Remington Cane Guns

Early advertisement of E. Remington & Sons.

Cane guns were popular in America in the mid-1850s. They served as protection, as well as being a gentleman's walking accessory. Never intended to be formidable weapons, cane guns protected their owners against stray dogs and the occasional advances of ruffians.

Eliphalet Remington, founder of E. Remington & Sons, was on the lookout for products for the civilian trade, and he had to look no further than a cane gun designed by John F. Thomas, an employee at his factory, who had previously been a gunsmith in Ilion. On February 9, 1858, Thomas, who later came to be master mechanic at E. Remington & Sons Armory, was issued U.S. Patent #19,328 for his percussion cane gun. Thomas assigned half of his invention to Samuel Remington in July 1859, and production is believed to have commenced sometime that year.

Not only was this cane gun one of the first civilian firearms made by E. Remington & Armory, the firm was the only major gunmaker ever to offer a cane gun. Production was interrupted during the Civil War years (1861 to 1865), and probably resumed in mid-1865.

A rare photograph from the Jay Huber collection, showing a gentleman with a Remington cane gun.

At first, only .31 caliber percussion cane guns were manufactured and sold by Remington. Pre-Civil War advertising refers to them as "Remington's New Patent Gun Canes, which were loaded with a .31 caliber lead ball". Another variation was listed in early E. Remington & Sons advertisements with longer internal barrel -- it was intended for shot pellets.

Serial numbers of the gun canes went from 1 to over 278. The iron, rifled barrel within the longer cane shaft measures only about 9 inches. Thereafter, the bullet traveled loosely through a brass tube to the muzzle, which was plugged for walking.

Remington (Thomas Patent) cane guns were made with a variety of handles, including ball & claw, dog's head (two sizes), full curve, curve with flat gripping area, bulbous-shape, and L-shape. The Remington rifle cane shaft was covered with a hard rubber gutta-percha (a very fragile molded material that cracked easily) or vulcanized rubber. In the 1870s, ivory handles were offered. A unique gold-plated brass dog head cane is known, in .22 caliber rimfire, and bears an inscription date of 1876.

Advertisement from E. Remington & Sons, showing the .32 rimfire caliber cane gun.

Various colors of the canes were available, including black, brown and coral. While coral sounds interesting in the advertisement, an examination of an actual specimen in the Remington museum collection, and another owned by RSA member Mike Strietbeck, reveals "coral" to actually be a bright orange color. Many different handle, barrel, shaft and overall lengths (33½" to 36½" known) were made.

In the late 1860s, Remington's cane gun was re-designed to handle .22 caliber rimfire ammunition (called the Remington No. 1 Rifle Cane) and .32 caliber rimfire (Remington No. 2 Rifle Cane).Remington's rimfire cane guns were first made with internal hammers, but were later improved with a rod driving the firing pin.

Serial numbers for rimfire cane guns started at 1 and went to over 1748. Production probably ceased in 1886, when times were hard for E. Remington & Sons. The new proprietors, who named the company Remington Arms Company in 1888, saw no reason to resume production of cane guns. As it was, not many Remington's percussion and rimfire (Thomas Patent) cane guns were made -- and fewer than 2,000 were produced over a 27-year period. Today, they are highly prized by collectors.

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