is a treat to shoot. It would do anything required to a deer or antelope, just not as easy to put on one at long range.

James K
April 1, 2009, 05:34 PM
It might be reasonable to be wary of using hot loads in early RBs, but if the one belonging to Scorch's friend split cases and spat powder gas, it was not due to the RB action but to some defect of that individual rifle and to very unsafe shooting practices in continuing to fire it.

I would see nothing wrong with the .257 in that rifle but would stick with the a moderate load, keeping to the same pressure level as the 7x57.


April 1, 2009, 08:15 PM
I'll give my 2 cents.
A Rolling block is a great action to have,but I suggest you try a subscription to Black Powder Cartridge News magazine.I suggest you find and read Mike Venturino's book"Shooting Buffalo Rifles"

There is a distinction between the actions built for black powder,and those built to handle early smokeless cartridges.I think you have the blackpowder action.

I'm thinking if you read the publications I suggested,you might get a big grin,and go a little different direction.

38-55 would be good on the lower end.Much smaller bore is not as easy with black powder.

40-65 and a version of 40-70 Sharps straight where you can use .405 WCF brass is a good choice,with a small edge toward the 40-65 as it clears the hammer spur better.

Then there is 45-70 and 45-90.

Likely,the best choices for a BP RB are in there.

If it was a smokeless,it could do 30-40 Krag pretty well.

There is a lot of fun in shooting buffalo rifles.Its not real expensive to re-use cases a bunch and shoot cast bullets.

Try searching for the Buffalo Arms catalogue online

Badger,Kreiger,and Green Mountain offer barrels round,octagon,half round,half octagon.

April 1, 2009, 09:16 PM
I have an original 1886 Rolling block, Chambered for the 44-90 Sharps bottle neck. I really like it.

It of course was designed for BP but I load 28 grns of 4198 which gives me the same velocity as the orignial BP load.

April 2, 2009, 08:27 AM
Frank De Haas lists the following cartridges as suitable for the large BP pre-1901 RB actions:

[#1 BP 1867-1895, Springfield Navy 1870 & Army 1871, 1867 Danish, 1872 Whitney, and Spanish .43's]

.444, .45-70, .45-90, .50-70, 20ga & 28ga.

And for the stronger #1 smokeless RB (W/patent date of 1901 or later)

.222Rimmed, .250-3000, .257 Bob, 7x57, .300 Savage, .30-40, .303 Brit, 8x57JR, 35 Rem, 9.3x74R, & .45ACP.

YMMV, but for myself, I would use nothing except BP in any BP action.
Just because the same velocities as BP loads can be obtained with smokeless, doesn't mean that the pressures are also low - or of even the same curve/type.
RB's are especially vunerable to a sudden cracking of the lower part of the breechblock (ergo altering headspace), where it's thinnest at it's axle.