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PIETTA REMINGTON NEW MODEL ARMY (STAINLESS) - A Worthy Choice

PIETTA REMINGTON NEW MODEL ARMY (STAINLESS) - A Worthy Choice

It is well over 35 years since I purchased my first new percussion revolver, and although I am a Colt fan, I opted for a copy of the Remington, albeit a Uberti. Back then there was a difference in mechanical quality between the Uberti and Pietta offerings, and it was reflected in the price difference (the Uberti being more expensive), but now any variation is likely to be no more than cosmetic.
At the beginning of the American Civil War, it was Colt that had the upper hand when it came to supplying the Union Army with revolvers, but as the conflict wore on, Remington was able to provide the New Model Army, often erroneously referred to as the Model 1858, at a lower price. By 1864, this was the revolver of choice for the Northern forces.
In 1861, Remington produced their first .44 calibre revolver, the Remington-Beals Army model, and the majority of the limited production went to the military. A year later this morphed into the 1861 Army Model, with safety notches introduced onto the rear of the cylinder, and the front of the frame was altered so that the barrel threads were visible. Almost all of the production of this model went to the U.S. Army. The culmination of the design was the NMA that we have here and this was the last .44 percussion revolver produced by Remington. Produced from 1863 to around 1875, over 120,000 examples left the factory.
The closed frame design of the Remington, the frame and grip straps being a single unit with a separate brass trigger guard, was perceived to be stronger than the Colt 1860 Army, its chief rival. The New Model Army has the barrel screwed into the frame, whereas the Colt, with its open-top frame, uses a small wedge to hold everything together. The weakness of the Colt design becomes obvious when stripping the pistol because if the wedge is dropped and lost, the gun is out of action. The Colt Model 1860 had a plus in the form of a larger grip, an advantage for Union cavalry troops who often wore gauntlets, making it better suited to those shooters with larger hands. So, each revolver had its fans and its detractors and that situation remains to this day.

Something for everyone
Pietta produces several variations of the NMA revolver, with the Henry Krank website showing the standard version in all-blue or stainless (the one we have here), the same two pistols with target sights, and a ‘Buffalo’ edition with a 12” barrel. The latter is available in blue or stainless, and both options have target sights. They also offer a ‘Texas’ model with a brass frame. The standard models and the Texas version are offered in .36 and .44 calibre, the smaller having a 6.5” barrel. For those wishing to add a bit more bling, there is a set of white ivory-like grips available at extra cost. A visit to the Pietta website (www.pietta.it) shows a much larger selection of this revolver, some of which may or may not be available here.

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Functional excellence
These revolvers undergo some polishing or buffing during their manufacture, and as with everything done by hand, there will be minor variations in the finish. On the specimen we have here, the edges of the barrel could be a little sharper, and there is a tiny bit of overlap of the grip panels, which appear to be walnut with a dark matte stain. The metal-to-metal fit of the parts is very good.
On this model, the sights are very basic, but probably a little better than the corresponding Colt setup. There is a channel milled into the top strap that culminates in a v-notch at the rear end. At the front is a tall, round-topped blade mounted on a base that is dovetailed into the barrel. This sight has provision for a bit of lateral adjustment and you could possibly take a shade off the top of the blade if needed. For those wanting a little more precision, the target model has an adjustable rear sight and a different front sight, the latter fixed in place so only the height is variable.
The Remington’s loading lever has an extra extension on its lower edge, sometimes referred to as a ‘sail’, which adds strength when needed for that one ball that you come across that is more difficult than the rest to load. The lever is held in place by the usual latch and catch arrangement and this one was very tight, perhaps having an extra half coil on the tiny spring. When locked in position, the lever also holds the cylinder arbour firmly in place, and the arbour cannot be removed from the frame unless the lever screw is taken out first.
The rear of the cylinder has cut-outs between the nipples into which the flat face of the hammer can rest, providing a safety system which allows a fully loaded pistol to be carried with no fear of a discharge should the gun be dropped. However, competition rules here would probably not allow this scenario, requiring you to have the hammer down on an empty chamber. The nipples themselves, which are not stainless, are angled slightly outwards, and their recesses are fairly large, making capping without a tool a bit easier.
The heavy hammer has grooves across the spur, giving a firm grip for cocking, and the mainspring tension can be adjusted via the screw in the front of the grip frame. The trigger is a little wider than found on Colt revolvers and the pull is fairly light and smooth, with no creep. The lock-up is very tight with no fore and aft movement and only the slightest hint of lateral play. The latter could be attributed to a marginally undersized cylinder locking bolt. All in all, this is a good-looking pistol with some excellent design features.

Does what it says on the tin
First impressions of the pistol are very favourable but looks count for nothing if the gun will not do what it is designed for. My standard load for .44 calibre percussion revolvers is 25-grains of Henry Krank fine black powder behind a .454” round lead ball, sometimes with a thin lubricated wad between the two. Remington percussion caps are used for ignition. This load produces only mild recoil, and accuracy is acceptable from my point of view, but I know there are many out there who can perform much better than me with these guns. Five-shot groups, shot one-handed, could be kept to under 4”. This is not target shooting standard but more than enough for those who use the gun for CAS shooting.
I could not measure it but I doubt that you could get a piece of paper in the gap between the barrel and the cylinder face, with the result that the fouling build-up was kept to a minimum, and I did not feel the effects of it until I was approaching 40 shots. I realise that a BP substitute would all but eliminate this problem but I’m shooting for fun and I like the idea of shooting these guns as near as possible to the way they were used in their heyday. Were I shooting CAS events, then I would likely use one of the alternatives.
Everything worked fine during the test and I have to admit that although I am a Colt fan, the Model 1860 wins hands down in the looks department for me. For competitive work, I think I’d choose the Remington.

Clean up
Die-hard re-enactors will shun the use of stainless pistols, while others may say that it mimics nickel plating, which was around back in the day. Shooters, on the other hand, will applaud the material’s resistance to corrosion, particularly when black powder is used rather than the modern substitutes. This is not to say that stainless guns should not be as rigorously cleaned as their blue steel counterparts, and you should never underestimate the power of black powder residue, particularly if the gun has been used in damp conditions.
My cleaning regime for these guns is to remove the cylinder, take out the nipples, and place everything in a bowl of boiling water containing a little washing-up liquid. These are allowed to soak while I attend to the rest of the gun. The barrel is done with a bronze brush and a toothbrush, and hot water will take care of the rest of the frame area. Pay particular attention in this case to the exposed threads of the barrel – a nice hiding place for BP residue. Removing the trigger guard may also uncover some undesirable substances in there too.

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gun
features

  • Name: : Pietta Remington NMA
  • Type:: Single Action Revolver
  • Calibre::  .44
  • Barrel Length: : 8”
  • Overall Length::  14”
  • Weight: : 2lbs 11oz
  • Price::  £465.00 (guide)
  • Contact: : Henry Krank - www.henrykrank.com
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