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Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target

Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target

The term Black Powder Cartridge Rifle (BPCR) is synonymous with American firearms of the 1800s and centres, in the main, around four single shot designs. The Sharps 1874 and Winchester 1885 High and Low Wall are falling block designs, Trapdoor Springfield has a unique hinged breech system and the Remington Rolling Block is just a bit different!

Least popular

The Yanks are big into BPCR shooting using the classic calibres; 45-70, 45-90, 45-120 and 50-90 and others for both paper punching and even hunting, often the original quarry, the Buffalo. This nomenclature noting calibre and powder charge weight (original blackpowder). In the UK, the majority of use is in historic target shooting and the Quigley Shooting Association; without doubt, Pedersoli’s 1874 Sharps reproductions are the most popular, and the least the Rolling Block (RB).

History shows us that the RB was a technically better design and also lasted longer in both military service around the world in 23 recognised calibres, even up to and in some case after the First World War and in the hands of sports shooters for even longer. The list of military end users reads like the League of Nations, with in excess of 40 countries that included Britain. We bought 4,500 rifles in 7x57mm Mauser that were issued to Royal Navy mine sweeper crews, doubtless for potting off the floating mines. The French too took a load in 8x50 R (rimmed) Lebel for their second line troops.

Split breech

The RB can be traced back to the American Civil War in the form of the 1863 ‘split breech’ carbine chambered in .44” and 50.56” rimfire, the latter also used in the Spencer lever-action. The idea was elegantly simple, the breech block and hammer sat in tandem, with the latter having a curved locking lug below the hammers nose. This, when down, sits below the block and stops it from opening, so sealing the breech; cocking the hammer disengages it, allowing the action to be opened. The name comes from the fact that the breech block had a slot machined in the middle to allow the hammer to pass through to strike the cartridge.

This suited the relatively low-powered rimfires, but not the larger and more powerful calibres like 45-70 etc. Given the inherent strength of the design, it was an easy leap to produce a solid block with integral firing pin, with an offset opening lever that could handle just about any calibre of the day and beyond, including the emerging smokeless powder, high velocity loads.

Masters of repro

Pedersoli of Italy are probably the world’s largest manufacture of reproduction, classic firearms, but are noted for the range of 1800 American guns, including the great BPCRs of that period, along with the RB. Visually, the action looks very basic, but for all that it is built for purpose. As it’s indeed simple, yet it’s probably stronger than the falling block Sharps or the hinged breech Trapdoor.

However

The rifle on test this month goes in the other direction, which might seem a total departure from what these guns are all about. In some ways it is, but in others it opens up a world perhaps not considered by many shooters and that’s comfort and the ability to use it on pistol ranges or for mid-distance competition, even hunting if you feel confident or adventurous enough! The Rolling Block Target is chambered in 357 Magnum, which in the UK is more a long barrelled revolver or lever-action carbine calibre. Sensibly, it’s also offered in 45-70 Government, but as I said and as a departure from the expected, the idea of a big gun with a small cartridge really appealed to me.

The Target is not alone in this subcalibre world, as Pedersoli also offer their Mississippi Classic (26”) in .357 Magnum, .38-55 Winchester and 45 Long Colt and the Baby Carbine (20”) 357, 45 and 44-40 WCF. Their Sharps range too offers the Little Betsy (17HMR, 22 Hornet, 22LR, 30-30, .38-55 and 357) and Small Game (17 and 22 Hornet and 22 LR) models both in 24”.

Big

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The Target, however, differs in one important way, as it’s big, with a heavy, octagonal 30” barrel, 47” long it tips the scale at 10.5 lbs; in comparison to the others that weigh in at a more acceptable 7-8 lbs. My first impression was that you could easily lose 10” of tube, without affecting performance and in consequence produce a far handier rifle.

The build quality is as I have come to expect from Pedersoli, with superior blueing and a lovely, colour case-hardened action and steel butt plate. The timber on the straight hand butt and longish, splinter-type forend is medium walnut and nicely finished, although not chequered. Although calling it the Target, the rifle comes with a most basic sighting system. The rear is a semi-buckhorn, elevator wedge and the front a mid-width, tapered blade. Both are set in transverse dovetails to give lateral adjustment, with elevation on the rear too, by sliding the wedge.

USA 431

When ordering the Target from importers Henry Krank & Co Ltd, I asked for the optional USA 431 Long Range Creedmoor aperture rear sight, which for precision work on BPCRs is near mandatory. Tang-mounted, this folding ladder system is windageadjustable on the base and also the eyepiece block, which has a replaceable aperture plate. If you want to get serious, then you can get various tunnels that replaces the blade and accepts inserts; I stuck with the blade. I did find the standard aperture very small, which can appear quite dark in low light conditions. If so, you can add the Professional Hadley style Eye Piece with selectable, multiple apertures of different diameters (USA 463).

I would initially use the standard iron sights, then fit the Creedmoor tang unit. I did however run into a problem, as even at its lowest setting the rear sight blocks the picture through the aperture a little and even with its fixing screw removed I could not drift it off and did not want to use excessive force just in case I had an accident. However, at ranges of 110m and above this is less of an issue, as you need to wind in elevation anyway.

Long time

Ammo-wise, I used Prvi Partizan (PPU) 357 truncated cone, copper plated (T/C P) 158-grain and their 38 Special, 158-grain semi wad cutter (SWC) lead factory loads. Kranks also supplied Sierra’s 158-grain jacketed flat nose (JFP) bullets, along with Lee dies, PPU 357 cases, a tub of Ramshot Enforcer propellent and Krank’s own small pistol primers. So, reloading was on the cards. It had been a long time since I had loaded this calibre and, as a straight-walled case, remembered that I had to expand the mouth to allow the bullet in prior to seating. Data recommended 18-grains of powder with a COL of 1.585”, plus a crimp. Pedersoli quotes a twist rate of 1-18”, which is about right for the calibre.

Trigger pull was a firm 4lbs, but with a creep-free and crisp break, which took seconds to understand. Even with a near 11lb rifle, all loads made it jump a little, but as can be imagined, control was good, and it was easy to see fall of shot. Accuracy-wise, you are at the mercy of the cruder iron sights, but the Creedmoor tang managed to squeeze a lot more out of the Roller, with a capability of dropping into an inch at 100m; not too bad at all. I’d say the T/C Ps were more consistent, with the SWC and JFP reload not far behind. I would imagine a tunnel and element up front would shrink things a bit more. I’d say you could push it to 200m with acceptable performance.

In the 30” tube, figures were pretty good too, as can be seen from the Ballistics Chart. However, I wonder if that length might have robbed a bit of velocity, as that’s a lot of friction to overcome? Annoyingly the only hunting legal load was just shy of 1000 ft/lbs, but 18-grains was not the top load, so I reckon it might just fit.

One in, one out

Operation is simple, roll back the hammer to full cock, flip the breech open and slide the round in. A tip here, it’s easy to push the case rim past the extractor, I found it best to push the round half in then close the block and it will seat it properly. After firing, repeat the process and pull the empty clear, as this is not an ejector, and that’s that. Being a hammer gun, your lock time will be slower, so you have to take that into account as you release the shot, which is not a problem.

Overall, I found the experience very enjoyable; as I’ve said before, there’s something pleasingly tactile about a single shot rifle. I reckon I banged through 150-rounds in the course of the testing and would like to do more. I might see if Kranks will lend me a front tunnel unit to complete the set. Although something like the Malcolm scope on top would give it a traditional edge, no doubt.

  • Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target - image {image:count}

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  • Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

gun
features

  • Name: Pedersoli Remington Rolling Block Target
  • Calibre : 357 Magnum
  • Type : single shot non-ejector
  • Barrel : 30”, heavy. Octagonal
  • Rifling twist : 1-18”
  • Length : 47”
  • Weight : 10.5 lbs
  • Price: £1030 USA 431 Long Creedmoor sight £153.60
  • Contact: Henry Krank & Co Ltd; www.henrykrank.com

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