During our Civil War the firm of E. Remington & Sons manufactured a variety of rifles for the North. Samuel Norris of Bristol, Rhode Island, sought War Department contracts as agent for Remington. In January 1865 he obtained one order for 5,000 carbines. These arms used the "split breech" mechanism as invented by Leonard Geiger and improved by Joseph Rider. When the hammer was thumbed back, the breechblock could be rolled back on its axis pin to expose the chamber for loading. The breechpiece (or block) was split. Several design improvements came later.
With the drying up of the American market for military arms, Remington sent Samuel Norris and his brother John to Europe to canvass new markets. Their success was phenomenal. No European nation had either our machinery or our knowledge. Then—even as now—war and the threat of war hung like a pall over the entire continent. Every nation felt itself menaced. All sought means of improved defense. The doors of all the chancelleries of Europe were ready to be opened by arms salesmen. And the brothers Norris were super salesmen. They walked with the mighty. They dined with kings. They became wealthy and powerful. And they had a strangle hold on the Mausers.
While Norris recognized the inherent value of the new Mauser rifle, his primary interest was in converting the Chassepot. He took Remington into partnership on the rifle deal knowing that they would bury the new bolt rifle in order to push their own rolling block rifle. Samuel Remington resolutely refused to face the fact that the bolt action was the coining military rifle; and the bankruptcy of his firm in 1885 stemmed in 110 small measure from that determination. It is to the credit of Samuel Norris that he tried to convince Remington that a change was coming.
When Norris was finally convinced that he had saturated the small European Nations with rolling-block Remingtons, that Samuel Remington would not push the bolt action, and that with the danger of approaching war France was against a change, Samuel Norris decided to save his yearly few thousand francs. He cut the Mausers adrift.
It is an irony of Fate that the one country where the Mauser never did make money was the one where Norris controlled the patents—France.
Was this article helpful?