A very rare .50 caliber Remington Rolling Block saddle ring carbine designed for Mexican President Porfirio Diaz special ‘RURALE’ police force. When Diaz became president of Mexico in 1876 he reconstituted a special force of mounted police to ‘maintain order’ in Mexico’s northern states and along the American Southwest border. One thousand Remington rolling block saddle ring carbines were specially ordered for this force, it is believed they were delivered to the port of Vera Cruz in 1877. The carbines were built on Remington’s No.1 military action in .50-70 US caliber with 20 1/2” barrels. In addition to saddle rings these carbines also had standard sling swivels fitted on their left sides. These carbines were ordered with an interesting special feature, their firing plans were specially designed such that they could fire both the standard .50-70 US centerfire cartridge AND .50 caliber Spencer repeating rim fire rifle cartridges. The Mexican government had purchased a quantity of US surplus Spencer carbines and ammunition and since the ‘Rurales’ patrolled the remote ‘Frontier’ it was thought a good idea they could use both types of ammunition in their carbines’. These thousand ‘Rurale’ carbines were the only military rolling blocks Remington built with this feature.
The ‘Rurales’ were intended to preform similar duties to the Texas Rangers on the US side of the border. They were also in a constant state off war with Apache, Lipan, and Yaqui Indians. They also had to deal with all manner of Mexican bandits, Diaz’s political enemies, and American cattle and horse rustlers. The growth of American ranching in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas along with the founding of towns like Tombstone, AZ led to a high demand for cattler and horses beyond what the local ranchers could provide. American ranchers and cowboys found it very profitable to cross into Mexico late at night to steal cattle and horses from Mexican rancheros which led to cross-border reprisals, ambushes, by both ‘Rurales’ and Americans. In one instance in the Fall of 1881 Americans attacked Mexican gold smugglers crossing into the US. It is believed a ‘Rurale’ officer was with the smugglers and survived to lead an ambush of American cattle rustlers in which the patriarch of the Clenton family was killed, which may have hastened the gunfight between Clantons and Earps at the ‘OK Corral. In any event the ‘Rurales’ themselves came to be regarded as dangerous criminals by Mexicans and Americans on both sides of the border.
Very very few of the special Remington Rolling Block carbines issued to the ‘Rurales’ in 1877 survived their hard usage. The few known specimens in collections are for the most part in deplorable condition. Over the last fifty plus years this is the only ‘Rurale’ carbine I have ever had in hand and it is a very presentable survivor. Included with the overall and detail pictures of this carbine is a period photograph of Mexican ‘Rurales’ shouldering their carbines, it is the best period picture I could find showing the carbines and from it one can deduce they were originally finished in-the-white (natural steel finish) which was a traditional finish for military firearms of the period.
The exterior surfaces of this carbine are fine with good Mexican government marks and Remington factory markings. Edges and contours are crisp. There is evident aging and all surfaces have a pleasing natural steel patina. Mechanical functions are excellent. The bore shows considerable use retaining clear rifling and pitting – not as worn as one would expect given where it’s been. The original walnut butt stock and forearm are fine retaining good color and old finish.
Given the small number of these carbines built and their hard use over a long period it is amazing this one has survived in a condition fit for a fine collection of Remington and/or Frontier firearms. This is probably one of the best of the few known ‘Rurale’ contract Remington carbines.
Dimensions; overall length 36”, barrel 2o 1/2”, caliber .50-70 US cf / .50 Spencer rf